Kaziranga National Park - A Traveler's Guide
Table of Contents
About Kaziranga National Park
Where the forest floor is a lush carpet of ferns, and every tree branch carries the weight of epiphytes and mosses, lies a haven for biodiversity. Here, grasses grow tall, concealing even the mightiest of creatures like elephants, while the majority of inhabitants, from agile primates to exotic birds, spend their entire lives amidst the branches. Kaziranga, this mystical land, is where the majestic Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros roams freely, resembling a creature from ancient legends. Endowed with a single horn on their nose, these magnificent beings are often hailed as the unicorns of the real world, adding to the park’s aura of enchantment.
The Great Indian One-Horned Rhino, an endangered species, finds its sanctuary in the isolated regions of India and Nepal. Kaziranga National Park proudly holds the title of having the world’s highest population of these extraordinary creatures.
Kaziranga, a national park, a tiger reserve, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a part of the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Elephant Reserve, and a proposed Ramsar Site, is a sanctuary of unparalleled significance. Covering a total area of 1173.58 sq. km., including 625.58 sq. km. of core critical tiger habitat and 548 sq. km. of buffer peripheral area, this reserve thrives with life. Fed by the mighty Brahmaputra River and a network of channels originating from the Karbi-Anglong Hills, Kaziranga’s ecological richness knows no bounds. It stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of diverse species, making it a sanctuary where wilderness truly thrives and rhinos roam freely.
The Big Five’s at Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga national park, renowned for its diverse wildlife, proudly boasts the presence of the magnificent Big Five: The Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros, the Asian Elephant, the Asiatic Wild Buffalo, the Bengal Tiger, and the Common Leopard. Among these, the park holds the title of having the world’s largest population of Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros, with nearly 70% of these majestic creatures residing within its boundaries. Kaziranga national park is also home to a significant population of Asiatic Wild Buffaloes and Asian Elephants, adding to its wildlife splendor. Remarkably, it stands as the global leader in tiger density, with an astonishing ratio of one tiger per every five square kilometers.
The Kaziranga national park’s tiger population, estimated at around 135 individuals in the last census, underscores its vital role in tiger conservation efforts. Additionally, Kaziranga shelters the Eastern Swamp Deer, a subspecies of Swamp Deer unique to the Terai arc landscape. This rare species finds its last refuge in Kaziranga, making it an essential sanctuary for the conservation of this distinctive deer population, shared only with Manas National Park, where they were recently introduced.
Types of Safaris at Kaziranga National Park
Embarking on a Rhino and elephant safari in a four-by-four jeep stands as the most thrilling method to discover the wonders of the Kaziranga National Park. Each jeep accommodates a maximum of six tourists, accompanied by a knowledgeable park guide. The safari experience is divided into two shifts, each lasting one and a half to two hours, allowing visitors ample time to immerse themselves in the park’s rich biodiversity.
To ensure the safety and enjoyment of all, jeep safaris in Kaziranga follow a regular schedule, operating only from 07:00 AM to 04:00 PM daily. This regulated timing not only preserves the natural habitat but also provides enthusiasts with the opportunity to witness the park’s wildlife during the most active periods of the day. With the wind in your hair and the thrill of exploration, a jeep safari in Kaziranga promises an unforgettable adventure, offering glimpses of the park’s diverse fauna and captivating landscapes.
Elephant safaris are exclusively offered during the morning shift and are limited to the Western and Central Ranges of the park.
These majestic creatures are expertly handled by experienced mahouts, ensuring a safe and memorable safari experience. The safari routes, carefully designated, primarily weave through the park’s grasslands, allowing visitors to observe wild buffaloes and one-horned rhinos up close and personal.
This unique opportunity provides a thrilling encounter with Kaziranga’s incredible wildlife, promising an adventure filled with natural wonders and unforgettable moments.
Safari Zones in Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India, boasts four distinct safari zones, each offering a unique and exhilarating wildlife experience. The Bagori Safari Zone, known for its lush grasslands, allows visitors to witness the park’s iconic one-horned rhinoceros in their natural habitat.Agoratoli Safari Zone, with its diverse landscapes, is a birdwatcher’s paradise, featuring an array of avian species. The Kohora Safari Zone is famous for its vibrant flora and fauna, where travelers can spot elephants, deer, and the majestic Bengal tiger. Lastly, the Burapahar Safari Zone, located on the park’s western border, showcases a pristine forest landscape, providing a captivating backdrop for jungle safaris. Each safari zone in Kaziranga National Park promises an unforgettable adventure, offering a glimpse into the rich biodiversity and natural beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
1. Bagori Western Range
This area of the park is not only the busiest but also the most popular. It is a prime spot for animal sightings, especially One Horned Rhinos and Wild Buffaloes. For those traveling from Guwahati, this zone is the second closest one along the way. There are multiple tourist facilities, including a souvenir shop, both at the entrance and inside the zone. Additionally, there is an elephant safari point specifically catering to Indian visitors. As you approach the park, you can witness elephants bathing in the Diphlu River, adding to the unique Kaziranga safari experience.
2. Kohora Central Range
This area is particularly favored by tourists, especially foreigners, due to its sparse crowds and diverse wildlife. It boasts an exclusive elephant safari point for VIPs and foreign visitors. The scenery in this zone is as captivating as in other areas of the park, and animal sightings are abundant. Eastern Swamp Deer sightings are particularly common here, and it is also renowned for its tiger sightings.
3. Agratoli Easten Range
This area is situated at the farthest reaches of the park and is less frequented by visitors. It appeals to those seeking a quieter and more exclusive Kaziranga safari experience. This zone is particularly well-suited for observing otters, great hornbills, and various other bird species. A significant feature of this zone is the large lake called Sohola, which came into existence after a major earthquake and subsequent flooding. This lake attracts a multitude of migratory birds and occasionally offers a chance to witness the impressive Greater Adjutant Stork occasionally.
4. Burapahar Range
This is the initial range encountered when traveling from Guwahati. Unlike other areas, this zone is characterized by its hilly terrain and relatively low visitor numbers. It is especially favored by bird enthusiasts and offers excellent opportunities for observing primates and giant squirrels. Along the highway, there are high chances of encountering Hoolock Gibbons. Inside the forest, there are designated trekking routes also, and visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the mighty Brahmaputra River from a viewpoint within the zone.
Reasons to visit the Kairanga National Park
Kaziranga is located within the Indo-Burma Biodiversity hotspot, one of the largest hotspots among the 36 recognized worldwide. This hotspot encompasses a significant portion of Northeastern India and is known for its high levels of biodiversity. It represents a convergence of distinct temperate, tropical, and subtropical regions, namely the Indian, Sundaic, Sino-Himalayan, and Indochinese regions. This unique convergence contributes to its extraordinary species richness.
Kaziranga, in particular, stands out as a prime destination for observing Indian One-Horned Rhinos and Wild Buffalos in their natural habitat, making it one of the best places in the world to witness these species in the wild.
Flora found in Kaziranga National Park
As part of the Indo-Burma hotspot, Kaziranga boasts rich floral diversity, particularly in plant families such as Orchidaceae and Dipterocarpaceae, known for their high species richness within this region. The state tree of Assam, where Kaziranga is located, is the magnificent Dipterocarp commonly known as ‘Hollong.’ Hollong trees are prevalent in the wet evergreen forests of Kaziranga.
Grasslands constitute a significant portion of Kaziranga’s landscape, with grasses reaching impressive heights of 5-6 meters. The annual floods and controlled burning practices play a crucial role in preventing woodland encroachment, ensuring a constant supply of grazing land for the herbivore population. Within these grasslands, Bamboo leaved Galangal (Alpinia nigra) grows abundantly.
Among the dominant high grass species are Saccharum spontaneum, Saccharum naranga, Imperata cylindrical, Erianthus spp., Arundo donax, and Phragmites karka. In the savannah woodland areas, the most common tree is the Silk Cotton Tree (Bombax ceiba), whereas in the swamp forests, species like Elephant Apple (Dillenia indica), Wild Guava (Careya arborea), and Amla (Emblica officinalis) are more prevalent.
Fauna/Wildlife species found in Kaziranga National Park
Mammals in Kaziranga
Kaziranga Tiger Reserve boasts exceptional faunal diversity, housing a total of 35 mammal species, including 15 threatened species protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of India. Among the prominent carnivores in the reserve are tigers, leopards, and sloth bears. The reserve is also home to a variety of herbivores such as elephants, rhinos, wild buffalo, swamp deer, hog deer, sambar deer, barking deer, and wild boar.
Kaziranga is renowned for its primate population, including a small community of Western Hoolock Gibbons, which are India’s only ape species and can be easily found in the evergreen forest patches. Additionally, the reserve is habitat to Bengal Slow Lorises, Assamese Macaques, Capped Langurs, and Rhesus Macaques.
In terms of smaller mammals, Kaziranga is home to Eurasian Otters, Smooth-Coated Otters, Hog Badgers, Indian Crested Porcupines, and Black Giant Squirrels, all of which are commonly found in the area.
Reptiles in Kaziranga
In terms of reptiles, Kaziranga Tiger Reserve is home to the endangered Assam Roof Turtle and the formidable King Cobra, along with a variety of other snake and turtle species. Among the common reptiles found in the reserve are the Cat Snake, Python, Bengal Monitor, Indian Softshell Turtle, Indian Flapshell Turtle, Peacock Softshell Turtle, Spotted Pond Turtle, and Indian Roofed Turtle. These diverse reptilian inhabitants contribute to the rich biodiversity of the reserve.
Avifauna/Birds in Kaziranga
Kaziranga is a paradise for birdwatchers, boasting a remarkable diversity of avian species with more than 500 birds identified within its boundaries. Among these, there are 27 threatened species, making it one of the outstanding Important Bird Areas (IBA), particularly for birds of tall, wet grasslands. Of the 500 species, over 200 birds are residents, while the remaining are migrants, including local migratory birds.
Some of the notable resident birds found in Kaziranga include Spot-Billed Pelicans, Lesser Adjutants, Swamp Francolins, Bengal Floricans, Grey-Headed Fish Eagles, Black-Breasted Parrotbills, Great Hornbills, and Finn’s Weavers. Additionally, winter migrants like Himalayan Rubythroats, Chestnut-Crowned Bush Warblers, Brown-Headed Gulls, Grey-Backed Shrikes, and Slaty Blue Flycatchers can be spotted, along with various water birds. Kaziranga is particularly renowned for its water bird population, especially the Bar-Headed Goose, with thousands of them arriving here annually. In a recent count, more than 20,000 waterbirds were recorded, including 2,000-3,000 Bar-Headed Geese.
Best time to visit the Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park remains closed during the monsoon season when the entire park gets inundated by the Brahmaputra River, except for the elevated grounds and hilly areas in the nearby Karbi-Anglong sanctuary. The park experiences heavy rainfall during this period. It typically opens in November after the floodwaters recede and closes again in May when the monsoon season begins.
Due to its tropical climate, Kaziranga is humid throughout the year. Summers are hot and humid, while winters can be cold. The park’s weather varies, offering different experiences to visitors depending on the time of year they choose to visit. Regarding the animal sighting, month of summer is good for big mammals and winter is good for migratory birds.
Places to visit near Kaziranga National Park
1. Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary
Hollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary stands out as one of the premier destinations in the Northeast for observing primates. It is home to seven different primate species, a diversity that is rare and comparable to only a few other places in the region. Additionally, it is renowned as one of the finest locations to witness Hoolock Gibbons in their natural habitat, making it a must-visit for primate enthusiasts and nature lovers.
2. Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park
Near the western range of Kaziranga, there is an orchid park that hosts an impressive collection of 600 orchid varieties gathered from across the Northeast region. These orchids are maintained in a natural, wild state to provide an ambiance that closely resembles their natural habitat. Besides the orchids, the park also features a rice museum, a medicinal plant garden, and a product outlet center, offering visitors a comprehensive experience showcasing the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of the region.
3. Tea Gardens
Assam is renowned for its tea industry, and the region is dotted with numerous tea gardens. Visitors have the opportunity to explore these picturesque tea estates, where they can learn about the tea-making process, witness the lush tea plantations, and even purchase fresh tea directly from the source. It’s a delightful experience for tea enthusiasts and tourists alike, allowing them to immerse themselves in the rich tea culture of Assam.
4. Brahmputra River
The park is situated near the Brahmaputra River, and several private operators and lodges provide boat safari services for visitors to observe the Gangetic River Dolphin, which is abundant in this area. This offers tourists a unique opportunity to witness these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat, enhancing their overall wildlife experience in the region.
5. Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation
This center plays a crucial role in rescuing wild animals during floods and when they stray into human habitation. Operated by the Wildlife Trust of India and supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), it serves as a safe haven for displaced and stranded wildlife. Visitors interested in touring the center must obtain prior permission, and detailed information can be obtained by contacting the respective authorities.
Trip to Kanha National Park - FAQs
The ideal time for a safari in Kaziranga National Park, known for its rhino safaris in India, is during the dry season, from November to April. During this period, the vegetation is less dense, making it easier to spot tigers and rhinos. The cool climate allows for more extended safaris, enhancing your chances of wildlife sightings.
A rhino safari in Kaziranga promises exhilarating encounters with the world’s largest population of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. These magnificent creatures, along with a diverse range of wildlife, can be observed in their natural habitat. Additionally, the park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting numerous avian species, enhancing the safari experience.
A typical safari in Kaziranga National Park lasts for approximately 2 to 2.5 hours. The park offers both morning and afternoon safari slots, allowing visitors to choose the time that suits them best. Longer safaris can be arranged for those looking for a more immersive wildlife experience.
Yes, there are specific guidelines to ensure the safety of visitors and the conservation of wildlife. Visitors must follow the park’s rules, such as maintaining a safe distance from animals, refraining from littering, and not disturbing the natural habitat. It’s essential to be respectful of the park’s regulations to minimize human impact.
While tigers and rhinos are the star attractions, Kaziranga is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Visitors can expect to see elephants, wild water buffaloes, swamp deer, various species of primates, and an abundance of birdlife. Leopards, wild boars, and even the elusive hoolock gibbons are also among the park’s inhabitants.
No, night safaris are not permitted in Kaziranga National Park. The park strictly enforces daytime safaris to ensure the safety of visitors and wildlife. However, some nearby reserves and sanctuaries may offer night safaris with a focus on nocturnal creatures.
Visitors can explore Kaziranga National Park in specially designed open-topped vehicles, including jeeps and elephants. These vehicles provide an unobstructed view of the wildlife and the park’s stunning landscapes, allowing for an immersive safari experience.
It’s essential to dress comfortably and in earth-toned, neutral colors to blend into the natural surroundings. Don’t forget to bring binoculars, a camera with a telephoto lens, a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent to enhance your safari experience and protect yourself from the elements.
While tigers are present in Kaziranga, they are elusive and can be challenging to spot. The park’s primary attraction remains the one-horned rhinoceros. However, with patience, a bit of luck, and the guidance of experienced guides and naturalists, visitors do occasionally get the opportunity to witness the magnificent Bengal tiger in its natural habitat during their safari in Kaziranga.
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