Manas National Park
Manas is home to 20 of the most endangered species of animals which include the rare golden langur, hispid hare, pygmy hog, red pandas etc.
Manas is situated in Kamrup-Golapara district, on the foothills of the Himalayas south east of river Manas along the Assam- Bhutan border. The beautiful park earlier known as North Kamrup is spread over an area of 391 sq km and was declared a sanctuary on December 01, 1928. It was established as the core of the Manas Tiger Reserve from April 1973 and elevated to the position of a National Park status on September 7, 1990. It was accorded the status of World Heritage Site in 1985 for its rare wealth of endangered species. The park extends over the national boundary to Bhutan where it is known as the Royal Manas Park. Manas is home to 20 of the most endangered species of animals which include the rare golden langur, hispid hare, pygmy hog, red pandas etc. The main highlight of the park is the Giant hornbill, two subspecies of which, the pied and grey varieties are found here. The park is rich in mammals and birds, which includes elephants, tiger, panther, leopard, clouded leopard, gaur, wild-buffalo, great one horned rhinoceros, rare golden langur, capped-langur, civet cat, squirrel, sloth beat, sambar, swamp deer, hog deer, otter, monitor lizard, gharial, python, great hornbill, florican cormorants, ergets and many other species of migratory and predatory birds. The major problem in the park is rhino poaching.
The forests here are tropical moist deciduous type. They are interspersed with swamps. The wetlands are essential for the survival of the fast disappearing hispid hare. The Vegetation ranges from Khairsissoo-bhabhar grass community to semi evergreens. There are intermediate stages of succession-deciduous forests, swampy reed lands and Sal forests. The simul, khoir, udal, sida, bohera and kanchan are the common trees in and around the park.
There are rides on boats, jeeps and elephants available. Elephant ride is the best to see the animals from close range rather than the boat rides. The 3 hour elephant ride starts from Mothanguri. Along the Manas river one can spot many water birds like mergansers, brahminy ducks, a range of egrets etc and otters can be commonly seen in the river.
The ideal time to visit the Manas national park is during the months of November to April.
Another species that deserves a special mention is the golden langur. This beautiful animal is 48 to 50 centimetres in length and the tail adds another 75 centimetres to it. The colour of its coat changes with each season. During winters, when the body needs to absorb more heat, the colour of the coat is light golden or deep yellow. It gradually changes to off-white as the hot summer months are round the corner. The face, however, remains black all through the year.
For those interested in big mammals, Manas National Park has a deep pocket. It has a considerable population of rhinos (although much less in numbers than in Kaziranga), elephants, wild buffaloes, gaurs, swamp deer, sambar, hog deer and barking deer. Besides these animals, cats form a sizeable group in the Park. Going by the last count, there were 80 tigers, clouded leopards and golden cats. Inspite of such a large number of tigers, sightings are very difficult and sometimes possible due to sheer happenstance.
Wild Buffaloes make an interesting subject for photography, but take care while shooting, as the animal is quite weary and can attack without any provocation. In fact, wild buffaloes are known to drive even tigers away.
• Bird Population
Another major attraction at Manas National Park is its bird population. Visitors can see giant hornbills gliding over their heads. The giant hornbill shares its habitat with two of its smaller cousins – the pied hornbill and the grey hornbill. All kinds of herons and egrets can be seen near the water bodies. Birds of prey such as eagles, falcons and harriers are also a common sight.
• Park Facing Political Unrest
Yet, the richest Manas National Park of India is also the most unfortunate. The entire region has been taken over by Bodo extremists. Political unrest in the region has also taken its toll on the Park. The Bodos, allegedly, are misusing the Park’s resources to make their ends meet. This, sadly, has lead to the closure of the Park from time to time. It is therefore advisable to check out the latest position before planning a visit to the Park. For the past few years, Manas has also been receiving funds from international agencies like the UNESCO to heal the wounds inflicted on it by the Bodos.
The best way to commute inside the Manas National Parkis on trained elephants that can be hired from the Mothanguri at the rate of 20$ per visit for foreigners. Each safari lasts three hours. Under normal conditions, the elephants leave from Mothanguri at 0900-1200 hrs in the morning and at 1400-1700 hrs in the afternoon.
Boats are also available for hire from the forest beat officer at Mothanguri. Each boat can accommodate 2-8 people (excluding the pilot) and the ride lasts 4-8 hours.
Air : Manas Park is 176-kms from Guwahati. The nearest airport is Borjhar, which is situated, 5-km out of town, and can be reached by rickshaw, auto rickshaw or airline buses.
Rail : The nearest railhead is situated at Barpeta road.
Road : Buses regularly ply from Guwahati to Barpeta Road in 4˝ hrs.
Rest houses maintained and run by the tourism department are available at Banshari and Barpeta road. The state department has two bungalows at Mathanguri inside the forest. Camping sites are also available.