Sunday, February 14, 2016


The star attraction at Kaziranaga National Park: The Indian one horned rhino. The park is said to contain about two thirds of the world's population of the rare beast, so many that it's virtually impossible to visit Kaziranga and not see dozens of them

One of the very first places I ever went to in India, all the way back in January 2009, was Kaziranga National Park. By now, as part of University of Delaware study abroad groups, while leading my own trips, or while travelling with members of my family, I've visited the park somewhere in the vicinity of six times. That may sound like overkill, but, believe me, it's not. I've found that my enthusiasm for the place has only grown over time. 

The reason for this is simple: No one safari in Kaziranga is like another. Even if you've visited over and over, there is always the chance of seeing some animal that you've never seen before. And, failing that, as a repeat visitor you might encounter an animal that you've seen countless times behaving in some new way that you've never before observed. By this stage, with six visits to the park I've probably seen half of the world's population of one horned rhinos (maybe that's an exaggeration...though 10-20% is not), but, until my most recent visit I had never had one start to charge my jeep and get warned off by an armed guard brandishing his Lee-Enfield. 

In January, I visited the park with my mom, and, for the first time in years, took a whole new crop of photos. Bear in mind that all of these were taken over the course of a single day, illustrating the incredible density of spectacular animals within the park.

Ghost elephants in the mist. Starting out on a 5 a.m. elephant safari. My mom and I first thought that because of the misty morning we weren't going to be able to see anything. But in the end it turned out that there were so many animals around that not being able to see more than ten feet in front of your face was not that much of an impediment to wildlife viewing

Ghost elephant

One horned rhino trotting along

A line of deer

Our elephant and mahout

Later the same day, my mom and I took a jeep safari to the Eastern Range of the park. While the elephant safaris are in some ways more memorable as experiences, one does tend to see much more on the jeep safaris. We had a naturalist and birding enthusiast friend of mine, Bitupan Kolong, riding with us, and he was able to both point out and name plenty of animals along the way that my mom and I would surely have missed. 

Stork billed kingfisher, just outside the park. To someone who really knows what they're looking for (which is not me) the avian fauna of the park, especially in winter when migratory birds from all over Asia stop here, is just as noteworthy as the large mammals.

Some variety of eagle

A classic Kaziranga view: A heard of wild elephants

More wild elephants, with a huge water buffalo in the background just for good measure

Mallards....almost exactly like the ones we have back in my home state of Delaware

The Grey Heron in the back there isn't the star of this shot. The relatively mundane seeming Bar-headed geese in the foreground just happen to be some of the world's toughest birds. Migrating to India over the Himalayas, their journey over the loftiest mountain range on Earth takes them higher in altitude than any other bird. Scientific studies have shown them to be able to fly to at least 21,000 feet, while travelling to and from their nests on the Tibetan Plateau

Wild Jungle fowl, ancestor of the chicken

We got an incredible view of this rhino with an egret on its back...

...especially when it decided it didn't like the look of us and started to charge. Our armed escort earned his pay on that safari.

Wild elephant


A male elephant with huge tusks, along with a rhino

One of the unexpected highlights of the jeep safari: A romp of otters (yes, you call a group of otters a romp). They were pretty far away, so it wasn't possible to get that great a photo, but still, this was something I had never seen before

Wild water buffalo. Another one of the unsung success stories of Kaziranga, the park contains something like 60% of the world's wild water buffalo

So, just to sum this post up: Come to Kaziranga.

Special thanks. From left to right: Our armed guard, the driver, my mom, and Bitupan

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