Kaziranga National Park, located in Assam, is most famous for being the home ground of almost two-third of world’s one-horned rhinoceros. The park expands over the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. The national park also claims to be home to the highest density of tigers amongst all the protected areas of the world which is why it was also declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006. Kaziranga National Park celebrated its centennial in 2005.
Originally, Kaziranga was established as a reserve forest. The idea was proposed by Mary Curzon, the then Baroness Curzon of Kedleston and wife of Lord Curzon, who failed to spot even a single rhino upon her visit to the park in 1904. Kaziranga was famous for its rhinos even back then, however, this bizarre incident led her to persuade her husband, Lord Curzon, to take precautionary and urgent measures to resolve the issue of decreasing number of rhinos in the park. As a result, on 1st June 1905, Lord Curzon proposed Kaziranga to be established as a reserve forest.
As per IUCN Red List, 15 out of 35 mammal species residing in the park are threatened. Apart from the Greater one-horned Rhinoceros, the park is also home to the world’s largest population of wild Asiatic water buffalo and eastern swamp deer. Other large animals in the park include elephants, bisons, sambar, wild boar, and hog deer. Kaziranga is also popular as one of the few breeding areas other than Africa for a varied collection of large cats such as leopards and Indian tigers. Some of the other species of animals living in Kaziranga National Park include leopard cat, rare hispid hare, Bengal fox, sloth bear, Chinese and Indian pangolins, and Chinese Ferret badgers. 9 put of 14 primates found in the country happen to be living in the park. The most prominent amongst these primates are the hoolock gibbon (the only ape found in India), capped and golden langur, and Assamese macaques.
There are many small water bodies inside the park and a few major rivers, including Brahmaputra. The rivers of Kaziranga are famous for the presence of the endangered species of Ganges dolphins.
Kaziranga is also declared as an ‘Important Bird Area’ by Birdlife International (a global partnership of conservation organisations which work together to conserve birds and their habitats). The national park is home to many different species of migratory birds game birds, scavengers, and predators. Some of them are ferruginous duck, greater adjutant, Blyth’s kingfisher, Indian roller, grey-headed fish eagle, Indian vulture, swamp francolin, great Indian hornbill, and the rufous-vented prinia.
The park also houses many reptiles including two of the largest snakes in the world – reticulated python and rock python, plus the longest poisonous snake – the King Cobra. There are many other breeds pf snakes in the park such as monocled cobra, Indian Cobra, and Russel’s Viper. One can also see monitor lizards, turtles species such as the brown tortoise, and 42 different fish.
The park is also home to many types of floras, however, four major types of vegetations has been clearly recorded as savanna woodlands, grasslands, mixed deciduous forests, and semi-evergreen forests.
Birding or Birdwatching is one of the main activities to be experienced in the Kaziranga National park. Jeep safaris and elephant rides are also very common.However, walking and hiking are strictly prohibited to prevent human-animal conflicts. There are several watch towers in the park (at different zones) which can be utilized for wildlife viewing.
Kaziranga has been the inspiration behind many documentaries, books, and songs. One of the earliest documentaries made inspired by the park was Kaziranga which was shot by a physician turned photographer and filmmaker, Robin Banerjee, and it aired on Berlin Television in the year 1961, which was an instant hit and gave the park it’s first international exposure. Another such significant work is Mark Shand’s (BBC travel writer and conservationist) documentary, Queen of the Elephants, inspired by the first female mahout of recent times. The documentary won the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Prix Litteraire d’Amis.
For more information on the park and bookings, please visit the official website.
The nearest airport is Jorhat which is connected to Kolkata with multiple flights in a week. Kolkata is one of the major international airports in the country and is well-connected to the rest of the country and the world. The nearest railhead is Jakhalabandha however it only has one train service in a week. The next major railhead near the park is Guwahati which is further connected to most major cities in the country. Furkating is another railhead 80 km east of the park which has train connectivity from Delhi, Kolkata, and Guwahati.
The nearest bus connectivity to the park is from Jorhat, Guwahati, Nawgaon, Dibrugarh, Tezpur or Tinsukia. Kohora is almost the central part of the park is probably the best option. Also, if you are coming from Arunachal Pradesh, Tezpur is the most convenient location from where you can catch a bus to the park.
Organized motorcycle group tours start from Guwahati and Kohima which cover the park as a part of a longer tour of the most important areas of north-east India.