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Scapes

 

The Dooars, West Bengal -- Dooars Wide Open

 

The area comprising North Bengal and a part of Assam is one of the most pristinely beautiful tourism destinations in the area. The Western Dooars constitute the Bengal part of the Dooars -- divided into western, central and eastern parts -- , which can be mapped by taking the position of two rivers into account: River Teesta on the west and River Sankosh on the east.

‘Dooars’ means ‘door’ in Bengali, Assamese, Nepali and Bhutanese, and the name is derived from geography and the fact that it is the gateway to Bhutan and the North-East. Its dense tropical forests unfurling across the foothills of the mighty Eastern Himalayas are home to a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Sprawling colonial tea estates, bordered by the picturesque hills of the lower Himalayas, are separated by towering forests of eucalyptus or sal (depending on which part of the Dooars you are in), quiet hamlets and vast swathes of national parks and wildlife reserves. Innumerable streams cut through sloping carpets of green, thanks to year-long rains that keep the weather cool and travel-friendly in any season.

 

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Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur -- Secluded Haven

Located around 50 kilometres from Imphal, the Keibul Lamjao National Park in the Bishnupur district of Manipur is the world’s only floating national park. Covering about 40 square kilometres in the southeastern part of the Loktak Lake, the largest in the North-East, it is known for its unique circular floating swamps or phumdis (meaning ‘floating mats of soil and vegetation’ in Manipuri), the only natural habitat of the brow-antlered deer or the sangai, Manipur’s state animal. The teeter in the deer’s gait as it treads the unsteady phumdis (that can be as deep as -- wait for it -- 1.5 metres) is the reasoning behind the moniker, which incidentally translates to ‘dancing deer’ in the local language. Say hello to the wobbly dears  by taking advantage of the vantage point provided by the three hillocks, Pabot, Toya or Chingjao, at the break of dawn and as quietly as possible. You can also try to catch a glimpse of the elusive clouded leopard in the Keilam Hills of Churachandpur district and the Yangoupokpi-Lakchao area of the Indo-Burma border, both to the south of the park. The first is also home to the striking (and rare) marbled cats, one of the most secretive and little-known wildcats in the world.