I have visited almost all major National Parks in Assam,India but one place that was always in my wishlist was Kaziranga National Park. Every time I plan and for some unforeseen reason, the plan failed execution. Well, this is not that basic tour guide post or the ones that will give you information on how to visit the Kaziranga National Park. As a post like that is coming up very soon. But this post is a little different. I guess the title says it all “The excitement on spotting a Tiger at Kaziranga National Park”. It sounds crazy that why would anyone get excited on spotting a tiger at a National park which is also a UNESCO world heritage site and world famous for the one-horned rhinoceros? I am sure there are many questions cropping up in your mind, let me set all doubts free.
Being born and brought up in Assam I have seen a one-horned rhinoceros a zillion time. At my age, it is no longer a sight of excitement. Yes, I want them protected and preserved, I am against rhino poaching or any other harm being caused to these endangered species. I hardly need to travel a distance of 50kms approximately and I can see large numbers of rhinos grazing at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Indeed spotting a rhino at Kaziranga National Park is a sight that makes me proud. Yet, the sudden eye-to-eye contact with a royal Bengal Tiger would definitely give you thrills.
It was last year in the month of December, my husband was in Guwahati for a few days and as usual, we decided to make a nearby trip. After searching a lot of places we zeroed Golaghat at our friend’s house and on way back a visit to Kaziranga National Park. We took our own car rather than the public transport as that would serve the purpose of a long drive too. It was around 7 pm in the evening when we reached Golaghat and Siddhartha’s friend and his wife made elaborate arrangement for us including some lip-smacking pork dishes. We had dinner and long hours of chat though I was feeling a little sick after the 5 hours long journey.
Next morning, we had a heavy breakfast and started our journey towards Kaziranga National Park, which was just 65 Km from Golaghat. It is always a fun ride when you have friends for company. We reached around 12 pm and booked Safari tickets for the 1 pm ride. It would last for around three and a half hours. We selected the Central as the local staff said that the Central range has tiger sighting since the past few days. We were quite excited with the hope that we might sight a tiger too.
The forests of Assam are very dense, whether it’s Manas National Park or Kaziranga National Park or to say any other National Park or wildlife sanctuary Assam’s forests are too dense to spot a tiger in loose. Due to the climatic conditions of Assam, it is one of the two biodiversity Hot-Spots in our country, India. The other being the Eastern Himalayan Biodiversity Region. Due to such climatic conditions, Assam is abundant in dense forests, wetlands, grasslands and as a result, a wide range of flora and fauna harbours in this part.
Over the years the Tiger density in Kaziranga has also increased to a great extent and thus in 2006 it was declared as a Tiger Reserve. Most tourists visit Kaziranga for its a special attraction, the pride of Assam- the one-horned rhinoceros. But for us along with the sight of this mighty animal, the excitement of spotting a Royal Bengal Tiger in one of the ranges of Kaziranga National Park is also stimulating enough.
As the Jeep passed through narrow paths inside the National Park
It was my first visit to Kaziranga and the moment I along with my husband and friends jumped into the jeep our eyes started scanning the forest like a machine. Few moments before our safari started our driver informed us about spotting a Royal Bengal Tiger in the same range we were heading to. Immediately we started weaving thoughts of spotting one if we were lucky enough. I am a wildlife lover and for me, it is a big thing if I can spot a tiger in the dense forests of Assam which is otherwise so so rare that hardly I came across someone who told me he/she spotted one.
Wildlife spotting at Kaziranga National Park
We spotted beautiful birds, lots of deer, wild buffaloes and the majestic one-horned rhinos. A lot of migratory birds flocks in Northeast during that time and we spotted a large number of these. We were indeed excited but still, my eyes were searching for something else. It was almost 2.30pm and we were halfway through our safari. The jeep halted for some time near a watch tower and just on the opposite side of a water body that that flows through from where we were standing we could spot lots of deer and wild buffaloes grazing. It was a mesmerising sight, I felt as if I am watching one of those National Geographic TV channel programmes live.
And there it was, a Royal Bengal Tigers right across the water body
We also over-heard some tourists discussing that they had spotted a Tiger somewhere and I could do nothing but regret that we missed somehow. As I said it all depends on sheer luck to spot a Tiger in the forests of Assam. After 15-20minutes break, we continued the safari and the jeep drove hardly 3-4 km ahead when someone among us murmured “Baag- Baag” (In Assamese and Bengali we call Tiger a “Baag”. Our senses were in the most active form, the drive reversed the jeep a few metres back and we started scanning left, right, front and back and there it was the grand animal right on the other side of a water body.
That was the only barricade between our jeep and the huge Royal Bengal Tiger. It was drinking water, what a grand sight indeed! It looked like a fully grown tiger, with bright yellow and white stripes on its coat. For a few minutes, it drank water then stood to stare at us. I took out my 200mm zoom lens and took some shots, some were shaky due to excitement or maybe nervousness because it was the first time I saw a tiger in its a natural habitat. We remained as silent as we could least the animal turned away.
It stood there as if posing for our cameras for at least 10 minutes. After then we watched as it cat walked away into tall thick dense grass. Wow, it was one of the most memorable moments of the year I had ever experienced. Till today I get chills when that moment flashed in my mind. Moreover, we were unarmed, there was just the driver in our jeep who was also the guide, a young boy in his late twenties maybe.
The end of our Jungle Safari
As the majestic animal moved towards the dense thicket we too moved towards the end point of our safari. Way back we spotted some fowls, deer and some birds. But nothing thrilled us anymore because we were still trying to grasp what happened just then. The safari jeep stopped at a small market which was outside the forest reserve area, we had tea and some pakoras and samosas (vegetable fritters) It was almost 7 pm and time to bid our friends goodbye till we meet next time very soon. Some memories are to be treasured forever and that day it was one such memory. The company of our best friends made the safari more thrilling and adventurous. What is life if we don’t get to share it with our friends and loved one. We should all take a moment in our life and think which are the most cherished memories and live up to that.
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