Nestled between the Brahmaputra River and the Himalayas, this slice of heaven is one of the two last remaining strongholds of the Indian Rhino. With less than 3000 Rhinos left in the world, this is truly a place worth all of the efforts that are going into saving this haven. Kaziranga was made a World Heritage site in 1985 but remains mostly under the radar from typical tourists. The lack of infrastructure and tourist development makes getting here a bit of an adventure, but completely worth it once you arrive.
“In an age of conservation reverses, this is one of the Indian subcontinent’s most significant successes.”
We were greeted at the gate by our armed guards who would accompany us throughout the park. They are on an ongoing uphill battle to maintain the park, and most of all, try to keep poaching at bay. We owe so much to the forest guards around the world. Without them, our forests and national parks would surely be gone. In Kaziranga they spend months at a time away from their families, with meager wages all to try to protect wildlife. There are 500 guards protecting an area of 430 sq km. The ever growing demand from the Chinese market for Rhino horns makes protecting Kaziranga a very difficult task. 50 of these amazing creatures were slaughtered in 2013, just for their horns. With only around 1,800 Rhinos left in the park today these are staggering and frightening numbers.
The locals of Asam are very proud of Kaziranga and have a lot of love for the wildlife and the nature that surrounds them. Indian tourists travel from all over the country to visit this paradise, and even the locals living in the area frequent the park for a chance to see the elusive tiger and relish in the tranquility.
As we jostled down the bumpy road, dust flying in every direction, we had our eyes peeled for whatever was to come. The first Rhino we spotted was hiding in the grass, peacefully eating. The elephant grass can grow up to 8 feet tall and is amazingly good at concealing the wildlife in the area. You could have a Rhino a couple of feet away and not even know it. As we watched silently from our jeep, it was almost as if we stepped back in time. These heavily plated beasts seem like something that belongs with the dinosaurs. As he meandered back into the grasses, not to be bothered by intrepid tourists, we continued our drive. As the morning haze dissipated and the birds got louder, we were astonished to see more than 60 Rhinos in one open area! We got so spoiled by the end of two days that unless the Rhino was at our jeep window, it was not the photo we became accustomed to.
Along with Rhinos, Elephants are also very common in this area. You can see herds of twenty or more continuously trying to fill their vigorous appetites. Mothers gather around newborns (the youngest we saw was only about two weeks old) and protect them by staring us down while crossing the road. We even saw an elephant charge another passing jeep. There are wild buffalo, several species of deer, monkeys, otters, 500 species of birds and if you are really lucky you can even spot one of the 106 elusive tigers that roam these lands.
You can see more photos of the wildlife in Kaziranga in our gallery.