Manimalay trudged through the mist filled grasslands in the forest. Four of us were seated atop the cushioned seats fixed to her. The mahout, Tiber, kept on talking to her as if she could understand every word of it. Sometimes, he also got her with the stock that he held in his hand. Manimalay, a 40 year old female elephant, is one among a fleet of elephants who carry visitors into the National Park throughout the year.
The elephants which do the Safari duty in Kaziranga belong to different owners. Since of these elephants belong to the government while since to licenced private parties. The elephants were all female as far as I could tell, and I highly doubt that male elephants are employed for this duty. The 4 riders sit sidewise on the mounted seats throughout the safari, as the herd of elephants proceed to the park. The best thing about the elephant Safari is how close the elephant could get to the wild animals without being attacked. The con being the small area that could be covered compared to a Jeep.
At this time of the year ( Feb 1) it’s pretty cold in the morning and Misty in Kaziranga, and hence the visibility for the 5:30 Safari was a bit low. Still we managed to see some 3-4 one Horned rhinos, hog deers, wild hogs, wild Buffalo etc. They went on with their life not minding the unwanted intrusion that we presented.
Kaziranga and it’s mileu
Kaziranga National Park was a protected area right from the British times. Lady Curzon persuaded Lord Curzon to initiate measures to conserve the area after failing to see a single rhinoceros in the area. Spanning across 430 square kilometers, it is home to two-thirds if the population of one Horned Rhino in the world.
More interesting is the Geography of Kaziranga. To the southern boundary of Kaziranga lies the Asian Highway 1 and further south lies the Karbi Anglong Hills. It is an offshoot of the Deccan Plateau. The Brahmaputra and three other rivers form their valleys right in the of the sanctuary making it a fertile ground, while all the more flood prone. During the floods, the animals are sometimes carried by the water to the Karbi Naglong side of the highway.
I had entered through the Central Ranges, which is situated in Kohora. This is also the headquarters of the forest division. The Eastern division has the Brahmaputra so if you wish to see it, I suggest you go for Jeep Safari there.
The Mishing Village
One interesting part of the visit was a small detour to a Mishing Village. Most of the village seemed to be occupied with paddy cultivation. Every house seemed to have pigs, goats or hens as allied activities to agriculture.
The interesting feature of the houses of these Mishing tribes is their stilt houses also called changa. These houses built on bamboo pillars are thereby flood resistant.
A big swine lay in front of one of the houses, lazily, not caring who had come to his village. I went forward to take a picture and it snorted once. As I approached closer, it oinked loud and I just ran away.
Cycling in the Tea Gardens
The Karbi Anglong side of Kaziranga is full if Tea estates. You can enjoy a free walk through these gardens. However even more enjoyable an activity is to cycle through the gardens.
Anyone who goes to Kaziranga should definitely try this out. Cycles are available at the wildlife society. I cycled through the tea gardens and it was one of the best experiences in Kaziranga that I could ask for.
Folk night in the Orchid garden
The orchid garden hosts a folk night everyday at 6:30 PM. This was an assortment of the different dances of Assam. Except for Bihu, all of them were new to me. This is also something that is worth trying out, because you get to see some of the non mainstream artforms.