The Mahananda Forest is extensive and runs right from the plains of Bengal up to the hills near Kalimpong. The wildlife department has entry points at diiferent places and, depending on the altitude, the flora and fauna you spot differ. Chapramari is in the plains near Chalsa, less than a couple of hours from Siliguri. The drive down to Chapramari is exciting courtesy the intermittent signs asking motorists to keep a lookout for wild animals (mainly the Asian elephant) and to give them the right of way. Inside, there is a 100-year-old rest house, run by the state forest department, which has 2 comfortable rooms, a staff that will procure fresh stuff and cook according to order, and an unforgettable stay. Here's how this place is different from any other FRH. You are captive in the middle of the jungle and there are animals all around you. A glade and three salt licks in front are the bait. The first-floor balcony serves as your VIP box from where you wait and watch. The first time we went in February 2012, we saw a Bengal tiger (even the caretaker was shocked as it's a rarer than rare sight), two trumpeting elephants and lots of wild boars. Our trip in 2013 was less fortunate but we spotted 58 bisons at one go! The best time to chance upon a sighting is late afternoon but it's never a certainty. There is a watch tower closeby. The thrill of this place is heightened at night when jungle sounds become more pronounced. The caretaker provides a searchlight in case you want to 'see' something. The forest remains closed from June till September.
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