Medla Watch Tower, Gorumara
Medla Watchtower is in Gorumara National Park and you need to book a separate safari to visit the watchtower just like the other ones like Jatraprasad, Chukchui, Chandrachur etc. You can book the watchtower visit (which includes entry permit, guide, Jeep etc) at Lataguri counter. If you take the last visit, you can also watch a tribal dance at the end of the safari (entry cost is slightly more for this trip).
We took the first afternoon visit to Medla. Shortly on the way towards Chalsa from Lataguri we reached the entry gate to the forest on the right. The gate opens after the permits are checked and entry is recorded. And then starts the forested route through dense jungle.
The sight of the jungle along this route is wonderful.... trees leaning from both sides creating a long archway to drive through. Occasional sighting of animals like deers, bisons and even elephants are not uncommon along this drive. However we didn't see anything other than few peacocks.
About 6kms from the entry gate the forested route bifurcates. The one towards left leads to Chukchuki Watchtower. We took the right. About 2kms from the bifurcation we reached Budhuram village. There is an ethnic dance area here where the tribal dance program takes place during the last safari. Shortly ahead towards right the route leads to the Ramsai forest village about 4kms away.
We took that route and reached Ramsai village. This is one of the three villages in Gorumara where Eco Cottages have been set up for tourists... the other two villages are Kalipur and Dhupjhoa. Guests staying at one of these eco camps can avail elephant safaris which is otherwise not available anywhere else in Gorumara National Park. Plus you get to stay right in the jungle.
At Ramsai we took a left turn. The sight of vast stretches of Jadavpur Tea Gardens here is wonderful. In about 4kms drive from Ramsai we reached Kalipur village. The eco cottages at both Ramsai and Kalipur are wonderful to watch at... nestled in the forest with greenery all around. There is a tribal dance area at Kalipur village as well. The dance program at the end of the last watchtower trip is held 3 days in Budhuram village and 3 days at Kalipur.
Kalipur village is the last point up to which the car would go. From here there is a unique option to ride bullock carts up to a point close to Medla Watchtower. You can choose this option at an additional cost while buying the tickets at Lataguri counter. Alternatively you can walk (not recommended).
The bullock carts will go for a distance of about 1km. Each cart is pulled by two buffaloes. It's a lazy wonderful ride through a country road with vast stretches of grassy land and shrubs on both sides and the dense forest visible at a distance. As you approach the tower, you see the Murti river flowing ahead. In fact the Medla watchtower is located on the river bank.
Once you get off the bullock cart, you need to walk for a short distance to reach the tower which is surrounded by jungle but with clear visibility all around including the river. Medla tower has two tiers or viewing platforms with a concrete spiral stairway leading up to the tiers. For a better panoramic view of the jungle along with the river, climb to the upper platform.
View from Medla watchtower
There is a grassy land and a saltlick at the other side of Murti river. The river is usually quite lean and narrow (other than in monsoon). Animals like elephants and bisons easily crossover the river. If you are lucky you can also see a one-horned rhino on the grassy land or near the saltlick. You can also see plenty of deers from Medla tower. On a clear day you get a wonderful view of the snow peaks of Kanchenjunga from the watchtower.
We were lucky to find an elephant herd with their cubs in the forested area on our side of the river and little away from the watchtower. The herd having arrived were suddenly surprised by the big noise from the excited tourists and decided to head back into the jungle.
Elephants at Medla
We started looking across the river at the grassy land when somebody said the elephants had come back. We watched in bewilderment that they were actually back again and several of them now looking towards us. Having given us a long stern stare, this time the herd slowly left the area for good.
On the way back boating was organized at Chukchuki lake. This was part of the watchtower package. The country boat moved through dense water hyacinths for about a kilometer through the water channels... the water body was full of pink flowers that bloom from the hyacinths... wonderful sight. Forests appeared to close in from both sides of the water body. Sometimes you can sight animals in the forest from the boat itself. But we weren't in luck. The boat ride itself was nice though.
How to visit
Watchtower visits take place daily (except on Thursdays) both in the morning and in the afternoon. Note that while Gorumra National Park remains closed in the monsoon between 16th June to 15th September, the only exception is the forest of Ramsai village which remains open throughout the year.
If you are staying at WBFDC Banani Lodge in Murti
you can get the bookings done right at the lodge itself and the Jeep would pick up and drop you at the lodge. However others would need to queue up at the counter at Lataguri well in advance as the number of jeeps allowed per time-slot is limited.
Go through the relevant sections of Gorumara National Park
to know all details about how to book the watchtower visits, ticket cost, best time to visit, stay options and more.