As you must have known from the previous post, Kaziranga National park wasn’t exactly on our travel itinerary, when we visited Assam and Meghalaya a few years back. Fortunately, some of our relatives strongly advised us to include Kaziranga in our travel plans. The changes were abrupt and immediate. We rearranged our schedules overnight and started off the early next morning. Needless to mention, this was a decision that was miraculous. The late afternoon Jeep safari and early daybreak elephant ride were a raw, wild and absolutely stunning experience that still remains unparalleled.
An Unlikely & Eerie Journey to Dhansiri Eco Camp
What I recollect as a very unlikely experience was our late evening road-trip to a secluded, isolated and eerie Dhansiri Eco Camp tucked deep inside the pitch dark Agoratoli range of the wild Kaziranga forests. Through the muddy and narrow bumpy roads are known to very few people. With the ‘Dhansari’ river by our right, where a bulk of wild animals usually come for water. A 9 KM drive off the National Highway deep into the Agoratoli range. With switched off headlamps and absolutely no honking. A very strained effort not to disrupt the strange calmness that prevailed. Luckily, it was a clear moonlit winter night, which further heightened the overall experience. None of us uttered a word during the hour-long drive. Tourists visiting the camp at night are usually escorted by armed forest rangers. since a visit to Kaziranga wasn’t on the bucket list, our trip was more spontaneous. Undoubtedly, this was way beyond the scope of conventional tourism.
Pristine Beauty In the Midst of Untamed Wilderness
Well, the Dhansiri Eco Camp offers you a raw thrill and a chance to experience the untamed wilderness in its purest natural form, right where the action is. The camp is headed by Goutam Saikia, an acclaimed wildlife photographer. Dhanshiri Eco Camp at Bokakhat is situated at the confluence point of river Dhansiri and Mighty Brahmaputra approximately 9 kilometers away from the National Highway 37 far from the crowded city life.
The periphery of the camp is guarded by frail-looking barbed wires, which I am sure would serve no practical purpose in case the wild beasts trespass into the camp. We reached the camp at 9 PM and headed straight to Goutam Saikia’s private hut, made from bamboo and hay. Every of the guest cottages is large elevated bamboo structures (“Mishing” styled), comprising of basic amenities such as beds, sofas, washrooms, etc. They even had geysers, which is a tad surprising considering the absence of adequate electricity supplies.
We reviewed this hotel on TripAdvisor. Here’s the link to the review page.
No Electricity. No Mobiles. No Internet. Far Away from Modernity
The camp predominantly uses Bio-Gas for cooking. A cycle styled manual pump for water supply is an interesting piece of innovation. There is no internet, no mobile network and not a single human soul in the close vicinity. All you have are a few dimly lit CFLs powered by the very naive solar power system. All you get is simple home-cooked meals, ample starlit night sky, and absolute magical silence, far away from the modern world chaos.
Interestingly, Goutam Saikia’s hut contained an ensemble of gadgets. From Apple Desktops to iPads and gigantic cameras, he was well connected to the world. Goutam’s work in video and still wildlife photography has been featured in numerous National Geography shows and documentaries. He apparently knew my brother-in-law and invited us for lunch the next afternoon.
Stumbling through the Slippery Banks
Our lunch next afternoon was a simple Assamese meal. Most of us had a scant idea of what was planned next. A while later, we were onboard Saikia’s safari jeep, as it raced through a dense canvas of tall elephant grass. After 15 minutes of the spine-fracturing bumpy ride, we found ourselves standing on the banks of the majestic Dhansiri river. A moderate-sized motorboat was waiting for us. We stumbled through the slippery banks towards the boat. This was going to be another amazing experience.
No Idea How far We Were from Civilization
Kaziranga gets an average of 9+ Lac domestic and 70K foreign tourists every year. How many of them are lucky enough to experience a personalized boat ride such as this? A very nominal small fraction. The boat meandered through the never-ending Dhansiri river, cutting through the heart of the otherwise inaccessible Kaziranga forest. At a certain point, we had no idea how far we were from civilization. From our hotel. From Guwahati. The monotonous humming noise of the motor was all that we heard for several hours. The beautiful ensemble of flora and fauna that decorates nature is hard to express in writing. Our trip to Dhansiri Eco Camp was a lifetime experience.