India // The Northeast //

Kaziranga National Park

A World Heritage Site covering 430 square kilometres on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK, 217km east of Guwahati, occupies a vast valley floor against a backdrop of the Karbi Anglong Hills. Its rivulets, shallow lakes and semi-evergreen forested highlands blend into marshes and flood plains covered with tall elephant grass teeming with deer and wild buffalos. However, the big draw, is the park’s famous yet highly endangered one-horned rhinos, best observed from the back of an elephant first thing on a winter’s morning. Tiger sightings are relatively rare, despite the park’s official claim to have the highest density of tigers of any park in the world.

Jeeps take you deeper into the forest than elephants, but cannot get nearly as close to the rhinos and buffalo. The abundant birdlife includes egrets, herons, storks, fish eagles, kingfishers and a grey pelican colony.

Kaziranga is open from November to early April. Avoid visiting on Sundays, when it gets busy with noisy groups. During the monsoons (June–Sept), the Brahmaputra bursts its banks, flooding the low-lying grasslands and causing animals to move to higher ground within the park. In 2012, monsoon floods ravaged Kaziranga, leading to a huge death toll among the animals including several rhinos. Traditional animal migration routes have been choked by overdevelopment around Kaziranga. To compound the extreme pressures on the park, population growth has lead to land encroachment and poaching which is now endemic. In the first quarter of 2013 alone, poachers killed around sixteen rhinos for their precious horns prompting surveillance drones to be introduced. So far, the authorities have proved incapable of protecting the park.