TODAY -

In tiger territory

Kamal Baruah *



It was a lazy Saturday morning when we decided hurriedly to escape from the hustle of busy city life and go for a Jungle Safari. Immediately, I web-searched a resort and booked it online. Soon we were in our car driving down the national highway to Manas National Park. We reached Barpeta Road soon enough and it was a bumpy ride thereafter.

Bad road conditions are nothing new for us and we were not too surprised. It was worth it all as we crossed the valley through beautiful tea gardens in the evening.

As time went by, the darkness surrounded us and we felt a little jittery. We were stopped for security check but the policemen were all quite polite. Soon, we were in jungle territory, and by 8 pm, we had reached our resort. I was exhausted after four hours of driving and relieved just to collapse into bed.

The next morning, I woke me to a sound at four o’clock. I went out outside to the patio and was wonderstruck to see some beautiful peacocks loitering around the resort fences. After tea, we quickly arranged all necessities for the day.

We got into a Jeep and drove through the open meadows of the Banasbari Range. There are two other ranges but they are not well connected. Prior to the declaration of the sanctuary in 1928 and world heritage site by UNESCO in 1992, the park was used by the Coach Behar royal family as a hunting reserve.

Our Jeep kept driving into the jungle. Our driver and forest guard were very knowledgeable.

They told us about the danger of Manas. Last week, a herd of Elephants came down and they were offered lots of salt as it’s their favourite. Then on another day, Wild Water Buffalo attacked three people.

The park is known for its rare and endangered endemic wildlife. Pygmy Hogs are surviving only in the wilds of Manas. It is ideal home for Bengal Florican, the great Hornbill and also the rare Golden Langur and the Red Panda. We spotted Elephant inside an incredibly thick growth of tall elephant grasses. We saw a beautiful male deer.

The more we drive into the jungle, the denser it gets. I keenly noticed that the trees are different in different areas.

There are beautiful ‘Kopou’ flowers hanging down from almost every tree. We keep driving under the dense foliage and the sun’s warming rays are yet to reach us.

We saw trees with tigers marking and we even saw several cameras that had been installed to record tiger movements.

As we drove on, we could soon hear the gurgling sound of the Mans river. We reached the beautiful river bed at Mathanguri.

It is a trans-boundary river and a major tributary of the Brahmaputra which splits into Beki and Bholkaduba. There is a beautiful IB post on the hillock. I wonder how such isolated settlements are being guarded. We walk down to the river bed and refreshed ourselves with the clean and cold water.

While returning, we took the road alongside the river and we came across a couple of ornithologists who had come from New Zealand. There were some other Indian tourists as well; some were shooting a documentary, some clicking photographs.

At the end of south-western side, our jeep finally drove down a beautiful picnic spot and then dropped us at resort at noon. The safari was complete and it was an overwhelming experience. We had got this incredible chance to see nature at close quarters.

And whilst chances of seeing a tiger are probably slim, the experience of going through this famed tiger territory is beyond belief. At checkout time, we finally dumped our baggage into our car boot and drove back to Guwahati, with some great memories of this weekend retreat in Manas.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The author can be reached at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was posted on 24 September, 2018 .


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