Located across a variety of geographical landscapes, wildlife sanctuaries and parks in West Bengal offer an immense choice by way of flora and fauna, landscapes and accessibility.
Singalila National Park
Part of the trekking route to Sandakphu, the highest point in West Bengal, the eponymous park is located on the Singalila range, at a height of 1,200 meters above sea level. The Himalayan snow peaks are visible from the park. Apart from the Red Panda, it is also home to a large variety of birds and other animals. March-April is the time to visit if you want to see the rhododendrons bloom. Tonglu, the entry point, is about 90km from Siliguri, which is connected by road and rail with the rest of the country. Bagdogra, the nearest airport is about 10km from Siliguri.
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
One of the most popular wildlife sanctuaries in West Bengal, it is famous for the one-horned Indian rhino. Take an early morning elephant safari to see the animals roam among the foothill forests of the Eastern Himalayas. The Hollong Tourist Lodge is the best place to stay as the salt licks in the vicinity attract many wild animals. Bagdogra is the nearest airport. New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri is the main rail and road hub. You may pay a half day visit to Phuentsholing (nearly 30km away), the Bhutanese town just past the Indian border.
Although it is not part of any notified wildlife sanctuaries in West Bengal, Ajodhya Hill in Purulia district is part of the Chhota Nagpur plateau. A popular destination for trekking, rock climbing training and nature camps, it is home to several waterfalls, lakes and dams. Sal, Palash, Kusum, Mahua are some of the tree species found here. Home to elephants and smaller animals as well as birds, the Hill is easily accessible from Purulia town (42km away). Budget accommodation is available on top of the Hill while there are a couple of luxury resorts nearby.
Sundarban National Park
One of the most famous wildlife parks in West Bengal, Sundarban National Park was part of the first group of tiger reserves to be brought under Project Tiger. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kolkata is the nearest airport, rail and road hub. There are several gateways to the park, such as Canning (from where domestic travellers can obtain forest entry permit), Sonakhali, and Godkhali — all within a driving distance of 80-100km from the city. From here one has to board a watercraft — be it the local ferry, a boat or a luxury launch — to explore the vast deltaic mangrove forest (that India shares with Bangladesh) through a network of rivers and channels. Although famous for the tiger, it is also home to crocodiles, spotted deer, water monitor lizards, fishing cat (the state animal), mudskippers, and a large number of birds. Although it is possible to visit on a day trip from Kolkata, two nights’ stay is recommended. Sajnekhali Island has a Mangrove Interpretation Centre, a tourist lodge and a watch tower. Other popular islands include Sudhanyakhali, Netidhopani, Pakhirala, Bagna, Dobanki (where you will take a canopy walk 20 feet above ground), and Bhagabatpur (Crocodile Project).
Chintamoni Kar Wildlife Sanctuary
Located on the southern suburb of Kolkata, Narendrapur, it is an example of public awareness saving wildlife habitat with government assistance. Named after the noted sculptor, Chintamoni Kar, the wildlife sanctuary is an orchard full of mango, jackfruit, guava, coconut and other trees. Over 150 species of birds have been noted here. It is also home to a great variety of butterflies, ferns, and orchids.