Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kaziranga National Park

Go there for: One Horned Rhino, Indian Elephant, Wild Buffalo, Tiger, Swamp Deer

Kaziranga National Park at a glance

Nestled in the foot of the Karbi hills in North Eastern India is the refuge of the world’s largest population of one-horned Rhinos (Rhinoceros Unicornis). Yes, we are talking about the lush green spread of about 430-sq-km on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra river - the Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga - which in Karbi means 'where the mountain goat has water' - was used as a hunting site by local tribes and hunters until 1905 when the British Government proposed to declare it a reserve forest. Strewn with a huge multitude of wildlife, streams, thickets of grass and cane and flanked all along by tea estates, this UNESCO World Heritage site, is not just a favorite tourist destination, but a naturalists paradise.

Widlife Attractions of Kaziranga National Park

The habitat consists primarily of tall, dense grasslands interspersed with cane thickets, open woodlands, interconnecting streams and numerous lakes or 'beels' making it an ideal refuge for a multitude of wild species, especially the Rhino. Kaziranga is popularly known as the home of the "Big Five" - rhinoceros, the elephant, wild buffalo, tiger and Swamp Deer or Barasingha. Besides these, you can also spot - the Indian Bison, Hog Deer, Sloth Bears, Tigers, Leopard Cats, Jungle Cats, Otters, Hog Badgers, Capped Langurs, Hoolock Gibbons, Wild Boar, Jackal, Wild Buffalo, Pythons, Monitor Lizards and so on.

A lesser known fact about the Kaziranga National Park is that it is a bird watcher’s paradise. With its 450 different species, it is second only to the Corbet National Park in its bird population diversity. The most seen species are - Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-Shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Pallas's Fishing Eagle, White Tailed Eagle, Grey-Headed Fishing Eagle, Himalayan Griffon, etc. Huge numbers of migratory birds descend on the parks lakes and marshy areas during winters, including Greyleg Geese, Bar-Headed Geese, Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwall, Falcated Duck, Red-Crested Pochard and Northern Shoveller.

A total of 52 mammalian species has been recorded in the Park itself and include such rarities like Gangetic Dolphin, Chinese Pangolin, Hoolock Gibbon, Hog-Badger and Parti-coloured Flying Squirrel. 39 reptiles make the list and include the endangered Gharial and the rare Assam Roofed Turtle. Both the Reticulated and Rock Pythons are found in the area. Come monsoon and Kaziranga is submerged by the backflow of the Brahmaputra. Where on one side the flood helps rejuvinate the forest, cleanse hyacinths and other debris, swells the waterbodies with fish, while on the other hand it disturbs the wildlife here. Some die and some migrate to the highlands. Kaziranga and its denizens have however learnt to live the floods and it recovers, phoenix-like, every year.

Safari Adventure

The park can be visited on an Elephant back or in a Jeep. The vast open country makes Kaziranga National Park very accessible.Early hours of the dawn is the best time to explore the Park on an elephant-back guided by authorized and trained Mahouts. Raised on such great height, you can safely move about amongst the wild animals totally unhindered by human presence - something you will rarely experience in other National Parks. In just two days you can feast on more animal sightings than any other national park. However, leisurely strolls round the woods is not allowed here.

What more to look out for in Kaziranga

Sightseeing in Kaziranga : Tourists can stroll through the plush coffee and rubber plantations of the nearby Karbi Anglong and the tea gardens of Hathkhuli, Methoni, Difalu, Behora Borchapori. A trip to the nearby Karbi or Mising Villages and aquainting with their way of living in the hills can also be very interesting. The Kakochang waterfalls are about 13 km from Kaziranga.
Kohora: Almost every afternoon, the domestic elephants at Mihimukh Camp, Kohora, are given a bath in the nearby stream. It is not just an enjoyable sight but you can actually get drenched with them and know them closely.
Baghori: Lying on the western end f the Park, Baghori is a guaranteed sightseeing spot. Go to its high watchtower before sunset to view the most enigmatic of nature's spectacles - a sylvan lanscape peppered with the rarest of wild animals, all bathed in the golden rays of the setting sun.
Numaligarh: Not far from the park are the ruins of the ancient Numaligarh. These ruins are of great archaeological importance.
The Panbari Reserve Forest: A few minutes drive from Kohora, is a great place to see some woodland rarities. This 10-sq km long patch is one of Kaziranga's few remaining highland forests not invaded by the tea plantations or the human settlements. Birds like Asian Fairy Bluebird, Pale-capped Pigeon, Pied Falconet, Sultan Tit and Silver-breasted Broadbill are relatively easy to find here. A lone male Hoolock is also a star attraction as are the Capped Langurs.

How to reach there
The nearest airport is situated at Guwahati, which is 217-km away from the park. The other airport is located at Jorhat, 97-km from Kaziranga. The nearest railhead is Furkating, situated 75-km away. And if you are travalling by road, the main gate for Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, at Kohora on the NH-37, consists of a handful of cafes and a small local market.

Ideal time to visit: From mid-November to early April. The low-lying grasslands of the park get flooded with the waters of Brahmaputra River in the monsoons due to which the animals migrate to nearby areas for shelter.

Accommodation options

Wild Grass Lodge is strongly recommended. They arrange for everything and can provide top class forest guides. Forest Dept. run Tourist Bungalows are also available and should be booked in advance. The Aranya Lodge and Bonani Lodge provide comfortable quarters. No matter where you stay, the call of the wild will be so strongly felt that you will hardly want to spend time indoors.



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