A Northeast trip is always incomplete without a visit to Kaziranga National Park, home to the Indian one horned rhinoceros. Due to time constraints we planned an overnight drive to Kaziranga, do safari for the whole day and return in the evening. We started on a chilly night around 10.30 pm in a very old Travera, six of us had plenty of space to accommodate ourselves. The national highway from Guwahati to far east is a well maintained one, serving as the only gateway to the whole of the distal northeast. After an intensive chit chat and planning for the next day everyone except the driver dozed off to soft Assamese and Hindi music. We were waking up in turns just to make sure our driver had not shut his eyelid. We reached Kaziranga at 4.30 am and headed for a much needed refreshment break in one of the small hotels on the bylanes. Highway had a few basic lodges and home stays, majority of the high end resorts were situated in remote areas to give a more exotic feel. The park is open to visitors from October to April /May. Situated in the middle of the Brahmaputra valley, it is one of the wettest places in India and river waters floods the grasslands during monsoons forcing the animals to move to the mountains for rest of the year. The park remains closed during this time.
After a much needed refreshment our driver arrived with a gypsy at around 6.30 am. We saw the other jeeps heading to the forest as we waited for him to complete the registration formalities. Kaziranga has several regions out of which Bagori region is considered the most beautiful and Central region has the maximum concentration of rhinos according to the locals. We headed for the Bagori region at around 7.30 am, frankly speaking, very late for a safari ride.
As we moved into the park, within a few minutes we spotted our very first rhino in a marshy land, which then made a quick move into the elephant grasses. After a cruise for sometime through the jungle tracks we went to the viewpoint where tourist were allowed to get down and enjoy the lake and views around. There was a rhino on the far end of the lake and it was still as if posing for all of us. Just two sighting did not satisfy us so we went to a different track on the jungle for another viewpoint. The landscapes were breathtaking but to our disappointment could not locate any more rhinos. Apart from rhinos there were plenty of marsh deer and birds to keep us occupied. All covered in the dust our clothes had changing colours as we returned for a much needed lunch.
Group pose after a not very good morning safari in the park
Dusty trail in the park
Happily intermingling Black Drongo with a friend
This marshy land is where we first spotted the beast, but for a very short time.
Basking in the sun after a early morning joy ride with the tourists
A unique Assamese lunch followed a heated debate over our next safari plan. Finally four of us decided to head for the central zone, our driver convinced that there would be plenty of rhino’s to fulfill our “Rhinomania”. I was excited as always though others were not very pleased with the decision for a repeat safari. We headed for the central zone in time and were among the first five gypsy to enter the park, after crossing the bridge and entering the vast grasslands we spotted a rhino grazing in the grasslands. Another pair were near us were about to go head on with each other.
The roads and the landscape
A good location along a river to spot the elusive royal bengal tiger at kaziranga
After assurance from our driver for more animal sightings we headed to the core zone. Indeed there were lots of rhinos near the large water bodies. After a drive through the jungle we finally went to the last viewpoint for a customary photo session. There were around 10 jeeps already present with 30-40 tourists roaming there taking photographs and enjoying the scenic beauty. Apart from drivers every fifth gypsy entering the park had a guide cum security. After a short photo session of the grassland with rhinos grazing around like cows, as we were getting into the gypsy I noticed movements in the bushes from the other side and in no time a mid sized beast sprang out from there. With packed crowd it kindly waited a bit after entering the scene, the tourists got excited and rushed towards the rhino to get a good view and pictures. Unfazed by the crowd it started moving in a lazy pace towards the vehicles and the forest guards had no other option but to scare it away from danger, it looked around a while and went back in the path and in a few minutes came back with another one double its size and they headed straight for the crowd.
Since our gypsy was the first in the line we had to rush out of the scene while others fearlessly went closer for taking snaps. Sensing the danger the forest guards had to intervene to scare the rhinos off from the scene. Later we came to know from our driver that in last one year rhinos had twice slammed his gypsy and rolled it over. Luckily we were not in the receiving end. Finally we returned back experiencing the breathtaking sunset.