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Elephant Safari expected to herald new era of tourism in WB

dimanche 13 novembre 2005

Siliguri, Oct. 31 (PTI) : With the tea and timber industries in decline in northern part of West Bengal, the only ’T’ left in the region with bright prospects is tourism with the state government taking an initiative to start elephant safari on way to Darjeeling.

The tea sector is in trouble following tough competition in the international market, labour disputes and lack of interest of planters to plough back the money. The glory of timber in the region is on steady decline following illegal felling, smuggling and fast urbanisation.

The State Tourism Department has taken an initiative to introduce elephant-safari at Sukna in the foothills on way to Darjeeling and N F Railway is taking measures to revamp the heritage toy train service, the major tourist attraction of Darjeeling hills.

According to Deputy Director (North) in the State Tourism Department, Gopal Lama, two trained elephants Meenakshi and Shiladitya have been brought from Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary in Dooars to Sukna to offer tourists a ride at Mahananda wildlife sanctuary.

The duo are now being trained in the new atmosphere and environment. Their training is almost complete and have been familier with the route.

Tourists during their safari would have the pleasure to find wildlife like elephants, bisons, deer, leopards, peacocks and birds of different colours and nature, he said.

A large number of tourists who come to Siliguri each year to have a pleasure trip to Darjeeling hills and Gangtok is now expected to spend a day here and avail the elephant safari before leaving for the two hill stations and generate revenue, Lama said.

The safari, which is expected to be launched in November, would cost around Rs 150 per head, he added.

Tour operators are also expecting a brisk business with the introduction of Elephant Safari at Sukna, Joint Managing Director of Clubside Tour and Travels, Suresh Periwal, in Darjeeling said.

Tourists bound for Darjeeling and Gangtok could not enjoy elephant ride at Jaldapara because of its distance from the route and non-availibility and uncertainity of booking accommodation there, he said.

Tourists, who are crazy about Hollong Bunglow to enjoy elephant ride, are given conditional booking which is not acceptable, Periwal said.

Recently, a group of 12 British tourists returned from Hollong frustrated even after formal booking following the condition that "if there is any VIP or senior government officials come, the booking summarily will be cancelled."

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