Text : Mita Dutta | Photographs : Pinak Dutta . . . . . . . . . .NAMERI
Text : Mita Dutta
Associate Professor in Chemistry for last 17 years, a nature lover, bird watcher, an ardent traveler, and a travel writer. Her works have been published in leading travel and wildlife magazines. Mita is travelling with us for more than 10 years. Mita is not only a guest for us, she has become an integral part of Wandervogel family over the time.
Photographs : Pinak Dutta
Pinak is a PHD and Associate professor in Chemistry, teaching undergraduate students for last 15 years, ardent traveler, bird watcher and an award winning wildlife photographer. His photographs have been published in leading travel and wildlife magazines.
It was in 2007 on our way back from Arunachal we had a brief glimpse of Nameri- it was love at first sight. Ten years later in spring, we went back to explore the untouched wilderness.
It was only an hour and 40 minutes flight to Tezpur and we were only 32 kilometres away from Nameri. A picturesque drive and we were at the Nameri Eco camp – our base for our wild exploration. After check-in and breakfast we spent the morning birding in and around the campus. Plenty of bird activity kept us busy. Close to the camp was a Pygmy Hog Conservation Centre. The Pygmy Hog is the rarest and smallest extant suid. Only a handful of people can claim to have seen these species in the wild. It was a pleasure to see the cute creatures in the conservation centre.
That afternoon a pair of Great Indian Hornbill nesting close by kept us entertained. The enormous male kept coming to the nest in a tall tree with food for the nursing mother and the young ones. It was a feast for our eyes. Then we walked down the dusty village road to the gorgeous Jia Bhorali river on the other side of which was the Nameri National Park.
The full bodied rushing river was really a beauty. On the other side of the river beside the stony banks the emerald green outline of the National Park could be seen. Domestic buffalos were taking a dip in the river. Amidst the buffaloes we spotted two wild bisons. It was nearly time for sunset. The trees lining the river were houses to several birds. A large group of bar headed geese flew over our heads towards the jungle. A group of Pied Hornbill flew back home to a tree just adjacent to the jungle camp where we were waiting.
Next morning we were super excited. We were up early and ready for our first real trip to the Park. No jeep safaris are allowed in the park- only way to enjoy the park was to walk through the woods with a guide.
A pleasant early morning boat ride took us to the other side of the river. We had to walk through pebbles and sand to reach the park entrance. Our guide Moti- a tall slender guy who was in his early thirties was to accompany us in this nature walk.
The crisp morning air, the smell and silence of the jungle had an immense and immediate rejuvenating effect. There was not a human being in sight other than the four of us. It was still dark inside the jungle though it was bright and sunny outside. The jungle was still sleeping. We walked through the silent woodland and waited patiently for the jungle to awaken. And then the first rays of the sun started filtering in.
Slowly the forest came alive- call of birds broke the silence and there was flutter in almost every tree and every bush. Groups of Scarlet minivets, Bee-eaters began to move in search of their morning meal. A lonely Hupoo was pecking the ground. A Lineated Barbet sat on a low branch paying no heed to us.
Near a waterhole we spotted a Maroon Oriole atop a tall tree. We were overwhelmed at the bird activity of Nameri and kept asking for more and more.
We had faint hopes of spotting the elusive White Winged Wood Duck which is the state bird of Assam but at the same time knew it was a difficult task. We kept visiting waterholes in search of the duck but had no luck. There were plenty of Warblers and Tits but we had no luck with the gorgeous Sultan tit.
Moti took us to a distant waterhole- our last chance for sighting the Wood Duck. It was a swampy area and we carefully moved towards the water body and then Moti signalled the good news- he had spotted a pair. We moved very cautiously to a point till we could see them clearly though at a distance. It was like a dream come true.
We were returning from the water body when our walk was interrupted by the hearty chirp of a group of birds who were in a playful mood in an opening in the jungle. A large group of Sultan tits were right in front of us. We were overjoyed to see the crested beauties- they too seemed happy and posed freely for us.
On our way back we spotted several other birds- Woodpeckers, Kingfishers, Dollar bird, Thick knee, Orioles, Verditer Flycatchers, Peregreen Falcons, Plovers and many more. Nameri had given us more than we had asked for.
Next morning we decided to do rafting in the Jia Bhorali river which is a must do in Nameri. We drove around 11 kilometres to the place from where the rafting was to begin. Dressed in life jackets the three of us went up on the raft with two boatmen. The river was calm at places and at places rapids gave an adrenaline rush. We knew there were plenty of birds in and around the river and we were not at all disappointed. Little Grebes kept tumbling in and out of the water, pairs of Ruddy Shell were basking in the sun here and there. There were Pintails and Shovellers in plenty.
River Lapwings on the pebbly banks kept screaming at the top of their voice to alert their companions as our raft approached them. Pied Kingfishers were hovering above and plunging in the water for a catch. On a small stone patch jutting out of the river a pair of Merganser were busy grooming themselves as if drying themselves after a bath. They posed for us with outstretched wings and prettily disoriented hair.
The rafting experience at Jia Bhorali stole our hearts and we decided to come back to Nameri for another rafting experience after the monsoons when the river was at its best.
It was time to bid adieu to Nameri. But memories of the serene untouched woodland would be etched in our minds forever.
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