Kaziranga National park is located in Assam in north east India. It is a UNESCO Word heritage site and is known for Great Indian one horned rhinoceros. It habitates two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos and as per the last census, there are more than 2400 rhinoceros in this sanctuary. It is also home to 25 globally important and 21 threatened birds. Kaziranga also hosts more than 110 tigers. This is the maximum density of tigers compared to any other tiger reserves in the world. Of all the national parks that we have visited, we loved Kaziranga the most. It is located along the banks of mighty river Brahmaputra and has vast expanse of fertile soil. This lush green sanctuary has beautiful landscape and is a photographer’s paradise.
Use this first time guide to plan your visit to Kaziranga and what to look forward to.
When is the best time to visit Kaziranga?
March and April are the best months to visit the national park. The park is closed between May and October. Kaziranga is prone to floods every year and the authorities decide on the date to open depending on the floor situation. The weather starts getting hot by March and more animals can be located near water sources. Also, there is a controlled burning of tall elephant grass in the forest area during Feb end. This leaves the fields open and easier to spot animals.
How many days in Kaziranga?
Kaziranga national park is divided into 4 zones, also called ranges. Every range is unique in terms of the landscape and flora & fauna found. If you want to get a glimpse of the famous one horned rhino, even one Safari is enough. But if you want to check out all the ranges (which I will definitely recommend), a minimum of 2 full days is required. While Kaziranga is best known for its rhinos, it has the maximum density of tigers compared to any other tiger reserves in the world. Our guide Parag assured a guaranteed tiger sighting if someone committed to six safaris with him. So if you want to spot a tiger, plan for minimum 3 days at Kaziranga.
How to reach Kaziranga?
Kaziranga does not have any direct connectivity by air or rail. It is however, well connected by road to most of the major cities in Assam.
By Air: Closest airports are Guwahati (215ks) and Jorhat (75 kms) in Assam and Dimapur (170 kms) in Nagaland.
By Train: Guwahati (190 kms) is the nearest major railway station, but Jorhat (90 kms) and Furketing (75 kms) have stations too.
By Road: Kaziranga falls on the national highway NH 37. There are regular buses from Guwahati, Tezpur and Dimapur. All buses passing through Kaziranga stop at Kohora gate. We took a flight to Guwahati and had plans to go to Kaziranga by bus next morning. However, we hired a cab for 3 days at the last minute because our kiddo was not well and we thought journey by bus would be hectic for him.
Where to stay in Kaziranga?
There are many lodges in and around the major zones: Bagori(Western range) and Kohora(central range). This is where most tourists prefer to stay because of ease of accessibility to transport & food. Unless you are looking for a luxury resort, I will recommend Aranya Lodge, Prasanthi Lodge or Jupuri Ghar near Kohara main gate. These are government properties and are centrally located. We stayed one night at Prasanthi and one at Aranya lodge.
What are the different ranges in Kaziranga and what’s their speciality?
Kaziranga is divided into 4 zones:
Bagori Range (Western):
Bagori has the maximum density of rhinos. Along with rhinos, you can also spot swamp, sambar and hog deers, water buffaloes and numerous species of birds.
Kohora Range (Central):
Kohora range has the longest safari route and takes around 3-4 hrs to complete the safari. You can see elephant, buffaloes, deers, turtles along with many birds. We were lucky to spot otter playing in grass, turtles basking in the sun, eagle, kingfisher, hornbills and huge number of monkeys. If you are luckier than us, you may be able to spot a tiger or two too!
Agaratoli Range (Eastern):
Eastern range is the wetland and has a huge variety of birds. Along with rhinos, elephants, water buffaloes and deers; you can spot incredible flocks of waterfowl especially bar headed geese, waders, pelicans, eagles and many other migratory birds. The density of rhino is less in this range.
This range is known for capped langurs and migratory birds. This is the least visited range because there are not many rhinos / elephants in this range.
What are the various types of safaris at Kaziranga?
Kaziranga has 2 types of Safaris: Elephant safari and Jeep Safari.
Elephant safari is allowed in 2 ranges – Bagori (Western) and Kohora (central). The one in central range is organized by the government and there are very few elephants, each of which carry anywhere between 2 to 4 tourists. Tickets for elephant safari in this range is difficult to obtain as most of them are issued to foreign nationals. There are around 25 trained elephants for safari in the western range and its much easier to get tickets through agents or through the lodge. Tickets are available for sale one day in advance at the central booking office (near Kohora range) between 7 pm and 8pm. It is best to get the tickets through the hotel/agent because they can get you confirmed seat. Elephants can get on the grassland where rhinos are munching and wildlife viewing is much more rewarding in this case.
Duration of elephant safari: 1 hr. Elephant Safari timing at Kaziranga:
|Elephant Safari Time at Kaziranga|
|Safari Range||Morning Timing||Afternoon timing||Remarks|
|Bagori (Western)||05:30 to 07:30 AM||3 PM to 4 PM||2 slots in the morning, 1 in the afternoon|
|Kohora (Central)||05:30 to 07:30 AM||3 PM to 4 PM||2 slots in the morning, 1 in the afternoon|
Jeep safari is allowed in all ranges and the route is defined for these jeeps. Since jeeps can go deep inside the forest, there is a better chance to spot animals in wild. Jeep Safari timings: Morning 7:30 am to 12 noon and afternoon 1:30 pm to 5 pm.
|Jeep Safari distance / duration at Kaziranga National Park|
|Central Range||28 km||4 hrs|
|Western Range||26 km||4 hrs|
|Eastern Range||22 km||3 hrs|
|Burapahar Range||17 km|
What to do in Kaziranga apart from safaris?
Safaris take a lot of time in Kaziranga. Each jeep safari is 3 – 4 hrs and elephant safari is 1 hr. While you have flexibility to finish earlier in jeep safari (if you are not sharing it with others); the ride through the forest is lovely and the landscape is a treat to the eyes. There are a few other attractions in Kaziranga which can be done if you have time:We were there till the end of safari time and could have easily spent more time inside.
Kaziranga National Orchid garden and bio-diversity park: This is one of the largest orchid gardens in India and definitely deserves a visit. There are some 850 varities of orchids found in north east India and the park has more than 500 of them. The green house is lovely, and so is the photo house. There is a small playarea for kids, a tree house, a flower & fruit collection. You can also order Assamese thali inside the garden. The park also organizes a cultural program every evening at 6:30 pm for 2 hrs and a small 10 min cultural dance show happens every 30 min at the park.
|Entrance fee at Kaziranga National Orchid & Bio-Diversity Park|
|Adults (Indian – locals coming from Assam)||Rs.130|
Kaziranga Sandhya: Assam government organizes a one hour cultural program every evening at 7 pm. Artists perform Bihu dance and a Zhumoir dance and involve guests in the program; which makes it an enjoyable evening.
Kakochang falls: The Kakochang falls is also called Kaipholangso falls by locals. It is around 30 kms from the Kohora gate and till few years was not accessible. The place is gradually gaining popularity now because of the scenic view and bamboo chicken served by locals around the place. It requires a mimimum of 1 km of trek if you take a jeep which can cross small streams; otherwise you need to trek around 3 km of easy trek. You will need to budget around 4 hrs for the visit. We did not get a chance to go there but saw pictures on our guide’s phone.
Tea gardens: Assam tea is world famous and the area around Kaziranga has tea gardens on both sides of the road. You can visit one of the tea gardens near the Kohora or Bagori range and even buy some Assam tea from the stores around.
Costs associated with safari at Kaziranga National Park:
|Safari Charges at Kaziranga National Park|
|Safari Type||Safari Range||Nationality||Charge|
|Elephant Safari||Western Range||Indian||Rs.900 / person|
|Elephant Safari||Western Range||Foreigner||Rs.1950 / person|
|Elephant Safari||Central Range||Indian||Rs.900 / person|
|Elephant Safari||Central Range||Foreigner||Rs.1950 / person|
|Jeep Safari||Central Range||All||Rs.1750 / jeep (Max 6 people)|
|Jeep Safari||Western Range||All||Rs.1850 / jeep (Max 6 people)|
|Jeep Safari||Eastern Range||All||Rs.2250 / jeep (Max 6 people)|
|Jeep Safari||Burapahar Range||All||Rs.2750 / jeep (Max 6 people)|
Other charges for Safari:
|Expense head||For Indians||For Foreigners|
|Entry fee / person / day||Rs.100||Rs.650|
|Road toll per vehicle per trip||Rs.300||Rs.300|
|Still camera per trip||Rs.100||Rs.200|
|Video camera per trip||Rs.1000||Rs.1000|
|Still camera (professional photography) per trip||Rs.1000||Rs.3000|
|Video camera (professional photography) per trip||Rs.10000||Rs.30000|
Tips for visitors at Kaziranga National Park:
- Book a guide well in advance and have him take care of the tickets. The charges of guides is same whether you plan it yourself or through the hotel. Having a good knowledgeable and experienced guide makes the safari more enjoyable and memorable. I can recommend 2 guides – Parag Hazarika (Phone No. +91 8471813140 (Whatsapp) and 7002 241097) and Prafulla (Phone No: 99549 53056). Both of them are very experiences and passionate about what they do. They took care of both elephant and jeep safari for us.
- Book accommodation in advance: We wanted accommodation at Aranya Lodge but it was fully booked even 4 months in advance. You can check accommodation phone nos. on http://www.assamtourismonline.com/properties.html
- Carry enough cash, lodges/ restaurants do not accept card.
- Don’t rush through safari: Start safari on time and give enough time for each safari. There are many animals / birds in the sanctuary and spend as much time as you can.
- Carry a good binocular: If you don’t have one, ask your guide if he has one. Close encounters will be very few and its difficult to get the best experience without a good binocular.
- Carry mosquito repellent.
- Take some books / games for the evening. There is not much to do after 6 pm; unless you are going for the cultural program. You will need something to do in the leisure time.
- Government lodges don’t have internet connectivity so make your own arrangements if you need connectivity.
- Keep extra camera batteries/ memory cards / power bank for phones if you plan to take lots of photographs.
- Kaziranga is plastic free zone and plastics (except water bottles) are strictly not allowed during the safari. Take a bag along to keep your belongings and get the your litter back with you.