Located about 7 km from the city of Gangtok, the Himalayan Zoological Park, locally known as the Bulbulay Zoo, is the first zoological park of Sikkim. Sprawling over an area of 205 hectares and beautifully perched at an elevation of 1,780 m - 2,440 m, the zoo houses a rich variety of Himalayan fauna and animals in their natural habitat. It is a delight to stroll about the zoo while enjoying the pleasant weather and locating the animals as you go along.
Some of the animals that you can find here are the Himalayan Red Panda (state animal of Sikkim), Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Common Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Tibetan Wolf, Goral, Barking Deer, Yak, Porcupine, and Himalayan Palm and Large Indian Civets, among others. Some of the birds that you can spot here are the Himalayan Blood Pheasant (state bird of Sikkim), Golden Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, Crimson-Horned Pheasant, Himalayan Monal Pheasant, Kalij Pheasant, and so on.
Hiking towards Bulbulay Zoo
My friend and I decided to hike towards Bulbulay Zoo starting from Gangtok. The day was foggy, and we had already taken 3 rounds of the White Hall area and were bored!
We started the ascent from Bhanu Path towards Chandmari via Jawaharlal Nehru Road.
Chandmari is a small village town on the outskirts of Gangtok
. There are many good hotels, restaurants, and homestays in this area suited for anyone who wants to experience a peaceful stay, not too far and not too close from the main town of Gangtok. A stroll to the famous White Hall and Tsuk La Khang (The Palace Monastery) in the evening is highly recommended if you’re staying in Chandmari, or even Gangtok.
Along with hotels and homestays, we came across Sera Jhe Dro-Phen-Ling Monastery en route Chandmari and spent some time there enjoying the peaceful bliss of the monastery. We resumed our hike and came across the famous Enchey Senior Secondary School, one of the oldest schools in Sikkim, rich in its traditional and cultural heritage.
As we progressed further, we finally reached the main road leading towards the zoo; a much wider and well paved road. Finally, after a 2.5hr long walk, we reached the main entrance of the zoo.
The plain green gate of the zoo is bordered by two pillars adorned with traditional Sikkimese-style carvings with two dragon figures at the top. Inside, two green boards with instructions can be seen and the entire area is surrounded by thick coniferous forests.
Just opposite the gate lies the scenic Ganesh Tok- a small Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Ganesh Tok
, situated at an elevation of 1,980 m, offers one of the best views of the quaint Gangtok town.
We got our tickets and started walking towards the zoo. The zoo itself is quite big and requires a lot of walking. You can even take a vehicle inside but only till a certain point after which walking is necessary.
The animals are placed at considerable distances from one another, and their habitats are quite spacious. We spotted almost all the animals but had a hard time spotting the bear. The bear had to be spotted from a platform built above and you need to have enough patience to wait for it to show up. Thankfully, our wait didn’t go in vain, for we caught a slight glimpse of the bear.
The Red Pandas were a delight to watch. Some were busy in their own activities, and some were enjoying a peaceful nap in the trees’ branches.
After walking around for some time, we came across a café and had a heartfelt lunch. There are nice places to sit and admire the scenery and 1-2 cafes to quench your hunger after a long walk.
There is a watch tower located at the highest point of the zoo. On a clear day, you get to see magnificent views of Mt. Khangchendzonga from the tower.
After we had explored every nook and cranny of the areas that could be explored, we headed back. We took the route leading to Circuit House Office and came across some nice villages on the way.
Overall, the entire journey was amazing. We were glad that we were bored enough to walk and now can effortlessly boast about it by writing a blog post! After all, hiking does sound cliché, doesn’t it?
Living in a hilly region, we have our fair share of walking up and down every day. However, it was only when I started living away from my state for my graduation did I realize the essence of those walks. The sudden realization that we were hiking throughout our lives made me feel special.
But alas! The sedentary lifestyle has already taken its toll on me, and I find it pretty embarrassing when I fail to walk as much as I did back in my school days. That is why this hike was special for me, for it restored my faith in me and my identity.
Elevation: 1,780 m – 2,440 m
Entry fees: Child- Rs.10, Adult- Rs.25, Small car- Rs.40, Big car (SUV/MUV)- Rs.100, Camera/Video Camera- Free of cost
Timings: 9 am – 4 pm
Facilities: Toilets, rest stops, cafes, parking
Best time to visit: February – May & September – December
The early spring and summer months provide you the best views, but it can get hot. It is recommended that you visit the zoo early in the morning to get the best views of the scenery as well as the animals.
The months from September to December are ideal for zoo visit as the weather is very pleasant. During these months too, mornings are the best time to visit.
Avoid visiting the zoo during rainy season as it will be very inconvenient for driving as well as walking.