Best known for its single horned Rhinos, Kaziranga National Park is one of the 30 odd world heritage sites in India. Spread in an area of more than 400 sq. km. Like Majuli, this is also losing a lot of its area to land erosion by the Brahmaputra. To reach Kaziranga, you can either come from Guwahati or from Jorhat. It lies on the main road connecting these two major cities. The road almost passes through the national park. There are many spots where you can stop by the road. And look into the jungle and spot animals, especially deer and wild buffaloes. There are paddy fields that you see along the road.
We were told that these were all parts of the national park but people are slowly encroaching the jungle. On the other side of the jungle is the Brahmaputra. During the monsoon time, most of these grasslands are flooded. Animals migrate inside the forest and roads are so bad that vehicles cannot go inside. Park is open from Oct / Nov to March. The exact date of the opening is decided based on the conditions inside the park. Best bet is to go mid-Nov to Feb end.
Kaziranga National Park – Biodiversity Hot Spot
Mrs. Curzon, wife of Lord Curzon was the first person to demand a protection of the wild animals of this region. It is at her request that this forest area was converted into a reserve forest. It became a national park in 1974 and attained the world heritage status from UNESCO in 1985 for being the bio-diversity hot spot. Today, this national park is divided into 3 main ranges. Bagori on the western side, Kohora in the middle and Bokakhat in the east. We visited the Bagori range while we stayed at Kohora range.
Single-Horned Rhino or Indian Rhino
Besides being home to single-horned Indian rhinoceros, you can also see wild elephants, wild buffalo, swamp deer and if you are lucky tigers. Inside the park, there is tall wild elephant grass and the animals are usually hidden among them. They can appear and disappear in a moment in this thick and wet grassland. Making it a bit scary to move around, as you never know when and where the animals will pop up from? It seems the animals are quite used to the olive jeeps that bring humans with a camera hung around their neck. But if you spot the ferocious ones like Rhino or elephants it is best to be reverent and let them take their time and space and wait while they do so.
Elephants & Rhino’s with their Babies
Elephants are usually in a herd and can be spotted around the water bodies. Rhinos are usually on their own or with their young ones. We spotted a baby Rhino right in front of our jeep and the guide stopped the jeep. And said, if the baby is here, the mother must be close by, and yes, there she was, following her baby. The baby was happily playing and the mother was keeping a close eye on it. She did throw a glance at us but probably did not see any threat. After a while, the baby went into the tall grass and the mother followed. Within a few seconds we could not see a trace of them.
Another Rhino was sleeping and our guide woke him up with a slight noise. Rhino got up lazily looked around and then went back to sleep. The layered skin of a Rhino looks like as of they are wearing a tightly fitted leather jacket on their back. The folds of skin on their joints create this impression. It was a mother and baby day at Kaziranga as we later saw a 28-day old baby elephant playing with its mother.
Watch Towers in the National Park
There are a few watchtowers built around the water bodies where you can get on top and see animals from a height. You can see them on the other side of the water body, bathing, roaming, playing, loitering and just enjoying themselves. From our tower, we saw these huge fishes in the water below. We could not take a picture as they came up only for a quick breath and then disappeared. But it completed the experience of a being in a national park along with all the colorful birds that kept flying all around.
Demographics of Kaziranga National Park
A forest department board tells the demographics of the national park. It clearly shows that the population of Rhinos and others is on the rise. Though they have kept quiet about the numbers of tigers. Our guide argued the figure of 1411 tigers that media keeps talking about, he said there are much more than that. It seems that poaching is still a big issue for the forest department. We were told every now and then they find people hidden in the park. Who want to kill rhinos for its horn that due to its limited availability is obviously an exclusive item to have. It seems it is also used for some shamanic practices. Making it so precious that hunters are willing to risk their lives for it. The same goes for elephant tusks.
Incidentally, we did not see any elephants with tusks there. Is it possible that the tusks have been cut?
There is an artificially created Ethnic village in Kohora range. Here tourism department has tried to create houses of various tribes of North East. Unfortunately, while locals use natural material like bamboos to make their houses, here, everything is made of concrete. Even the impression of being a bamboo. Then there were life-size images showcasing the daily life of the tribes. This is something that I have come to resist, artificially created rural life, you can see them as a trend across the country. Not sure if someone is looking at their effectiveness or they are just being a part of the herd mentality. There was no one in the village, we just roamed around the place and walked back to our hotel. While walking around the area, you can see many tea gardens that make a beautiful view.
As you visit the park, take the jeep ride into the forest to see the animal up close. And then take an elephant ride, you can not miss the economy that exists around this national park just across the road. There are high-end resorts and there are backpacker’s dens. There are jeeps that work only during the season and take tourists inside the park. And there are souvenir shops that sell all kinds of local stuff made of Bamboo. Though the culture of last minute holiday deals is yet to reach here. There are guides who know a bit about the jungle routes and animal behavior. And of course, there is a whole forest department who look after the forest. You feel proud of the animals that are a source of bread and butter for so many people living in the periphery of the park.
A Beautiful and peaceful place to visit… Images of those tall grass cross my mind as I write this.
Recommend you to read following National Parks of India on the Travel Blog.