Assam | The Land of Rhinos

Text : Sulagna Mukherjee……….Assam

Text : Sulagna Mukherjee
Images : Sulagna Mukherjee and Kushankur Bhattacharyya

Sulagna is a wildlife enthusiast and nature lover. She loves travelling. She is presently a research scholar in zoology department of the University of Burdwan. She has been a part of an NGO working with nature conservation and awareness named Ecocampers.

India is blessed with beautiful beaches, a rich culture, historical heritage, tempting greenery & obviously himalayas. Any forest destination allures me the most. So when I got the opportunity from Wandervogel Adventuresto visit a national park which is the home to the highest density of tigers, I was excited but not only for the tigers, but also for the another big shot Greater One horned Rhino. On 10th March, 2018 I boarded a morning flight from Kolkata with my Co-traveler & friend Kushankur Bhattacharyya, an aspirant photographer; Mr. Krishna Daga, a very successful businessman, photographer & a nature enthusiast and our tour skipper & photography mentor Siddhartha Goswami. We reached Guwahati airport around 8 O’clock. Without losing a single minute we started our journey with an Inova towards Kaziranga National Park. Wandervogel made our stay very much comfortable and convenient in wild grass hotel near central region of Kaziranga.

After lunch we started our 1st safari in central region which is also known as kohora region. Accordingto the vegetation of Kaziranga it is predominantly a grassland & the specialty is Elephant grasses. They are as tall as an Elephant. On the very first day we encountered a herd of Elephants with babies. We spent adequate time to frame them but we maintained a certain distance. Usually Elephant is a peaceful animal but they are very protective about the kids, so they sometimes charge the Jeep. The new found Greater one horned rhino, it was my first meeting with this hunk.Rhinos show a very peculiar behavior. They generally pile up their feces(dung)& use this as a social communication tool. They also love to take mud-bath and luckily we got a few glimpse of this activity. Apart from that we captured few moments with Swamp deer, Hog deer, Striated babbler, Greater adjutant, Great Hornbill, woolly necked stork etc. Rhino and deer were in ample number in the forest.The total number of rhino standing at 2413 which is an increase of 12 more from last rhino census of 2015. After returning back we enjoyed our evening snacks and refreshing tea. Then we had a photography tutorial by Siddhartha Goswami. We discussed about post processing, framing &next day planning. A very delicious dinner was served at 8:30 p.m.

On the next day after breakfast we chose our morning safari in eastern region or Agartoli region & after lunch afternoon safari in Western region or Bagori. On that day we managed to click a handful of species like Green billed malkoha, Himalayan vulture, Osprey, Greater spotted Eagle, Tawny Eagle in morning & Water buffalo, Assam roofed turtle and Tiger in afternoon session. Seeing a Tiger in wild is always charming and if it is in Kaziranga then it becomes more special due to the beautiful and different background. According to the latest census now the number of Tiger in Kaziranga is 104. In the evening session Siddhartha Goswami took a class about importance of histogram and colour balancing in post processing of a photograph. On next day we decided to go for the central and Western region in morning and afternoon session. In morning safari we met a huge tusker. He was in a great mood so I was able to have some satisfactory snaps. We repeated the western & central region next day to frame other beauties like Bar headed goose, smooth coated otter, Yellow monitor, Asian barred owlet, brown fish owl, pallas’s fish Eagle, Grey headed fish Eagle, Kalij pheasant, Emerald Dove etc.In our last safari we got some better and different snap of Elephant, Great Hornbill, water buffalo and Greater one horned rhino. Lastly we thanked our experienced and efficient driver Ali bhai for making our safari fruitful. On 14th March early morning we headed to Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary with our packed breakfast. We reached our destination around 7:15 a.m. We entered the park with our guide Jiban Bora & Ananta Bora. It is mainly a broad – leaved forest. After few minutes we heard the signature call of Western Hoolock Gibbon. Then we found the enthusiastic & expressive primates in their natural habitat,the high canopy trees. The male Gibbons are all black except the bright white eye browse &females are grey. I found it difficult to focus properly for first few minutes but the troop gave me ample time to rectify my errors. Other than Gibbon we clicked Malayan giant squirrel, Orange bellied squirrel & Capped langur in the morning session. We checked in a cozy forest guest house amidst the woods.

In the post lunch session we encounter Pigtail Macaque and again Western Hoolock Gibbon & Capped langur. Apart from the primates we noticed & clicked some gorgeous butterflies like Painted lady, Dark archduke, Large silverstripe, Common birdwing etc. In the last evening session of our trip I made a checklist of species that I encountered during this trip. It was a rainy evening. We enjoyed the atmosphere with a cup of tea from the balcony of our guesthouse. On the next morning we entered the forest for the last time (obviously for this trip). We found a red headed trogon call and chased it to locate the beautiful bird. After some time we found it for a very short fraction of time but I couldn’t manage to frame this beauty. Again we met a troop of Western Hoolock Gibbon in front of the guest house. This time I tried to get a better frame of the baby & the mother and other sub adults. They ate, played & posed for our camera. Their diet includes mostly ripe fruit, leaves, shoots. I just wanted to stay there to capture more and more moments but my clock didn’t permit. So “my heart is down, my head is turning around “but still we packed our bag & started our journey towards Jorhat airport.