We spent a week at the Manas National Park in the expert company of Rustom. The park is beautifully set in the backdrop of the Himalayas and is a blend of grasslands and dry deciduous forests. It is breathtaking to witness the land transform from a dense forest to grassland within a few minutes of drive. Due to this, there is an amazing variety of birdlife ranging from grassland species like the Bengal Florican to forest birds like broadbills.
Travel Dates: 26 Feb 2016 – 02 March 2016
Manas National Park
Kakoijana Reserve Forest
Delhi – Guwahati: By Air
Guwahati – Delhi: By Air
Kaklabari Range: Thobgang Manas Jungle Tourist Camp
This place is run by the Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism society. Rooms are clean and hygienic. Food is simple, but delicious. Moreover, you end up contributing to the community. However, this is not a resort with fancy meal options.
Bansbari Range: Birina Eco Camp
This is a typical guest house that we find next to National Parks. They offer both cottages and rooms. We opted for a standard room; was basic, but large and clean. Food is average quality.
Phone: +91-96 130 49 142
Rustom Basumatary: Rustom is one of the most honest, sincere and down to earth naturalist we have ever come across. He was born in Manas and knows the landscape inside out. He is also an integral part of the Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society and a very strong motivating force to the youth of the area. Having spent quite some time with him in the Assam forests, we feel as if he can speak to the forests.
Rustom: 0789 694 6621
26 Feb 2016: Day 1 (Kaklabari Range)
We landed at the Guwahati Airport at around 10 AM and proceeded to the Manas National Park, reaching by around 12 noon. Rustom had booked our stay at the eastern most limit of the National park, Thobgang Manas Jungle Tourist Camp, operated by the Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism society. This is exactly what we wanted, a simple stay, next to the forest and far away from the crowed resorts.
After a quick lunch, Rustom took us on a short walk in the forest. During the course of the evening, we spotted many birds like the Black-tailed Crake, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Spangled Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Black-naped Monarch, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Striated Grassbird, Rufous Woodpecker and while returning, were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of a Blue-naped Pitta.
The moment it got dark, fireflies emerged illuminating the entire path that led to our campsite. It was a magical experience and we spent the entire evening watching the fireflies and re-living our childhood.
27 Feb 2016: Day 2 (Kaklabari – Doimari – Rupahi – Kaklabari)
Rustom picked us up at 6 in the morning and we drove towards the Doimari Forest Camp birding en-route. While having breakfast at a makeshift camp, we got lucky and spotted a flock of Chestnut-capped Babblers. Other birds spotted during the early morning hours were the Savanna Nightjar, Plain Flowerpecker, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Crimson Sunbird, Ashy-headed Green Pigeon, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Savanna Nightjar, Sultan Tit, Jerdon’s Baza, a flock of Rufous-necked Laughingthrush among others.
We reached the Doimari Forest Camp by 11 in the morning. While the guards prepared lunch, we decided to explore the adjoining forests and trekked along the dried riverbed till we touched Bhutan. However, it was already noon and the bird movement had reduced significantly, so we decided to head back to the forest camp.
After lunch, we observed Rustom and the guards eating some fruits from a nearby tree. When we checked out, we realized that it was “Baheda”. Soon, Rustom pointed us to a “Harad” tree, and then to an “Amla” tree. We were amazed to see the three most important ingredients of Ayurved naturally growing next to each other. Guess this is the nature’s way to keep us healthy.
After lunch, we drove towards the central part of the National Park and stopped at the Rupahi Watch Tower to try our luck at spotting the Bengal Florican. Soon enough, Rustom spotted the birds and we spent almost one hour observing them.
While returning from Rupahi, Rustom picked up a call from the grassland and signaled the driver to stop. We waited patiently and after almost half n hour, a Black-breasted Parrotbill emerged from the grassland giving us just enough time to document it.
After this exciting encounter, we proceeded towards the campsite and on the way encountered several Large-tailed Nightjars along the path.
28 Feb 2016: Day 3 (Kaklabari and Bhutan)
We spent the morning at the abandoned Kaklabari seed farm and were fortunate enough to spot the Bengal Florican from close quarters.
From here, Rustom took us towards Bhutan via the NH 152. Being a Sunday, the villagers from Bhutan were arriving in large numbers onto the Indian side to buy groceries from the weekend market. It was exciting to witness this amazing cultural entwinement.
We came back to our campsite for lunch and before heading back to the forest, a Slaty-backed Flycatcher and a Daurian Redstart were spotted in the campsite.
Later in the day, we drove towards a dried riverbed in the buffer zone of the park. It was painful to see illegal sand mining taking place on the river bed. However, from a birding point of view, we did encounter birds like the Hodgson’s Redstart, Eurasian Thick-knee among others.
29 Feb 2016: Day 4 (Kaklabari – Mothanguri – Bansbari)
We packed our bags and left early morning driving towards the Mothanguri Forest Guest House via the forest trail. During the course of the morning, we encountered several birds like the Barred Cuckoo Dove, Emerald Dove, Speckled Piculet among others.
We reached Mothanguri by 11 AM and spent a few hours just watching a Goosander feeding in the river.
After Lunch, we went further ahead from Mothanguri and luckily spotted a Collared Falconet and a Black-backed Forktail.
After birding for a while in the Mothanguri area, we started our drive towards the Bansbari entrance and reached the Birina Eco Camp only by nightfall. Some of the birds spotted on this route were Kalij Pheasant, Red Junglefowl, Great Hornbill, Green Imperial Pigeon, Red-headed Trogon, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Pin-striped Tit Babbler among others.
01 March 2016: Day 5 (Kakoijana Reserve Forest)
Today, we drove to the Kakoijana Reserve forest with an aim to spot the Golden Langurs. We had heard that locating Golden Langurs can be tricky as they keep on moving around. Fortunately for us, when we arrived, the Langurs were in the vicinity of a village and the villagers were happy enough to point out where they had seen them the last time. We quickly hiked to the said area and spotted a troupe of Golden Langurs hanging around.
Rustom informed us that a community based initiative had ensured that this isolated population survives. Later Rustom’s friend invited us to his home and treated us to some delicious homemade sweets.
However, while relishing on the delicious sweets, our discussion kept going back to the unfortunate reality of the mindless habitat fragmentation and destruction that is causing immense pressure on the survival of these magnificent langurs. It is heartbreaking that wherever we go in India, it is the same story. At the same time, it is highly commendable when people of the land wake up and take up conservation as their primary goal.
We returned to Manas by late afternoon and squeezed another forest drive to try our luck and spot a few more birds.
02 March 2016: Day 6 (Bansbari Range)
The morning drive proved to be exceptionally fruitful for us. It yielded species like the Silver-breasted Broadbill, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Pygmy Wren Babbler, White-rumped Shama, Pale-chinned Flycatcher, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher among others.
In the afternoon, we left for Guwahati to catch our evening flight back to Delhi.
Please feel free to ask us any question that you may have on the locations mentioned on this blog.