Kaziranga National Park Safari – Meeting the Greater One-Horned Rhino
A Kaziranga National Park safari is without a doubt one of the most exciting things to do in Assam (together with visiting the lovely Majuli island). With two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos calling Kaziranga their home, and the park being one of the more accessible national parks in North East India, a Kaziranga National Park safari with the possibility of spotting the one-horned rhino, is very easy to organize independently.
Transport from Guwahati to Kaziranga, or from Jorhat to Kaziranga is readily available, and with several resorts in Kaziranga as well as other means of accommodation, spotting the one-horned rhino (or perhaps a tiger!) during a Kaziranga National Park safari, is certainly one of the best things to do in Assam.
A Kaziranga National Park safari, can be organized on one of two types of transportation – a jeep safari or an elephant safari. We do not approve of riding elephants, nor do we encourage it, not in Kaziranga nor anywhere else, so of course we will only write about the jeep safari, which was a perfectly good way to tour the park. There’s really no benefit or need to ride elephants, and thus we will not provide information about elephant safaris in this blog post.
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Kaziranga National Park and the Greater One-Horned Rhino
Kaziranga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to the world’s largest number of one-horned rhino, which is the biggest draw for many visitors. The park has also been declared a tiger reserve due to the increasing (yet very elusive) population of tigers, whilst many other species such as elephants, deer and buffalo can also be found grazing or roaming around the marshland and elephant grass.
Whilst on a Kaziranga National Park safari, it is very easy to spot a one horned-rhino (or several), but not only, as the park is blessed with a myriad of other species roaming around. Indeed, a Kaziranga National Park safari is a major attraction in the region and also one of the most popular things to do in Assam, with many domestic tourists traveling from other parts of India to Kaziranga in the hope of spotting the greater one-horned rhino.
There are four regions within the Kaziranga National Park, Assam which you can visit on a safari – the Central Range, the Western Range, the Eastern Range and Burhapahar Range. Different fees apply at every range (more on that below). The ranges are distinctive, and each range will provide a different experience.
The Central Range at Kohora is considered to be the most accessible and is easily the most popular range with visitors to Kaziranga National Park. The Western Range is known for having the highest density of rhinos, whilst the Eastern Range is popular with bird enthusiasts. There are allocated time periods during which you can go on a Kaziranga National Park safari by jeep: 7.30am until 11am in the morning, and 2pm until 4.30pm in the afternoon.
How to get to Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Kaziranga National Park, Assam, is readily accessible from different parts of the state, via either public or private transportation.
Here’s how to get from Guwahati to Kaziranga and from Jorhat to Kaziranga.
Guwahati to Kaziranga
Kaziranga National Park is located approximately 200km away from Guwahati, Assam’s state capital, the gateway to most of the destinations in Northeast India. Getting from Guwahati to Kaziranga is very easy since ASTC (Assam State Transport Corporation) buses ply the Guwahati to Kaziranga route several times a day, taking approximately 4-6 hours to arrive at the park. You can enquire for timings within the ASTC counter in Paltan Bazaar (opposite the Guwahati train station), Guwahati.
Other buses headed to different parts of eastern Assam will also drop you at Kaziranga National Park. You should stop at Kohora market, which is located directly opposite the park entrance. If your Kaziranga National Park hotel or resort is located at some distance from the park entrance, you can either stop closer to your accommodation of choice, or get a rickshaw or tempo from Kohora market to one of the resorts at Kaziranga.
Jorhat to Kaziranga
Traveling from Jorhat to Kaziranga is just as easy as traveling from Guwahati to Kaziranga. Distances and travel times are shorter since Kaziranga National Park is located approximately 100km from Jorhat. It is easy to find a bus heading from Jorhat to Guwahati at the Jorhat main bus station, which will drop you at Kohora market directly in front of the entrance to Kaziranga National Park.
If you are traveling to Kaziranga National Park from or to Majuli island via Jorhat, you can find transportation details here. It is possible to travel from Kaziranga to Majuli (or vice-versa) on the same day without an overnight stop at Johrat, if you time your journey well.
Kaziranga National Park hotels and Resorts at Kaziranga
When we were looking online for Kaziranga National Park hotels and resorts at Kaziranga, we realized that most accommodation options were way beyond our budget! Luckily, we came across Aranya Tourist Lodge, a government-managed lodge located right inside the park (about 1km from the entrance directly opposite Kohora market) with very affordable prices and great rooms!
Since Aranya was one of the cheapest resorts at Kaziranga we came across, we expected small rooms and poor service, so we were more than delighted when we were shown to a very large room, complete with balcony, air-conditioning and a spacious bathroom. At around Rs 1520 (approximately €19) a night, this was by far the best value for money accommodation we could find when compared to other Kaziranga National Park hotels and resorts at Kaziranga.
You can contact Aranya Tourist Lodge on +91 3776 262 429 or +91 9957 058 746 (manager’s phone), or you can book other resorts at Kaziranga here.
How to organize a Kaziranga National Park Safari
During our stay at Kaziranga National Park, we noticed that many tourists (most of whom were domestic rather than foreigners) were in Kaziranga as part of a package tour or were traveling in rather large groups. We were worried that it would be daunting to go on a Kaziranga National Park safari independently.
However, we found that an independent safari was perfectly possible, without the need of too much forward planning. For starters, you first need to decide whether you want to go on an elephant safari or a jeep safari. We can’t stress this enough, but we do not encourage riding elephants, so we will not post much details about that here. We observed that many visitors were going on an elephant safari in the morning followed by a jeep safari in the afternoon.
You also need to decide which range you would like to visit. We had already decided to go on just one jeep safari during our time in Kaziranga National Park due to time and budget constraints (although you can go on several). We therefore chose to go to the Central Range, which is the most popular part of the park with visitors. We had heard that there was a good chance of spotting rhinos here, and perhaps even a tiger, so we were hoping to get lucky!
If you would like to share a jeep with other people to cut down on costs, you should turn up at the jeep safari office early morning. The counter is located a five-minute walk away from Aranya Tourist Lodge, in front of the BSNL office. You can ask the employees at the counter whether they have any requests from other people who would like to share a jeep, or you can ask around to check whether other people are looking to share a jeep.
We must have spent 30 minutes waiting for other people who wanted to share a jeep to turn up, but nobody did! It seems that many of the Kaziranga National Park safaris had been pre-organised by tour operators and few people were traveling there independently. We are quite certain that had we waited longer, we would have eventually found other people with whom to share a jeep, but after 30 minutes, we were good to go, so we decided to rent out the whole jeep ourselves.
There is no particular advantage in having a jeep for two people versus sharing with other people, when going on a Kaziranga National Park safari – we were just tired of waiting! So, our advice is to wait longer if you have the time and patience and would like to cut down on the costs!
Kaziranga National Park Fees
A Kaziranga National Park safari is not really a budget-friendly activity, though we do feel that every rupee was well-spent, and that the experience should not be missed! Here are the fees as of November 2018:
Jeep Rates in Kaziranga National Park (rate per jeep, can be shared by up to 6 people)
Central Range – Rs 1,750 (about €21.50)
Western Range – Rs 1,850 (about €23)
Eastern Range – Rs 2,250 (about €27.80)
Burhapahar Range – Rs 2,750 (about €34)
Other Entry Fees in Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Entry fee for foreigners – Rs 650 (about €8). Rs 100 (about €1.25) for Indians.
Road Tax (per jeep) – Rs 300 (about €3.75)
Welfare Society fee (per jeep) – Rs 100 (about €1.25)
Camera (movie) – Rs 1,000 (about €12.50)
Camera (still) – Rs 200 (about €2.50). Rs 100 (€1.25) for Indians.
Our total cost (as a couple) came up to Rs 3,650 (about €45) which included a jeep to the Central Range, entry fees for two, road tax, welfare society fee and camera fee.
This could have been reduced to Rs 2,216 (about €27.50) per couple, had we shared the jeep with four other people.
The total cost would be lower for Indian nationals since the entry fees are lower than those charged to foreigners.
What you can expect on a Kaziranga National Park Safari
Once we had booked our Kaziranga jeep safari and paid all the fees, we were good to go! Nikki and I were accompanied by a driver and guide. We first made our way to the entrance to the Central Range, which was the part of Kaziranga National Park which we would explore on this safari, at which point our permits were checked by some guards. They also asked the guide how many cameras we were carrying and double checked his response against the permit.
Once the guards were satisfied that our documents were in order, we were let in. At this point we can tell you that we did NOT manage to spot the very elusive tiger during our two-hour long safari much to our disappointment. Sightings are not very common, though the noticeboard at the hotel indicated that one lucky guy had managed to see a tiger at the Central Range on the previous day!
The route taken at the Kaziranga National Park Safari in the Central Range was longer than we had anticipated – probably a good 2.5 hours long. The experience was immensely interesting, and rather relaxing we thought! We got to see lots of rhinos, wild buffalo, lots of bird species including pelicans, wild deer, wild boar and of course, elephants.
We actually found the safari to be pleasant and cheerful, an experience we highly recommend, especially if you would like to observe different animal species in their natural habitat. Our guide was constantly pointing out different flora and fauna and handed us an elephant apple after we expressed curiosity about it (do not try to eat it raw – it is pretty disgusting, as we later found out when we cut it open in our room!)
Where to eat at Kaziranga National Park
We ate our dinners at Arnanya Tourist Lodge right where we were staying. We were requested to place our dinner order a couple of hours beforehand and our food would be served as soon as we sat down at our table. Prices were a little high when compared to places outside the Park, however convenience was more of a priority in this case.
Stalls at Kohora market sell plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and a little place just outside the market serves some pretty tasty Indian fast food. We also had some momos from a stand just a few meters down from our accommodation and purchased water from a little shop besides it.
All in all, we found Kaziranga National Park safari to be pretty pricey when compared to other activities in India, nevertheless definitely worth doing. The Kaziranga National Park hotels and resorts at Kaziranga tend to be expensive, although government-managed Aranya Tourist Lodge was within our budget, and getting to Kaziranga by public transport is very easy.
If you’re in Northeast India, be sure to put Kaziranga, one of the best places to visit in Assam, on your itinerary!