Everthing you need to know about Kaziranga and its Rhinos
Kaziranga national park
We continue our series of blogs looking at some of the most famous Indian wildlife sanctuaries and India tiger sanctuaries. We cover important topics, such as the best time of year to travel to India for wildlife and what to expect in the national parks. Today we are taking a look at Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary and the incredible success story of the Indian One Horned Rhino. How did this park go from a population of just 12 rhinos to over 2000 and what is the best way to organise an India wildlife holiday to Kaziranga?
Kaziranga national park – a brief history!
It is said when Mary Curzon, the wife of the Viceroy of India - Lord Curzon, visited the park in 1904 – at that time, it was not even protected forest – in the hope of seeing an Indian one-horned rhinoceros for herself; despite several elephant safaris, she wasn’t able to found even one. Then she persuaded her husband to take urgent measures to protect the dwindling species which he did by initiating planning for their protection. After a series of meetings and reviews, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was created with an area of 232 km2 (90 sq mi) in 1905. Over the next 3 years up to 1908, the park was expanded by 152 sq km; to cover an area right up to the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra river. At this time, it was renamed the "Kaziranga Game Sanctuary" and remained so till 1938, when hunting was prohibited and visitors were permitted to enter the park. The Kaziranga Game Sanctuary was renamed the "Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary" in 1950 by P. D. Stracey, changing the focus from hunting to conservation and providing even greater protection to the one-horned rhino and the many other mammals and birds which flourished in this landscape. In 1985, Kaziranga was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, for its unique natural environment and unique wildlife.
Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary
Kaziranga National Park is situated partly in Nagaon district and partly in Golaghat district of the north east state of Assam. It covers an area of approximately 430 sq kms, with the Karbi Anglong hills to the South and the mighty Brahmaputra river to the north. The park is famous worldwide for the huge population of Indian one-horned rhinos it protects. In recent years their ‘shoot to kill’ policy for poachers has attracted worldwide criticism from human rights organisations, but there is little doubt that many more Rhino are alive today due to this uncompromising approach.
Kaziranga has a particular ‘Terai’ landscape unique to this area of North East India, with tall elephant grass, sheer woods, rugged reeds, many shallow pools and marshes. As well as rhino, there is an excellent chance to see wild elephants and an impressive variety of raptors. Tiger sightings are infrequent, but the tiger population is growing and some of the large make tigers are famous for their ability to hunt massive water buffalo as prey.
Best time to visit Kaziranga national park
Having first visited Kaziranga in February 2002 and designed many wildlife safaris which visit Kaziranga, it has always struck us as slightly odd why Kaziranga shuts at the end of April. It would be incredibly unusual to get early rains in May in Assam, so it appears the park management are almost preparing the park for the possibility of flooding which could occur from June to September. So when it come at looking at the best time to visit Kaziranga national park, we have a shorter period to choose from than most of India’s wildlife sanctuaries.
Another point worth making is that it is not unusual for the park authorities to burn grass at some time in the month of February and so this may be worth avoiding. As a quick summary November, December and January will be great for birds and then March/April will produce better mammal sightings, as the grass will be a little lower and undergrowth less dense. I would choose these months for Rhino, warmer morning temperatures for Kaziranga safaris, with less fog and the outside chance to see tigers.
How to reach Kaziranga national park?
Most of our clients now take advantage of the good air connections between Kolkata and Jorhat – the nearest airport to Kaziranga national park – to reach Kaziranga and are then only faced with a 1 to 2 hour car transfer to reach the park. Sometimes you can even start to see rhino before you arrive at your Kaziranga wildlife lodge. People who are considering visiting other parks in Assam, such as Manas tiger reserve and Nameri national park, may decide to fly to Guwahati and link the parks by making use of a private car and driver.
Why not join us next February on our Primates, Rhino and Hornbills small group wildlife safari.