The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 27 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Smooth drive to catch up with Dalma royalty

- Return of prodigal jumbos & repair of road to Pinderbera guesthouse together keep tourist bookings full

Both mammal and man have made Dalma magical, with the picturesque Pinderbera guesthouse bursting at its seams.

Around 100 of the over 140 elephants are ambling back to the 192sqkm Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary since February, mostly from Bankura and Midnapore forests.

The migration through designated corridors is continuing peacefully as herd after herd is trumpeting their entry into the sanctuary.

If elephants are coming in droves, so are their two-legged fans.

And to make their gaping and gushing over elephants easier, the forest department, Ranchi wildlife division, has repaired the 16km road from Dalma’s Makulakocha foothills to Pinderbera guesthouse, perched at an altitude of 750m.

Earlier, the 16km kutcha track could have been the site for an ad shoot for tough SUVs. The road had deep trenches, taxing tyres, engine and human endurance to the fullest.

The drive elicited more groans for the bone-rattling experience than oohs and aahs for scenic delights.

In November, the forest department had a brainwave. Instead of cementing the hilly forest track and making it lose its character, they plugged trenches with concrete and levelled the road. From December onwards, the kutcha road became a smooth ride.

But though the road got praise, tourist windfall happened when elephants came back. A smooth drive ending with the sight of majestic herds put Dalma’s Pinderbera guesthouse on the most-wanted list of adventure buffs.

“No room is available at the guesthouse till March 31. Enquiries are trickling in for April and May,” said Dalma range officer Mangal Kacchap.

The deluge of bookings started in mid-February with 300 tourists making reservations for the four double-bedroom facility at the guesthouse. “Due to norms, one is always reserved for senior forest officials. A family or a couple generally books for two-three days. Rentals are a reasonable Rs 350 per day per room,” the forester added.

Bookings are made at Mango range office, Jamshedpur, and divisional forest office (wildlife), Ranchi.

Kacchap said word-of-mouth publicity was their edge. “Visitors who drove in early January told their friends. Then, others planned a Dalma trip timing it with the return of the elephants. There is healthy tourist traffic from Calcutta and Kharagpur,” he said.

“The ride to the guesthouse is no longer bumpy. It’s as smooth as silk. Visitors are enjoying the ride to the hilltop. Then, they watch elephants and their calves frolicking at watering holes. The road from Pinderbera to scenic Chotka Bandh, a watering hole, has also been levelled,” a forest functionary said.

Those staying at Pinderbera often hire local cooks, but bring their own ration. Water and a generator are available.

“I have booked a room for my family at the guesthouse from March 15-17. Elephants are back and the drive to the hilltop is smooth. I’ll keep the batteries of my videocam and camera fully charged,” said a fully charged-up Krishna Rao, a Jamshedpur businessman.