Travelling in the North-East in the summer of 2006
Guwahati >> Eaglenest >> Tawang >> Nameri >> Kaziranga >> Shillong >> Cherrapunjee
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I spent two days in Kaziranga, going on elephant rides, taking jeep safaris, walking all around, looking for birds and listening to stories from a Manipuri guy who was with me.
“Don’t go to Manipur”, he said when I told him that my travel plans further are not very rigid. At last count, he said there were more than 80 militant outfits in Manipur. The porous border with Myanmar had resulted in everyone taking to guns, and at some point of time it seems to have become a common practice that people got accustomed to. The militants lay their own check posts on the roads, ask for their taxes, etc. It is apparently complete lawlessness and my friend was very upset about it. A few months down, some friends who went their unknowingly, confirmed that Manipur is an avoidable region for the traveller.
After going through the bureaucracy to get a seat of elephant back, we managed to secure an allocation for the next morning. The park entry where you assemble for the ride is a good 3km from the tourist complex where the hotels existed. Having no means of transport, we were walking the way on the pleasant morning, and were picked up half way by a friendly park officer. Once there, I realized the reason for having a booking process in place, even if it is a cumbersome one. They have way too many – more than a dozen safari elephants in Kaziranga, and they serve more than one one-hour shift every morning. The number of tourists who take the ride is probably more than hundred. We had secured a booking for 7am slot and when we reached there around that time, there were no elephants. They had gone into the forest(meadow is the better word) with 6am batch and started returning around 7.10am. I can’t recall if there was an 8am batch, I think there wasn’t any.
Though I despise elephant rides, it is the best way to see Rhinos, and any other animals that you might get to see in the park. Elephants and Rhinos seem to live a harmonic life in the park, and they tend to get as close as a few feet to the rhinos. So close – if you ever happen to fall from the pachyderm’s back, don’t be surprised if you land on the rhino’s back!
In the hour long ride, we saw plenty of rhinos. Kaziranga is one national park where people never go back disappointed. With a good and thriving population of Rhinos, you are pretty much guaranteed to see them. And if you are there in summer, you will also surely see herds of elephants and wild buffaloes. There are also plenty of deer to see, including the swamp deer(barasinga), ubiquitous chitals and a few barking deer. It seemed like a season of babies in Kaziranga while I was there. We saw many baby Rhinos and baby wild buffaloes. Even some of the escort elephants we were riding on, had babies following them!
A herd of wild buffaloes
Small family.. happy family..
Herd of deer
There were many birds too. I vaguely recall someone saying that everything comes in a big scale in Kaziranga. The mammals – rhinos, elephants and wild buffaloes are big. The wild buffaloes grow to such size that you can almost mistake them for elephants from a distance. Even the birds – pelicans, lesser adjutant storks and white necked storks are so big that they can probably easily lift a baby in their beaks and fly away.
A lesser adjutant stork
A red jungle fowl keeps a watch on us
Later in the day we went on a jeep safari which lasted for good two hours. It was in the safari that I saw a few more birds, like the commonly seen Indian Roller, Jungle Fowls, white necked storks, pelicans, emerald doves and a many more.
I spent the next day walking all around the place outside, to nearby villages and tea estates, looking around for birds. From here, I headed to Guwahati and then moved on to Shillong to spend a few more days.