Text & Photographs : Anupam Koley . . . . . . . . . . Manas National Park
Text & Photographs : Anupam Koley
By profession Anupam is an IT Consultant with IBM. He is passionate about wildlife, photography, conservation, diving and travel. He is also a foodie and loves to cook. He is traveling with us for the last 8 years.
I have been in Kaziranga once and was mesmerized by its diversity and drama. Everywhere and at every moment in Kazi, there is a photographic opportunity. I almost made up my mind to take another trip to Kazi before my friends at Wandervogel Adventures advised me to visit Manas instead, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Assam, and I am quite thankful for this suggestion. The expertise of Wandervogel made this a memorable trip for us.
I planned this 4 day trip to Manas in mid December. This was the first wildlife trip for my 6 years old daughter who was already very excited and I hoped Manas would not disappoint her and well, of course it didn’t!
The trip was entirely planned and executed by Wandervogel Adventures.When it comes to any trips I just blindly rely on them.
Taking a Saturday morning flight me, my wife and our daughter reached Guwahati Airport around 9 AM. A car was already waiting for us at the airport for our pick up. I was a bit skeptical about the long journey from Guwahati to Manas thinking that the road would be bad and would take really long to reach. But to my utter surprise the road was really nice except few kilometers at the end.
We didn’t have any safaris planned for that day, so after lunch we just took a stroll around the tea genders next to the hotel, opposite to the national park boundary. We already saw couple of Indian One Horned Rhinos just next to the gate, grazing. My daughter was so excited!
Next day we had two half day safaris. The morning safari started around 6. We had a safari vehicle for ourselves with a driver, a forest guard and our very experienced guide, who is an excellent birder.
The main road of the park leads all the way to Bhutan. It’s open to private as well as public vehicles going to and coming from Bhutan, via Manthaguri.
We went around the park visiting the watch towers and forest guard check posts. The habitat is similar to that of Kazi with elephant grass and large trees. Manas is excellent for birding with a great variety of birds, from hornbills to minivets including the elusive Bengal Florican. We saw several species of birds and mammals, including bee-eaters, minivets, eagles, peafowls, chats, pheasants, fowls, elephants, buffalos, deer and rhinos.
On the way back we stopped at the side of River Manas flowing through the park. The river side is beautiful.
In the evening safari, we saw a huge herd of elephants from a watchtower when it was almost dark. It was a thrilling experience to see the shadows of the huge tuskers moving around and hear the sound of tree and twigs breaking in dark.
Next day we had a full day safari in which we first went to Mathanguri, which border between India and Bhutan. On our way to Mathanguri, we spent a considerable amount of time watching a Black Breasted parrotbill from close quarters, one of the birds I wanted to see. We also saw the even more elusive Bengal Florican from a distance. This bird doesn’t allow close encounters!
There is basic accommodation available in Mathanguri on a small hill overlooking the Manas River. The other side is Bhutan. We had lunch there and sat on the portico watching a herd of wild buffalos talking a bath in the river. After lunch we went into Royal Manas, the part of Bhutan. We went till the town of Panbang in Bhutan where we did some shopping. After spending a while in Panbang when we returned to our hotel, it was almost dark. A whole day well spent! From 6AM to 6PM of travelling through forests and hills, watching great landscape and animal species. We saw groups of golden langurs, capped langurs, elephants, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Malayan Giant Squirrel and various species of other birds.
Next day morning we took the elephant safari. It was a nice experience for my daughter who really enjoyed the visit to the elephant camp where there were several baby elephants playing with each other.
In the evening we took the road along the river. It was an overcast afternoon. Around an hour into the safari we saw the fleeing glimpse of a leopard with a cub for just a fraction of a second. Manas has a good population of Tigers and Leopards. Also the sighting of the blank panther happens quite regularly here, it is said that the blank panther is more in population than the leopard.
During December they start burning the grass land here and the fresh grass that grows after burning is a source of food for many animals. This is a common practice in these forests. They do it to keep the grass land intact. If they don’t burn it periodically it will soon turn into woodland.
The evening was amazing with the crackling sound of thick elephants, grass burning and thousands of fireflies making the forest look like a night sky full of stars.
The park is heavily guarded with check posts and forest guards at regular intervals. The park is not as heavily visited as Kaziranga, since it just reopened 10 years back after being closed for a long time due to Bodo Revolt.
It is a beautiful forest with a varied landscape including Hills, Rivers, Grass land and Wood land with a diverse fauna and flora.
On the last day of the Safari we went to a Bhuya Para range which is a bit far from the main gate. The landscape of this range was even more beautiful, with dried river bed, grass land and dead tees after the flood. We felt like we were back to a prehistoric age. We saw some fresh tiger pug marks on the riverbed.
We returned to Guwahati that day evening and took our flight back to Kolkata with Manas on our mind and heart wanting to go back soon.