The state government has decided to throw open the gates of reserve forests to tourists from Friday, causing tourism stakeholders of the Dooars to breathe a sigh of relief.
Rajendra Jhakar, chief conservator of forest wildlife (north), said: “This afternoon (Thursday) I received a notice stating that from tomorrow (Friday), sanctuaries and national parks will be opened for tourists.”
Bookings for car and elephant safaris will have to be done on the spot but officials maintain that online bookings would be available within a couple of days.
Tourists, however, have to strictly adhere to Covid-19 protocols. All aged above 18 will have to carry the final certificate of Covid-19 vaccination (double dose). All government and private establishments will have to be sanitised.
The divisional forest officer has also been given special powers to impose any suitable safety norms as they deem fit.
National parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves located in the Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve will open from October 1, sources said.
On Wednesday, the forest department had opened parks like Bengal Safari Park near Siliguri, Padma Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling and South Khayerbari Nature Park, the last a rescue and rehabilitation centre for felines in Alipurduar. But reserve forests were still closed.