Most of Assam's magnificent wildlife sanctuaries are in the Brahmaputra valley, where the large tracts of grasslands on the flood plains are home to the Indian one-horned Rhino and other beasts. On such terrain, as opposed to the thick jungle cover of most other Indian Parks, sightings of animals are all but assured. Kaziranga, the greatest park of all, is renowned for its elephant grass and Rhino, but also incorporates some forest areas. Covering an area of 430-sq-kms on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, Kaziranga National Park, 217-km east of Guwahati, occupies the vast valley floor against a backdrop of the forest-covered Karbi Anglong hills.
Flora And Fauna: Rivulets and Bhils, and the semi-evergreen forested "Highlands", just out of reach of the Brahmaputra's annual floods, blend into marshes and flood plains covered with tall elephant grass. Animal sightings are guaranteed, with Rhinos, Deer and herds of Wild Buffalo grazing close to the park entrance not far from the Administrative Center of Kohora.
The rich bird life includes Egrets, Herons, Storks, Fish-Eating Eagles and a Grey Pelican colony settled among the red cotton trees. Few tracks penetrate this sea of grass, however, and the Wild Elephants seldom venture into it, preferring to remain in the forested Highlands, while Tigers are incredibly elusive. With the grasslands bordering onto cultivated fields and domestic cattle encroaching upon the sanctuary and introducing epidemics, the wild animals are under increasing threat. Poaching is rife, with rhino horns fetching astronomical prices as aphrodisiacs.
Kaziranga's One-Horned Rhino:
With a population of over a thousand, the one-horned Rhino's are the largest concentration in the subcontinent and are best seen from the back of an elephant, early on a winter's morning. These Elephant rides last around one hour, and should be booked the previous evening at the park offices in Kohora. Although the elephants do not penetrate far into the sanctuary, merely traveling in a three or four kilometer circle, it is incredible how much wildlife can be seen in this small area; the dawn ride is the best - if one can get up that early. The rhinos seem oblivious to camera-clicking tourists, although like the unpredictable wild buffalo, they are equipped with lethal horns and potentially ferocious. Although jeeps penetrate deeper into the forest than elephants, they cannot get nearly as close to the wild animals.
Kaziranga is open from mid-November to early April only. During the monsoons, the Brahmaputra bursts its banks, flooding the low-lying grasslands and causing animals to migrate from one area to another within the park. Deer and even Leopard often cross the main road, heading for the hills until the water recedes.
One can stroll through the lush coffee and rubber plantations of the nearby Karbi Anglong. One can also visit the Karbi villages, meet the Karbi people and observe their life style. Or romp through the enchanting tea gardens and watch how one gets one's daily cup of tea. Film shows on wildlife can be arranged at the tourist lodge, on request.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Air: The nearest airport is situated at Guwahati, which is 217-km away from the park. The other airport is Jorhat, 97-km from here.
Rail: The nearest railhead is Furkating, situated 75-km away from the park.
Road: The main gate for Kaziranga, at Kohora on the NH37, consists of a handful of cafes and a small local market. ASTC and private buses stop here on their way to and from Guwahati, Tezpur and Upper Assam; some private buses retain a seat quota for Kaziranga passengers.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Directorate of Tourism is hidden a few hundred meters off the road to the north, in the Bonani Lodge. All visitors have to sign in here, before making for the park headquarters alongside, where one can book elephant and jeep rides, and rooms in the nearby lodges. There is wide range of accommodation facility at the park, which varies from rest houses, dormitory and lodges maintained by the forest department and the ITDC. The forest department has two rest houses and one dormitory. ITDC has three lodges, one dormitory and two cottages. The Wild Grass is a private resort, which offers good alternative accommodation.
FOR MORE TOURIST INFORMATION
Assam Tourism Office Tours: The most convenient way to visit Kaziranga is on one of the Assam tourism office tours, which leave from their office in Guwahati. The package includes overnight accommodation in the Bonoshree Lodge, meals, an elephant ride and transport back to Guwahati.
Joint Director of Tourism, Kaziranga,
P.O Kaziranga National Park,
District Jorhat, Assam – 785612
Note: Visiting Kaziranga independently can be expensive due to the two-tier price system, with different entry costs for Indian nationals and foreigners. There are separate charges for elephant safari and jeep rides from the lodges to the park entrance, as well as a system of variable camera fees.