Jhilli Bird Sanctuary
When the trekker dropped me off at the Kenduabari stop, I saw nothing but a grocery store nearby. A red soil road passes by the shop and goes inside the village. I just realized that this red soil road would take me to my destination, but even after standing for 5 minutes I did not see any auto nor any cycle van. Meanwhile I called Mr.Karu and got a vague reply like “Let me check out if I can manage anything”! Karu is the caretaker of the Jhilli bird sanctuary.
After landing at Jhargram statin by Ispat Express from Kolkata at 9.15 am, my hopes got hurt when I came to know in the bus stand that there is no direct bus to Hatibari. To reach Jhilli/Hatibari you have to first reach Gopiballavpur. But this Karu had assured me on the phone the day before that there is a direct bus from Jhargram to Hatibari. Anyway, I travelled from Jhargram to Gopiballavpur 41 km by bus and from there to Jhilli which is another 24 km by trekker. This Kanduabari stoppage is 2 km before Hatibari. Whatever it was, seeing my helplessness a nearby grocery store owner took the initiative and called his an autowala uncle of his acquaintance.
As we drove along the red soil road to towards Jhilli the annoyance that was cooking in my mind, vanished like camphor. There is a sweet village inlaid with dark green on both sides. Some simple people are spending lazy afternoons in mud houses and their backyards. On the way I met Karu, he was going to Hatibari. He reassured me that all the arrangements for my stay in the sanctuary had been made and I won’t have any problems. Just after crossing the village you will find the forest of Palash trees and the huge lake of Jhilli on the other side.
At the other end of the lake you can see a pair of cottages. The problem is that the entrance to the sanctuary is at the very other end of the lake, so we had to circle the lake for another 4 km to reach the reservoir. Its already 2pm in the noon now. An elderly employee of the sanctuary took me to one of the cottages and in my utter despair I found its room is was uninhabitable.
I understood actually the room has not yet been launched for the guests. Seeing that, my mood turned in a bad shape. The elderly man consoled me by saying that one of the members of the Panchayat Samiti with his family has suddenly come for a picnic and so they had to leave the cottage allotted for me to that family for a sometime. They will leave the cottage within 4 pm – then I will get the occupancy.
Luckily I took my lunch after getting down at Gopiballavpur! I went out with the camera to cool my head. The location of the cottage is very beautiful. A few feet down the stairs of the veranda,you will find the pond surrounding three sides around the cottage. Looking back at the cottage, it seemed as if I was standing on an island. The courtyard of the aviary is quite large. Its decorated with garden on all sides.
In front of the second cottage (which I will get after 4 pm) I saw a paved ghat with a paddle boat tied to it. A young boy emerged out on my shouts for the paddle boat. This boat is the only means to row in the lake. So I floated with the boy in search of birds in the waters of Jhilli. The whole lake is full of water lilies. Rows and rows of pink flowers greeted me from the half-immersed large leaves.
As soon as we left the wharf and went a little deeper, I heard the sound of a fine whistles. I discovered the flocks Lesser Whistling Ducks on that part of the lake from where the whistling sound was coming.
There is only one problem. I was not able to get very close to the birds as the paddle boat made its presence felt by making a squeaking noise. It seemed that someone has mixed a handful of vermilion color in lake water. The whole sky is covered with that color. This color of the sunset in the gaps of the water lilies is very enchanting.
Back on land I got the proper cottage. As a tourist, I was alone in the whole aviary. It took an hour for the evening snacks to get served! Later I heard that Karu has sent the snacks from the other side of the lake by boat.
I realized that he had no desire to appear in front of me afternoon pandemonium . The night’s sleep was quite good after the entire day’s exhaustion. I got up in the morning and went out of the main gate of the aviary. I did not take the red soil road but rather stepped towards the forest near the lake ,because I noticed that the concentration of birds was more at this side while navigating on the lake yesterday.
After crossing over the bushes, I realized that I had made the right guess. In addition to the numerous lesser whistling ducks, I also found some Bronze Winged Jacanas playing hide and seek on water lily leaves. In the bright morning sun, it was a treat for the eye to see so many birds on the lake.
I went back to the cottage and checked out of the sanctuary in that same auto of yesterday. We glided 2 km from ahead of Kenduabari junction and found Hatibari Forest Bungalow. This bungalow is amidst the forest and just beside the Subarnarekha river .The bungalow is surrounded by forests on all sides and a road descends through the middle of the river Subarnarekha.
Its an outstanding environment to stay. The only disturbing fact is that the forest department allows picnics here as a result the forest environment is getting polluted. The awesome beauty of flowing Subarnarekha river made me spell bound and glued my feet on the shore. I have seen such a wide and dense blue Subarnarekha river in very few places. Leaving, I headed towards the border of Orissa – Jharkhand – West Bengal. This border is very close to Hatibari bus stand.
It is the connecting point of the three states! Some of the shop hoardings in the area are written in Bengali, some in Hindi and some in Oriya. I couldn’t notice any buses so I boarded a trekker for Gopiballavpur and took the same route in which I came. I had only one regret. Somewhere there seems to be a little tone of negligence in in Jhilli Sanctuary. With a little more supervision from the authorities, Jhilli and Hatibari can really become a great tourist spot in the near future.
© Arijit Kar
Hi! I am from Kolkata, India. Travelling and photography is my passion. As I love landscape photography most, travelling goes hand in hand with it. Since my matriculation days I started travelling. I have also penned down a book on my travelling which is available in Amazon in the name of Ghuranchandi – Part 1. Whatever travel experiences I have, I have shared those in my blog in the form of travel stories.