Recently (Mar 2014) my sister went for a trip to the famed Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India. I am very excited to share the details of her trip to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
My sister is currently a student of IIT-Guwahati. She visited the Kaziranga National park as part of her class excursion during the weekend of March 22 and 23, 2014. As they are students, not surprisingly, they were on a budget and did the trip on a per head cost of Rs 3700. They actually spent just 20 hours there, including hotel stay. But the trip was a very good one considering the budget and time constraints.
March is one of the best time to visit the place as weather is very pleasant. Kazaringa is open only from November 1 to April 30 every year. This is because the park closes for monsoon season. The most important attraction of Kaziranga is the One horned Rhino also known as Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). In addition to this, it is a UNESCO world heritage site, a tiger reserve and an important birding area.
Students are students, so despite high ambitions of starting right at the crack of dawn, they finally started from Guwahati at 9 AM in a 40 seater bus. There was plenty of space in the bus as there were only 20 riding the bus.
They reached Green Reed Resort at 2 PM. The time they took to reach the resort from Guwahati was 41/2 hours with stops in between, so overall the trip time became 5 hours.
The resort had kept lunch ready for the students and consisted of Rice,Roti, Dal, local specialty chutneys etc.
At 3:30 PM the class started their open jeep safari. The vehicles were arranged by the resort and fee is included in the package. The open jeep accommodated 7 people besides driver who was also their guide.
As the resort is close by, they reached the park in 15 minutes. The safari ride is really great and is arranged so that everyone got a good view of the surroundings. Safari was for a total of 1 and 1/2 hours.
The park charged a flat rate of Rs.50 for camera, no matter how fancy it was. My sister used a Nikon P510 camera. It is light and comfy to carry and has a superzoom of 42X, so a good choice to reach wildlife and birds at a distance. She used the sports mode most of the time to avoid motion blur.
Their party saw Rhino,Indian muntjac or Barking deer,Hog deer,Barasingha,Sambar deer,Tortoise and Big cat scratch marks in a tree. The team saw many birds including Drongo, Indian roller,Jungle myna etc and rarer ones like black necked stork,lesser adjutant stork etc. My sister told me that she saw rhinos in groups of 4-5. I later confirmed this grouping behavior from wikipedia:
“Subadult males and females form consistent groupings, as well. Groups of two or three young males will often form on the edge of the home ranges of dominant males, presumably for protection in numbers. Indian rhinos also form short-term groupings, particularly at forest wallows during the monsoon season and in grasslands during March and April. Groups of up to 10 rhinos may gather in wallows—typically a dominant male with females and calves, but no subadult males.”
One rhino crossed the road and that gave the team a great photo opportunity. Their guide was very experienced in stopping at the most promising places and gave the team ample opportunity to see and photograph animals. Later they stopped near a watch tower near a river and some of the group explored the tower and river.
Click on each image to enlarge it
These were the birds my sister managed to photograph during the jeep safari. Click on each image to enlarge it.
By the way did you know that bar-headed goose in this gallery is a super-athlete? Well, this bird deserves some extra attention.
Bar headed geese (Anser indicus ) is credited as the world’s highest flying birds . They migrate to India over Himalayas. They fly to their breeding grounds, up and over the himalayas in a single day, rising from their wintering grounds at sea level. The feat is completed in around 8 hours, typically climbing between 4000 and 6000m  ,so this high altitude climb is without any time allotted for acclimatisation. If a human attempts a similar intense climb ,without proper acclimatization, it can be fatal .The oxygen level is extremely low, the temperatures are very low and the timing of flight is during night and early morning when there is very little upslope tail winds to help ascend. All these make this flight one of the most challenging athletic feats in the world because all this lift is achieved by living muscles of the bird, which feeds mainly on nothing but grass!!!
A hypothesis about why the geese choose to fly over rather than around the Himalaya is that the birds have been doing so for millions of years—long before the mountains reached their current heights.
Cited from :The Trans-Himalayan flights of Bar-Headed Geese (Anser Indicus), Apr 27,2011; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA
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The Figure shows the track of geese migrating northward, the black outline is the Himalayan track and the blue dots are the geese traversing the mountain range. Blue line is the average of the blue dots. A 2011 study by scholars from various institutions in Australia,Canada,Germany,India, Italy,Mongolia and UK 
The colorful cock in the gallery may appear to be a just a plain old chicken but no, this is red junglefowl, the wild ancestor of domestic chickens. It is slowly slipping into genetic extinction just like the wild water buffalo due to interbreeding with domestic breeds. I felt a respect for this colorful bird for his survival skills. How he grew to this majestic bird from a little fluffy chick right in the middle of that jungle! There are so many predators around who thinks he is a tasty meal but so far, he has managed to evade them all! Just think about it! My sister told me that he was very active.She noted that he ran pretty fast compared to a domestic chicken. She really had a hard time photographing him.
After safari, the students reached the resort at 6:15 PM. If you are planning to visit the park, note that evening air is chilly around this time. So it will be a good idea to carry a sweater or shawl with you. You won’t need it during safari though.
Back at the resort, hot tea and biscuits refreshed the students.
Then they rested for the remainder of the evening as they had to get up very early the next day to arrive on time for the elephant safari. They woke up at 4 AM the next day and started for the park by 4:30 AM in the bus they had hired. The safari started around 5 AM and was a 1 hour journey. The elephant my sister rode on carried 5 people. She told me that the seating was comfortable and there was a metal rod across seats for safety.
Their mahout walked the elephant in a different route than the other elephants who were walking together. The mahout was very experienced in best spots to stop and see wildlife. In addition to this the mahout was willing to stop the elephant based on user request too.
My sister was wowed as she got to see the rhinos really close by. She saw a mother and calf. She told that the feeling of seeing animals so close in the wild is very different from seeing animals in the zoo. The mahout showed them the critically endangered Slender billed vulture’s nest. They nest in trees whereas Indian vulture nests in cliffs. It felt great to hear that an endangered species is nesting under the protection of the park. Deer was wary of people and ran away quickly, but rhinos were undisturbed. At the end of the trip you can buy banana bunch for Rs 100 and feed it to your safari elephant. My sister really enjoyed feeding the elephant.
Elephant Safari Gallery (Click to enlarge each image)
When I asked her which of the safaris she would recommend to visitors, she told that both the jeep safari and elephant safari should be taken to get a complete experience of the park. She told that both are fantastic. There are many more trails and specific areas that are good for birds, good for wildlife etc. Due to budget and time constraints, her group just took one route of each safari and got a general feel of the sanctuary.
After the elephant safari, they started back to the resort around 7 AM and they had hot breakfast by 9:30 AM. Food was good and consisted of poori,dal, boiled egg,fried potato, tea and kheer. After breakfast the girls relaxed by watching TV in their room while the boys played cricket outside. Her group checked out at 12 PM and started back to campus.
They stopped briefly at a tea plantation which was not so lush at that time.They has another stop at a view point, which was also not too impressive in her opinion.I wonder if I might have had a different opinion as I am a travel buff and love scenery. They were back at IIT campus by 5:30 PM. I hope I will get a chance to visit the famed park sometime in future. Hope the article will help you out in your trip planning.
Note: When coming from far off places, Kolkata -> Guwahati and Delhi -> Guwahati seems to be the most popular route options with optional sight seeing at both Kolkata and Delhi.
Here are some good links giving detailed info about Kaziranga:
 The Trans-Himalayan flights of Bar-Headed Geese (Anser Indicus), Apr 27,2011; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/05/27/1017295108.full.pdf+html
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