There is something about us and wild life sanctuaries ..We chase and then we always get chased . We had gone to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and on return, decided to pay a visit to the single horned Indian Rhino at Kaziranga Wild life Sanctuary. And the highlight of the trip is the early morning safari on an elephant back.
Now that , I call is an experience . Its dark and misty . If you are sleepy, you can easily mistake a tree for an elephant or a rhino . We are a motley crowd of wild life enthusiasts across the country who dont know each other and make polite conversation in the early hours , waiting for the elephants . A herd soon gathers including a couple of calves who totter beside their mothers and insist on meeting the rhinos.
We mount the elephants and we are now almost as tall as the grass …is that why they are called elephant grass ? I wouldnt know ..The tall dry grass – some of them have been burnt are tickling us as we cut through them . Its still dark and the expedition is almost surreal like ..The silence is mesmerising except for the rustle of the grass and then , there is a hush …
A rhino stares at the elephant and poses for the camera. I alternated between the handy cam and the camera when suddenly there is chaos. The rhino charges at the elephant which in turn strikes back with a trumpet almost throwing all of us down; but for the mahout who holds on to the elephant..another rustle and its all over in a jiffy and the expedition continues ..We saw more rhinos , these well behaved and a few birds and bisons before returning .
Located on the banks of the river Brahmaputra , Kaziranga is home to the one horned Indian rhino .Over a 1000 live in this sanctuary along with elephants, bisons and some wonderful species of birds .Stretching over 400 sq km of area, the sanctuary is divided into three zones and you can spend your entire day travelling from one to another and going on safaris .
For bird watchers , this place is awesome… Im quite a novice in this space and often had to look at Dr Salim Ali’s guilde to understand the species …from the pallas fishing eagle to the brahminy kite , to turle doves to migratory water birds, we were in for a treat.
We went in the evening again on a jeep safari and chanced upon some more rhinos grazing .Its surprising that these burly fellows are vegetarians and they look as mild as sheep , except when they chance upon some elephants .
And this time we encountered a road block . We were in the open jeep with an impressive burly guard with a gun keeping us company . As we were negotiating a sharp turn, a tusker ahead of us shoved its body into the bushes . Then we heard a loud trumpet and our driver stopped the jeep . The guard went to see if the oast was clear only to realize that Over a dozen elephants decided to stage dharna and block the path. He said it was dangerous to even move . So we stayed put regretting a chance to take a picture .
Trumpets punctuated the air as dusk dawned . The guard finally decided to burn some grass hoping the elephants will fled “hearing ” the sound ..Incidentally he explained that they do this annually when they clear the swamps by burning the grass , so that the animals safely migrate to the other side of the jungle. It didnt help either . Finally we took a much longer route and returned safely to the resort .
I didnt have enough of Kaziranga and in my next trip, I planned to go to Manas as well .. Sometimes the best moments are etched only in our minds and not in prints . Maybe I will have some better pictures in my gallery then (most of these are shot early morning without any flash, shrouded in mist )and will learn more about birds as well .
Kaziranga is in Assam and Jorhat is one the closest points (84 kms) if you are travelling by rail . My suggestion would be to get to Guwahati and drive down from there . The distance will be about 217 kms . The main gate is at Kohara and there are several resorts around the place.My suggestion would be Bon habi Resort though Wild Grass resport is one of the oldest around there …there are several others which may suit your budget as well .
Best time to visit
November to March . During the monsoons the Brahmaputra floods the entire sanctuary and all animals are forced to move within .