One of the best opportunities you’ll have of seeing a one-horned rhinoceros in India is by visiting Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. With the highest concentration in India, it’s unlikely that you’ll miss the chance to see these gentle and rare giants in the wild.
At only 38 square kilometers in size, it’s possible to see most of the park in a short visit. The park is bounded by the Garagal Beel pond and the mighty Brahmaputra River.
Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the state of Assam just 40 kilometers from Guwahati, 40 kilometers from Morigaon town and 270 kilometers from Jorhat. Its proximity to Guwahati makes it a popular day-trip or weekend visit.
Pobitora is accessible by road 35 kilometers from Jagiroad off National Highway 37. The park is located just off the main road. It’s a tiny town so the park entrance is hard to miss.
Guwahati is well serviced by its airport that has flights from all over India, or alternatively you can fly into Jorhat from Kolkata or Shillong. From Guwahati, it’s only about an hour’s drive to Pobitora in a private taxi.
We traveled by private taxi that was organized by tour company Kipepeo at a cost of 2,000 rupees per day for a small vehicle. The nearest railway station is Jagiroad which is about an hour and a half away from Pobitora.
There are many trains a day that stop there from Guwahati, as it’s a big stop on the well-traversed route across Assam.
Local buses also stop near Pobitora on their way from Jagiroad and Morigaon.
When to Visit
Pobitora is open for visitors all year round, but the best time to visit is between November and April when it’s more temperate. It’s a relatively quiet park, so it’s good to visit any time, although perhaps best avoid the Guwahati day-trippers on weekends.
From November to February, it can be a bit chilly in the evening but the sun usually comes out during the day. After April the rising temperatures make it rather uncomfortable during the day.
Pobitora has the highest density of one-horned rhinos in India, and while not as large as the more famous Kaziranga National Park, it’s one of the best places to site these magnificent beasts. At 38 square kilometers it’s also an easy park to see in a relatively short period of time. In one hour you’re almost guaranteed to sight more than one rhino, as well as other wildlife like buffalo and wild boar.
The waterside location also makes the park an ornithologist’s treat, with over 86 species of birds present. Some are migratory birds, while others are local residents like the Grey-hooded Warbler and the White-vented Myna. Some species close to extinction also frequent Pobitora including Nordmann’s Greenshank and the Greater Adjutant.
The park is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, with the best time to visit being between November and April.
Entrance Fees and Charges
A jeep safari costs 850 rupees for one hour, while elephant safaris are 450 rupees (for Indians) and 1,000 rupees (for foreigners), with entrance fees and charges to the park additional.
Entrance fees are 50 rupees (Indian) and 500 rupees (foreigners), and if traveling by jeep the vehicle will cost an additional 300 rupees. There are additional charges for still and video cameras, with prices starting at 50 rupees (for still cameras).
It’s possible to see rhinos without even entering the park, albeit from a distance. Just go past the turnoff to the park and drive through the town and over the bridge. You’ll be surrounding by rice paddies, and in the distance to your left you may just see a rhino or five. We saw a few here although the chance of seeing one at close range is much more likely within the actual park.
Where to Stay
There aren’t too many options for accommodations in Pobitora, with only two places to choose from.
We stayed at the Arya Eco Resort, and were the only people occupying one of their four rooms.
Don’t let the name fool you though, there’s not much “Eco” about the “Resort”, from the faux log cabins to the male staff standing around watching our every move but offering little in the way of service. Less than 100 meters away from the entrance of the park, it’s functional though, albeit a bit pricey at 2,530 rupees per room.
The staff were less than helpful in organizing a safari, but it’s easy enough to do on your own. Just wonder down towards the entrance gate and hire a jeep and driver from the many standing around the lot. The first jeeps leave at 7 a.m. and keep going until 3 p.m. each day.
Alternative accommodation can be found across the road at Maibong Resort. It’s a larger complex and a bit older, with cottages starting from 1,600 rupees a night.