2018 India – Kazaringa

After leaving Kolkata I now headed towards the remote frontiers of the north eastern states of India. Bordered by Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar and Bangladesh these are little visited areas therefor I had decided to organize this part of my adventure through Savion, the company Paul and I had used on our previous Indian adventures. It turned out to be a wise decision. I would never have received the inner line permit for restricted areas on my own and public transport over here is extremely irregular and not trustworthy, to say the least.

On arrival at Guwahati Airport I was met by Burul, my driver, and we started our “three” hour drive to Khaziranga national park. The first thing I noticed was how clean things were compared to Kolkata. Also the air seemed the much more breathable. We left the city and not much later enjoyed lunch. After that we continued our journey. In spite of the bumpy road I managed to nap for a while and after I woke up we were now in a much hillier area. Finally we arrived at the outskirts of Kazaringa National park. It did not take me long before I spotted the first deer and buffalo without even leaving the car. And not much later, a rhino, no two, three four… I could not believe my eyes… And that already before my first safari who’s was planned for the next day, unbelievable.

Just before six we arrived at the resort. A three hour journey had magically turned in an almost six hour journey… I refreshed and went to the lobby to update my journal whilst enjoying a Kingfisher strong.

Dinner was served at seven and not much later I was informed about the time of my elephant safari next morning. I had already noticed evenings were rather chilly over here so before going to bed I grabbed an extra set of blankets, I did sleep well that night.

At 5:30 there was a loud bang on my door, “Good morning Sir”, yes, and a good morning to you as well. A quick wash through the face, a pair of warm clothes and I was ready to go. Shortly after six I was picked up by Burul and we were off on a short drive to the park. On the way up there we already saw the first Rhino, a good start of the day.

Of course formalities were essential before being allowed to enter the park but not much later I found myself on an elephant, the driver in front of me and an armed ranger behind me. In total there were four elephants carrying people but they were accompanied by at least 6 toddlers, together we formed a peculiar caravan….

It did not take us long before we spotted the first deer, being on elephants we really could get close without frightening them, it was a breathtaking experience. And our elephants, for them it must have been like a breakfast walk through a big tali, as they kept on eating non stop. No branches or grass was safe for them, they were all all teared off their roots and then carefully put in their ever hungry mouths.

Not much later, as we were wondering brought the grasslands, it was rhino time. The driver had spotted one in the high grass. As we came very close I noticed there were even more gathered. Kazaringa national park is the only place in the world where the one horned rhino lives. But as slow and friendly as they look, they can be rather aggressive and run very fast.

Wild Buffaloes were grazing in the grass as well, however somehow they and our elephants did not seem to be the best of friends. The elephants trumpeted agitated so the buffaloes went to another, more peaceful, place to finish their grazing.

There were plenty of birds to be spotted, and I even was lucky enough to see a jackal. He must have been looking for leftovers of a killing by a tiger that was spotted yesterday. At some places beautiful pink flowers grew and I was told they only flourish on rhino shit.

We had some more rhino encounters, most of them with an infant next to them. Then it was time to return to the resort, but not before I gave a 100Rp. tip to my elephant who handed it over graciously to its driver. What an exciting start of the day it had been.

A hot shower, breakfast, a short time to relax and it was time to hit the road again… This time we went to the largest orchid and bio-diversity park in India (whatever that was supposed to mean). It was laid out beautifully and at every exhibition someone was waiting for me to explain what I saw. The mean orchid blooming season is from March to April so there were not much flowers to see, however the enthusiasm of the girl showing me around made up for the lack of blooming orchids. I was lucky enough though to see some very special ones.

I made a short stroll through the park where I was asked by an Indian family join them on a photo. Their excitement must have been equal to when I get a good shot of a local.

Then I got attracted by noise coming from a central parlor where a small folklore show was performed. Once again the enthusiasm of the performers was infecting, although there were only a handful of spectators present.

After I finished my rounds we returned to the hotel where I went for a short afternoon nap. Later that afternoon we returned to the national park for a 2nd safari, by jeep this time.

We drove to a different range of the park where my driver was already waiting for me. After the unavoidable paperwork I jumped in the back of the jeep and we were off. It did not take long before I saw the first rhinos, water buffalos and elephants peacefully drinking at the  shores of the plentiful water meadows. Further on I spotted some deer, and birds were to be seen everywhere.

The scenery was completely different than this morning, we drove on an unpaved road through a forested area. Some trees had no leaves left but beautiful red flowers and fruits gave them a complete different appearance.

Other trees were filled with vultures, eagerly waiting for a dead corpse or leftover from a kill. As there was none of that available at the time they were just hanging around, time seemed to be of no importance to them.

A couple of times I saw eagles, some of them high in the sky, others resting on a tree branch. Impressive creatures indeed.

It was a lovely ride and time passed by too quickly, still I must admit this morning’s drive was definitely the most spectacular of the two. Being on top of an elephant I felt so much more in touch with nature and we could get closer than the animals than in a jeep. Still I would not have missed out on either trip.

Back at the hotel I was given the option to attend a cultural show later at the evening but to be honest I was not very eager. Tomorrow would be a long day so I choose for a relaxing evening at the hotel and.. Yes, a kingfisher followed by another early night… Life is good.

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