It was a perfect spot for a murder mystery or a ghost story or at least an attack by a wild leopard.
These were the thoughts running through my mind as I lay in my bed in our small bungalow deep within the North Bengal forest known for its wild elephants and boars and man eating leopards.
Beside me , my hubby was sound asleep.We had a whole lop of jungle trekking to come to this place. It promised to give us one of a kind jungle trip .So we took the pains of booking 4 months in advance in one of the best jungle stays in North Bengal.We had a hectic trip to reach this habitat in the middle of nowhere and Arijit was understandably exhausted.I was tired too but was still awake.
I got up , freshened up and opened the curtains just so I could see the outside.What was beautiful blue mountains in the distance and green overgrown trees of the forest landscape , now was pitch dark black.Besides us , there were other bungalows spread across a vast area but all were vacant.
The caretaker has warned us not to venture outside the premise since there’s no guarantee of ehta might pounce on you. He lives below the bungalow , the light of the quarter visible from our window but it is still to far.
I smelled adventure.I pushed Arijit to wake him up and beckoned him to go outside.
“We have to go out” I resolutely stated .
We put on thick jackets and woolen caps and went out with our mobile torch for visibility.
I never realised how dark darkness can be had I not visited Suntalay Khola.We took a strool in the compound fenced by barbed wire. A hanging bridge over the stream divided the no-man’s land from civilization.We stood over the hanging bridge and absorbed the moment.
Darkness was in front and behind us .It was so cold , we could see our breath and so quiet that the sound of water from the stream was the only thing we could hear.All around us, lay vast stretches of unknown dense forest known for its wild elephants and with numerous leopard sightings on a daily basis.
Time stood still as we stood still , but we eventually remembered what our caretaker has told in the afternoon about not venturing too far from the bungalow.We turned back and walked towards our stay.
Suntalay Khola , atop the hills in North Bengal.You are a beauty and we are in awe of you.
If you also want to have this unique forest adventure with an affordable jungle stay in North Bengal, might I suggest you stay in Suntalay Khola govt. bungalow for a night . Rest assured , you will not be dissapointed with having a goosebump of an experience.
How to plan a trip to Suntalay Khola ?
Although it’s a unique experience , people generally don’t visit Suntalay Khola as a separate tour.What most travel enthusisats do is include a stay in Suntalay Khola within their trip of North Bengal forests.Even then , many simply visit do forest trekking at Suntalay Khola and return.
I would however suggest a night stay at the govt. bungalow for the ultimate experience.
Via car , its a 5 hour journey from the famous Gorumara forest known for its tiger reserve and frequent leopard sightings. Post this , there comes jungle hiking to check some waterfalls and mountain rivers. Take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the mountains or enjoy a view atop a huge rock .There’s plenty of sight seeing while on the way. Do also visit the Indo- Bhutan border and wet your feet in the Paro river . Eat momo from one of the roadside eateries or spend a litrle more for roadside small restos , there’s option for both.
Post this , start again with your hiking to Suntalay Khola .The govt. bungalow is across a stream which is connected only via a hanging bridge.Please plan such that you are able to reach by day time. Since post afternoon ,they close the premises and only locals are allowed to travel that only for limited period. Once you enter the premises , you will find numerous tourists who visit the place as there’s a big garden across . The overlooking mountains and long and tall trees with a clear sky will make you feel completely in sync with nature.
It is the evening when the real magic of Suntalay Khola starts. The caretakers will provide with delicious evening snacks and beverages as per wishes.As night falls , the whole area transforms into a sinister blanket of darkness . Visit during the monsoon to get maximum impact. With less tourists , lush green all around and the sound of mountain streams , it will be an experience like no other.
Have your dinner and venture outside the bungalow close to midnight. Wear warm jackets and caps no matter which time of the year you go cause it will always be cold there. Take you torch or with the help of your mobile venture and road across the pitch black surroundings. DO NOT TRAVEL ALONE . Even the locals do not travel alone post sunset.
If you have the guts cross the garden towards the hanging bridge and listen to the sound of the steams and light of the glow worms.Let the goosebumps settle over your skin. Have a one of a kind experience and experience darkness and mystery like never before.
Booking and Price of Govt. Bungalow at Suntalay Khola
The bungalow stay is quite famous and as such requires booking months ahead. Generally , it is recommended that you do the booking at least 6 months in peak times and before 4 months during off season. However, if you are looking to just visit Suntalay Khola , off season is the best season to visit. The mountain streams are in their full force and the forests transforms into an ethereal entity of its own.
Those who are looking only to visit Suntalay Khola will need to come via Bagdogra airport via Siliguri.
Price of the bungalow is 8, ooo/- for one night but you can apply through booking websites and get discounts. Apply as early as you get to get maximum discounts. Food and beverages costing is separate .So a night’s stay may well entend to 10,000/-.
I know i know …. its costly . But the experience is priceless. You will hardly find anyone complaining about the price when they visit Suntalay Khola.
Trust us and give Suntalay Khola a try and let this side of Indian wildreness mesmerise you .
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