Weather :

Time Required : 3-4 hrs

Entry Fee : Indians: INR 100,
Foreigners: INR 200,
Still Camera: INR 100,
Video Camera: INR 500

Timings : 6:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Closed from 16 June to 15 September

Singalila National Park, Darjeeling Overview

Located at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above the sea in the Singalila range, the Singalila National Park is the highest national park in West Bengal. Initially, a wildlife sanctuary, the national park encompasses a beautiful, 78.60 sq km land of virgin rhododendron forests, alpine valley and rare species of animals and orchids. It is most famous for the breathtakingly mind-stirring view of the Himalayan peak that it offers, providing a panoramic view of the gigantic Himalayas from Nepal to Sikkim and up to Bhutan. Singalila is home to the very rare and exotic Red panda and the Himalayan black bear. 

This amazing Singalila National Park is a haven for all the wildlife residing here as the area is strictly reserved for protection of biodiversity and activities like developmental forestry, poaching, hunting and grazing on cultivation are not permitted. The national park is also part of a trekking route and no less than a paradise for trekkers and adventure lovers. Singalila National Park derives its name from the Singalila spur, which runs through the park, descending from Mount Kanchenjunga in the north and running south to the northern fringe of the Gangetic Plains. 

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Singalila National Park Entry Permit

It is mandatory to take a permit from the forest department before entering the core area of the Singalila National Park. The permit can be acquired either from the Forest Department office at Manebhanjan or at the entrance to the national park about 1km from Tumling.

Singalila Trek

Singalila National Park is very popular due to its trekking trails. Trekking in the region is popular during the months of March and April as this is when the rhododendrons and orchids bloom, providing a marvellous outlook to the whole forest. There is s government run hut in the park providing living accommodations to the trekkers. Within the park, it is necessary for tourists to be accompanied by trained and registered guides of the Wildlife Department. The guides are available at the entrance point from any of the following places:
Maneybhanjyang- Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare Association
Dhotray - Nature Guides Association,
Rimbick - Rimbick Guide Association.

One of the most popular treks is along the Singalila Ridge to Sandakphu and Phalut. It provides a grand vista of the Kangchenjunga range, and the Everest range and you can also see the seasonal wildflower blooms and birding. This trek begins at Manebhanjan, 51 km from Darjeeling and is divided into four stages.

Meghma Village on the way to Sandakphu
Meghma Village on the Way to Sandakphu
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Stage 1: Manebhanjan to Meghma (2600 m) - This is the easiest 4-hour trek through the lower region of the forest.

Stage 2: Meghma to Gairibans (2621 m) - From here you can take two alternate routes. The longer route from Tonglu passes through the boundary of the forest. And the other shorter route via Tumbling cuts through Nepal and Jaubari.

Stage 3: Gairibans to Sandakphu (3636 m) - This 4-hour steep flight is the hardest part of the trek. Roughly halfway up the climb you can visit the village of Kala Pokhri and mingle with the locals.

Stage 4: Sandakphu to Phalut (3600 m) - This is the most rewarding stretch of the whole Singalila National Park trek and offers a pristine view of the Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest. This also is the most challenging route as there is no available source for water in between.

Singalila National Park Jeep Safari Tour

Jeep Safari through the Singalila National Park and the surrounding forest is the best and the coveted way to get around and breathe in the beauty of this place. The Safari route is ringed by stretches of greenery, with lofty pine trees and vibrant rhododendrons. It truly is a feast for eyes, especially during October- January, when you can have a clear on view of the surrounding peaks. The Safari begins at Manebhanjan, from where a landrover will drive you past unique landscape and local Gorkha villages, all the way to the highest peak of West Bengal and Phalut. Here, you can get a panoramic view of famous peaks like Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu. Not to mention, you get to see the various species of flora and fauna living in their natural habitat. The trail passes through Tumling and Kalapokhri, where lodging facilities are available. The Safari finally ends at Sandakphu (4.5 hours) or to Phalut (another 2.5 hours).

The fare for the Safari is published by Land rover association that charges around INR 3000 for the same. The best way to go through with this adventure-filled ride is to contact a Darjeeling based tour operator who will organize all logistics including vehicle, guide, stay and entry permit. You can also plan the entire thing on your own.

Singalila National Park
Stunning views of the surrounding peaks from Singalila National Park
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Activities at Singalila National Park

Camping: Camping at Singalila National Park is an experience of a lifetime and in order to go ahead with camping, prior permission must be taken at the Manebhanjan Check Post for a fee. The fee depends upon the number of camping tents, at which area would the camping spot be fixed and how many gears the campers would be carrying. People who go for trekking from Sandakphu will find many places to camp on the way to Phalut

Bird Watching: Singalila National Park is home to a variety of rare and exotic birds and whoever comes to the forest will leave no stone unturned to have a chance to look at the beautiful flock. The national park has around 200 species. If a person plans to do bird watching, the best time to do so would be in November- March. No entry fee is required and it is also advised to plan out the event a few months in advance in case it starts raining unexpectedly.

Darjeeling Woodpecker at Singalila National Park
Darjeeling Woodpecker at Singalila National Park
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Flora and Fauna at Singalila National Park

Flora: The vegetation in the park is mostly temperate and alpine, stretching right up to the snowy mountains. The most dominant Flora found in the Singalila National Park is Bamboo, Oak, Magnolia, Rhododendron, Primula, Geranium, Saxifraga, Bistort, Senecio, Cotoneaster, etc. There are also a variety of orchids found in the park. During the spring months of March-April, you can see around 20 different types of rhododendrons blooming in colourful hues all across the park. Over 600 varieties of orchids and ornamental primulas carpet the forest floor creating a beautiful panoramic view.

Fauna: Singalila National Park is the home to very exotic and rare red panda and Himalayan black bear that can not be found anywhere else in the country. Apart from that, you also get to see leopard, pangolin, chinkara, elephant, barking deer, etc. in their natural habitat. The main speciality of the park is the very rare red pandas. There are around 32 of them, so consider yourself lucky if you spot one. They are herbivores and mostly found devouring the bamboo leaves and fruits. Another significant and exotic animal is the barking deer that looks like a small deer with short horns but bark like dogs. You can also spot the rare lizards here like amphibians Himalayan Newt. Occasionally even tigers can be seen in the park.

Red Panda at Singalila National Park
The rare Red Panda at Singalila National Park
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Avifauna: A delight for the bird watcher, Singalila National Park houses more than 120 varieties of both common and rare birds like scarlet minivet, kalij pheasant, satyr tragopan, blood pheasant, etc. It also serves as a temporary home for migratory birds. Some of the popular birds in the park include long tail minivet, blood pheasant, Black-throated & brown parrotbill, robins of many types, cuckoo, slender-billed babbler, satyr tragopan, fire-tailed myzornis and lot more. It is one of the most popular birding spots in Eastern India, attracting thousands of people during the blooming season.

Unlike most of the other national parks, there are no watchtowers here to see all the varied flora and fauna. The gravel road that passes through it is the only place accessible to human beings to see the biodiversity. It is strictly prohibited to venture into the forest as there are several deep gorges there that can be very dangerous.

Best Time to Visit

Because of being at a high altitude, the region faces a harsh climatic condition during the winter season. Thus, it is best to visit the Singalila National Park during the spring and the summer months of March to May. Also, the park is closed to tourist from 16 June to 15 September every year because of heavy downpour, so you can visit in post-monsoon months of mid-September to early December.

Tips

1. The roads leading up to the park are circular, so the journey can feel like a wave motion. Take proper precautions.
2. The trek can be quite tiring. Take adequate food and beverages for it.
3. The road trip to the park is amazing and very aesthetic. Be ready with your cameras.
4. Do not go unguided into the deep forest.

History of Singalila National Park

In 1882, the Singalila forest was bought on lease by the British Government from the erstwhile King of Sikkim. Later, after independence, the forest area became a part of Darjeeling District as a wildlife sanctuary and was then converted into a National Park in 1992. The exotic Singalila National Park extends in the reserved forest that has long been used as a trekking route from Manebhanjang to Sandakphu and Phalut. This trekking route was also used by the first documented mountaineering team led by Jules Jacot-Guillarmod and the famous occultist Aleister Crowley. The team attempted to climb Mount Kanchenjunga in 1905 but failed. The park and its ridge are also the stars of a film named "Singalila in the Himalaya" by George Thengummoottil. The film speaks about the history of Singalila ridge through a 14-day trek.

Meadows in Singalila National Park
Meadows in Singalila National Park
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Q. I am planning to visit Singalila NP on end of April, 2020 for bird photography and search of Red Panda, if I am lucky. Please help me for stay option and birding by foot. Thanks,

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