If ever there will be a movie on wildlife conservation in India, the word Kaziranga would most definitely ring in its title. The amazing success the National Park has achieved in conservation and wildlife protection is an example for all such schemes around the globe.
The park was recognized as early as the 1940s but was formally established in 1974 and was later on, declared UNESCO World Heritage Site too. It spreads over a vast expanse of 430 square kilometres and has an equally large extended territory. The park is shared as a pride between the twin districts of Golaghat and Nangaon with 175 Sq. Km under the Nangaon district, 135 Sq. Km falling under Bagori Forest Range office and 40 Sq. Km within Ghorakati Forest Range office. The park provides one of the most significant sources of income to the people living on the rings of the park area and the ones employed there. There are dozens of privately owned hotels, restaurants and shops selling souvenirs.
Like any other conservation zone of such scale and diversity Kaziranga too has multitude of distinct species of both flora and fauna. There are more than 40 species of fishes; 9 different types of amphibians are found along with about 30 distinct species of reptiles. Also present are more than 490 species of well-known and relatively rare birds which live in absolute natural balance with the 35 species of animals.
It provides a habitat to 1048 elephants, 2048 rhinos, 1431 buffalos and 486 swap deer. Also present are a vast motely of around 546 species of flora. Kaziranga has the highest density of tigers of all the natural tiger habitats in the world and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006 with a tiger population of more than 85 tigers. It has a tiger every 5 square kilometres. However it is not as popular as the Corbett National Park or Ranthambore for tiger-sighting as visitors seldom spot tigers due to tall grass.
The biggest star and poster boy of Kaziranga is the One Horned Rhinoceros, a species which once stared extinction right in the face. The efforts of the administration and Indian government have brought them back to a healthy number. These magnificent and exotic creatures raced the whole of northern India centuries ago but now have been cornered into vanishing existence only in a few pockets in North- East due to poaching and habitat destruction. Kaziranga hosts the biggest population of One Horned Rhinos in the entire world. Another wonderful creature which has been forced out of the limelight due to bigger attractions is the Asian wild water buffalo, a population which has not been hybridised with domestic buffaloes. Greater Adjutant storks also have the park as one of their last safe havens.
The climate can be said to be tropical, which turns considerably hot and humid during the summer followed by monsoons and which has moderately cold winter. The Brahmaputra which provides nurturance to the ecosystem also floods it during the monsoons. The monsoons are the heaviest from June-August and make Kaziranga inaccessible for the outer world. The best time to pay one’s animal friends a visit would be September-October or after that the any period after January and before April.
Kaziranga is connected via air to the outside world by means of an airport located at Jorhat, which in turn is a hundred odd kilometres from the main park. It is connected with all the major Indian cities by regular flights. The nearest railway station is at Furkating which too is quite far sitting 80 kms away, connected with Delhi and Kolkata. The nearest major railway station is Guwahati and it has several trains to Furkating.
For the more adventurous there the other way of reaching Kaziranga is via the road with the wind in one’s face, by the way of the guided bike tours conducted all across Assam and neighbouring states. These begin from places like Guwahati and Kohima and cover states like Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh providing the real freedom which all the explorers and adventurers cherish. The park is also connected via bus with all the major places around.
The entry fees is an minimal amount of 500 rupees. Two most popular options are the jeep and Elephant safaris. The former is quicker whereas the latter gives an entirely different feel to ride an elephant through tall grass and wild nature. People with more time often go foe the elephant rides with professional guides called mahouts. The rent for jeeps varies depending on the distance and the destination but fluctuates between 1000-2000 rupees. The elephant rides cost around 1000 rupees and are started in two shifts in the morning. These are recommended as they provide for an unmatchable view of the rhinos up close. In the winters the second trip is advised due to dense fog and low visibility.
The establishments run by government are quite cheap and of satisfactory quality. Other private resorts offer a wide array of other facilities both on the higher and the economical ends. Camping is available near Laudubi.
The food though a little expensive is hygienic and edible. The restaurants are not many in numbers but all the accommodation facilities have their own eating facilities.
Kaziranga is one of the most popular destinations in North-East India and one gets to know why, after only a single trip.