I wrote about our trips to Varanasi and Thimpu (Bhutan) in the last few blogs. Well, this post recaps some of the very unlikely experience we had at Kaziranga National park, Assam. We visited Assam a few years during the winter months. Our pre-planned list of location itineraries featured Shillong, Cherrapunji and a few other places in Meghalaya, the neighboring state with which Assam shares its border. Kaziranga wasn’t a part of the list. Apparently, visiting Assam and not visiting Kaziranga would have been a sheer blunder. We managed to avert the blunder right at the nick of time. Thanks to my Brother-In-Law and his family. Residents of Guwahati, they were surprisingly enthusiastic about Kaziranga in particular.
We Averted a Perfect Blunder
Kaziranga National Park is approximately 235 KM from Guwahati (State capital of Assam) along the NH-37. This ultra-dense forest belt hosts two-thirds of the world’s “Great one-horned Rhinoceroses” and is a World Heritage Site. The sanctuary has been home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and was declared a Tiger Reserve in the year 2006. Well, the span and extent of the Kaziranga forest are absolutely mind-boggling. For security reasons, only a small fraction of the vast expanse is accessible to tourists. The dense ensemble of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist forests, crisscrossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra and a huge population of wild animals, makes it a perfect choice for adventure buffs.
The Bonroja Motel Adjoining Bagori Range
We stayed at the Bonroja hotel just outside the main entry gate into the forest (Bagori Range). This is the gate that has exclusive booking counters for the Jeep and elephant safaris.
The rooms are moderately priced and offer the most basic amenities. Expecting a fancy accommodation here in the midst of a dense forest isn’t justified. The motel campus had ample free space, playground, a little children’s area, and an abundance of parking space. The lunch and dinner arrangements were just fine.
The Afternoon Jeep Safari
Well, on arrival we opted for the obligatory Jeep tours and Elephant Safari. The Jeep tour is over-hyped and the Elephant Safari serves the fancies of regular tourists. I would talk about them in a later post.
The Early Morning Elephant Safari Deep into the Wild Lands
The elephant safaris are always in high-demand and managing a booking could be a challenge. The easiest way is to request the Hotel guys to arrange for it. You might typically pay INR 500 – 600 extra, but the experience is totally worth it. So we paid approximately around INR 3.5K for an elephant – 4 adults and 1 child (without sharing seats with other tourists).
The safari usually starts early in the morning, slightly before the onset of dawn. You need to reach the designated boarding spots and get onto the elephant allocated to your group. The elephants move into the forest in groups and they mostly follow a pre-defined path. They usually move deep into the jungle, right in the midst of the wilderness. We had seen a lot of Rhinoceroses, deer, wild boars, a few hippos and a lot of many things. Most of these animals seem awkwardly reluctant about the fact that we were right there, staring at them with jumbo cameras. The amazing scenic beauty as the dawn set in and lightens up the extensive flora and fauna is absolutely marvelous. Make sure to carry heavy woolens since it tends to get very cold deep in the forest. The safari usually lasts for around 2 hours, which I thought was a generous timeline.