Assam is a north-eastern state of India with its capital at Dispur (a suburb of Guwahati City) and can be aptly described as “the land of the red river and blue hills”. Known as one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world, it consists of tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems. Many are now protected as national parks and reserved forests, where highly endangered species like the Golden Langoor (Presbetis geei), White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh (Cairina scutulata) and the Bengal Florican have found refuge.
The sub-tropical climate of Assam, the heavy rainfall in the monsoon season, the lush green forests and the powerful Brahmaputra river and its numerous tributaries have made this region the home of many different types of wildlife. Assam has now become a popular wildlife tourism destination due to its five national parks and fifteen sanctuaries. The Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Nameri National Park and the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park are five of the most popular tourist attractions in Assam. The Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Dihing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary and Garampani Wildlife Sanctuary are the other offbeat wildlife habitats. The winter months, mainly October to April, are the best times to visit Assam, as the weather is sunny and pleasant. However, note that the national parks and other wildlife places remain open to tourists only from November to April. Visitors during these winter months can enjoy many activities to watch the wildlife, such as elephant rides, jeep safaris, jungle walks and boat safaris.
The Kaziranga National Park is the first and oldest National Park in Assam situated in Golaghat District and is about 239 km away from the LGBI Airport in Guwahati. It has several tourist lodges, resorts and private lodges. The Park has successfully conserved more than 70% of the near-extinct one-horned Indian rhinoceros, 60% of India’s wild buffalo population, the only population of the Eastern Swamp deer and seven species of turtles and tortoises. About 480 species of birds, 32 species of flora and more than 60 species of fish have been identified and recorded in the area. At least 150 perennial water bodies are located inside the Park, which covers a total area of 858.98 sq.kms. If you are of an adventurous nature, then the Kaziranga National Park is the place for you because of its early morning ‘Elephant Safaris’ and the ‘Jeep Safaris’ for sighting various forms of wildlife.
The Manas National Park is located on the bank of the River Manas at the foot of the Himalayas in western Assam. It covers an area of 500 sq.kms. and is the home of more than 20 endangered species. Manas National Park is famous for being one of the most picturesque Parks and also for being the home of the tigers, as well as rhinos, elephants, langoor, deer and many other species of birds and animals. It is 145 km away from the LGBI Guwahati Airport and also has different forms of accommodation available for tourists. Both the Kaziranga and Manas National Parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is located in the Tinsukia District, Tinsukia being the second largest city in Assam after Guwahati. It has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and has at least 382 species of birds, e.g. the Greater Adjutant Stork, the Large Cormorant and the Grey-headed Fishing Eagle. Also, around 36 species of mammals have been recorded at the Park. Tourists can stay at the different types of accommodation available at Tinsukia town.
The Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park is the oldest game reserve of Assam on the northern bank of the River Brahmaputra and is also the smallest Park at a total area of about 78.80 sq.kms.. It has many different species of mammals, birds and reptiles but is most famous for being the breeding ground of different species of fish. The Park is about 80 km from Salonibari Airport (Tezpur) and 150 km from LGBI Guwahati Airport. The Satsimalu Rest House is the most popular accommodation of the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, as it provides a great vantage point for viewing wildlife.
The Nameri National Park is located in the Sonitpur district, bordering Arunachal Pradesh and is well known for the Nameri Tiger Reserve, the rare birds and insects, the tigers, elephants and leopards and different species of reptiles such as the Assam Roofed Turtle and the Indian Cobra. It is 35 km from Salonbari Airport and about 40 km from Tezpur. For that extra rush of adrenaline, you can enjoy rafting in the Jia Bhoroli River in the south-western boundary.
As for the wildlife sanctuaries, the Garampani Wildlife Sanctuary is the oldest Sanctuary in Assam. It contains hot water springs and waterfalls surrounded by Nambor Sanctuary having 51 species of orchids. The Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Morigaon district (35 km from Guwahati City) is very popular due to its huge population of the One-Horned Rhinoceros and for being an Important Bird Area. It also has arrangements for elephant rides, jeep safaris, bird watching sites with guaranteed rhinoceros sighting and a picnic site near Garanga Beel. The Mayang Tourist Lodge under the Tourism Department and the Forest Department Inspection Bungalow at Mayang are two types of accommodation available for the Pobitora Sanctuary.
Guwahati is well-connected by Air and Railway to Delhi and Kolkata and it takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach Guwahati from Delhi by air. Guwahati can also be reached from Delhi via the Rajdhani Express and takes between 24-36 hours. It is best to confirm accommodation in the different sanctuaries and parks beforehand, especially during the peak seasons, as these are extremely popular tourist destinations.
The tourism season for Assam may have just ended. However, make sure you do not miss out on the opportunity for a wonderful rendezvous with nature at these enchanted locations on your vacation next autumn!
Experience the wildlife of Assam with our tour Seven Days of Wilderness. For birding, Singing with the Birds is a great introduction to birding in the rich eastern Himalaya. For a wildlife experience unlike any other, you may want to check The Great Northeast India Wildlife Tour.
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- India Ink: Kaziranga Remains a Success Story, Despite Rising Poaching (india.blogs.nytimes.com)