Experiences and Must do’s In Kaziranga National Park
Located in Assam and spread across 430 sq. kilometers, the Kaziranga National Park is home to the endangered One-Horned Rhinoceros and is a famous wildlife safari destination. The vibrant landscapes of the Kaziranga forest have been dubbed as the ‘Serengeti of the East’, as the region is blessed with natural beauty, a growing wildlife population, and varied flora and fauna. Most of the visitors who visit North East India or Assam, end up at the Kaziranga National Park.
But enjoying the jeep safari or Elephant safari at Kaziranga National park isn’t the only thing you can partake in. There are numerous places to visit near Kaziranga National Park that will add to your holiday experience.
Kaziranga National Orchid Park
Kaziranga isn’t just all about the animals – it is home to the largest orchid park in India too! The Kaziranga National Orchid Park is right next to Kohora Chariali, the central range of Kaziranga National Park. Spread over 6 acres in the Durgapur village, the Orchid park is said to grow more than 500 varieties of Orchids, 130+ species of fruits and vegetables, and close to 50 varieties of Bamboo.
India is home to over 1,300 varieties of Orchids and the Northeastern states are said to have about 850+ varieties. The Orchids here have been collected from all over the Northeastern region and grown for research and conservation purposes. Taking a small tour of the Orchid Park isn’t very time consuming and this is best done during the morning hours. From Kaziranga National Park (Kohora Chariali), you can walk to the park else hire a local taxi to make the trip.
Take a dip in the Kakochang Waterfall
This is probably the closest spot to visit near Kaziranga National Park and a really popular one too! The Kakochang waterfall is located just 15 kilometers from the Kaziranga forest in a place that lies between the forest and Bokakhat. Locals usually throng to the waterfalls post monsoons and it seems to be a really popular picnic spot as well. The falls come under the Karbi Anglong region and is located 12 kilometers from Bokakhat.
You will need to trek for about 4 kilometers to get to the base of the falls from Bokakhat. Apart from swimming in the Kakochan waterfall, you will also be able to view the historical remains of Numaligarh, the ruins of Deoparbat, and panoramic scenes of tea, coffee, and rubber farms all around. The best time to visit the falls is after monsoons when the water levels increase and the beauty of the falls gets magnified due to the plummeting water. October to March are the best months to get there and you should avoid summers and monsoons due to unfavorable weather conditions.
Deoparbat ruins, also known as Deopahar (two hills) are located 5 kilometers from Numaligarh in the Golaghat district. The site is famous for some archaeological ruins on top of a hill. A visit to the hill will show you the site of an ancient temple with broken statues strewn all around the place. No one knows how these statues got destroyed and were scattered all over the hill. To get to the hill, you will need to climb the Deopahar hill and this can’t be done on a hot day. If you do venture out during summers, do take plenty of protection from the sun and water for the hike. Once you reach the top, you will get stunning views of the Numaligarh tea estate and the Karbi Anglong hills.
Another interesting place to visit nearby, in the Golaghat district is Garampani. The name translates to ‘Hot Springs’ and is located in the Nambor Reserve Forest. The best time to visit Garampani is during winters and then you can see many wild elephants near the water hole.
Visit the weavers near Kaziranga
The banks of the Brahmaputra River that are close to the Kaziranga region are dotted with numerous tiny villages where weaving has been practiced for generations. Passed down from one generation to the next, the weaving process here includes age-old processes, machines, and depictions of the culture of Assam. Visiting some of these weavers is an experience in itself.
To get to most weaving villages from Kaziranga, you will need to go on short boat rides, walk through paddy fields, cross bamboo bridges and get to the local artisans. Walking through narrow lanes in the villages, you will hear the clicking sounds of the traditional hand-operated wooden looms. These devices, or Taatxaals, churn out beautiful designs and colorful motifs, some of them depicting the history of the Ahom kingdom. The process is very traditional and the villagers use natural ingredients for their colors and dyes. Common ingredients include turmeric, deep indigo lac, soaked tea leaves, and petals of local trees.
One of the regions you can visit is the Karbi Anglong area that is home to the Karbi tribe. The tribal women are known for these weaving skills and now they are utilizing this to earn a livelihood. Karbi Anglong is located in the Kohora River basin that is part of the Kaziranga landscape.
Various organizations are now working with these villages to develop commercially viable products. Most of them consist of traditional textiles like Gamosa (Gamcha) and Mekhla-Chaddar. Other products that are being made here include table mats, table cloths, and cushion covers. These designs are mostly given to the weavers by trainers or designers that work with various organizations promoting this trade.
Apart from the weaving tour, you will also get a chance to purchase products like the Silk Mekhala Chadors, home décor, traditional dresses, and much more.
Nameri National Park
Just a 2-hour drive to Kaziranga National Park will get you to Nameri national Park that is located near the Assam – Arunachal border. Nameri national park is part of a much larger park that spread across a whopping 1,000 sq kilometers and includes the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary of Arunachal Pradesh. In 2000, Nameri park was declared as a Tiger reserve and consists of 2 core regions – the Nameri National Park and the Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary. Cutting through the park is the Jia Bhareli river, the lifeline of the region, and part of the Kameng River that flows in from Arunachal Pradesh.
The deciduous forest is home to numerous elephants and tigers and other inhabitants of the forest include the leopard, hog deer, gaur, clouded leopard, wild boar, marbled cat, Himalayan black bear, and dhole. But the best way to enjoy the Nameri experience is through its camping services. Nameri national park has many resorts and camping retreats where you can book your stay. Their camps provide an enthralling experience of staying close to the wild, star gazing, campfires, traditional performances, and much more.
And if this doesn’t get you excited, then there is much more awaiting you. The thick forest is a perfect spot for nature walks and hikes through the jungle. Take a local guide with you who will walk you through the lush green forest which is a hotspot for birding activities as well. Bird watchers have been thronging to Nameri National park as there are more than 400 species of birds in the vicinity. The most popular ones include the White-winged ducks, Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers, Blue-naped Pitta, Slender-billed Oriole, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Rufous-necked Hornbills, and the White Cheeked Partridge.
From the wildlife reserves take a detour and enjoy some city living as you head into Tezpur city, located just 60 kilometers from Kaziranga National Park. Tezpur is known as the Cultural Capital of Assam and it is said to be the oldest inhabited city in the state. Located on the banks of the beautiful Brahmaputra River, Tezpur is a quaint city that is full of culture, heritage, and history related to the Ahom dynasty.
And so, the first place to visit in Tezpur should be Agnighar. The name translates to a fire fort in Hindi and this actually is a big fortress constructed on a hilltop. Legend has it that it was made to isolate King Bana’s daughter, Usha from Lord Krishna’s grandson, Aniruddha. But now you can easily reach the top without having to battle any fires! The top presents a mesmerizing view of Tezpur city and the Brahmaputra River and the sunset experience is just beyond imagination.
There is also an ancient temple, the Mahabhairab temple, located in the city on a small hillock connected by steps. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple was originally made with stone but later concrete was added to it. Legend has it that this temple was also built by King Banasura and the shiv ling in the temple is made of the ‘Living Stone’ that continuously grows each year.
The Monabarie Tea Estate, located in Biswanath Chariali district might look like any other estate in India but from outside you won’t know its uniqueness. This estate is the largest tea estate in Asia and has been ranked as the largest tea garden in the world! The estate is spread across a whopping 1158 hectares and from the highway, you can drive along with it for a long long time! The estate is part of the Williamson Magor group and you can visit the estate and take a tour of it as well!
The riverside city is an excellent spot for cruises on the Brahmaputra and even though you don’t have a proper cruise available in Tezpur, you can still go out for boating. Located close to the city are numerous small river islands that are perfect picnic spots and one-day getaway destinations. Umatumuni river island is one such place that is situated close to Biswanath ghat. The boat ride takes about 5 minutes and, on the island, you can either choose to visit a resort or spend time in the wilderness.
Did you know that the Brahmaputra River is about 3,848 kilometers long? The river is the lifeline of the North East and home to many aquatic animals as well. And one of these animals is the gorgeous Ganges River Dolphin. It is the largest predator in the river but an endangered species as well. Locals call it the Susu due to its hypersonic pitches and it is supposed to be the national aquatic animal of India as well!
To indulge in Dolphin spotting near the Kaziranga National Park, you will have to head to Bhumuraguri located 65 kilometers from Kaziranga and close to Tezpur. Bhumuraguri is a tourist destination and most of the tourists who come here, do so for the river Dolphins. Near the Ghats, board wooden motorized boats that will take you into the calm, serene waters of the Brahmaputra river.
The experience is very engaging even if you don’t get to spot any Dolphins – the ripples in the water and the dancing reflection of the sun rays get your attention as soon as you hit the water. The freshwater dolphin shares its habitat with several other unusual species, such as the mighty river crocodile and the ageless freshwater turtle. The Dolphins are blind and it doesn’t help to be part of a crowded eco-system that is seeing increased encroachments by humans! The Dolphin tour will take anything between 1 to 3 hours and the best time to do it is in the morning hours. To reach Bhumaguri, you will need to take a cab from Tezpur located just 10 kilometers away.
Gohpur - The historical town
If you are a history buff then Gohpur will be of interest to you. The town is located just 8 kilometers from Kaziranga National Park and one of the rising stars of Assam tourism. The town is the birthplace of legendary freedom fighter, Kanaklata Barua, who lost her life during the Quit India movement. On 20th September 1942, Kanaklata was leading a peaceful procession with the Indian flag in hand and marched towards a local police station. The police were ordered to fire at the protestors and Kanaklata, who was just 17 years old at the time and was leading the procession, died on the spot!
Gohpur town may not be as popular as other destinations in Assam but it is definitely worth a visit. It is located in a very strategic place as it connects to Itanagar (30 kms), Majuli, and Jorhat via small ships on the Brahmaputra River.
Hoollongapar Gibbon sanctuary
120 kilometers from Kaziranga National Park is the Hoollongapar Gibbon sanctuary. This isolated, protected area is surrounded by tea estates and small villages and is home to India’s only gibbons and the Bengal Slow Loris. The sanctuary is just 20 kilometers from Jorhat city and to visit the reserve you can book a stay in Jorhat. From the city, you should be able to hire a taxi and drive to the sanctuary which is just 45 mins away.
The sanctuary is aptly named after the Gibbon found here and the Hollong tree that is widely found across the region. You will find small groups of Gibbons all around the sanctuary, huddled together in small groups. Some of the other animal species to observe include the Slow Loris, Assamese Macaque, wild boar, Capped Langur, Jungle Cats, Civets, Squirrels, and the Royal Bengal Tiger.
The best time to visit the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary is during the winter months of October to March. Summers can get extremely hot and you will not be able to step out without getting severe sunstroke.
Majuli - World’s biggest river island
Majuli is a short day trip from Kaziranga National Park and one of the best places to visit in Assam. It is a must-see for those visiting the region as Majuli is a nature lover’s paradise blessed with lush green environs and gorgeous freshwater all around. Surrounded by the calm waters of the Brahmaputra River, the island is now a major tourist attraction.
Arriving at Majuli island in itself is a unique experience. You will first have to travel to Jorhat and then get to Neemati Ghat, which is about 30 minutes away from the city. At Neemati Ghat, there is a slew of ferry options to get to the next point, Kamalabari Ghat in Majuli Island. Buy a ticket from the counter at Neemati Ghat and soon you are on your way to Majuli by boat.
The boat ride is a memorable experience. The rickety boats ferry people, cars, two-wheelers, and sometimes livestock and you will get an essence of how the locals travel to these islands on a daily basis. Packed with people and vehicles, the ferries chug along the deep waters of the Brahmaputra River and if you are lucky, you might be able to spot the rare River Dolphins! Once you dock at Kalambari Ghat, you need to take a shared tempo or jeep to Garamur town. Most of the hotels are located in Garmur Satra and you will find homestays and start hotels in the vicinity.
But the island isn’t just popular for its location or scenic beauty. Majuli is home to a large population of Assamese vaishnavite people and tribals who number over 1.8 lacs. These vaishnavites are further divided into satras and the most prominent ones found here are the Garamur, Kamlabari, Daksinpath and Auniati.
And associated with these satras is the unique tradition of mask making! A growing hub of Assamese culture and art, Majuli is famous for its unique masks and this art can be traced back to the 15th century. The mask-making tradition is mostly practiced by the Nutan Chamaguri satra, and the head of the satra is the master craftsman. Most of these masks are made for events such as the Raasleela festival and the Bhaona, which is a form of street theatre popular all over Assam.
Laokhowa National Park
Located at a distance of 75 kilometers from Kaziranga National Park, the Laokhowa National Park is a notified buffer of Kaziranga. Like Kaziranga, Laokhowa is home to the One-Horned Rhino, Elephants, Tigers, buffaloes, and more than 200 bird species. Along with Laokhowa National Park is the Burhachapori wildlife sanctuary and both form a wildlife corridor that is surrounded by other reserves like Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park, Nameri forest, and the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary.
With over 200 bird species, birding is a popular activity in Laokhowa. The grasslands of the Laokhowa- Burhachapori region are home to a large variety of birds, insects, and butterflies and present ideal conditions for observation and documentation of these species.
The Laokhowa- Burhachapori region is also suitable for hiking and trekking activities and most of these start from the Dhania range office of Burhachapori and go through the Hijol tree vegetation. From there, you can walk across the Koroitali grasslands that are home to bee-eating birds. The hiking trail will then take you through the Jhaoni region before you reach the Brahmaputra River. Here you will be able to spot the Ganges River Dolphins playing around in the water and numerous migratory birds that fly in from all over Asia, especially during winters. From here, you will circle back to Dhania where the trek ends.
If trekking or hiking is not your calling, then you can enjoy some river cruising experience as well. From Burhachapori you should be able to hire a houseboat and visit the many sandy islands in the river. These are great for a short day trip, picnicking and fishing activities. The best time to visit Laokhowa National Park and Burhachapori wildlife sanctuary between November and April each year.
There are several hotels, resorts, and homestays located in nearby towns on Tezpur, Nagaon, and Kaliabor which can be booked online or through tour agents in Assam. For tours to the national parks, it is advisable to hire a local guide who will be able to guide you inside the park and help you experience local cuisine in the nearby villages.