Its almost in the mid of this year that I narrowed down on Kaziranga. North East had always fascinated me and one of the most famous national parks of India which is also a World Heritage Site was the obvious choice for me.
I discussed this idea with my friend Dhritiman Mukharjee,a fantastic and a very passionate photographer who has made innumerable number of trips to NE. It is he who suggested to include Nameri also in our list as it is not far from Kazi and believe me we would have really missed a wonderful place if we had not included it in our trip plan. We would like to thank WanderVogel for planning our entire trip and making arrangements so well.
After a lot of planning and few hick ups now and then,finally we three (Adithya U N, Anush Shetty and self) were sitting in BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Ltd), waiting for our flight which would take us to Guwahati via Kolkota.
A 15min delay in flight, tiring 4 hour journey in air followed by a 5 hours of journey through road made us totally tiring and we just desperately waiting for the time when we hit the bed.
We reached our resort Wild Grass at 9:00 pm. There we were greeted by a very friendly person who asked if we are from WanderVogels and took us to show us our room. Later he introduced himself as Konwar, the man who worked with Steve Winters for 8months in Kaziranga when Steve was here to photograph the Tigers of Kazi last year. Dhriti had promised me that he would arrange Konwar to us as both -Guide and driver and he kept his words! We were thrilled!
In Kaziranga jeep safari starts at 7.30AM. Plan was to go on Central range on the first morning and to Western Range in the evening.
As we entered the park, I was amazed by looking at the height of the elephant grass! I had heard and read about it but i never imagined that this specie of grass can grow this tall!! We were standing on the seat in our Gypsy but barely we could see over the top of grass. It was insanely high!
We first went to a watch tower beside a lake where we saw the first rhino of our trip. It was grazing in peace. There were some mynas and egrets around it. Needless to say that we were excited, afterall it was first time for all of us. We were unaware that we will be spending full 30min in a stalemate situation, just an hour later.
We started from watchtower after 30min and entered a semiwooded area. 'Khalij Pheasant female' Konwar whispered. It has just crossed the jeep track. 'Wait and be ready, now the all beautiful male will come out' he predicted and switched off the gypsy engine. And there it was, coming out through the ferns and bushes, carefully looking around as though he was crossing a busy national highway. He was really beautiful! This was one of the species high in my wishlist.
After a few hundred meters we saw Assam Roofed Turtles and Tent Turtles basking in the mid day sun. There were quite a number of them.
After a dip in the water for few minutes they used to climb a dead log which was in the water and allowed the body to dry. Nice little creatures they are. As there was nothing to add to the frame, along with Turtles, to make it interesting,
I decided to make images of the Turtles from behind a bush by finding a small opening through which I can see them in the frame and rest of the frame filling with the foliage around. I found this technique producing some interesting results.
It was almost 11.00 by the time we started from there and the next patch of landscape was again the tall elephant grassland. There were distant calls from Crested Serpent Eagle and Pallas Fish Eagle and we have sighted the first Pallas Eagle in flight, quite far off.
As we were moving slowly, Konwar stopped the Gypsy. There was a huge female Rhino standing on the road ahead. She was massive and was having her pre-lunch snacks! :) As soon as she saw our vehicle she became alert. No need to say it was ditto on our part as well. Rhinos are known for charging and in Africa more deaths are reported from Rhino charge than any other animal! Thats the reason why the Forest Dept sends an armed guard with each of the safari jeep.
After seeing us she adjusted her position and now she was standing completely facing our jeep. Konwar had already shut the engine down. For the next 20 min no move from that side and no move from this as well.
Gypsies after gypsies gathered behind us. There were almost 10 vehicles behind us (Thanks to the weekend crowd). Konwar decided to try taking our gypsy a little further and see if she goes away because of our approach. But as soon as she moved the jeep for coupe of feet, the Rhino came charging for few steps and stopped! Konwar dint take further chances as the massive had made its statement clear - "STAY AWAY!".
After few more minutes of stalemate, the forest guard prepared his gun to fire in air. The lady was now standing right across the road. Then the gun fired! Now she knew what she has to do! She just ran into the thick elephant grass. It was an experience to remember!
It was approaching 12:00 as we headed towards the entrance. A lone Grey Headed Fish eagle was watching us leaving the Central Zone of the park from distance...