Four old trekking routes to reopen
Tourists visiting the hills in April-May of this year will get to hike in the original forest area of Darjeeling as the wildlife division is set to revive four popular trekking routes that had remained mostly unused for many years.
An initiative of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the wildlife division is working on a project to renovate the Nature Interpretation Centre (NIC) at Tiger Hill as well as revive the four trekking paths.
Marking the close of the week-long Wild Life week today in Chowrastha, North Bengal Conservator of Forests Sunita Ghatak said, “Work is in progress to renovate the NIC at Tiger Hill. This aside, at the rear of the NIC are some beautiful trekking trails which we will revive by May of this year,” she said.
The first trekking route is the 5.5km Tiger Hill-Rambhi path, one of the oldest in the region, followed by the 7km Tiger Hill-Chatakpur, 3rd Mile-Dabaipani, which is 6km, and the Keventer’s Road-Tiger Hill butterfly trail.
“The Tiger Hill-Rambhi route is a very old trekking path and an easy one. Walking through this route, visitors will be able to imagine what the original jungle used to be like in the old days. The Keventer's Road-Tiger Hill trek, also known as the old butterfly route, is equally beautiful and we want to revive these routes for both tourists and locals alike,” Ghatak said.
The four trekking routes offer bird-watching opportunities and if lucky, one can catch glimpses of wild animals such as the barking deer and wild boar and even leopards and black bear.
At Tiger Hill, 10km from Darjeeling town, the wildlife division is working to complete two view points for tourists by March. Plans are also on to start a night stay facility at the nature interpretation centre there. “We want tourists to experience the beautiful sunrise from Tiger Hill. And for this we are erecting two view points and also providing the option of night halt at the NIC,” Ghatak said.
The projects, costing Rs1 crore, are funded by the state government’s tourism department. When asked about the objectives of reviving the trekking routes, the CF said it was aimed at generating revenue and providing job opportunities to the locals. “Primarily the idea is to create an income earning opportunity. We plan to charge nominal fees for trekking on these routes. Also, we feel locals will get job opportunities,” Ghatak said.
The wildlife division has already started training locals as guides to help tourists get correct information about the four trails that will officially be open to the public from May. “We have started side-by-side guide training programmes for some locals. This is important as tourists must be able to get the correct information about the area they are visiting. We also want that locals to benefit from the initiative,” the CF said.
Neora Valley in Kalimpong will also be developed as a bird-watching and butterfly destination to attract tourists to the region.
Work will start from next year. To make people aware of the importance of forests and flora and fauna of the region, youths from Impulse, a dance and fitness organisation of Kalimpong, gave an impromptu dance performance at Chowrastha with the message to save and care wild animals. (EOIC)