My Indian journey continued from Manas National Park onwards across Assam as I wanted to get decent shots of the Greater one-horned Rhino, which roamed across the North and Northeast of India. Hunting and poaching had rendered this species as Endangered on the IUCN Redlist (downgraded to vulnerable in 2008) with almost 70% of existing species in one National Park. This same park is one of the main reasons for the successful increase of rhino numbers in India. Along with the successful conservation of the White Rhino in South Africa, It’s one of the two great success stories in Rhino conservation.
Kaziranga National Park
I stayed at the Bonhabi Resort outside Kaziranga and was soon introduced to my guide, Mr Bobbi, and his Schumacher-esque driver. They took me in and out of the various park ranges of the park for the six days that I stayed. Having someone that has a great knowledge of the fauna and flora of a park was a godsend as to photograph while standing in the back of a little white Suzuki Jeep, left no hands free to page through a bird guide. The driver also played a major part for as soon as we called out that we had seen something I wanted to capture, he would cut the engine and coast to a stop. This worked extremely well. Screeching to a halt on the jungle roads would guarantee the photo shy animal or bird to turn and run.
Photographing the rhino from a jeep provided many different aspects and angles of shots. There are elephant safaris on offer, but I urge you not to use them due to some of the abuse of elephants that have been reported over the years.
The diversity of bird life in Kaziranga is astounding, especially the raptors and my personal favourites, the large and colourful hornbills. The variety of landscape and marshland lends itself to everything from waders to vultures. Most species are a little shyer of vehicles than in other parks, and you still need decent vehicle field craft to get close (plus a long lens).
On one of the mornings, I was taken to the Panbari Reserve so see the rare and wonderfully loud Hoolock Gibbon, the only ape in India. These extremely rare apes live life in the jungle treetops and spend each morning calling to mates and rival families. The noise produced by these slender long-limbed primates can best be likened to a ship’s fog horn and can be heard several miles away. (Update – I heard that the Panbari Reserve was closed to tourist at the moment)
Photography is Kaziranga can be challenging as you drive from sunny grassland into dark jungle relatively quickly and a watchful eye needs to be kept on your ISO. I shot from 100 up to 3200 in a couple of hundred yards as you changed environments. In the past, this would have been near impossible without wasting film.
Kaziranga is more developed than Manas was with a few resorts outside the park, and thus the tourist numbers are higher but not overly obtrusive. I can count on one occasion were there more that two jeeps at a sighting in the whole trip. It is still a great place to go and would love to return on a bird photography trip.
Greater one horn Rhino, Indian elephant, Asian Water Buffalo, Swamp deer, Hog deer, Otter. Wild Pig, Hoolock Gibbon.
Below are some of the images of the species that I was lucky enough to spend time with.
Special Thanks to the folks at Wildlife Trails for organising my trip
For a trip report about the Manas National Park: Click here