Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kaziranga National Park is a substantial sized park, covering approximately 430 square kilometers. In particular, it stretches for 40 kilometers (25 miles) in length from east to west, and is 13 kilometers (8 miles) wide. Much of it consists of swamp and grasslands, making it the perfect habitat for the one-horned rhinoceros. The largest population in the world of these prehistoric looking creatures exists there, along with almost 40 major mammals. These include wild elephants, tiger, buffaloes, gaur, monkeys, deers, otters, badgers, leopards, and wild boar. The birdlife is also impressive. Thousands of migratory birds arrive at the park every year, from distant lands as far away as Siberia. This Kaziranga National Park travel guide will help you plan your trip there.
In the state of Assam, in India's north east region, on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. 217 kilometers from Guwahati, 96 kilometers from Jorhat, and 75 kilometers from Furkating. The main entrance to the park is located at Kohora on National Highway 37, where there's a Tourist Complex and booking offices. Buses stop there on the way from Guwahati, Tezpur and Upper Assam. The park has four ranges -- Central (Kazaringa), Western (Baguri), Eastern (Agoratuli), and Burhapahar. The most accessible and popular range is the Central one, at Kohora. The Western range, 25 minutes from Kohora, is the shortest circuit but has the highest density of rhinos. It's recommended for seeing rhinos and buffaloes. The Eastern range is around 40 minutes from Kohora and offers the longest circuit. Birding is the highlight there.
How to Get to Kaziranga:
There are airports at Guwahati (which has flights from all over India) and Jorhat (best accessed from Kolkata). Then, it's a six hour drive from Guwahati and two hour drive from Jorhat, in private taxi or public bus. From Guwahati, expect to pay around 300 rupees by public transport and 2,500 rupees by private transport. Some hotels will provide pick up services. The nearest railway stations are at Jakhalabandha, one hour away (trains run there from Guwahati, take the Guwahati-Silghat Town Passenger/55607), and Furkating (trains from Delhi and Kolkata). Buses stop at the park entrance on the way from Guwahati, Tezpur and Upper Assam.
When to Visit:
Kazaringa is open daily from November 1 to April 30 every year. According to locals, the best time to visit is during late February and March, when the December and January peak season rush is over. The park gets extremely busy during the peak season, and it's likely to negatively affect your experience there due to the large amount of people allowed in. Be prepared for hot weather from March to May, and cold weather from November to January. A week long Kaziranga Elephant Festival takes place at the park in February.
Kaziranga Opening Hours:
One hour elephant safaris are offered between 5.30 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. Elephant safaris are also possible in the afternoon, from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. The park is open for jeep safaris from 7.30 a.m until 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. until 4.30 p.m.
Entrance Fees and Charges:
The fees payable comprise a number of elements -- park entry fee, vehicle entry fee, jeep hire fee, elephant safari fee, camera fee, and fee for armed guard to accompany visitors on safaris. The entrance fee is 50 rupees for Indians and 250 rupees for foreigners. The jeep hire fee depends on which zone you wish to visit and the hotel you're staying in. It ranges from 1,000 rupees for the Central range to around 2,000 rupees for Burhapahar, per jeep. Elephant safaris cost 280 rupees for Indians and 750 rupees for foreigners. The vehicle entry fee is around 200 rupees and the armed guard 50 rupees. If you're taking a still camera inside the park, the fee is 50 rupees for Indians and 500 rupees for foreigners. For video cameras, it's 500 rupees for Indians and 1,000 rupees for foreigners.
Jeep and elephant safaris are possible in all ranges except Burhapahar, which offers jeep safaris only. Boat rides are offered at the north eastern point of the park. If you're planning on going on an elephant safari, it's best to do it in the Central range, as it's government operated there. Book it the prior evening, from 6 p.m. at the Tourist Complex office near the range. Private elephant safari providers in the other ranges have been known to cut short the duration of the safaris during peak times, so that they can serve more people and make more money. It's possible to see the rhinos up close on the elephant safaris. Try to avoid the first safaris of the morning in winter though, as fog and late sunrise hamper viewing. You can take your own private vehicle into the park if accompanied by a forest official.
Where to Stay:
One of the most popular Kazirange hotels is the new and sprawling IORA - The Retreat resort, located on 20 acres of land just a couple of kilometers from the park's main entrance. Best of all, it's reasonably priced for what's provided. Diphlu River Lodge is another new hotel, located around 15 minutes west of the tourist complex. It's a unique place to stay, with 12 cottages on stilts overlooking the river. Unfortunately, the tariff for foreigners is double that for Indians, and it is costly. Wild Grass Lodge is a reputable option that's popular with foreign visitors, located in Bossagaon village, a short drive from Kohora. To be as close as possible to nature, try the inexpensive Nature-Hunt Eco Camp. Also, Jupuri Ghar has basic cottages conveniently inside the Tourist Complex, a short walk from the Central range office. It was once managed by Assam Tourism, but is now leased out to a private operator, Network Travels in Guwahati. For bookings, visit their website.