The north-eastern region of India is one of the most varied and lesser touched regions on the planet. This also means Nature’s bounty thrives here; head to the state of Assam and into its wild in Kaziranga National Park, Gibbon Ape Sanctuary and Manas National Park. Both Kaziranga and Manas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The region experiences heavy monsoons, leaving you with a window of October to March to travel. For the most efficient itinerary, you could land and take-off from Guwahati or Jorhat. You will need to hire a car to get around though. Accommodation options outside of Guwahati will not be super luxury – but you will enjoy the lodges as some have been designed to make you feel a part of nature. If you want to cover all three parks, you may want to provision for at least 5-7 days.
This itinerary is suited for people of all age groups, and does not require any strenuous efforts.
* Kaziranga National Park: Kaziranga is like a carnival of animals and birds; water bodies, thick forests, grasslands and hills all make for an enviable habitat. It is home to the One-Horned Rhinoceros – you will see an abundance of them of them in all shapes, sizes and ages. The forest is known for the highest density of tigers in the country, but sightings are elusive. Covering an area of 860 sq. kms (332 sq. miles), it lies in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra river with the Karbi Anglong hills to the South. You can explore the park by elephant, jeep or even take river cruises. Some animals you could expect to sight include the Asiatic Wild Buffalo, Elephant, Swamp Deer, Hog Deer, Sloth Bear, Tiger, Leopard, Jungle Cats, Otters, Wild Boar, Pythons and Monitor Lizards.
* Gibbon Ape Sanctuary: Unless you ask, your guides are unlikely to recommend the Gibbon Ape Sanctuary to you. Insist on going there. Located about two hours from Kaziranga, you have to be there at the crack of dwan to improve your chances of sightings. The Hoolock Gibbons are the representatives of apes in India. Found in the North East of India, they are smaller than the Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Orangutan (Great Apes). They dwell on canopies of forests – their longer forearms compared to the legs and bodies enable them to brachiate in the top strata of forests. Be prepared to crane your neck upwards to sight them. Don’t miss out on taking shots on the quaint rail track running alongside the reserve.
* Manas National Park: Manas is home to the highest number of endangered animal species anywhere in the country; tigers, rhinos and elephants roam there but tracking them is like being on a treasure hunt. And that adds to the charm of Manas. The landscape is covered with thick forests, tall elephant grass and swamps. Spread over 2,800 sq. kms (1,081 sq. miles), it lies in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas along the Manas river with its northern part extending into Bhutan. The reserve boasts over 60 mammal species, 42 reptile species, seven amphibians and 500 species of birds.
* Day 1: Land in Guwahati. Spend a day in the city or head straight to Kaziranga.
* Days 2 & 3: Safaris in Kaziranga. Suggest at least four game drives in two days. The park has four zones for visitors – it is a good idea to cover all to get a full feel of the forest.
* Day 4: Half day trip to Gibbon Sanctuary. Back to Kaziranga. Enjoy the remainder of the day, go for another game drive, or drive on to Manas National Park.
* Day 5: Head to Manas National Park. Go for a nature walk or game drive if you reach in good time.
* Day 6: Safaris in Manas.
* Day 7: Head to Guwahati and catch flight back.
Road Tripping: Distance – Time Chart
* Guwahati – Kaziranga: 240 kms (150 miles) / 4:30 hrs
* Kaziranga – Gibbon Sanctuary: 115 kms (72 miles) / 2:00 hrs
* Kaziranga – Manas: 345 kms (215 miles) / 6:30 hrs
* Manas – Guwahati: 140 kms (88 miles) / 4:00 hrs (Distance and time varies on this leg depending on the route you take back. Although a longer drive, you can even catch your return flight from Bagdogra.)
Note: The above do not account for additional time due to breaks, traffic etc. Actual distances vary from your start and end points as parks are spread over many miles.
* Accommodation: There is an abundance of accommodation in Kaziranga and Manas, from budget to high comfort. You can take a cruise on the Brahmaputra where you will stay on the ship itself.
* Getting there: Regular flights to Jorhat (96 kms / 60 miles from Kaziranga) and Guwahati away. Taxis and buses available from these cities. The drives from these airports are picturesque, taking you through tea estates and forests.
* Best time to visit: October to March. It is very hot towards end-March and April, but sightings may be at their best. The park is closed from mid-May to mid-October due to heavy rains. Temperatures can touch 38 degrees Celsius (100 F) in summers, and fall to 5 degrees (41 F) in the winters.
* Game drives: You can book a jeep or an elephant for your safaris. Or take a cruise while in Kaziranga.
* Clothes: Carry clothes and shoes suited for the outdoors with warm clothes if going in the winters. Bright colours are a no-no in the park.
* Money: Don’t expect to find ATMs and banks outside of Guwahati. Carry suitable quantities of cash in Indian Rupees. Most quality lodges will accept credit cards.
* Connectivity: Mobile networks are quite decent in the region, enabling you to make calls and connect to the Internet.