If you ask me to name one tourist spot in Tripura, that will be Sepahijala sanctuary. This iconic tourist attraction and picnic spot has maintained its top position, even before Ujjayanta Prasad, the former royal palace of Tripura. It is unlikely you will find anyone in Agartala or Tripura who has not visited this place. The sanctuary is spread over 18 square km and it is about 25 km from Agartala.
It is believed, Sepahijala gets its name from a sepoy camp of a Tripura king along the marshy area in the present sanctuary — ‘Jala’ in Bengali means marshy land. Rich in flora and fauna, Sepahijala Bio-Complex was set up in 1972 with a small Botanical Garden and Deer Park. The Deer Park gradually became a full-fledged zoo and the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary was set up in February 1987.
The highlights of the zoological park are spectacled monkeys, one of the most endangered species of primates and Tripura’s state animal and near-extinct Clouded Leopard. In fact, the sanctuary carries the coveted ‘Clouded Leopard National Park’ tag since 2011 thanks to its successful breeding of the near-extinct animal. This is the only place where the endangered clouded leopard is bred and conserved — these leopards has been bred here. Apart from these, the sanctuary has a variety of birds, big cats like lions, tigers, hippopotamuses and several types of langurs and monkeys. The crab-eating mongoose (last sighted in the 1930s) has been resuscitated. There are several lakes in the sanctuary, among which Amrit Sagar has boating facility.
The main Zoological park is at least 4-5 km from the highway and the road quality is pretty bad. The authority charges 30-40/-per head at the entrance. Weekends are generally a little crowded and it takes a whole day to explore Sepahijala. The boating is also a very refreshing experience. There are food stalls at the main gate and as well as near the zoological park.
This place has its charm. The dense forests almost cover the sky, stopping sunlight to reach the ground. The constant sound of cricket from the jungle gives you a thrill which is no less than any cult classic. Here, you admire the lions, respect the rhinos, click selfies with monkeys, have fun with deers, fear the reptiles.
This sanctuary has been the go-to place for us and I look forward to visiting this place again and again. From family picnics to college get together, this place is a memory lane for me. A little more maintenance and a map to navigate in the zoological park might help visitors to make the most out of it.