Mahananda Weir Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the foothills of the Himalayas, between the Teesta and Mahananda rivers, situated in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The sanctuary is about 29 kms away from Siliguri. It takes about 35 minutes to travel from Siliguri to Mahananda Weir Wildlife Sanctuary. On reaching Siliguri one can opt for public transport and can directly reach to the destination.
The sanctuary was established in the year 1976. It was given the status of sanctuary mainly to protect the Indian Bison and Royal Bengal Tiger from the merge of extinction. The sanctuary is spread across 158 sq. km of forest area. It is managed by Darjeeling Wildlife Division of Government of West Bengal. There are about 330 different types of plantations found in the sanctuary which includes khair, sisoo, simul and tropical sal forests. Other main plantation includes teak, udal, champ, lali, gamar, orchids, bamboos, etc. There are large grassy areas as well. According to 2003 census reports, there are at least 14 majestic creatures found in the forest. There are about 36 different species of mammals found in the sanctuary which includes Royal Bengal Tigers, Himalayan Black Bear, Leopards, Rare Mountain Goats, Elephants, Porcupines, Indian Bison, Wild Boars, etc. Mahananda Weir Wildlife Sanctuary is also a heaven for bird watchers. There are about 243 different species of birds spotted in the sanctuary which includes Himalayan pied hornbills, Peafowls, Peacocks, Egrets, Kingfishers, Racket tail drongo, Assamese macaque, Woodpeckers and a lot more. Large number of migratory bird arrives here from central Asia.
Mahananda Weir Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to explore. Its wide variety of flora and fauna is exquisite and magnificent. Visitors can also explore the lower plains of the forest which is for elephant migration. During winters and monsoons there are more than 150 elephants that can be seen in the forest. If you are lucky enough you can also spot the Royal Bengal Tigers in the sanctuary. There are several open areas in the sanctuary where artificial saltlicks are created. This is one way in which animals can fulfill their mineral requirements. Animals usually come to the place in the mornings and evenings. Several great watch towers have also been set up in the sanctuary. There is one in Laltong on the Teesta river bank which is great for watching elephant migration. The second one is at the abandoned Gulma railway station which is created using a trains cabin and is great for watching deer, Indian bison and other animals. There are three more watch towers for bird watching, watching wildlife and one for overlooking the stream and the dense forest. The tower area is fenced with electrical wires with live currents to keep the animals at bay. The tower has seats with lovely views of forests, mountains and the rivers. Visitors would love to relax on one of these towers.
Visitors can go for safaris. It is available in the morning and in the afternoon. However, no vehicles are provided for the safari. Visitors have to get their own car for it. It is advised to bring a large vehicle as it will be difficult to cross unpaved mountain pathways with a small car. Elephant safaris are no longer available in the forests. Visitors can also go for adventurous trekking in the forest. There is also a large and well stocked museum located upstairs in the main building just before the entry of the forest which can also be explored by the visitors. Visitors would love to spend their time in the sanctuary which is full of adventures and exquisite surroundings.
It is advised to visit the Mahananda Weir Wildlife Sanctuary in the month of November to April. This is the time when sky is clear and the temperature is mild to cold. The sanctuary remains closed from 16th June to 15th September every year. Mahananda Weir Wildlife Sanctuary can be visited during timings 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Entry fee per person is INR 50. There is an additional fee for Guide which is INR 150, Vehicle which is INR 100 and for the camera too which is INR 100.