Head To This National Park In Kalimpong For Rhododendrons & Red Panda Sightings
Take a break from work and head to Neora Valley National Park in Kalimpong to spend some time amidst nature and diverse flora and fauna.
What Makes It Awesome
Neora Valley National Park, named after River Neon that runs through it, is home to more than 250 species of birds and endangered animals like the Red Panda and the Black Asiatic Bear. The park has two entry points from Lava and Samsing. You'll have to trek to the park from Zero Point (a distance of about 10-15 kms) - imagine trekking through jungle trails amindst the chirping of birds and butterflies and different plant and animal species. All you trekkers who wanna camp in the area for a few days, go to the park via Samsing. Most of the trekking routes originate from Suntaley Khola and pass through the national park.
Neora extends up to an altitude of 3200 m forming a boundary with Bhutan and Sikkim. The park boasts of a unique ecosystem with tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and sub-temperate vegetation that fosters diverse flora and fauna. Witness different types of rhododendrons (a few that are over 300 years old!) in full bloom along with other species like bamboo, oak, ferns, sal and orchids, hemlocks, yews and wild strawberries to name a few. Neora ia a birdwatchers' haven. Catch a glimpse of rare birds like Satyr Tragopan, Rufous-Throated Partridge, Golden-Throated Barbet, Crimson-Breasted Woodpecker, Darjeeling Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Mountain Imperial Pigeon and Bay Woodpecker to name a few. Ask your hotel in advance to book a birding trek through the jungles.
The endangered Red Panda is the star attraction at the park but rare to spot. They usually sleep on bamboo groves during the day and set out to look for food only after sunset. The forests are so dense that it's difficult for sunlight to reach the park making it impossible to trek through the jungles after sunset. So, if you do manage to spot a red panda, consider yourself extremely lucky! But you can spot other mammals like different types of leopards, civet, black bear, sloth bear, golden cat, wild boar, goral, serow, barking deer, sambar, Himalayan flying squirrel and thar among others besides insects and reptiles.
October to April is the best time to visit Neora Valley National Park. It's closed for three months during monsoons. Birdwatchers, visit between December to March. Lots of accommodation options are available but we'd suggest you stay at the Neora Valley Jungle Camps - stay in cottages or attics and wake up to breathtaking views of the Kanchenjunga, lush green forests, rhododendrons and mountain streams.
If you're halting at Lava, the Nature Interpretation Center for Neora Valley National Park as well as the Buddhist monastery are must-visits.
You need permits to enter the park. You'll get them from the forest range offices in Lava and Samsing. Make sure you have enough time in hand as issuing permits can take a couple of hours.
Hire a guide. Carry your woollens and good cameras, of course!