Places to visit in North East India
Places to visit in North East India
There are eight magical states to visit in North East India; which are West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. For the purpose of this blog we are going to concentrate on the two most popular and populous states, which are West Bengal and Assam. What are the special attractions of these two beautiful states and what are the best wildlife sanctuaries to visit in the North East of India?
Things to do in Kolkata
No discussion of the North East can ignore the incredible role that Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) has played in the history of India. It was the main city for the British stealth invasion of India and the East India Company and then the Raj ruled from here for more than 100 years, before the capital of India was transferred to Delhi in 1911. Many of the Raj era building still exist and Bengali cuisine, music and poetry is seeing a resurgence. Although still in the shadows of the titans that are Delhi and Mumbai; there is a lot to admire in this slower paced ‘Jewel of the East’. We recommend a foodie tour of the city sampling the famous fish dishes and superb Biryani Then set off very early in the morning (05:00) to check out the 24 hour fruit and vegetable market, before heading over to Howrah bridge to see the beautiful flower market preparing for the day. Finally, take a walk over the iconic Howrah bridge with the locals, enjoy the architecture of the huge Howrah railway station and then take a boat back over the Hooley river and take a tram (one of two cities in Asia to still have working trams!) to your beautiful Kolkata heritage hotel. You will pay half the price of Delhi to stay in iconic hotels, such as Lalit’s and The Oberoi Grand.
Sunderban national park
If your mind is full of images of man eating tigers and a hostile, mangrove environment, where it’s man against nature; then relax. We are going to show you a side of the Sunderban national park that few other visitors will have the privilege to enjoy. After a 2-3 hour car journey from Kolkata to the jetty point at Gothkhali, you will board your own private houseboat and head off into the largest Delta in the world. As you slowly cruise along this World Heritage site, you will catch site of multiple species of Kingfisher, Spotted Deer and maybe even river dolphins. Then you will enjoy two full days inside the tiger sanctuary and with lots of luck, you may even catch site of the bold male tiger who has been ‘showing off’ this year. If not, you will still enjoy an amazing prawn curry, folk songs from a local musician and the magic of this unique and unspoilt landscape. Want to visit? Check out our 4 day boat safari to Sunderban tiger reserve.
Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary
After our visit here in April 2018, we can confirm this is a real gem of a park and we were lucky enough to encounter 3 different groups of Gibbons during our 3-4 hour morning walk inside the park. One of the groups had a male and female constantly calling for around 15-20 minutes, which was such a thrill for all of us. Although there are also substantial populations of stump-tailed macaques and pig-tailed macaques; these are not as easy to track as the much more vocal Gibbons. PLEASE REMEMBER to bring your leech socks and plenty of salt to keep them off you in the jungle, as the wetter the season, the more leeches will be waving their hands at you – they just loved me!
How to reach Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary
The easiest way from Kolkata is a direct flight to Jorhat and then a 1-2 hour private road transfer. It is fair to say that accommodation options are fairly limited and if you do book the government forest rest house; there is still a good chance your booking will be ‘bumped’ for any VIP guests. After our visit in April this year, we can suggest to you an excellent family owned property about 20 minutes from the entrance gate.
With it’s incredibly history of nearly single handedly rescuing the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and being a UNESCO World Heritage site; it is no wonder that visitors to the North East have this famous national park very much on their radar. However, if you dig a little deeper there is more to Kaziranga national park than its incredible population of 2000 rhinos!
It also has one of the highest tiger populations in India and while not as easy to see as the much more ‘open’ tiger sanctuaries in India, if they do come out of the thick elephant grass, you are sure to see a magnificent specimen. If you are hoping to see a tiger in Kaziranga, then you need to focus your jeep safaris on the central and western zones.
Why not join us one our Kaziranga wildlife tour, with the chance to see tigers, rhino, elephants, gibbons and smooth coated otters.
Orang and Manas national parks
Time to follow the ‘path less travelled’ and at Orang you will almost feel like you are driving around your own private wildlife sanctuary. When we visited in April 2018, we were often the only vehicle in the park and were delighted to see the resident Rhino population (which came from Kaziranga!) doing very well. We also saw our first Bengal Florican; which is a very rare bird in India and globally threatened.
Manas national park is one of the most beautiful tiger sanctuaries in India and before the insurgency by the Bodo Rebels in the 90’s, was home to a substantial population of tigers. In the 15 years since the troubles ended, the park has recovered well and if you are lucky you will once again see the striped king; as well as thriving populations of Capped Langurs and Wild Elephants. There is also the chance to see Golden Langurs and the Bengal Florican. If you would like to join us and our expert wildlife guide from Kokalta on a journey to see the 'undiscovered national parks of the North East'; then join us on our Primates. Rhino and Hornbills small group tour in November 2018.
Head to the cool hills and visit Kalimpong and Darjeeling hill stations.
Both these colourful hill station will give you amazing Himalayan mountain views, cool colonial hotels to stay in, colourful bazaars and markets and a chance to sample some of the finest teas in the world. The journey from the flat terai to the hill stations is a ‘scary’ type of delight and you can always take a more leisurely approach and ride the famous Darjeeling Toy Train for part of the way.