The homelands of the exotic red panda- the Singalila National Park is located on the Indo-Nepal border. This place sees tourists from all over the world; not only for its diversity of wildlife but also for its nothing-short-of-stunning views of the Kanchenjunga range that makes a perfect background for rhododendrons in colours bursting straight out of an artist palate.
How to reach Singalila National Park
The Singalila National Park is well connected with the rest of West Bengal. You can take the motorable road to reach the nearest town, which is Manehanjan. The closest airport to Manebhanjan is Bagdogra, from where you can take a shared cab or book your private taxi. Alternatively, you can take a train from any part of the country to reach NJP, from where you’ll find cabs waiting to take you up to Darjeeling. Get down at Ghoom on your way to Darjeeling, and then take a cab to reach Manebhanjan.
What to see
The Singalila National Park is divided into two ranges- the first one leading towards Sikkim through Rimbik. It is the second range that is more popular among visitors and locals alike, mostly because trekkers take this route to reach Sandakphu and Phalut, both of which are the highest peaks along the Singalila Range.
An arch-like entrance stands at Tumling to greet visitors on their entry to the national park. Tickets can be purchased at the gate, however, if your itinerary includes a visit to the core area of the national park, you’d need to obtain permits from the Manebhanjan Forest Department office.
The Singalila National Park is among the must-visit places in Darjeeling because of its location and diversity of flora and fauna. If you’re lucky to visit on a bright, sunny day, you can catch the sun playing peek-a-boo from between the tall pine and oak trees, casting magical shadows on the grounds layered with fern. Keep your eyes open for sudden glimpses of wildlife; the Himalayan Black Bear and the Clouded Leopard are common sightings in the area, apart from the much-famous Red Panda of course. It is advisable to book your wildlife safari from Manebhajan itself since tourists are not permitted to explore this area on foot. Neither is it advisable to go wandering around the forests on your own!
If you’re a bird-watching enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place. Home to at least 120 species of birds, the Singalila National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise. You can spot Himalayan Griffons, Blood Pheasants, Long Tail Minivets, Satyr Tragopans amongst others.
The Singalila National Park also serves as a gateway for those trekking to Sandakphu, the highest peak in the area at a height of 11,909 feet above sea level. While a lot of tourists prefer to take the jeep ride up to Sandakphu, trekking is a good option for the young at heart. The trek from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu takes about 3 days and is an outlet to breaktaking vistas of the Himalayas and the surrounding landscape. Pro Tip– Plan your visit during Spring to see the national park in full bloom, or go during autumn after the rains have ceased. The national park is closed during monsoon for safety reasons.