Distance from Kolkata: 136 km
Driving Time: 5 hours
Road Trip: 2 day
Team WHEELS forays into another serene getaway in West Bengal – the Joypur Forest in Bankura.
Route description: From Vidya Sagar Setu get into Kona Expressway. At the end of Kona Expressway take the lane on right going onto a flyover towards NH-2 (proceeding towards Delhi). Continue on the NH-2 to pay toll tax at Dankuni toll plaza and enter Durgapur Expressway (NH-2). The 3+3 lane highway from Kolkata through Durgapur Expressway is a real pleasure for driving enthusiasts. Drive for 15 km from the toll plaza on Durgapur Expressway and look for ‘Tarakeswar-Baidyabati’ bypass on your left. Leave the highway and take the extreme left lane onto a bypassing flyover. At the top of the flyover turn left towards Tarakeswar and drive through Tarakeswar Road which is an old generation single road with moderate road condition.
Drive through this road towards Tarakeswar. After crossing Tarakeswar, proceed forward to meet Arambagh Road, which goes to Arambagh town – 28 km from Tarakeswar. From here, the road changes its name to Kotolpur – Bishnupur Road and proceeds to Bishnupur via Joypur forest – 46 km from Arambagh town.
During our drive, the road condition between Arambagh and Joypur forest was pathetic. After trudging for about two hours from Arambagh, we finally made it to Joypur forest. However, the final stretch of the drive for about 10 km was silk smooth with clear road markings and signage which compensated for the bad patch.
Surrounded by the serene greenery of sal and segun, spreading a blanket over the reddish-orange laterite soil, the beautiful forest of Joypur in Bankura is a visual delight.
While you approach the woods, a road barrier across the road will mark the beginning of the Joypur forest. Immediately on the right, you will find the office of the Divisional Forest Officer under Panchet Division, which has a forest bungalow inside its compound too.
Joypur forest, spreading over 13,000 acres was once known to have spotted deer (chital), wild boars, rabbits and exotic birds. We were also told that if lucky, we may even see elephants passing through. We decided to explore the greenery and travelled through forest pathway in our vehicle for over half an hour but could spot nothing other than few birds – rare or not, best known to only Salim Ali.
On the opposite side of the forest office on main road is a restaurant named ‘Banalata’ which has adjoining facilities for accommodation.
A three-minute-drive from the forest office will lead you to 60-feet tall three storied building with accommodation, doubling up as a watch tower. The lush greenery all around, looks magical once you reach the top of the building, provided you are permitted to enter the premise; the authority being the Divisional Forest Officer.
There is an open ground beside the watch tower, which serves as a picnic spot for the locals overseeing a huge lake named Dhol Samudra – a huge fresh water lake. Although we were told there is boating facility we found none.
During our visit in mid December, the level of water in the lake was low but we could very well imagine that in the monsoons the lake would be brimming.
Since the lake Dhol Samudra is surrounded by forest, wild animals come to drink water at night. On one side of the lake is a small dam – Samudra Bandh.
We also heard that there is an abandoned air-strip of the British era, 12 km from the forest, which we could not visit.
The lodging option at the forest department’s rest house by the main road is not generally open to public unless one gets special permission in advance from the DFO (District Forest Officer). The bungalow has just two rooms on the first floor overlooking a beautiful garden and the road in front with a dining room below. The logs from the surrounding forest are stacked in separate blocks at the side of the bungalow. The premise also has a garden of medicinal plants with a large variety of rare species.
The other available facility for accommodation in Joypur forest is the building of the watch-tower under DFO located at the edge of the forest overlooking the Dhol Samudra lake. It has three rooms – Finge, Doyel Shyama – each one located at each of the three floors which are in dire need of maintenance. Reservation for this place is again through the same District Forest Office. However, the cumbersome system of reservation through cash payment in advance has always made the bookings a real problem and thus has made it out of bounds for the tourists. When interviewed, the District Forest Officer Kumar Vimal, however, did not admit the problems in reservation process and cited low bookings of all forest rest houses across the state of West Bengal.
The third option for accommodation at Joypur forest is Banalata Hotel. The property is located beside the main road at the outskirts of the forest. Originally, this was a roadside dhaba built five years back which gradually developed into a sprawling resort acquiring a huge area. It has accommodation options in cottages, mud houses and buildings of 2 and 4 bedded rooms having air-conditions and modern amenities.
At Banalata restaurant, meat of emu and that of Asian koel are major attractions. One may also try meat of duck or country chicken. However, being novice in the trade, the management and upkeep of the property are not up to the mark.
Although, the experience to Joypur forest was overall modest, it is still a wonderful getaway from the smog and clamour of city life.