Kaziranga National Park; visiting the Indian unicorn

Star attraction of this lush green landscape grazes with Brahmaputra River in the backdrop, unmindful of whirring camera's and whoops from tourist perched on elephants for a safari. This is Kaziranga, only home of the fabled one-horned rhino, and a world heritage site.

With sweeping expanse of 425 Sq. km forest, it offers a breathtaking panorama and an opportunity to observe this endangered animal in its habitat. If you are overworked, weary and stressed, head out to this enchanting reserve and let the nature, pamper and awaken your frazzled senses.

On a visit to Kaziranga, tourists favour the popular Kohora range to Bagori and Agartoli. To reach Kohora travel from Jorhat and once past Bokakhat look out for the welcome arch with cluster of shops in rather ordinary surrounding. Kohora is approximately 33k.m from Bokakhat.

The road branching left leads to the hotels and rest houses with budget accommodation, and for the high spending traveler, Wild Grass resort five km away offers ethnic ambience with luxury. Except a few hotels, all entertain phone booking. Therefore, plan ahead, it does save one a headache, but most importantly allows time for something very important.

Once through with the hotel procedures rush to the forest office to reserve for the elephant safari the next day. It is strictly on first come first serve basis and an early booking ensures that you get to ride at best time of the day. Each trip carries fifty to sixty vacationers depending upon the availability of elephant's. Hotels far-flung from the forest office book through agents. Except in Mar-April when first trip is preferred, second at 6.30 am is the best sortie to spot animals.

With elephant safari only the next morning, how does one spend rest of the time? Hire a jeep from the market or request hotel reception to arrange one-preferably a Gypsy. The charges are a bit stiff, Rs650 per trip and in addition Rs200 at park entrance for the vehicle, for each head Rs60, Rs50 for a still camera, Rs250 for a handy cam and for a guard with an old .303 rifle, Rs50.

Unlike jeep safari in the afternoon with fixed hours to (in Assam it gets rapidly dark after five) trip in the morning can be taken at one's convenience. As most tourist prefer the morning outing, jeeps travel strung out in a cavalcade and blowing dust cloud from the kutcha road blocks view and leaves nothing uncovered. If sub-Saharan sort of dust bath does not sound, inviting then 3pm sortie is more of a private affair and promises unhindered communion with nature without bother that comes with a large group.

Jeep safari

As the jeep makes its way into the forest, it is easy to see various deer species. The friendly drivers are generous in explanation of what can be seen around. One customary stop is tree with clawed bark, drivers here never fail to impress upon wide-eyed tourist that a tiger was here not long ago. Three to four kilometers into the jungle, first glimpses of the Rhinoceros standing in marshy areas with humble water Buffaloes holds the attention. Wild boars are aplenty but spotting the wary barking deer at close quarters is not possible without the element of surprise. It requires stealth, and the trouble of hiring a quieter jeep like gypsy pays off if you do chance upon the Kodak moment. A note of caution! Pray you do not run into a herd of elephants it very assuredly signals the premature end of the trip. The surly gang will stay put on the narrow road and with no room to turn the vehicle, only option left will be to reverse and head back to the hotel, crestfallen.

However, day is not over yet. At seven pm, personally collect passes for the next day elephant safari. If you are absent, your turn goes to the next name in the register. The charges are Rs 120 per head and Rs 50 for a still camera.

Jumbo travel

At mihimukh, anticipation is hard to suppress waiting for the elephants at raised platforms called machans. Morning scenery is a little surreal and blanket of thin fog adds to the mystique. For early morning, rendezvous at mihimukh cabs charge Rs 200, which includes return trip back to hotel.

Three seater or two-seater pachyderm is decided by size of the animal. Group usually comprises of 15 to17 magnificent animals and not all owned by the Government or the forest department. Baby elephants accompany their mothers and more routinely in-training young pachyderms trail alongside without any pillion.

Park is also home to diverse and numerous species of birds. If you have never tried bird watching, Kaziranga might be the right place to begin. The largest of them, the great Indian hornbill limited to northeast of India is at home here and first sight of it amidst high branches set's off usual oohing and aahing. A majestic bird almost three feet in height, with disproportionately large white and orange beak appears more of a beak then a bird. In full flight, flapping wings produce a helicopter like whoosh of rushing wind easily heard a kilometer away. Hawk eagle one of many predatory birds this place is blessed with, deserves an introduction because it does not suffer from identity crises, morphing into an eagle with total ease after spending part of its life as a hawk. An experienced bird watcher with a good pair of binoculars and least bit of effort can chalk up an impressive list of 90 bird species.

The four-legged jumbo ride and Kaziranga are an unparalleled experience a great way to be acquainted with or renew old ties with nature. It offers a grandstand view, precious hours, a fleeting glimpse of the animals and delicate web of life so threatened by humans. The cold hands of greed and so-called development are evident everywhere. A national highway bisects Kaziranga endangering animal's crossing over to reach elevated ground, during floods. Casualty by speeding vehicles was major cause of concern before speed breakers were put in place. Rhino population is thriving back from the brink of extinction, perhaps only consolation in disastrous wildlife conservation effort in India and perhaps the only reason one need's to hot foot it to Kaziranga before it is all is yesterday.

> Home Page






G Adventures reviews 

intrepid travel reviews