Gibbon, Kaziranga & Nameri National Park

Summary:
We went on a weeklong trip to Assam in March 2015 covering Kaziranga National Park, Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary and the Nameri National Park. During the trip, we managed to spot over 120 bird species, 14 mammal species and 27 butterfly species.

Travel Dates: 02 March 2015 – 10 March 2015

Location covered:
Kaziranga National Park
Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary
Nameri National Park

Interstate Travel:
Delhi – Guwahati: By Air
Guwahati – Delhi: By Air

Accommodation:
Kaziranga National Park: Aranya Tourist Lodge
This place is run by the Assam Tourism Development Corporation and is a typical government run property located close to the Kohora range. Rooms are ok and housekeeping is available on demand.
Food selection is limited, but decent.
Address:
Aranya Tourist Lodge
Kohora, Kaziranga National Park,
Dist: Golaghat, Assam (India)
Pin: 785609
Phone: +91-3776-262429

Nameri National Park: Nameri Eco Camp, Potasali
This is the best place to stay if visiting the Nameri National Park. Accommodation option is tents or cottages. Not much of a difference between the two. We stayed in tents and found it to be comfortable. The attached bathroom is concrete and gives you adequate privacy.
Phone:
+91-985 401 9932
+91-371 429 2644

Bird Guide:
We were fortunate enough to have Rustom as our birding companion, a local Manas villager who knows jungle life in and out. He is a walking encyclopedia of birds and can blindfolded pinpoint the location of a 10 cm bird 100 meters away. We were simply blown away by his knowledge and spotting techniques.
Spending a few days birding with Rustom will surely give you a new perceptive on birds, wildlife and conservation issues.
Rustom: 0789 694 6621

Kaziranga Gypsy Drivers: There are tons of gypsy drivers at Kaziranga. Just go to the Association office and book a Gypsy. Most of the Gypsy drivers are excellent wildlife spotters as well. However, at times, you may get someone who is working part time. We went on Safari’s with the following drivers and found them to be knowledgeable.
Maheswar: 0970 784 5888
Biju: 0801 161 7194/0801 184 5029
We also used a taxi to take us to the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, the Burapahar range and dropping us at the Nameri National Park. The taxi driver’s name was Babulal (096 781 63397). He did not know anything about wildlife but proved to be a safe driver and was always on time.

02 March 2015 : Day 1
We reached Guwahati by 1030 Hrs and were met by Rustom at the airport itself. As per the plan, we quickly drove to the Guwahati landfill to see the Greater Adjutants. These mighty birds are mainly scavengers so spotting them in the landfill was pretty easy. After taking a few pictures, we commenced our journey to Kaziranga.
While driving to Kaziranga, we spotted several Lesser Adjutants nesting on tree tops, but sadly, no Greater Adjutants.
Closer to Kaziranga, we saw couple of One-horned Rhinoceros from the Highway itself.

03 March 2015 : Day 2
We left for Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary at 4 in the morning hoping to witness the Gibbons perform their early morning singing ritual. We reached by 6 in the morning and after acquiring the necessary permits at the check post, entered the sanctuary along with Barua, the forest guard.
In the next one hour, we encountered many Capped Langurs and Black Giant Squirrels; but that was it; even after being in the forest for one hour, there was no sign of the Western Hoolock Gibbon.
A sighting of a Red-headed Trogon pair somewhat lifted our sagging spirits and we kept moving deeper into the forest.
By 8 in the morning, Barua, the forest guard was also losing hope, trying to pacify us explaining that the Gibbons sing only once in a few days.
And then it happened…..the quiet of the morning was suddenly broken by the faint, but distinctive calls of gibbon duets. As soon as one gibbon family started the duet, another gibbon family started their duet from another part of the forest. Soon, the whole forest was reverberating with their calls. It was an amazing feeling that cannot be described in words.
Barua got excited and mentioned that if we had to see the gibbons, it was now, but for that we had to cover more than 2 km of forest. We all decided to run.
Barua led from the front, running with his rifle followed by Anjana with her Camera and then it was me and Rustom running behind them. There was no time to go via the marked trail; we simply cut through the forest, running through the undergrowth, jumping over fallen trees, ducking under the low hanging branches.
While running through the forest, we crossed a small clearing that was being used by the Army. They thought that we were being chased by a wild animal and drew their weapons fearing for the worst. We had no time, just briefly explained them that we were after the Gibbon calls; the Commanding officer was intrigued and decided to follow us with his twelve member section.
After about another 10 minutes of running, we managed to spot the Gibbons.
Oh wow, it was an amazing sight. The best part was that the Gibbons did not mind our company. They were busy singing and swinging from one tree to another; marking their territory. We all including the Colonel were enthralled by the gibbon performance. The sighting lasted for over thirty minutes and we kept following the gibbons from one tree to another. Finally, they stopped singing and gradually moved deeper into the forest.


We also decided to catch our breath and the colonel asked two of his men to get some water and tea from the base camp. While having tea, the colonel kept laughing and tried to explain how amused he was to see a bunch of civilians blasting out of the forest and running as if there is no tomorrow. The colonel told us that he recently took charge of this location and hadn’t seen much of wildlife; so it was nice fun for him to run along with a bunch of crazy wildlife lovers.
After finishing tea, we commenced our trek back to the main forest trail. While walking, Anjana noticed some unusual looking flowers and started to take pictures. But then, the flowers started to crawl and we soon realized that these were no flowers, but insects. Our later research reveled that these were Plant hoppers (Flatidae).


Further ahead, we encountered another family of Gibbons. But this time, they were just relaxing and very quiet. Nothing close to what we had witnessed in the morning.
We highly recommend to give yourself enough opportunities to see them sing and swing; it’s an experience of a lifetime. Seeing them relaxing is just like any other normal sighting.
Apart from the mammals and birds, the forest was teaming with a lot of butterflies as well and we managed to spot 23 butterfly species during the course of the day.

We returned to Kaziranga by 5 PM and after having a cup of tea at Aranya Lodge, walked down to the nearby Kohora Range Office to obtain a permit for the next morning Elephant Safari.

04 March 2015 : Day 3
We went on a morning Elephant Safari at the Kohora Range with an aim to spot the Bengal Florican. We informed the Mahout of our intent and asked him to take us to another part of the grassland. Unfortunately, we could not spot the Bengal Florican; nevertheless the elephant safari was fun.
Later during the day, we undertook two jeep safaris into the forest, one at the Kohora Range and another one at the Agaratoli Range. Birding at Agaratoli was great we managed to spot plenty of lifers.

05 March 2015 : Day 4
We spent the entire day trekking at the Kukurakata Reserve forest. We reached the entry check post at around 0800 Hrs and a Forest Guard accompanied us into the forest.
Birding was great and a Hornbill pair was always around feeding on fruits high up the canopy. They would fly from one tree to another; captivating us with the magical whooshing sound whenever they flew by.  However, we could not get a good view of them due to the thick canopy.
Anyways, other birds kept us busy and after trekking for around 2 hours, we reached an Anti poaching camp and were invited by the guards to join them for a cup of tea. We had some great conversation with the guards on their life, the anti poaching activities etc.


After spending some time at the camp and the surrounding fields, we started our trek back. It was noon by then and bird activity had reduced dramatically. So we doubled up our pace hoping to squeeze in an evening Jeep Safari.
However, a few minutes into the hike, we noticed a huge colorful bird perched on a treetop some distance away. We all slowed down and very quietly approached the bird. Soon we realized that it was a Wreathed Hornbill pair, most likely the same one that was heard feeding during the morning time. Guess, they were done with their breakfast and were just relaxing now. Since they seemed relaxed, we decided to get some eye level shots and climbed atop a nearby hill. Luckily, the birds did not even move and we managed to get some nice pictures.

06 March 2015 : Day 5
To maximize wildlife sighting, we always plan for an extra day while visiting any National Park. And today was that extra day.
We ended up doing two additional safaris during the day and it did not disappoint us.
During the evening safari, while just driving aimlessly, we saw two rhinos fighting. The rhinos seemed aggressive and the fight was turning pretty bloody. Hence, we maintained a safe distance, but then the losing rhino decided to give us a charge. The rhino came as close as 5 meters from us, but luckily for us, decided to retreat after that. It was scary, but at the same time real exciting.

07 March 2015 : Day 6
We left for Nameri at 4 in the morning reaching by around 0600 Hrs. As soon as we reached the Eco Camp, we simply dumped our baggage and went straight for birding.
From the Eco Camp, it is a two km walk to reach the Jia Bhoroli river from where we took a boat to get to the other side.
About half way down the trek, we crossed ways with a group of Pune Birders who informed us that they just saw the White-winged Duck. While we felt great for the Pune birders, it was apparent that the secretive duck would have changed location by now. We basically missed it by 30 minutes!!!!
Still, during the day, we managed to spot many lifers and returned to the Eco Camp only by evening.

08 March 2015 : Day 7
The plan was to go river rafting today to try our luck spotting the Ibisbill. However, the Eco Camp guys informed us that the list was long and we would not get a chance to raft before noon. So we decided to do a quick round of the National Park and then go for rafting.
We returned from our hike by noon and were told that no one could spot the Ibisbill during the morning session.
We still went ahead for rafting reaching the launch site by 1300 Hrs. At around 1430 Hrs, Rustom spotted a pair of Ibisbill and we managed to get some nice views of the bird.

09 March 2015 : Day 8
We spent another day at Nameri hiking and hoping to spot the White-winged Duck; but the duck eluded us today as well.

10 March 2015 : Day 9
Before leaving for the Guwahati Airport, we gave another try at spotting the White-winged Duck, but it was not going to happen.
Hopefully, we shall be back in Nameri trying our luck finding the White-winged Duck.

For a list of birds and mammals spotted during this trip, please check out our birdlist and mammal list.
Please feel free to ask us any question that you may have on the locations mentioned on this blog.
Travel safe..

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