Kaziranga National Park, Assam

Kaziranga National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in the heart of Assam and is world famous for Indian Rhinos. The park has about two-thirds of the world’s Great One-horned Rhinoceroses and also holds the record for protecting the highest density of tigers in the world. The population of Indian Rhinos is more than 2000 today. Kaziranga National Park is a substantial sized park, covering approximately 430 square kilometers. In particular, it stretches for 40 kilometers (25 miles) in length from east to west, and is 13 kilometers (8 miles) wide. Much of it consists of swamp and grasslands, making it the perfect habitat for the one-horned rhinoceros. These prehistoric looking creatures exist there, along with almost 40 major mammals. These include wild elephants, tiger, buffaloes, gaur, monkeys, deer, otters, badgers, leopards, and wild boar. The birdlife is also impressive. Thousands of migratory birds arrive at the park every year, from distant lands as far away as Siberia.

The main attraction at Kaziranga National Park is close look at Rhino, Swamp deer on Elephant Safari every morning. Jeep safari is another option for sightseeing. Kaziranga is open daily from 1st November to 30th April. The best time to visit is during late February and March, when the December and January peak season rush is over. The park gets extremely busy during the peak season, and it’s likely to negatively affect your experience there due to the large amount of people allowed in. A week long Kaziranga Elephant Festival takes place in February.

The main entrance to the park is located at Kohora on National Highway-37, where there’s a Tourist Complex and booking offices. Buses stop there on the way from Guwahati, Tezpur and Upper Assam. The park has four ranges — Central (Kazaringa), Western (Baguri), Eastern (Agoratuli), and Burhapahar. The most accessible and popular range is the Central one, at Kohora. The Western range, 25 minutes from Kohora, is the shortest circuit but has the highest density of rhinos. It’s recommended for seeing rhinos and buffaloes. The Eastern range is around 40 minutes from Kohora and offers the longest circuit. Birding is the highlight there.

Jeep and elephant safaris are possible in all ranges except Burhapahar, which offers jeep safaris only. Boat rides are offered at the north eastern point of the park. If you’re planning on going on an elephant safari, it’s best to do it in the Central range, as it’s government operated there. Book it the prior evening, from 6 p.m. at the Tourist Complex office near the range. Private elephant safari providers in the other ranges have been known to cut short the duration of the safaris during peak times and charge high rates. Try to avoid the first safaris of the morning in winter though, as fog and late sunrise hamper viewing.

Kaziranga Opening Hours: One hour elephant safaris are offered between 5.30 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. Elephant safaris are also possible in the afternoon, from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. The park is open for jeep safaris from 7.30 a.m until 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. until 4.30 p.m.

Entrance Fees and Charges: The fees payable comprises a number of elements — park entry fee, vehicle entry fee, jeep hire fee, elephant safari fee, camera fee, and fee for armed guard to accompany visitors on safaris. The entrance fee is 50 rupees for Indians and 250 rupees for foreigners. The jeep hire fee depends on which zone you wish to visit and the hotel you’re staying in. It ranges from 1,000 rupees for the Central range to around 2,000 rupees for Burhapahar, per jeep. Elephant safaris cost 280 rupees for Indians and 750 rupees for foreigners. The vehicle entry fee is around 200 rupees and the armed guard 50 rupees. If you’re taking a still camera inside the park, the fee is 50 rupees for Indians and 500 rupees for foreigners. For video cameras, it’s 500 rupees for Indians and 1,000 rupees for foreigners.

 How to reach: There are airports at Guwahati (239 km) (which has flights from all over India), Dibrugarh (245 km) and Jorhat (89 km) (best accessed from Kolkata). Then, it’s a six hour drive from Guwahati, four hours drive from Dibrugarh and two hour drive from Jorhat, in private taxi or public bus. The nearest railway stations are at Jakhalabandha, one hour away (trains run there from Guwahati). Buses stop at the park entrance on the way from Guwahati, Tezpur and Upper Assam.