MANAS TIGER RESERVE

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By Rail   |    By Air

This sanctuary , in contrast of Kaziranga, is far removed from the National Highway and the mainstream of human life passes it by. Manas has a much longer season than Kaziranga, the only wet period from mid May to September, but the best period to visit the area is either in November or February. Unlike the open swamps and grasslands of Kaziranga , where the visitor may see a large number of animals , wildlife viewing in Manas is never regular - or easy. But when one confronted by an animal, it is usually at close quarters and, invariably, exciting and dramatic.

While the golden langur are usually approachable on foot from the boat landing on the Bhutan side, the colorful capped langur is only approachable from elephant back. Extremely shy, these primates usually move away, but if one were to watch them quietly for half an hour, they seem to forger your presence and go about their business of eating and grooming with the nonchalance so typical of the langur family. The Assamese macaque is rarely seen in the forests, but they inhabit the islands downstream and move in large troupes from place to place. The slow loris and the Hoolock gibbon also extend into Manas, but sightings are rare.

A lot more elusive and shy is the Indian bison, or gaur, which stands taller than a buffalo at the shoulder. Sometimes, one can see a large herd in the grassy glades, but at the slightest sound or movement, they thunder off into the cover of the forest. Another method of looking for gaur is to drive along the foothills, on jungle tracks which are hemmed in by tall grass on either side. The area is full of hog deer and sometimes a tiger can be seen plodding along the tracks, looking for a chance to kill. This stretch is good for the other big cats too. When fires are lit to burn the grass , a clouded leopard may emerge from behind a smoldering tree trunk where he had been feeding off insects which are forced out by the smoke. ,Manas provides an ideal habitat for the sloth bear, yet another species inseparably linked with Manas , and they too can usually be seen at dawn or at dusk. In fact , the sloth is often seen when the light is too poor for photography. Picked up by a spotlight, it will scuttle away but sometimes curiosity gets the better of him, and animal will come close to the jeep, staring at it with myopic eye.

For insects , butterflies and reptiles, the northeast is prime country and the blaze of color at ground level in the jungle holds one in breathless wonder. In the canopy above, winged stars steal the show; scarlet minivets flash their orange and yellow towards the watching heavens; a bee-eater clicks its beak as it grabs a bee; magpie robins and bulbuls fill the air with their constant chatter. But the main attraction is the giant hornbill which whooshes its way from tree to sharing more or less the same habitat. Red jungle fowl and kaleej pheasants scratch for their food from under the fallen leaves, while the great river offers ornithologists its own brand of avifauna with mergansers and brahminy ducks, egrets, pelicans and herons, eagles , falcons and harriers. Manas undoubtedly is a very special place.

Manas is best from January to March, although there is excellent fishing from November to December. Mothangirl is the main town in the park but the tourist information centre is on Barpeta Rd. Entry and camera charges are the same as Kaziranga. Boats can be hired for excursions of fishing trips on the Manas river.

The Manas tourist Lodge has a range of rooms which are all relatively cheap or you can camp if you have a tent. The forest Bungalow doesn't have electricity but it is cheaper, and includes bedding and mosquito nets. There is a rest house at the Barpeta Rd tourist centre.

By Air

Guwahati, 176 km away, has the nearest airport.

By Rail

Barpeta Rd, 40 km from Mothangiri, is the nearest railway station .

Transport from Barpeta Rd to Mothangiri must be arranged in advance.

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