Elephant Safari in Kaziranga - should one opt for it?
Elephant safari in Kaziranga – should one opt for it? For many people, embarking on an elephant safari might be the most thrilling experience, ever. But there are two important facts to consider before you ride on an elephant’s back. First, exploring the wild on an elephant’s back may not be a comfortable proposition by any standards. It is very stressful for your back. The second is an important ethical issue, God did not design the spinal cords of elephants for safaris or carrying weight. Elephants can withstand a maximum weight of 150 kilograms and that too on its neck, the place where the mahout sits. Any weight beyond that may cause serious harm and cause permanent damage to the animal. Surely no one travels to hurt any animal.
But Elephant Safari in Kaziranga National Park continues to be a huge attraction for visitors here, which is sad by any standards. Jeep Safari on the contrary offers much more value for money. Because of concerns raised by animal rights activists, and rightfully so, the authorities have limited the frequency and duration of the safaris. This has led to a gap in the supply and demand ratio, which often results in unsavoury incidents, led by irate visitors, early in the morning, which might leave a sour taste in the mouth. There are just two shifts of 45 minutes each starting at 5:00 in the morning and oversleeping will lead to an automatic cancellation with no scope for any refunds. It is always prudent to be up and ready by 4:30 am and hop on to the vehicles for the transfer to the elephant boarding point.
Elephant Safari in Kaziranga - the sensation
The first sensation as one enters the park would be the all-pervading sweet coarse smell of the forests radiating from all around. As the elephant trudges into the unknown grasslands, slicing through the thick layers of fog, a sense of uncertainty and self-doubt creeps in, not knowing what lies ahead. But that would be momentary, for new dawn would start breaking on the far horizon, and the mesmerizing sight feels almost surreal. The sight of the first rays of the sun filtering through vast expanses of grasslands with animals in the foreground is a sight to reminisce about. But even before one can recoup from this almost unreal spectacle unveiled by nature’s pristine theatre, an altogether different world opens up – a world of a mother rhino and her calf grazing in the grasslands with quiet abandon.
The stunning Kaziranga landscape
The stunning Kaziranga landscape all around during the elephant safari is like wafting through a sweet dream. The Hog Deer’s would gather far away and cast fleeting glances at the new intruders into their space, ready to flee at the slightest trace of provocation. Asiatic Water Buffalo’s by the side of the Beel (water bodies in Assamese) would stir from their overnight slumber to start a new day. As if on cue, the cries of flying waterbirds would resonate in the air as if annoyed by the uninvited presence of strangers. Towards the far end of the Beel, the Swamp Deer’s loiter around aimlessly, oblivious to everything around them. Such images stir up emotions deep down in the soul’s abyss, emotions which one didn’t know even existed. A common emotion during such times would be to consider the life of a careless drifter like these animals – at peace within and out. But then one has to brush aside such thoughts as the elephant inches closer to rhinos. Involuntarily, one would fumble for their smartphones, trying to freeze these close wildlife encounters. These are the moments when realization dawns on owning a digital camera.
A silent prayer
The amazing sights of Kaziranga incite different emotions in different people. An excited wife, for instance, might exclaim that had it not been for her persistent nagging, this experience wouldn’t have materialized. A typical emotion for yet some other people would be a silent prayer to the Gods above for these innocent creatures and their dreamlike habitats. Alternatively, someone else would curse at the human caprice that destroyed the beautiful forest covers and continues to do so. And, for some, this the moment to resolve to join and strengthen the fight against the destruction of nature. The daybreak offers a path to another bright day, and one can’t help feeling blessed to be a part of this amazing world.