Saranda Forest is located in the border Odisha and Jharkhand covering both the states. Saranda meaning Elephants got it’s name due to presence of large number of elephants within these thick forest. Kiriburu and Meghahatuburu, situated in Jharkhand are the most known destinations along Saranda Forest due to the presence of Iron Ore Mines governed by SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited). This time after a lot of debate and scanning through various choices, we fixed upon Saranda Forest, originally suggested by Sushmita and Avik. Although due to presence of very less information in the internet related to tourism to this place, we had to struggle a bit initially to gather the required information.
The state forest and environment ministry is toying with the idea of notifying parts of the Saranda forest as wildlife sanctuary. The department is preparing a proposal in this to be presented to the state wildlife board for its approval. Highly placed officials of the forest ministry informed that recently it received a proposal from the West Singhbhum forest department requesting senior authorities to consider whether it would be feasible for the ministry to declare parts of Saranda as a wildlife sanctuary. Forest officials believe that once parts of Saranda is notified as a sanctuary, not only the management of wildlife would improve, but protection of the forest cover can also be enhanced.
We reached Howrah well ahead of time for scheduled departure by 12021 Jan Shatabdi Express. So we had to kill time mostly by dozing off at the station. The journey from Howrah to Barbil was way too long of being around 7 long hours. However thanks to Avik, for suggesting a game, which helped us kill the boredom. However we mostly slept through the first half of the journey though. The scenery changes specially after the train crosses Dangoaposi or Noamundi. As you’d gradually start noticing things being more reddish due to the iron ore mines.
We reached Barbil at around 1:30 PM, a bit late than scheduled arrival. Our driver Mr. Dhanna Satnami was already waiting for us. After a brief introduction, we started proceeding towards our hotel, Saranda Safari Resort. It took us around 30 minutes to drive to the hotel including a brief stop en-route for buying Mineral Water and snacks for our poison!!
Upon noticing us, Mr. Latif came forward and welcomed us warmly. We were shown the cottages. Although our first impression was very good, however gradually we felt a deep lack in maintenance of the property. Such a good place, at such a good location, can attract a lot of tourist, if maintained well. However, there was no issues on cleanliness. Rooms, washrooms and the whole property was very clean, but I cannot say well maintained. Although the issues won’t get noticed at a glance in the beginning, however one would gradually feel things being not right as you spend time. Anyway, for travellers like us, cleanliness is the one and only thing that we look for, rest all are for standard or luxury travellers!!
Soon we were served lunch. Definitely it was not finger licking, however it was well enough to eat and survive. We didn’t expect much at such a location. Although we were about to take a walk to Leopard Cave nearby, however Me and Suparna being really tired due to continuous back to back journey, we went ahead for a afternoon nap, whereas rest of the team spent most of their time playing badminton. Yes the premises is equipped with Badminton Court and other necessary equipments for you to enjoy the game. Later in the evening, rest of the team went ahead towards the Leopard Cave with a local guide, whereas we slept!! Later we realised that we didn’t really missed much, as reaching the Leopard Cave is really not possible, however one can take a walk to the river bank nearby, where the view is breathtaking, as claimed by them.
Later in the evening, we were served Tea and Snacks. In the mean time, Dhanna Bhaiya arrived as per our plan for the Night Safari. Well you cannot really expect to spot any elephant or any other wildlife as such, however it’d give you a real thrill of doing a night safari through such dense forest. And as you proceed, the forest goes more denser. And finally from a point, where there’s no route, you’d have to return. The whole journey took us around 2:30 hours from our resort.
We asked the staffs to provide our dinners at our rooms itself, as we were really not in mood to have early dinner. And as usual, we enjoyed amongst ourselves having our poison and playing Dumb Sharad’s till late night before having our dinner and dozing off to bed.
We started our day a bit late than usual, relaxing and enjoying our deep state of sleep!! Later we were served Morning Tea and Breakfast. Post that we left for our sightseeing to Jhikra Waterfall. We enjoyed the trail through Saranda Forest to the Jhikra Waterfalls. We left spell-bounded as we reached the falls. The force was not much, however the serene beauty of the waterfall was breathtaking. We couldn’t hold back ourselves to take a bath there. We were carrying extra pairs as we anticipated and discussed the same with Dhanna Bhaiya last night during our night safari.
We took our sweet time to enjoy the falls until another group arrived. Finally we reached back our hotel at around 1:30 PM. After having our lunch and taking rest, we left for our next sightseeing, the Sunset point at Kirubiru and Meghahatuburu. It’s said that, one can view the 700 hills from this Sunset Point. However the day being cloudy, we could hardly view few layers of the same. After spending some time there, we started back and stopped for a while at a nearby local market. It was a weekend market like any other villages in India. Finally we were back to our resort by the evening. Soon we were served evening Tea and snacks. Rest of the evening, we spent playing Badminton.
Well we wish we could spent another day, and would have covered Pachri Waterfalls and Jateswar Lake and Temple. However before planning for the same, we didn’t knew that we’d need 2 full days to explore all the places. We woke up a bit early at around 6 AM and took a brief walk to the nearby river stream. However it didn’t impressed us much. Dilip Da suggested to take the route to Leopard Cave as the view was much better there.
Finally when we reached there, it reminded me of Jhalong River Camp. The view was simply breathtaking. I realised what I’d have missed, if we wouldn’t have came here. After spending some time there enjoying the solace of the nature, we returned back at around 9AM. Soon we were served Morning Tea and Breakfast.
Finally after having our lunch, we left, after bidding adieu to Mr. Latif and his son and daughter for helping us a lot throughout our stay.
We had our booking on the same train that leaves from Barbil at 13:45 hours and reaches Howrah at 20:50 hours. The return journey was mostly uneventful and boring a bit too due to such long journey.
Out of various other ways, the best way to reach here from Kolkata, is to take a train to Manoharpur (MOU) or Barbil (BBN). These two are the closest place where you can find accommodation. Manoharpur (MOU) is well connected with Kolkata (Howrah) and other major nearby areas such as Tata Nagar, Ghatsila etc. by daily train, 12871 Ispat Express. Barbil (BBN, Spelled as Barabil) is also well connected by a daily train 12021 Jan Shatabdi Express which also passes through major nearby towns such as Tata Nagar, Chaibasa etc.
However out of these two, Barbil is more closer to Kiriburu and Meghahatuburu. Whereas Manoharpur which was once considered to be within the forest region, is now situated in base area of Saranda Forest. And it would take around an hour’s drive to reach the major attractions. However from Barbil, it’s around 30 – 40 minutes drive. But the major point of choosing Barbil is, if you are choosing to stay at Saranda Safari Resortwhich is situated inside the forest region, instead of accommodations available nearby Barbil station. And if anyone is choosing to enter through Manoharpur, check out Santoor Guest House instead.
Other than the above, you have SAIL Guest Houses as options, which would be the best in terms of service and quality. However you’d need some strong contact in SAIL to book them as those are only available for SAIL employees. However the catch is SAIL employees can book on behalf of their relatives and other known persons. In that case, take a look at Meghalaya Guest House which is named after Meghahatuburu not the state Meghalaya. It’s one of the best accommodation one can choose to stay at. Also let me tell you, if there’s no booking by SAIL employees on a particular day, the in-charge can allot you a room there too if you can manage it . Well, while enquiring, our first choice was Santoor Guest House, however we couldn’t find any vacant rooms for our dates. Glad that they didn’t had any vacancy there, as else we would have missed out the adventure and experience of staying within the forest at Saranda Safari Resort.