We are all familiar with the lush greenery of the countryside but the village of Rema Kalenga has much more to offer. Situated in Chunarughat of Habiganj district, Sylhet, it's the home to hundreds of species of birds, animals, and aquatic creatures living in the Rema Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary.
We embarked on our journey to this wildlife haven in mid November to experience the raw scenic beauty. We had 8 people in our group. Our host had informed us in advance about the harsh temperatures during the winter and had advised us to take as many warm clothes as possible.
HOW WE WENT THERE
We got on a bus in Sayedabaad at approximately 8 AM and it took us around 5-6 hours — including a 30 minutes break — to reach our destination. You can also take a train which would surely more comfortable but it will cost more and will take longer to reach Habiganj. The bus stopped at Habiganj town at around 2 PM. From there we took a CNG to get to the village of Rema Kalenga. This ride is a little strenuous, taking up to 1.5 hours due to the poor conditions of the village roads. But once you reach, the long hectic journey will surely feel worthwhile.
WHAT WE DID THERE
After reaching the village at around 3:30 PM, we were welcomed by a hot lunch in our host's cottage. Once we finished lunch, we headed out into the jungle and followed the trail into the thicket.
Rema Kalenga is a huge forest that extends up to the Indian border. Some parts of the jungle in fact fall into the Indian territory. The jungle is very beautiful on its own. The trail cuts through the hilly forest and as long as you have a torch with you, you can always find your way back to the village. You might run into a wobbly little bamboo bridge, or some cow-herders travelling through. There is a long creek that runs through the forest that is home to a variety of fish, frogs and wild ducks. During your trip, you are bound to see a variety of birds that you wouldn't find in the city. As night falls, the little ponds and lakes reflect a clear night sky filled with clusters of stars and a bright yellow moon. If you plan on camping in the jungle, you might even spot a wolf or a dear. Perhaps one of the highlights of this trip was seeing the Milky Way for the first time in my life. The trail is clearly visible and gets clearer as the night goes.
The next day we travelled through the village early in the morning. We walked around the mud-brick houses, and we ran into a few kids who offered us to show around the village and took us to see the lemon fields. The people there are very friendly and helpful. Since not a lot of people know of Rema Kalenga, the people there aren't used to seeing visitors from the city too often.
By afternoon, we had finished lunch, packed our bags and it was time to head home. Once again we hopped on a CNG that took us to the town from where we got on a bus and reached Dhaka by 9 PM.
WHO YOU SHOULD GO WITH
Since it's a forest trail, in the hills, make sure that you are with people who are okay with subpar living conditions and a lot of walking. So it's preferable perhaps to go with friends who are rather adventurous.
WHAT SHOULD BE YOUR BUDGET?
Divided among 8 people, it took us BDT 3000 each for a one-day trip. This included food, accommodation and all travelling costs.
WHERE YOU SHOULD STAY
We stayed in a private village home, owned by a resident living near the jungle entrance. Government villas are also available inside the forest. You can also camp in the jungle. For the former two, you will need to have some contacts in the area.
WHAT TO EAT
If you stay in the cottage or villa, you can have food there for additional costs. You can pay someone to cook for you in the village if you are planning on camping.
HOW TO FIND A GUIDE
You don't necessarily need a guide. The jungle has only one trail. But if you want to travel deep inside it, you can explore the village on your own with some local help. The payment for guides is more like a tip so it's not expensive.
HOW TO TRAVEL WITHOUT GETTING LOST
Make sure you have your phone with you at all times.
Always travel in groups at night if you are going too far away from where you're staying.
NEVER travel through the jungle on your own.
WHAT NOT TO DO
If you can't sleep while you're travelling make sure you get a good night's sleep. Carry water, and small snacks with you and a small purse which you can reach easily. It's a small village and not a lot of tourists go there. So it's best to not attract too much attention by making too much noise or getting into trouble in any way.
WHAT AND HOW YOU SHOULD PACK
Don't go overboard with packing since there is a lot of travelling to do so it will be hard to carry around too much luggage. Roll your clothes before packing so you save space in your bag. Take warm clothes in layers. If you camp, make sure you carry a good blanket. Take extra socks, ear-muffs to beat the cold. It should be very hot during the summer and there will be mosquitoes so take mosquito-repellent creams. Carry essentials, like combs, toothbrushes, paste etc. You might not find it there.
Rema Kalenga is a beautiful place, with beautiful people and it all gives you a wonderful opportunity to get away from the noisiness of the city. There is much to explore and it will be a special experience to travel through the lush jungles and seeing all the birds and animals. So if you're looking for a short adventure into the wilderness, consider visiting this little patch of heaven.
Mohua Mouli is a creature of the night who drinks liquefied mayonnaise from a sippy cup while she's watching Animal Planet.