The name Kaziranga National Park stands synonymous with excitement & adventure. As a family with a young kid who strongly believes in travel being the best educator, Kaziranga national Park trip was on our mind since sometime. Well, when Koyeli tours invited us for Assam FAM trip with two days stay at Kaziranga National Park, we packed our bags for the voyage into the ‘real’ world. A UNESCO World Heritage site for preserving about 2/3rd of world’s most precious one-horned rhinoceros population, Kaziranga National Park is also home to innumerable species of animals & rare birds like great Indian Hornbill, the Indian roller, green billed Malkoha, rose ringed parakeets, red breasted parakeet, red jungle fowl purple swamp hen, water buffalo, etc.
How Far Is Kaziranga, Really?
Guhawati to Kaziranga is a comfortable drive of 3.5 hours. So, for all my readers, Kaziranga National Park is much closer than we think especially when a destination of Northeast is to be planned for. From Delhi to Guhawati, it takes 2 hours flight and then another 4 hours of picturesque road drive meandering through typical Assamese villages, countryside, paddy fields and Nature’s bounty. Same day you are in Kaziranga National Park. So, what do you think of distance now? Actually, don’t think twice, just plan your next vacation to Kaziranga.
Will I Get Luxury Property To Stay In Kaziranga?
So you think it is a jungle and you have to compromise on the quality of stay? Surprise.
Iora resorts at Kaziranga National Park is a five-star luxury property with all the modern amenities, including a spa along with the added advantage of being in the midst of a jungle.
We checked into Iora resorts, a beautifully curated property that simply merges into the beauty of Kaziranga National Park. The manicured gardens, tall trees lined, the expansive setting, wooden structures, handwoven upholstery, cane furniture, tribal-inspired interiors and the perfect amalgamation to Mother Nature, Iora resorts bespoke of responsible luxury.
I just fell in love with the room that opened into a huge space, wooden stairs for an attic bed (for the kid), huge ceilings (to keep the room naturally cool), natural ventilations (for natural light and air), a fallen tree trunk transformed into bed back, bed décor hand woven by Mishing tribe, balcony opening into an orange orchard, and a beautiful view of the Park.
The Quick Evening Jungle Jeep Safari
Post quick tea, we decided to go for the evening safari and spot some rhinos right away. Jeep safari was waiting for us in the Iora resort lobby, alongwith our friendly guide and driver. The jeep safari began and we could spot a bunch of rhinoceros though they were quite far and the view wasn’t clear. We spotted a few birds and wild buffaloes. The sun was setting and being in midst of a jungle by the water waiting for the big 5 to come to quench their thirst while we can quench our thirst of a good view and a good click, we were on our toes. Well, time was up and we had to leave with a promise of coming back with the first ray of sun, next morning. Our guide reassured that at morning elephant safari, chances of sighting are surely more.
What To Do In The Evening? Can’t Venture Out
There is nothing, absolutely nothing to do in Kaziranga post 6pm in the evening. Thereby, choosing the right resort becomes all the more important. When the Kaziranga National Park, slowed on excitement, Iora resorts began to unfold its surreal beauty as it lit up like a coy bride in the evening. Yellow lanterns carefully peeping from the planters, bonfire dancing with the flow of wind, soft music of traditional Bihu dance live performance, jungle insects humming and, an iridescent moon smiling from above made for a lovely evening walk around the Iora premise. I was breathing in as much jungle air as possible to detox my body from the Delhi smog. I wish I could store like a camel.
And, Then There Was Chilli Vodka For Company
I was softly jolted out of my ponder by the request to move towards bar; for our hosts, Mr Arijit of Koyeli Travels and Ms Joya of Iora The Retreat Kaziranga Resorts had meticulously planned the drinks & dinner ahead. We were presented with their speciality drink, Chilli Vodka and, mind you it was not just any vodka, it was THE VODKA prepared with BHOOT JOLOKIA (also known as ghost pepper and naga jolokia). To quote Wikipedia introduction:
“In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was the world’s hottest chili pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The ghost chili is rated at more than 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs). “
Having travelled Northeast widely and being a travel blogger, I knew what bhoot johokia is and there was a strange mixed feeling of scare and experimentative curiosity.
To drink or not to drink, was the question.
The creator of the drink told us how the drink came into existence and how it was fine tuned over a period of time and then the bartender gave a dramatic presentation by rattling the bottles and slitting the juvenile shreds of bhoot jholokia chilli. A broad Martini glass was rimmed with salt, the measured drink was poured, chilli liqueur (the deadly concoction) was mixed and then came the ball of ice, and dressing was complete with criss-crossing of shreds of red chilli. Chilli vodka thus stood there on the bar looking splendid in its contrast of white & red, daring us to taste. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Toasting to travelling, I took the first calculated sip, Woah! I was pleasantly surprised. Yummy, it tasted. Multitude of tastes exploded together, salty, sweet, and tangy and as it rolled down the throat at the back of it was a little spicy. Never had I tasted such an explosive drink. Incredible India, truly!
Dinner Time | 7 Course Assamese Traditional Meal Calling
Needless to say, now began some great travel conversations and a few rounds of our new found love. This was followed by the dinner, another culinary experience. Joya, had arranged for a traditional seven course Assamese meal at Bhaatbaan restaurant. Furniture was intelligently designed to be convertible from sitting to floor sitting making for an authentic experience to unfold. Served in copper cutlery, there were more than 15 items on the platter. We were taken on a culinary journey of Assam and explained in an orderly fashion what to eat first and then next, the logic behind the sequence, the preparations and how intrinsically it was interlinked with weather and local produce. Rice was the mainstay and the first course was Khar – the traditional ingredient is made by filtering water through the ashes of the sun-dried skin of a few varieties of banana, raw papaya and mustard seeds. This was followed by pitika (like chokha) and Ou Khatta, a preparation of elephant apple. Thereafter, I just ate and forgot the sequence, However, more items on the platter included Sunga Chicken, prepared in bamboo shoot, tenga fish in tenga curry (a tangy preparation much like sambhar), a small fish preparation, dal, and sweets, ofcourse.
It was almost 11 when we ended our gala dinner. “Sharp at 5 am you should gather at the lobby for the morning elephant ride. Be late by a minute and you miss the safari”; our hosts declared. Are you serious, 5 am?
The Adventurous Morning Elephant Safari At Kaziranga National Park
And, there we were fresh and fully ready for the morning elephant safari into the jungle. The rising sun, the deep jungle, and we were belted tight over an elephant. Cameras ready to click and eyes in constant search. A few minutes into the jungle and there they were – one horned rhinoceros tall and majestic, strolling around. It was hard to believe that this huge animal is purely vegetarian. Also, they are potty trained for they have marked territory where they do the morning routine, not just anywhere and everywhere. So, we witnessed the morning routine too. We saw 3 rhinoceros and 2 sub adult rhinos. And, while we were about to turn and go, I saw one rhinoceros staring another. I felt a sense of unease and called the mahout to explain the situation when he calmly declared, “Madamji you are lucky to witness this”, THE GREAT RHINO CHASE.
No NAT GEO channel can make for this live excitement. The huge rhinos chasing, our elephant sliding back in scare leaving the territory for the king, the thunder beneath and the roar around. Our heartbeats were spiking, our eyes wider and cameras all forgotten. There are some things that camera can’t capture; only memory can.
Our elephant safari, was to say the least, total paisa vasool.
Did You Know? Monsoon flood and poaching leads to huge number of rhino deaths. Sadly, not much is done to save the precious rhinoceros of Kaziranga.
Back from the adventure, totally famished, we were happy to be welcomed by the breakfast buffet. We ate like a rhino.
What Else To Do In Kaziranga?
At Kaziranga National Park there are other interesting things to explore like the National Orchid Park, an open theatre where traditional dances are performed at frequent intervals and a small museum of sorts to get a glimpse of tribal life around.
We sat for a while at the office of Koyeli tours that takes pride in offering green tea, wi-fi and verified guides. It is must to have a guide for you can’t book safari tickets of Kaziranga online and there are many unscrupulous players who try to fleece and hassle. So, you are dependent on the guide. Choose wisely.
Marvelling At Bespoke Luxury Of Iora Kaziranga Resort
Post lunch, Joya offered her services to show the property and in particular IORAs contribution to responsible tourism. I have experienced many luxury resorts but IORA stands out and is way ahead when it comes to responsible tourism. The start is right from the construction material, the wood panels used for walls and ceiling are reused wooden sleepers discarded from railways, IORA has presented the defects in the wooden sleepers very artistically that it looks beautiful. IORA is running a weaving centre that is promoting the lost skills of locals. They have employed women in the centre and the product is sold in the boutique located in the resort. IORA is intelligently recycling kitchen waste like to prepare natural colours example onion peel is used to make green colour. The goodness does not stop there they regularly train villagers and encourage them to take up weaving as profession. IORA is also Rural Business Hub encouraging locals to become entrepreneur.
That’s how our Kaziranga trip ended with lots of learning about jungle, rhinoceros,