John Muir rightly said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” So to give clarity to our creative blocks we decided to pay a visit to the mighty Kaziranga National Park. Why Kaziranga? Because it is nearer, budget friendly and takes lesser time to reach from our side of the world.
The first mention of Kaziranga National Park, reminds us of one-horned rhino and yes, it is unquestionably the key attraction that pulls lakhs of tourists every season. Covering an area of approximately 430 sqkms, the park boasts of a population of more than 2400 one-horned rhinos. Kaziranga Forest Department has been very strict towards the protection of Rhinos from poachers and if reports are to be believed, forest rangers have killed around 50 poachers in their efforts to save the specie.
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, it is an exceptional wildlife experience in Assam along the south bank of the river Bramhaputra. The forest is divided into different ranges like Bagori (Western) Range, Agartoli (Eastern) Range, Kohora (Central) range and Burapahar ( Ghoraketi) Range.Migratory Birds and Tigers also interest visitors but one has to be really lucky to spot a Tiger. We saw 5 of them together and the locals said its a rare history.
Apart from Rhinos, animals like Wild Indian Elephants, Indian Bison, Hog Deer, Barking Deer, Leopards, Tigers, Capped Langurs, Wild Boar, Hoolock Gibbons, Jackal, Wild Buffalo, and Pythons also habitat in the park.
The National Park is also a paradise for the bird watchers as it is a storehouse of a diverse species of birds. Black Kite, Pallas’s Fishing Eagle, Grey-Headed Fishing Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, Northen Lapwing, Indian Roller/Neelkanth, White throat Kingfisher, Hornbill, Red Breasted Parrot, Darter and the Himalayan Griffon are a few of them.
Kaziranga embraces abundant small water bodies and is a vast spread of tall elephant grass, marshland, and thick tropical forests.
There are quite a few interesting places near Kaziranga National Park that you may visit on a day trip from here. Bokakhat, Behora, and Numaligarh ruins being the most famous amongst others.
With so much to do, it’s hard to narrow down the long list of reasons to visit, but below you’ll find our top 10 from the experiences we had.
1.Enjoy the Elephant Safari but don’t forget to feed them bananas
Thrilling jungle safaris on elephant is one of the major tourist attractions. The Park has a set of about 25 trained elephants and authorized Mahouts who conduct the ride in the early hours of the dawn in the Western Range (Bagori). One could see wild Elephant herds wandering around or Indian Rhinos browse past visitors casually which makes wildlife viewing enjoyable.
Elephant rides are available during the open months i.e., from November to April and there are two rides at approximately 5:15 am and 6:30 am respectively which has to be pre-booked (at least the previous day) because of the rush.
At the boarding point, dozens of bananas are available to be fed to the elephants. Once you finish your ride, don’t forget to feed them the bananas. Elephants love bananas!
2. Adventure in open Jeep Safari
Elephant Safari is constrained to the Western Range of the Kaziranga National Park. To explore the interior forest areas of eastern, central and burapahar ranges, one can opt for the adventurous jeep safaris. Open Jeep safaris accompanied by a driver and a guide is the main attraction for the visitors to explore the exquisite nature and animals here.
Jeep safari helps a person to discover the flora and fauna of the forest in the exquisite manner. While entering the forest, there are standing instructions from the government which displays the do’s and dont’s and also that tourists are entering the forest at their own risks. Before entering one needs to get permits from the office outside the main entrance. The travellers are not allowed to get down from the jeep at any point in the premises.One can hire a Jeep from travel agencies, hotels or private tour guides.
Jeep Safari is usually available from 1st November to 30th April. The Jeeps depart between 07.00 and 09.30 in the morning and can last until noon. In the afternoon they leave between 13.30 and 15.00 and can last until sunset.
3. Go trekking to Kakochang Waterfalls
Another remarkable place near the forests is the Kakochang waterfalls at a distance of around 32 kms from the Kohora Gate of the park. Travellers visiting Kaziranga National park can easily plan a visit to these heavenly waterfalls as a full day picnic or a short visit in case you are short of time. We covered Elephant Safari, Waterfalls and the Jeep Safari on the same day. That might sound a little too much but we lacked time and did not want to leave any stone unturned.
The most attention-grabbing part about the destination was the journey. The waterfall comes gushing down and forms a river stream that takes several hair pin bends through the rocks before finding its way. On heading towards the falls through the villages of Bokakhat, we crossed 5 of the river streams in the jeep but could not go further because of the huge rocks and no roads at all. After that was the most adventurous part. We trekked all the way to the waterfalls crossing 5 more water streams and climbing through the narrowest paths.
And what a view it was.
We further trekked down the lake to get the closest view possible and feel the mad wind full of water droplets.It is an ideal place to infuse in some peace, loosen and appreciate the stunning views. There is a lot of space around the falls that is ideal for picnickers to spend some leisure time. We spoke to the locals about the depth of the lake and they say it is around 50-60 feet deep, so beware before trying out any stunts.
4. Get a flavour of Assamese culture and dance a few steps
Assam Tourism has been doing every bit to promote tourism in the National Park and one of their efforts include the one hour cultural show that is held in the tourism centre inside the Assam Tourism Gate in Kohora. One can get a flavor of Assam with Bihu and Jhumur dance shows.
Bihu dance is a folk dance from Assam and is usually performed during the festival of Rongali Bihu (Assamese New Year) in the month of April. Illustrated by refreshing dance steps, and swift hand movement, the dance involves both young men and women. Dancers wear Mekhla Chadors (traditional Assamese dress) in Off-white and red colours. Various locally made instruments are used in the performance that includes Pepa, Flute, Dhol etc.
Jhumur is another traditional dance form, from the eastern part of India. Young girls holding each other’s waist perform the dance and moving hands and legs forward and backward synchronously.They are complemented by few male members, who play musical instruments and vocals. This dance incorporates songs and dialogues from the everyday lives of the common people.
The narration of the show is given by Mr. Jeevan Gam aka Danny Gam, the tourist information officer from Assam Tourism. At the end of the show, the Jhumur dancers teach a few steps to the tourists and everybody dances to the rhythm of the men from the troop playing music and singing vocals.
“Chal Gori, Le Jabo Toke Mor Gaon……..”
5.Take a walk in the luscious green tea gardens
Assam is a green paradise and if you are a nature lover, you have hit the bull’s-eye. The never-ending luscious tea gardens on both sides of the road are no less than a fairy-tale. So, while you are in the jungles, take time, relax and go for a nature walk. The fragrance of the fresh tea leaves fills the air with a delightful aroma.
One can also find Hathikuli organic tea gardens near the Kohora range and also grab some from the stores nearby.
6.Paradise for Birdwatchers
The National Park is a storehouse to more than 500 species of birds, both migratory and resident. Birdlife International has identified the park as an Important Bird Area for the conservation of the various species.
Red Breasted Parrots 🙂
Spotted owlets could be spotted in large numbers.
The Darters or snakebirds.
For a complete list of birds in the area, please visit – http://www.kaziranga.co.in/birds.php
7. Close encounter with the Wild
Due to its easy accessibility, Kaziranga National Park offers a chance to see animals in the wild at such close proximity, thus making a trip to this National Park a very fulfilling experience.
We spotted remains of a kill.
Look at that cute little fellow. A large herd of wild elephants was crossing the corridors and we stopped our jeep to fill our eyes and the camera with the view. You can see the elephant at the front carrying a baby in its womb.
Fresh Tiger claw marks. Wondering if it looks scary in real? Yes, it does!
8. Satisfy your craving for nature
We all crave for nature. Trees, forests, rivers, mountains, sea and everything that exists. It is mainly because we humans share a deep connection with nature from our pre-historic lives. That is why when are in midst of greenery, it soothes our eyes and brings peace of mind as city life takes its troll and you desire to go back to the roots.
Kaziranga National Park is a perfect get-away for your dose of flora and fauna.
9. Get along with locals
Assamese are usually friendly and nice, so you can expect to make friends by a simple chat also. While travelling you might find the Karbi and locals from the mountains. Express a general sense of cordiality and you’ll warm up to the new place easily seeing that they’ll eventually get friendly.
We learnt a new Karbi word on our way that is, ‘Kardom’ meaning Namaste!
A lot of them are usually shy and introvert. The parents impart their values and lifestyle in the kids from a very younger age. We spotted 4 very young kids with rounded daggers hunting for sweet potatoes in the mountains.
10. For a Peaceful Holiday
Last but not the least, if you a looking for a peaceful holiday, far from the hustle bustle of the city, just go and relax in the lap of nature and enjoy your tea!
There are many other wildlife reserves near Kaziranga National Park that are a must visit for wildlife lovers like Manas National Park, Nameri National Park, Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary, Orang National Park, Pobitora National Park, and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Ideal season to visit the park is between November to April and the park is open daily from 1st November to 30th April. Typically the opening time is between 5:15 am to 3:30 pm. Park remains partially open in October and May and remains closed in rest of the months.
TIP – Kaziranga follows a two-tier price system where Indian nationals and foreign nationals are charged separate fees for rides, safaris, park entrances, camera fees etc.
How to Reach
Kaziranga is an Ex-Guwahati Getaway and can be reached by following ways.
The nearest airport from Kaziranga is located 74 kilometers away in Jorhat, Assam. Nearest major airport is Guwahati. Both these airports have good domestic airline connectivity.
Guwahati (200 km) is the nearest major railway station and is well-connected with rest of India by train. Other nearby railway stations are Helem (30 kms), Jorhat (90 km) and Furketing (75 km).
Kaziranga National Park can be reached from both sides via national highway NH 37. The closest bus stop to reach Kaziranga is in Kohara. Buses operating from Guwahati, Tezpur, Dimapur and Upper Assam all pass through Kohara.
Kaziranga has a lot of government and private lodges, hotels and resorts suiting everyone’s budget needs.Our abode was Aranya Tourist Lodge in the Kohora Region. One can also enjoy the local Assamese food at the numerous eating joints on the roadsides.
Day 1 – Guwahati to Kaziranga (Kohora Gate) – Day to leisure – Cultural show in the evening.
Day 2 – Elephant Safari (Western Range) – Kakochang Waterfalls – Jeep Safari (Eastern range) – Night at hotel
We had planned for a morning Jeep Safari to the Central Range next day morning, but since we spotted 5 big wild cats (read TIGERS) in the Eastern Range, we cancelled and started for our next destination early.
Day 3 – Nature walk in the tea gardens – Kaziranga to Guwahati
A special mention to Mr. Prafulla Deorah who was our driver and guide into the forests. He is a man with 17 years of experience and recognizes each and every animal and bird specie in the area. He has truly got that vision of an eagle, as he does not miss even the smallest bird at the farthest distance. The day we met him first we asked him ‘Dada at least ek sher dikha dena’ and he replied ‘Bas ek dikhane se ho jayega?’
If it wasn’t for him we would not have been able to see 5 of them together.