Although, it’s a shame – I only just dived into Kaziranga and saw a real rhino up, close and personal a month back. But by jove, what a sight they were!! This will sound dangerously close to feelings of love but when I saw a Rhino, my heart skipped a beat and I got goosebumps!
Don’t they remind you of Dinosaurs because of those thick armory like scales? Truly a magnificent being. You will be so thrilled to see them in person.
Now, the one horned rhinos are a near-extinct lot and the few who are with us are found majorly in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India (approx 2500). And, Kaziranga has been protected like a shrine in their honor – it’s a world heritage site.
The history of Kaziranga’s protection can be traced back to 1904, when Mary Curzon, the wife of the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, visited the park. She failed to see a single rhino, for which Kaziranga was renown for and persuaded her husband to take urgent action. So on 1 June 1905, the Kaziranga proposed reserve forest was created with an area of 232 sq km.
How to get to Kaziranga
1. Shortest Route
Fly to Jorhat airport > Take a taxi / bus / train. Check out the fares here.
However, Jorhat doesn’t have too many flights flying in, which brings you to path #2, i.e.
2. Convenient Route
Fly to Guwahati > Take a taxi / bus / train. You can compare fares and check out your options here. The added advantage of flying to Guwahati is that you can stopover and explore the city
Choose Borgos if you love yourself some glamping. Situated just a lil off the main road and into the wilderness, Borgos is the highest luxury experience you can get in Kaziranga and at you-won’t-believe-it affordable rates.
They have a swimming pool, a gym, open air jacuzzi, spa – the works! Plus, they can arrange for your elephant and jeep safari (Scroll down for more details in Things to Do in Kaziranga)
It could be quite the romantic experience for couples who love the wildlife.
Iora is like the more experienced (been there, done that) cousin of Borgos. The rooms are a tad bit more affordable with the same luxury and services.
The only difference would be in the views – Borgos being more in touch with the forest outside. Iora offers the same facilities – gym, pool, spa, safaris and excursions.
On a side note, both these hotels would make great venues for destination weddings!
If you have booked the safari, they shall offer to pick you up from your hotel. If that is not included in your package, your hotel can help take you. You cannot drive your private vehicle into the park unless accompanied by a forest official.
Things to do
Remember that Kaziranga is only open from November to April (for 6 months). The main attraction is to see, what the tourism board calls, the big five – Rhino, Tiger, Elephant, Swamp Deer and Wild Buffalo. The safaris that cater to them are –
1. Elephant Safari
Now, the Elephant Safaris have 2 batches in the morning. One at 5 AM (pre-dawn) and the next one at 6 AM. They also need to be pre-booked. You must check with your hotel beforehand (there is an entry fee + you need to give your I-card)
I adore elephants and I think they are quite cute! Growing up in Assam, I have seen aplenty and in the most unusual places (high traffic city streets, jungle drive to digboi, etc). However, I have never rode one.
It was quite an experience and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, because of the Elephant Safari, we were able to see the Rhinos so close. The Elephants go inside the forest and follow a trail no Jeep can. But on the other hand, I couldn’t bear that every elephant carried so many of us humans and it must be quite a load for the poor things (who were even smacked on the heads by the mahouts!) I saw one tearing up and it just broke my heart.
2. Jeep Safari
Your other option is the Jeep safari that is preferred for spotting tigers. Timings are mornings at 8:30 am to 11:00 am and afternoons 02:30 pm to 05:00 pm. Like the elephant safaris, they need to be pre-booked – there will be an entry fee – you need to show (or send) your i-card copy when booking.
One more thing, before you choose to go in the Elephant Safari or Jeep Safari or both – remember that there are 4 ranges in Kaziranga –
Burapahar ( Ghoraketi)
You must choose which range to go to wisely. Locals say that Kohora is the best for spotting Rhinos and tigers. Bagori is equally good but if the aim is to see more wildlife, Kohora should be the one. Agoratoli is great for birds.
3. Kaziranga National Orchid Park
This one is a new park with 500 varieties of orchid (out of 1314 found in India). Quite popular with the local tourists too! We were persuaded to go and boy, we enjoyed it.
Although we went with hopes of being surrounded by blooming orchids everywhere to the point of being mesmerized with all the flowering sights, we were greeted with greens instead. January end wasn’t the best time to see the orchids flowering.
But, there was much more to the park. From tall trees, to tea gardens, to performances by the local tribes, to rock gardens, boating, rice museum.. well, a lot more.
My favorite bit was the enthralling yet simple performances – the Bamboo Dance and the Bihu.
The park is only open during daylight hours (till 4:30 PM in winters). 1.5 hours should be enough to cover it.
What to wear
Winter from Nov to Feb are cold months (10° Celsius average). You will need jackets, scarves, boots, warm socks and something to cover your head. It gets colder specially at the pre-dawn elephant safaris.
Spring from Mar – Apr is a very pleasant time. A long sleeved top/shirt paired with pants and comfortable shoes can be your go-to staple.
How are you? – “Ki khobor?”
Good morning/afternoon/evening – “Nomoskar”
I can’t speak assamese – “Moi ohomiya kobolei najanu”