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Published: July 19th 2008
A rare butterfly
This rare butterfly is only seen in Manas and Kaziranga
Manas National Park and Bodo Village tour
Partha De Sarkar
Marcus of Berlin working for us had just returned from the Manas National Park and had sighted tigers twice. He was full of admiration of northeast India’s beautiful mountains, open wilderness, flora and fauna and most importantly its colourful tribal life and of work being done by Help Tourism among the Bodo tribe. Northeast is a beautiful land, mystic and mysterious.
Dipak who had come from South Wales, UK, was immediately interested to visit the Manas National Park. We reserved accommodation at Maozigendri Jungle Camp of Help Tourism just outside the core area of Manas. Then on January 2, 2008, we flew to Guwahati from Kolkata and Help Tourism vehicle took us to the jungle camp.
The Bodo village, poacher and militant to saviour
It was almost closure time of the Park. So instead of going for a safari, we went round the Maozigendri village, inhabited by the Bodo tribe. We were greeted by Gogol Bodoi (name changed). His journey to become a saviour of the wildlife is fascinating. He stated “When I was young,
Manas was a wildlife sanctuary, pristine, beautiful and peaceful where rhinos,
This one horned Indian Rhino was about to attack our elepahnat as she had babies with her
elephants, wild buffalos, deer, monkeys, wild boar etc roamed free and birding was a pleasure. Agriculture was the main livelihood for locals. Like many, I took to poaching. A rhino horn or a tiger skin fetched handsome cash.” Gogol stared at lovingly the distant blue hills.
He went on “Assamese from plains discriminated between tribal and non-tribel. So, one day cry for independent Bodoland went up. I, too, like all young Bodos, joined the militant movement and police and army hunted us leading to bloody clashes. The Manas National Park gave us sanctuary but shortage of food forced us to kill animals. Tourists stopped coming to Manas, drying up cash flow from tourism. Ultimately government gave us Bodo Tribal Council. Movement was over. I returned home and when forest guard job was offered, I grabbed. For me it was a long journey from poacher to militant to forest guard. Tourism picked up, the Maozigendri Jungle Camp opened and with it opened job opportunities. Local people started taking part in tourism related work, opened up their villages for village tourism with cultural shows for guests and began showcasing tribal culture. This has added spices to wildlife tourism in Manas.”
Elephant safari begings early and take you through tall grass and over undullating plains for animal sighting
Gogol took us round the village. We saw the beautiful Bodo girls making clay pots. There were women going about family chores. Boys were tending banana rafts made of the banana plants to take us on rafting aboard these rafts. Before moving in for dinner we saw a dance performance by village belles. Coloufully attired in ethnic dresses called dokhna. I saw a young girl baby sitting for a European couple who had gone on safari.
Food at Jungle Camp was simple, rice and roti were served with vegetables, chicken/fish curry and dal with fresh salad. Cooking was ethnic yet most of us including my people from UK liked food.
The Elephant Safari
Elephant ride begins early morning when heavy fog makes the Manas National Park mysterious. The ride begins from Maozigendri and continues for about 90 minutes. Elephant began taking us through tall grass into the Manas Tiger Reserve’s gentle slopes at the foothills of the Himalayas. Located in the north-eastern state of Assam, it is the only tiger reserve of its kind in the entire northeast. Our mahout took us close to the crystal waters of the Manas River demarcating the Kingdom of Bhutan with
In evening we were entertained with tribal dance
India. We saw two vultures and an eagle circling overhead. A few swamp deer ran away. Tigers come to drink water at the Manas River and our guide picked up pug marks of tigers. This made our heart race in anticipation of sighting tiger, the shy and elusive big cat of the jungle.
Sighting a tiger in wilderness is difficult and sheer luck. But if you are lucky you might view the most splendid sight of the animal world, a shining coated tiger. We had that luck. A tiger was surprised by our intruding in his territory. It jumped to other side of the track and in minutes disappeared. We were enjoying the scenic beauty of the mixed deciduous vegetation found in the park. Broken tree branches signaled elephant territory and we saw elephant families with babies. Sambhar, the largest deer found in Asia, observed us from a distance but hog deer came closer. The Golden Langur with its long tail sat on tree.
Through the swamp, elephant took us to one-horned rhinos and short tempered buffalos. We saw many rhinos and couple of buffalos. Hispid Hare, Pigmy Hog and Wild Boar sneaked in and out from bush.
Egrets on tree
Birding was great, too. We saw a huge Indian Hornbill flying over our head and Pied Hornbill resting on a dried up branch of a tall tree. Water bodies had the Riverchats, Forktails, Cormorants and Ducks like the Ruddy. Elephant ride was over in 90 minutes.
After a hot breakfast we took to a boat safari to see animals from our boat but lesser number animal are visible from the River Manas, which was compensated by grand views of the Himalaya that we got from the river.we saw a herd of elephant close to the Manas River. Multi-coloured pebbles of the Manas River are an added attraction. We saw a few Gangetic Dolphins. We also saw deer herd drinking water. An Egret was trying to fish. A Secretary Bird flew away seeing us.
After lunch at the Jungle Camp, we went on road safari. Since the area covered by driving around is much more, we were better introduced to Manas’s stunning pristine landscapes at the foot hills of the Himalayas. The semi-evergreen forest’s Terrestrial Eco region stands out in the Bramhaputra Valley.
Drive was adventurous since we were on a
Manas is a beuatiful wildlife sancturay
track that took us not only through dense forests but down into mountain streams and ups again into thick forests. Rhinos and buffalos looked at us curiously. Driver points at circling vultures and drove to the area to see if a tiger was there with its kill.
Pied Piper for Elephants
We met Gogol Bodoi standing on jeep track armed with a 4-ft bamboo stick. When we stopped, he came to the vehicle and asked “Sir, should I get herd of elephant?” we were amazed and asked how could get a herd for showing us. Gogol told that by making noise of mouth and using 4-ft bamboo stick he could get an elephant her close to us. We declined his offer. But after 15 minutes, when we were near Bhutan Himalayas, we saw a herd of elephant of about 37 approaching us. And to our horror, we found Gogol, armed with his 4-ft bamboo stick and loud noise from his mouth, trailing the herd. He had really got a herd for us. It is amazing when we see such equation between man and animal.
Back at the Jungle Camp, we saw ethnic products like designed clay pots,
This gate welcomes you
cane and bamboo products and visited a home where worshipping was on. Again we were entertained with a dance that evening. A visit to Bodo museum gave us better understanding of their history and culture.
Next day we were to leave for Kaziranga. So early morning we went for banana raft ride. Each raft carried one rider and a boat man. It was fun for some and scary for others. But no doubt it is a must at the Manas and definitely enjoyable.
By Air : The nearest airport is Borjhar airport, Guwahati, connected by Indian Airlines to Delhi (8:00, Tue, Thu, Sat), (10:25, Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun), Calcutta (6:30, 9:50 & 16:00, Daily). Mumbai is connected through a Jet Airways flight (7:50, except Thu & Sun).
By Rail: The nearest railhead, Barpeta Road (32 km N), is connected with Delhi, Kolkata Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.
By Road: The Park is well connected with other parts of Assam through a network of well built roads. State transport buses ply regularly connecting various cities in and around the park. To reach the park from Guwahati, take the NH31 to Shimlaguri via Rangia, Nalbari and Howli.
Smabar is a large deer, seen on river bank from boat safari
From there take the link road to Barpeta road.
Where to Stay: Manas Jungle Camp at Maozigendri, Barapeta, Manas National Park, Barpeta, Assam. Manas Jungle Camp that spreads out in a rubber plantation has five ethnic cottages with attached toilets and a guest house with common toilet. Services at jungle camp are very personal with typical tribal hospitality.
What to eat: Jungle camp serves sumptuous vegetarian and non- vegetarian food cooked by trained tribal ladies. Ethnic cuisine is worth tasting.
Elephant ride gives best chance of seeing animals. Boats are also available for wildlife-watching trips down the Manas and Hakua rivers. But a drive through the forest in jeep is a must to enjoy overall beauty of Manas.
Best time to visit:
The best months to visit are October to April. Avoid the monsoons (June to September) when heavy rains can flood the park and wildlife stay away.
Tourists pay the entry fee at the Bansbari Range Office, 1 km before the entry gate at Baripada.
Park Charges Entry Fee : Rs. 20 (Indians) & Rs. 250 (foreigners), Jeep entry Fee : Rs. 300, Still Camera : Rs. 50 (Indians) &
Logo shows a tiger
Rs. 500 (foreigners), Video Camera : Rs. 100 (Indians) & Rs. 500 (foreigners), Safari : Rs. 120 (Indians) & Rs. 750 (foreigners), Boat Ride : Rs. 8000 (8 seater boat), which can be shared amongst the passengers.
Take a 5 km long walk besides the jungle trail along the river around Mathanguri to observe different variety of birds and flowers.
Park timings are 5:30 AM to 6:30 PM.
There are three protected areas in Manas, the Manas Sanctuary (391 sq. km), Manas National Park (520 sq. km) and Manas Tiger Reserve (2600 sq. km). The entry of tourists is restricted to the central area or the Bansbari range. Encroaching into the rest of the park, such as Panbari and Bhuyanpara ranges is considered dangerous, especially without an armed escort. The Makibana area in Bhuyan Para range is considered good for Tiger sighting.
Foreign tourists require a special permit to visit the park, as well as the state of Assam.
The nearest centre is Barpeta road where most of the facilities including post, telegraph, telephone, hospital and drug stores are easily available
Monsoon season should be avoided for a travel to the park as heavy
The village where we stayed
rains often flood the place
Travellers from USA contact Global Hop Travel,
698 Biltmore Drive Bartlet, IL 60103, USA
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