Kaziranga National Park: The Complete Guide

Kaziranga National Park, Assam.

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Kaziranga National Park

Address
Kanchanjuri, Assam 784177, India

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve is renowned for having the largest population in the world of the prehistoric-looking one-horned rhinoceros. In fact, two-thirds of all one-horned rhinos in the world can be found inside the national park. Kaziranga is located in the state of Assam in the northeast region of India, so it's quite a distance from the usual Indian tourist routes and an ideal destination for adventurous travelers. It's nestled in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, an area that is renowned for its unique biodiversity and untouched jungle paradise.

Things to Do

Reserve a jeep and head out on a safari around Kaziranga. Most visitors come to see the one-horned rhinoceros, which thrive in the swampy grasslands the cover many parts of the park. However, there are also all kinds of other animals to see here. Since tigers do reside in the park, it is officially considered a tiger reserve, although sightings are rare. More common wildlife you'll come across include wild elephants, buffaloes, gaur, monkeys, deer, otters, badgers, leopards, Indian pangolin, and wild boar.

Four main rivers—Brahmaputra, Diphlu, Mora Diphlu, and Mora Dhansiri—cross the park. The massive Brahmaputra River, bordering the park to the north, is inhabited by blind Ganges river dolphins, which you can see on a river safari. In addition, there are more than 250 seasonal bodies of water that attract migratory birds from distant lands as far away as Siberia.

Safari

Jeep safaris through the park are the best way to explore Kaziranga. Private vehicles aren't allowed to enter the park, so you'll need to book a tour on an authorized vehicle. Your accommodations can likely help you book a tour before arriving for easier planning, but you can also hire one of the vehicles waiting at the Kaziranga Tourist Complex, located just south of Kohora. It handles safari bookings and jeep rental. Jeep safaris can be booked on the spot, and you pay for the entire vehicle, so it's a good idea to wait around and try to join a group if you're traveling solo or as a couple to reduce the cost.

The park has four separate ranges that can be explored and each one has its own headquarters. There's the Central Range at Kohora, the Western Range at Bagori, the Eastern Range at Agoratuli, and the Burhapahar Range at Gorakati. Jeeps travel on a set route, and there are a couple of places where you can stop and get out of the car. The safari route in each range takes about two hours, and many visitors try to see two ranges during a day visit.

The most accessible part to visit is the grassy Central Range, but the Western Range is about 25 minutes away and has the highest density of rhinos. Ideally, aim to see both the Central and Western ranges by jeep safari, as they're very different in terms of landscape and foliage. The Eastern Range is about 40 minutes from Kohora and is best known for its wide array of birds and wetlands, although rhinos and other animals are also present. If you want to get away from the crowds, Burapahar is the least-visited range and the only part of the park that includes hiking trails.

Boat safaris also operate from the newly launched River Tourism Zone at Bhomoraguri in Tezpur, alongside the Brahmaputra River in the park's new area, to promote dolphin tourism. It's located about 30 kilometers from the Burapahar range. The safaris have three different routes, with the longest extending into Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary west of Kaziranga. However, the best place for river dolphin sighting is near Koliabhumura Bridge in Tezpur.

Where to Stay

All budget hotels are in Kohora, near the Central range. It's convenient to stay there as both the Western and Eastern ranges are equally accessible from there. For travelers who want to spend a little more, there are some incredible options like luxurious jungle bungalows or a fully-equipped resort to focus on relaxing during your stay.

  • IORA - The Retreat: One of the most popular Kaziranga hotels is the sprawling IORA - The Retreat resort, located on 20 acres of land just a couple of kilometers from the park's main entrance. Best of all, it's reasonably priced for what's provided, with amenities like a spa, swimming pool, and fitness center.
  • Diphlu River Lodge: This extravagant lodge is located about 15 minutes west of the tourist complex, and has 12 cottages on stilts overlooking the river. It's definitely a luxury stay, but the scenic views and bungalow rooms are worth the cost.
  • Wild Grass Lodge: For a reputable budget option that's popular with foreign visitors and backpackers, the Wild Grass Lodge is located in Bossagaon village, a short drive from Kohora. Its safari rates are a bit less than other similar hotels.

How to Get There

The park is situated in the state of Assam in India's Northeast region on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. It's about 220 kilometers (137 miles) from Guwahati, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Jorhat, and 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Furkating. The main entrance to the park is at Kohora on National Highway 37, where there are a Tourist Complex and booking offices.

There are airports at Guwahati (which has flights from all over India) and Jorhat (best accessed from Kolkata). Then, it's a five-hour drive from Guwahati or a two-hour drive from Jorhat, either in private taxi or public bus. Some hotels will provide pick-up services, as well.

Buses and shared vehicles to Kaziranga are available from Palthan Bazaar, near the railway station, in Guwahati. There's an airport shuttle bus that goes to Palthan Bazaar. Alternatively, multiple buses to Kaziranga depart from the Interstate Bus Terminal in Guwahati before 10 a.m. If you arrive after 10 a.m. and want to take a bus, you'll need to go to the transportation hub in the south of Guwahati at Khanapara. Buses and other shared vehicles heading to Upper Assam are readily available there. Buses from Guwahati to Kaziranga can easily be booked on Redbus.in (if you don't have an Indian card, you'll need to use Amazon Pay because foreign cards aren't accepted)

The nearest railway stations are at Jakhalabandha, one hour away (trains run there from Guwahati, take the Guwahati-Silghat Town Passenger), and Furkating (for trains from Delhi and Kolkata).

Tips for Your Visit

  • Kaziranga National Park is open daily from November to April every year, although the exact dates vary based on accessibility after the monsoon season.
  • The peak time for visiting is December and January, when the weather is most comfortable. The park gets extremely busy during the peak season and it's likely to negatively affect your experience there due to the large crowds.
  • February to early March is the best time to visit to balance out the crowds with the weather. Crowds drop off in March but the weather becomes sweltering as summer begins.
  • A week-long Kaziranga Elephant Festival, held to encourage people to save and protect elephants, takes place at the park from February 11 to 17 every year.
  • Be prepared to pay several different fees to explore Kaziranga. Apart from the park entrance fee, you'll also need to pay for a vehicle entry permit, a jeep hire, camera fees, and also for an armed guard to accompany your tour—which is required of all jeep safaris.
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Kaziranga National Park: The Complete Guide