Valmikinagar - lesser known tiger reserve in India
It's exactly 2 years since I last visited this hidden treasure of Bihar - Valmikinagar.
मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगम: शशवती समाः ।
_यत क्रोंच्मिथुनादेकम अवधिः काममोहितम ।। _
"No, Hunter you will Never rest in peace since you killed a helpless bird unaware of
surroundings due to play of the animal instincts"
They say the first shloka ever created by mankind was composed here by Maharshi Valmiki. The epic is the omni-known Ramayana.That's not all. Situated on the banks of River Gandak, bordering Nepal (with the famous Chitwan Tiger reserve at the opposite), this reserve is the habitat of 16 odd tigers. Spread across an area of 335 sq km, this reserve is also the habitat of Rhinoceros, Black bear, Leopard, Wild dog, Wild buffalo, Wild boar, barking deer, spotted deer, Hog deer, Shambhar, Blue bull, hyena, Leopard cat, Wild cat, fishing cat, Languor, Monkey, Flying squirrel, Indian Flying Fox, python, Cobra, King cobra, Krait, Banded krait, domuha snake (sand boa), crocodiles, otters (water cat), Ghariyal, monitor lizard etc. It is also a habitat of more than 240 bird species and numerous butterflies.
During my last visit, I did not get the opportunity to go into the reserve and experience wildlife. There was no place to stay. One of our friend was kind enough to make special arrangements for fooding and lodging. There was no scope of any elephant or Jeep safari, or even jungle walk.
Things have changed now. Govt. Of Bihar at last woke up from the hibernation. The only hotel, that I found closed during my last visit has been renovated and re-opened. Arrangements have been made for Jeep safaris, elephant safaris and jungle walk. The hotel now has 10 well equipped rooms with fooding facility. The rooms are decent and spacious. The hotel had parking facility, garden etc. Not luxurious, but the place is warm enough for travellers.
Our Day 0 was spent mostly on road. The condition of road has worsened in last two years. Personally, I won't mind that as this will help the place to keep it's originality. But, lesser tourist inflow is not what is desirable and there is a need for the roads to be repaired and widened.
The article is a small review of the place. DOs and Dont's. What's good and what needs to be done further.
Valmikinagar got it's name from Rishi Valimiki, the author of the epic - Ramayana. It is said that the epic was written here in Valmiki Ashram. Technically the Ashram is located about 30 m inside the Nepal border.
It's abut 270 Km drive from Patna. Govt. Of Bihar plans to start Bus service. The route is Patna-Hajipur-Kesaria-Bettiah-Bagha-Valmikinagar. The strech of Bettiah to Bagha is pathetic.
There's another route from Patna. Patna-Hajipur-Chhapra-Siwan-Gopalgunj-Paniyawan-Valmikinagar.
The train station Valmikinagar Road is about 30 Km from proper Valmikinagar.
Another route is through Nepal. Valmikinagar is about 5 Kms from Triveni.
Where to Stay?
Govt. Of Bihar had leased out a hotel "Valmiki Vihar". Situated about 10 m from the bank of river Gandak and a few metres from the jungle, the location couldn't have been better.
A well maintained garden and lawn, 10 decent rooms, a proper dining hall. Power is available throughout the day. Only in the morning the voltage remains low. Water is also available throughout the day. Food needs to be ordered well in advance as the hotel doesn't maintain a stock of raw materials. With the increased inflow of tourists, I hope they will start it as well.
Where to visit?
- Valmiki Ashram: This is said to be the ashram of Maharshi Valmiki, where Sita had stayed with Lav-Kush. The place from where Sita went inside Patala.
- Gandak Bridge and Dam. This dam connects Nepal and India. The huge dam is a visual delight.
- The reserve: There's no point in going to Valmikinagar, unless you visit the jungle as well.
What to do?
Feel the wind flowing in the bank of river Gandak, spread your hands to stretch, look up towards the sky with closed eyes and take a deeeeep breath.
Jungle Walk: A walk through the jungle early in the morning will not only refresh you, it will also give you opportunities to experience the flora around. And if lucky, fauna as well. A birdwatcher's delight!
Jeep Safari: A drive through the roads passing through the jungle. It's a good experience provided you find some animals as well.
Elephant Safari: Elephant Safari through the jungle is always a pleasurable moment.
Things I liked:
The hotel is good, spacious and warm! Location is also very good as it is located a few metres from Gandak. Good parking space. Well maintained garden. Lots of space. The hotel staff are very nice and helpful guys. They made our stay very comfortable.
Scope of Improvement:
Road: Inflow will be less unless roads are improved. 270 Km drive takes almost a day from Patna, thanks to the road.
Connectivity: Since mobile networks do not work at the hotel, there should be alternative arrangements. Landline doesn't work always. And internet connectivity is not present.
Jeep Safari: The vehicle used is poor and unsafe. No. Of vehicles needs to be increased. (We had to skip a safari as they wanted to merge 2 groups, which we didn't want.). The approach is inexperienced and unprofessional. The guide knows nothing except for the roads. When we wanted to go to the jungle late at night, they said that the Ranger has not allowed, because the animals need sleep. Lol. Nocturnal animals need sleep at night!!!
I wish the ranger and the localites had taken efforts to keep away poachers. I'm writing this because, it's said that Chitwan being a safer place, animals run away to Chitwan; thanks to the poaching activities in Valmikinagar.)
- Elephant Safari: Only 2 elephants are used, which are owned by Forest Department. One male and other female. The route is through the roads which goes to some village, leaving no prospect for the sight of any animals. (In Chitwan, they have established their own route through the jungle. They go deep in the jungle. And use only female elephants. )
If you ask me, both elephant and Jeep safaris are a waste, in Valmikinagar. There is immense scope of improvement. The place has it's own charm. The cool fresh breeze, the jungle walk away from the chaos of city life, is a good refreshment. But, if the authorities do not act, it'll remain a weekend escape and never grow up to become a major tourist spot.
I plan to revisit the place again in January. Will again give u the feedback!!! +++