BOAT SAFARI IN KAZIRANGA
Very few visitors to Kaziranga would have heard about the boat safari here, let alone be on one. The basic reason for that is the fact that this safari is available only in the Eastern range (Agoratoli) of the park. This range is less frequented by tourists and finds patronage only with the avid wild-lifers and as a consequence, many visitors miss out on this exhilarating experience. But notwithstanding anything, this safari has everything to offer, starting from adventure to culture to bird watching to the breathtaking scenic beauty of the Brahmaputra to exotic wildlife. But most importantly, this safari reveals the secret to the origin of Kaziranga – the role of the Brahmaputra in shaping this magnificent bio-diversity through its flood waters. Moreover, the sheer idea of exploring the park from its northern fringes on a boat through the Brahmaputra is enough to excite one’s imagination.
TIMINGS AND COST
This safari, conducted by Agoratoli Resort has a free timing, unlike the other safaris in Kaziranga and can start anytime during the day, provided there is visibility on the river. Lasting an hour and a half, the safari costs Rs. 600 per head subject to a minimum of five people. However, one would require a four-wheel vehicle to maneuver the way to Dhansirimukh – the anchor point of the boat, costing Rs. 1500 for a round trip.
The adventure quotient of the safari starts from the moment one reaches the embankment which borders the southern boundary of the eastern flank of the park. This embankment which at first sight seems a dirt track racing patch is the lifeline of the Mising Community with their settlements spread on both its sides. The Misings are the only riparian community in Assam and nothing describes their lifestyle better than their colorful weaves and their dwelling units. The main characteristics of their houses spread on both sides of the embankment are the raised stilt platforms made of bamboo, known as Chang-Ghars. And, sitting prominently in front of every household would be their hand-looms with an amazing spattering of colors.
Subsequently, the embankment through the Mising settlement curves down to a wide open field, unveiling a sea of yellow, for the mustard’s would have ripened to full bloom. As the jeep moves through the fields towards the banks of the Dhansiri, the alluvial nature of the soil becomes prominent – a reminder to the visitors of the crucial role the flood waters of the river plays on the life of these people as well as shape the contours of Kaziranga.
As one approaches the boat, the young Mising guys would lower a wooden plank to the bank to enable the visitors on-board. As the boat starts to move downstream towards the confluence with the Brahmaputra, carefully maneuvering away from the finishing nets and the sand bars, a pod of dolphins would emerge out of nowhere. The Brahmaputra provides a wonderful habitat for the endangered Gangetic Water Dolphins. The acrobats of these water mammals in sync with the movement of the boat is a joy to watch and is a sure shot guarantee to cool any nervous minds.
On a sunny day, one is sure to come across a bale of turtles sunbathing atop fallen branches of trees on the water. The Bengal Monitor Lizards similarly bask in the sun with their massive bodies belying their agility. The banks and the sandbars would be full of water birds ranging from plovers to curlews to sandpipers, pied Kingfishers, and cormorants. Herd of elephants coming down the banks for water is a very common sight. However, the icing on the cake is the sight of a Royal Bengal Tiger lying lazily on the banks or swimming across to the sandbars. But then this sight is not an everyday affair, though the sightings are increasing day by day.
As the sun begins to set on the far horizon, a plethora of unbelievable colors light up the sky and the water beneath. The return journey is sure to take one’s breath away and keep the shutterbugs real busy. A sense of peace descends on one’s mind as the boat approaches the bank with a quiet satisfaction of a day well spent.