I have always longed to visit Kaziranga National Park in Assam. From my childhood days, I have been watching programs on Discovery and National Geographic about this beautiful place, but being in the north-east corner of our country, I never imagined that I would actually get to visit this place.
Especially of late, it has seemed just too cumbersome and tiring to travel. It was extremely difficult to co-ordinate both our work schedules, with the kids holidays. My work is unfortunately at its peak during the summer and Dussehra holidays, and I am unable to take off. During Christmas, the rates to resorts and flight tickets are just so steep.
Basically, what I am saying is that of late traveling as a family has become way too challenging. And when a bunch of people started planning a group trip, I was feeling restless and itchy and signed on an impulse. And I am now so glad I did. I really discovered some wonders on this trip.
Kaziranga is located in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra River. Every year during the monsoons, this place gets flooded, and thus this is a typical flood-plain kind of ecosystem. Kaziranga is made fertile with the alluvial soil formed by the erosion and the silt deposition of Brahmaputra River, so it is an ideal place for agriculture.
Thankfully though, the Government of India has deemed it as a National Park. It was also declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
How to get there
We drove down to Kaziranga from Cherrapunji, as we completed our tour of Meghalaya first. However Kaziranga is pretty accessible generally.
- By Air and road: Guwahati being located at 217 kms from the park serves as the nearest airport to reach Kaziranga. The other airport is located at Jorhat, 97 kms from Kaziranga. Most airlines though land at Guawahati. From there, you can take a bus, or book a cab. The roads are excellent by the way. Straight roads all the way into Kaziranga.
- By train: The nearest railway station is at the distance of 75 kms from the Kaziranga National Park in Furkating.
Where to stay
Kaziranga has a number of decent places to stay. Because it is such a huge place, I would recommend staying within the National Park, instead of looking for accommodation outside. Here is a list of some resorts within the National Park.
- Jupuri Ghar
- Iora Resort
- Wild Grass Lodge
- Bonhabi Resort
- Infinity Kaziranga Wilderness
- Kaziranga Resort
We stayed at Iora Resort, and found it a lovely place. It’s a four-star resort, and comes with a swimming pool, spa, bar, and other such facilities.
The food was good with plenty of veg and non-veg options. I particularly liked the morning breakfast buffet, which had a good mix of continental and Indian options (even South-Indian). I can’t believe I ate the most delicious masala dosa in Assam!
Rhino Spotting at Kaziranga
Now that I am done with the nitty-gritty details, I come to our experience there. Did we see wildlife or not?
Well, we saw plenty of rhinos. We took the early morning elephant safari, and that turned out to be the key to spotting rhinos. If you go to Kaziranga, don’t miss the elephant safari experience. We took the safari that starts at 6:00 am. Turns out that it was the best time.
In the earlier time-slot, there was too much mist to be able to see the rhinos properly. We embarked on our safari just after the sunrise, and the mists were clearing out. Here are some photos of what we saw.
This massive beauty first emerged out of the trees almost as soon as we embarked on the elephant safari. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see one up close so quickly.
Imagine my excitement when it emerged out into the grasslands, and I saw that there was a little cub following it.
I hoped to see the little one scampering or doing something cute, but it was as sedate as its mother – walking along peacefully ignoring us.
It was still a bit misty, which is why the above rhinos haven’t come out crystal clear.
We then crossed a river (all the while seated on the elephant), and tried to go near a rhino that was in the clear. Unfortunately, it was in a very bad mood, even threatening to charge at us. We made a very hasty retreat, I can tell you. Our mahout said that though elephants are bigger, there is no way they can survive a rhino charge.
Anyway, we continued our way through the jungle. I put aside thoughts of the rhino, put away my camera, and just enjoyed the beauty around me, and the wonderful other wildlife – the swamp deer, the eagles, the numerous variety of deer. Until we came across one more rhino – this time very peaceful, willing to allow us to come close.
It was then the end of the elephant safari, and we got down to go back to our hotel, eat breakfast, and relax the rest of the morning.
Around 2pm, we did a jeep safari. Everyone was telling us that the jeep safari would go deep into the jungle, and it was better than the elephant safari. So, of course, this was not something we could miss.
Timings of the jeep safari:
- Morning Jeep Safari: 07: 09:30
- Afternoon Jeep Safari: 13:30: 15:30
We did the jeep safari and it was all right. I much preferred the elephant safari though, and if you have time to do only one, I would recommend that you do the early morning elephant safari.
It’s not that we didn’t see anything in the jeep safari. We saw plenty of rhinos and deer, but we couldn’t get too close (definitely not as close as we could get on elephant back). There were plenty of birds though (and if you are an avid birder, you should do the jeep safari).
I was a bit disappointed though mainly because the morning’s elephant safari had blown my mind.
Here’s a photo of a rhino in the grass. This is as close as we got during the jeep safari.
We also saw some deer in the distance.
What the jeep safari did offer us though was the brilliant sunset that we observed over Kaziranga.
That brilliant sunset made up for the rather mundane jeep safari. The jeep safari actually takes you right up to a vantage point where you can watch the sunset. The elephant safari does not offer this option, I think.
So, I guess overall it is better to do both.
Orchids at Kaziranga
Apart from the wildlife, there is a small area of Kaziranga that is dedicated to orchid cultivation. Nearby is a restaurant that serves traditional Assamese food, and an open area where you can watch traditional Assamese dance performances.
Not a must-do by any means. But if you have a few empty hours, you can kill some time at the Kaziranga National Orchid Park.
Here is a shot of a couple of orchids that I saw. Apparently, this is not the season, so most of the orchid varieties they had were not in full bloom.
After wandering through the park and attached museum, we walked to a neighboring eating joint and ordered an Assamese thali (actually that was the only dish they had on offer).
The thali was huge and there were so many options. From my stay in Assam and the variations of thali that I tried, I knew what to expect.
Lots of rice, whole moong dal, aloo pithika (delicious), and lots of greens.
Very healthy and light. This particular thali wasn’t the greatest, but generally the local Assamese food was pretty delightful. There are plenty of non-veg options as well – fish and chicken being the most common.
After lunch, we opted for some light recreation watching a traditional Assamese dance.
Good fun. Like I said earlier – a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours.
So, that was my recount of the fun we had in Kaziranga. These photos don’t do enough justice to the natural beauty of the place, and the majesty of the animals.
I came away overwhelmed by its beauty. Kaziranga turned out to be all that I had expected and so much more. This is one place I can never forget.
More posts on my trip to Assam and Meghalaya will be coming soon. Watch this space!
I hope this post was not too long and rambly for you.