Another among the popular Tiger reserves in the country is the Buxa Tiger Reserve in the eastern state of West Bengal in India. The Buxa Tiger Reserve covers an area of around 760 sq. km. and is spread across the Gangetic plains of the country and even borders the towering Himalayan Mountain range to its North. Apart from the Bengal Tiger species, the other dominant fauna species to be found at Buxa Tiger Reserve are Asian Elephants, Gaurs, Clouded Leopard, Indian Leopards, Sambar Deers, etc. Buxa Tiger Reserve is also a National Park and it was the 15th Tiger Reserve in the country setup in the year 1983 and today Buxa Tiger Reserve or Buxa National Park is a very famous tourist destination in Northern Bengal and the Dooars region that is basically located in the North Western corner of West Bengal and the reserve cum National Park borders the Indian state of Assam (famed for the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve) and the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. This is another National Park in the county that derives its name from the fort that is present around the area called as the Buxa Fort (the other ones being the Ranthambore National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park) and this is a historic fort that was used by the British as a high security prison cum detention centre.
The flora of Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park is one of the very diverse in the eastern region of the country and the forests of this park are known to have various species of orchids as well as medicinal plants as well. Also apart from the flagship species of the Royal Bengal Tigers, the Buxa Tiger Reserve also has a decent population of the wild buffaloes, Asiatic Elephants, Gaurs, Hog Deers, Wild Dogs, Leopards, Malayan Giant Squirrels, Mongoose, Monitor Lizard species and also Pythons and land tortoises as well. The Buxa Tiger Reserve was declared as a Tiger Reserve in 1983, followed by the Buxa Wildlife Sanctuary in 1991 and finally as a National Park in 1997. The Buxa National Park lies in the Alipurduar district of West Bengal and it has the Sinchual Hills range lying along the northern side of the park and the NH31C runs along the southern boundary of the park as well. The Buxa Tiger Reserve is also an eastern most extension of the bio-diverse rich North East India and also represents the Indo-Malayan region as well.
The Buxa Tiger Reserve is also a constituent of the Terai Eco System along with the Indo Malayan region and this is what makes the area of the BTR very rich bio-diversity and these forests of the place serve as a very important migration route for the Asiatic Elephants from India to Bhutan viz. the Buxa Tiger Reserve is contiguous with the Manas National Park in Assam that is to the east of the park and is an abundant habitat of the Asiatic Elephants and the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan is on the north of Buxa Tiger Reserve and therefore the forest corridor allows the migration of these majestic elephants from one country to another easily. Also towards the south-west of the Buxa Tiger Reserve, the Chilapata forests form an elephant corridor to the Jaldapara National Park in West Bengal. The fringe areas of Buxa Tiger Reserve comprise of 8 types of forests that speak highly of the varied bio-diversity of the place and the divisional forest headquarters of the Buxa Tiger Reserve is at Alipurduar that controls the forest in two division viz. the east and west. One very noteworthy site around the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park is the Buxa fort that is a very important landmark for this forest reserve and it was captured by the British in 1865 from Bhutan after the war of Bhutan and the British used this fort as a strategic camp and detention centre during the Indian Independence movement.
The Buxa fort holds a very strategic place in the hearts of the patriotic Indians who know this place as the detention centre of some of the very prominent leaders of the Indian Independence movement including Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. This Buxa fort was also an important place for observation of the silk route between the Koch Kings and Kings of Bhutan and the fort happened to guard this silk route that was a very important trade route between India and Bhutan. Buxa fort is the oldest fort in Eastern India and it is a very important tourism destination in the Dooars region of North Bengal. Being located in North Bengal, the Buxa Tiger Reserve has close proximity to the state of Sikkim and also the Kingdom of Bhutan and therefore, the Buxa formation of Mamlay is contiguous with the Mamlay village of Namchi is the state of Sikkim. The dolomite limestone’s at the area is also declared as the National Geological monument of the Geological Survey of India and that place has been developed and maintained to promote geo-tourism across the area as well that is a boon to the tourism of Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Considered to be among the very diverse bio-diversity regions of the country, Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park harbours various species of flora, fauna and avifauna. At Buxa Tiger Reserve, more than 450 species of trees, 250 species of shrubs, 400 species of herbs, 10 species of bamboo, 9 species of cane and 150 species of orchids are to be found along with various individual plants that have been known to be used in Ayurveda treatments. Among the species of trees, the most prominent ones to be found are the Sal, Champa, gamhar, simul and chikrasi trees but the forest types are mostly northern dry deciduous, low alluvium, northern tropical evergreen, etc. When it comes to the fauna of the Buxa Tiger Reserve, around 73 species of mammals are recorded here that makes it one of the very sought after wildlife tourism destinations in the country and the prominent fauna species to be found here are Bengal Tigers, Clouded Leopards, Indian Leopards, Giant Squirrels, Gaurs, Chitals, Wild Boars, Asian Golden Cats, Hog Deers, Leopard Cats, etc. In addition to the above mammal species, there are 65 fish, 4 reptiles and 4 amphibian species also recorded inside the forests of the Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park.
When it comes to the birdlife of Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park, birdwatchers who come to the place are left enthralled as there are around 284 species of birds recorded here inside the forest reserves of Buxa Tiger Reserve that include both resident and migratory bird species. The Amur Falcons, Eurasian Griffons, Oriental Pied Hornbills, Malayan Night Heron, Stripe Breasted wood peckers, Rufus necked hornbills, great Indian Hornbills are just a few of these grand bird species to name that grace the forest reserves of the Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park with their presence. The Buxa Tiger Reserve also has a vulture breeding centre as well and this centre is used for the breeding and conservation of the Indian vulture species that are now endangered due to the feeding on the carcass of bovines that were fed with a certain hormone and today necessary conservation measures have to be taken to keep this endangered species alive in the World. To explore the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve you will need to embark on a trekking experience inside the forest reserves accompanied by an expert forest guide and the experience is similar to the very pristine Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh and the Nameri National Park and Tiger reserve in Assam where visitors are allowed to embark on a trekking experience to sight the varied flora, fauna and avifauna of the park.
The main trek route inside the forests of the Buxa Tiger Reserve is an hour and fifteen minute trek across the picturesque surroundings of Santalabani that is mostly the start point of the trek inside the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve. Along the trek you will have access to the Buxa fort that is the oldest fort in Eastern India that served as a prime guarding point along the silk route across Bhutan and India and later served as a detention centre used by the British to keep the famous freedom fighter of the Indian Independence movement. In addition to the main trekking route inside the Buxa Tiger Reserve, that has the starting point at Santalabani, there are other trekking routes as well like the 4km long trek to Roven’s point (that is a land of beautiful birds located at an elevation of 4500 feet), another of the trek routes that is much longer but requires necessary permission from the forest authorities of Buxa Tiger Reserve is the 13km long route that is from Buxa to Jayanti via the Mahakal cave. Jayanti is a place that is located along the Jayanti river and it is a beautiful place that offers peace and calmness along the natural border of the Bhutan hills.
The Jayanti river mostly runs dry during the winter season when it is the ideal time to explore the vast forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park and the white pebbles along the shore of this river adds a pristine beauty to the trek route and trekking through the sub-tropical forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve to Jayanti is a wonderful experience to all visitors who choose to embark on this trek. This is a very attractive and natural spot in the Dooars region of North Bengal and across the trek route you might be able to sight the wild elephant herds, barking deers and the peacocks with their fluttering feathers here at Buxa Tiger Reserve. One place noteworthy to be mentioned near Jayanti is the Pokhari hills that are about 4km away and this is a sacred hill that is a place of religious worship for the Bhutanese and the local people as well. The Mahakal cave inside the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve is a sacred cave dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Mahakal cave or also the Jayanti Mahakal Cave is a cylindrical shaped cave and it shares its natural border with the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and this can be described as one of the most visited places at the Buxa Tiger Reserve along with the Buxa fort. The trek to reach thee Mahakal cave is across the dense forests of the Buxa Tiger Reserve and this is a perfect way to enjoy bird watching and spot few of the 284 species of rare birds that we reached at the Buxa Tiger Reserve. It is a short trek that takes about an hour and half to reach the Mahakal cave there are 3 caves that are located adjacent to the Mahakal Cave and these three caves are all adorned with the idols of the various deities. At the Mahakal cave near Buxa Tiger Reserve, the primary cave has the three Gods of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. The sacred cave that is also the middle cave is that of Lord Shiva and the third cave is dedicated to Goddess Maha Kali and it is also believed that the very ancient idol of Lord Shiva here is a self-manifested one as well. The caves here are well known for its various formations of the stalagmites and this speaks of the ancient history of this cave as well.
The Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park is a best way to explore and then go to explore this ancient Mahakal cave near Jayanti. The Mahakal cave near Buxa Tiger Reserve is best to visit during the time of Shivaratri and can be accessed across the other time of the year as but it is advised not to travel inside the cave during the monsoon season as the access to this cave becomes a problem. It is to be kept in mind that to access the Mahakal cave, Jayanti area and Buxa Tiger Reserve, it is to be done by the help of expert local guides who also arrange for the permits from the forest office to access the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve. And while trekking inside the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve one needs to visit the beautiful villages of the Dukpas called as Lapchaka that happens to be one and half hour trek from the Buxa fort. For stay options around Buxa Tiger Reserve, there are various homestays that cater to the needs of the tourists visiting the place and there are 8 homestays in which in total that are located around the Lapchaka area with basic functions and among these one very prominent one is that of the Dukpas hut that is a unique homestay offering with attached bath overlooks the Buxa fort as well.
Though these homestays at Buxa Tiger Reserve are present around the forest reserves of Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park, but there are limited options to stay and so there is one option of the Rovers Inn that has a maximum capacity to accommodate many guests but this place is quite far away from the Buxa fort. But the prominent stay place for the bird watchers who come to Buxa Tiger Reserve to admire the 284 species of birds refer to this place as the Birder’s Nest and the place offers a separate kitchen for trekkers as well. At the Birder’s Nest at Buxa Tiger Reserve, on the top floor there are two family rooms (sleeps 3) as well as a dormitory that has attached bath and provides options of sleeping for 6 adults and also offers dining facility as well. The place can arrange for your various needs at the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve that includes activities like birding, wildlife trekking, dark sky photography, etc. The two Dukpa brothers who are responsible for the formation of the Birder’s Nest or the Dukpa’s hut are Wongyal and Chhogyal Dukpa and they are also accredited with the promotion of tourism at the Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park. Coming to the other homestay options that allow guests to halt and enjoy wildlife trekking at Buxa Tiger Reserve are the Humro Home Buxa that is a unique ecotourism getaway that is located at Rajabhatkhawa area and it was started in 2013 with an aim to promote the tourism activities around Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Around the Buxa Tiger Reserve, you can also explore various other places like the ones we have mentioned earlier viz. Jayanti, Mahakal Cave and also take the opportunity to explore Santalbari that is a very beautiful village in the core area of the Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park. The place is located at a distance of around 30km from the Alipurduar sub division and there is a small village inhabited by the local tribal people who live across the fringe area of Buxa Tiger Reserve. Another place to check out is the Buxa Wildlife museum that has a collection of around hundred species of animals, birds, insects, etc. and this museum highlights the various species to be seen around Buxa Tiger Reserve as one cannot have the guaranteed sighting of these animal species and so you can get an experience of sighting these examples here at the Buxa Wildlife museum. Another place to visit during your trip to Buxa Tiger Reserve is the Rajabhatkhawa area and this is a small town that is located outside the Buxa Tiger Reserve and is located in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal and this place derives its name as the place where the King used to have his meal of rice. Bhat meaning rice inclusive of various accompaniments that come along with it including dal, sabji, choice of fish or meat, etc. and hence the name Rajabhatkhawa.
This small town is known for its vast natural beauty and this place is surrounded by a lush green forest cover that is present here and from the Rajabhatkhawa town the various permits that are needed to enter the Buxa Tiger Reserve can be arranged. Another place to be visited during your time to explore the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve is the Baneshwar Shiva temple that is located in a small town of Coochbehar district in West Bengal called as Baneshwar. The Shiva temple that is present at this place is a very sacred temple shrine and hundreds of devotees come here to offer their prayers with the number going up exponentially during the festival of Shivaratri. This place also has a temple pond that has numerous tortoises in the pond and few of them very rare and endangered as well. It is believed that the term Baneshwar is derived from two words Ban and Eshwar. The word ‘Ban’ was a king of the Asuras and he had wished to carry the Shiva Linga present here to ‘Patal’ but he had failed and this Shiva Linga is still present at the Baneshwar temple near the Buxa Tiger Reserve and can be clearly seen by the devotes who come here to offer their prayers. At this temple, many people from outside the place come to offer their worship as well and the Shiva Mela here is a grand celebration.
Another very popular place to explore around Buxa Tiger Reserve is the Rasikbill Eco park at Coochbehar that is located at around 42km from the main town and this is a very renowned bird sanctuary that is home to various species of resident and migratory birds that are found in the Buxa Tiger Reserve area. Rasikbill is basically an area of complex wetlands and it is a huge water body that comprise of other water bodies of the likes of the Bochamari beel, Rasik Beel, Batikata Beel and Raichangmai Beel and the water reservoir here draws lots of varieties of bird species here and those are of the likes of the common teal, lesser whistling teel, cotton teal, bar headed geese, white eyed porchard, etc. Other attractions at the Rasikbeel Eco park near Buxa Tiger Reserve is that of a deer park and an aquarium that houses various species of fishes and turtle species to be found. Also at the Rasikbeel Eco Park there are seven leopards and also peafowl species to be found as well. The Coochbehar Raj Bari is another important tourist attraction near the Buxa Tiger Reserve that is basically a classical European style palace that was built in 1887 and it resembles an Italian renaissance architecture and also has a touch of the style of the Buckingham Palace as well.
The Palace has a recently built museum inside the premise that adds to the ancient glory of the Palace with surrounding landscapes of the gardens that are present across the lawn area that makes the place all the more interesting. The Madan Mohan temple at Coochbehar town is another important place of tourist attraction around the Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park and it was constructed during 1885-89 under the regime of Maharaja Nripendan Narayan. This has a diverse architecture and the deities that are present are of Madan Mohan who was the Kul-Devata of the Koch dynasty and also that of Ma Tara and Ma Bhairavi. This temple celebrates the annual Raas Mela or Mahotsova in grand style. Likewise, there are various other places of sighting around Buxa Tiger Reserve and so you should not just limit your visit to North Bengal at the Buxa Tiger Reserve and the Dooars region but also explore these various other places of tourist interest across the Alipurduar and Cooch Behar districts that are near the Buxa Tiger Reserve cum National Park and enjoying a complete vacation of Northern Bengal.
Around the Buxa Tiger Reserve, there is a very renowned heritage building that is none other than the Baksa Duar Post Office and this is the highest post in Alipuarduar district. Also around the area of the Rajabhatkhawa hosts an orchidarium and a nature interpretation centre as well where visitors can get to see the various image captures of the varied flora, fauna and avifauna of Buxa Tiger Reserve. The area around Buxa Tiger Reserve is inhabited by the Dukpas (Indo-Bhutanese people) who are living in the eleven hamlets of the Buxa hills that are mostly located around the hilly jungles of the Buxa Tiger Reserve and the elevation of these forest hills range from 2400-6200 feet. These Dukpa people serve as excellent local guides to explore the forest of Buxa Tiger Reserve as they have inhabited the forests around the area since very long time ago and they are much aware of the surroundings. Visitors to Buxa Tiger Reserve can hire the services of these local guides to explore the vast forest reserves of the place as trekking is the sole mode of exploration and a very pristine trek is the trek from Buxaduar to Raimatang via Chunabhati that is almost an 8 hour long trek and has to be undertaken under the supervision of an expert guide.
However to better understand the ethnicity, traditions and culture of the region certain trekking groups who come to visit Buxa Tiger Reserve also choose to break this trek into a 3 day comfortable trek so that they can take their time to explore the area properly. Also another very important place to experience around Buxa Tiger Reserve is the Pukri Mari that is small sacred pond inside the park that harbours various fish species like Magur and Singi and also various turtle species as well. At this place that is considered sacred, various religious festivals are held at various times of the year and are visited by both the Hindus and the Buddhists. Though Buxa Tiger Reserve is one of the very pristine natural habitats for various animals, birds and rich flora species, there are always certain threats from natural as well as human forces that pose a threat to the species here and this comes in the form of mining inside the forest reserves as well as poaching of animal species. In the times of the monsoon season, flooding poses as a serious threat to the animals inside the reserve and also in the dry season forest fires are a challenge. Cattle grazing is also a problem inside the forests of the Buxa Tiger Reserve and also poaching of smaller animals as a part of the ritual hunting by the local tribes poses a threat to the forests of Buxa Tiger Reserve as well.