As flood inundates Assam and the freakish monsoon wreaks havoc, I haplessly wonder about the plight of the locals. However, during winters, the weather is congenial and there is no risk of a natural disaster whatsoever. While writing, I hark back to the days when I had a chance to explore this beautiful Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, cut across by the mighty Brahmaputra river.
Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary – Home to Indian Rhinoceros
After landing at the Guwahati airport, we took a cab to the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary. It takes around three hours to reach the place. The sanctuary is located on the southern banks of the Brahmaputra in the Morigaon district in Assam. It holds one of the largest Indian Rhinoceros populations in Assam.
Having reached it, we checked into a cozy village resort located just at the entrance of the sanctuary. The local tourists generally come to visit the sanctuary and rush ahead to the Kaziranga National Park on the very same day. However, we decided to take it slow and spend a couple of nights there. Not just the sanctuary, the joy of staying in a village resort surrounded by trees and mustard fields was too alluring.
Do Read: Single Horned Rhino at Kaziranga National Park
Visit to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
If traveling from a different state, it is advisable to visit the sanctuary on a weekday. It remains overcrowded by the locals over the weekends. By the time we reached the resort, it was afternoon. After eating a sumptuous Assamese thali, I placed two chairs on the balcony which commanded a splendid view of the beautiful lawn.
The sun was about to set and I could see some cows and goats gamboling down the dusty road. At night the place becomes quiet and the crude noises of nature take over. The shrill sound of the hooting of an owl coming, presumably, from some sequestered barn was something we do not get to hear in city life every day. I was all ears; enjoying the village vibe to the fullest.
The resort has a shop, just on the other end of the narrow alley. We thought of spending some time there. As we were about to come out, a staff came running, vehemently gesticulating. He stopped and cautioned us about the perils of venturing out in the dark. He informed us that the Indian water buffalos and the rhinos stray out of the forest at night. They move around in the localities in search of fresh green grasses. The rhino does pose a threat if it charges. But the Indian water buffalos have records of killing many villagers. However, he fetched a flashing torch and escorted us to the shop, and unlocked it for us.
Do Read: Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve, Assam
Village Walk from the resort
The next day, we woke up pretty early to explore the surroundings – the experience was so enthralling; the fresh air, the morning sun, and the vast expanse of the mustard fields were perfect settings for a village walk.
Roving about for quite some time, I was a bit done up. Walking up a wee bit longer, headed back to the resort to have our breakfast. Later in the afternoon, started for the safari – it being a Monday, the crowd was decent.
We were lucky enough to get a good driver. He was thoroughly informed and I scented an opportunity to garner quite a few facts from him. The sanctuary is situated on the southern banks of the Brahmaputra river. Mostly consisting of grassland and wetland, the habitat is home to a variety of animals and birds.
The sanctuary is open throughout the day and shuts at sunset. One can purchase tickets on the spot. No online booking is required. However, during the touristy season, it is advisable to book the tickets in advance.
In order to get a close glimpse of the Rhino, one can opt for the elephant safari. The elephants actually keep away from the road and trudge among the tall grasses, trampling them down under their heavy feet. This allows the tourists to get an ample chance to watch the Rhinos within a considerably close range.
Although we opted for a jeep safari, we were not provided with an armed guide. Which is otherwise provided in the other national parks in Assam. We did feel a bit edgy as the rhinos have a history of attacking the jeeps. In such a situation the guides fire in the open air and scare the animals away.
Leaving the thought behind, we focused on the safari. The jeep moving through the rutted trail ventured deeper into the forest.
Having traveled extensively through various National Parks in India we were quite aware of the protocols that one must maintain once inside the forest. Keeping our eyes and ears open we kept looking around in search of animals.
On top of a tree was perched a crested serpent eagle. It was watchful and perhaps contemplating its next attack. I stealthily tried to get hold of my camera. But to my dismay, it got an inkling and flew away to some other tenebrous hiding. Soon we were driving past the beautiful grazing land that subsequently narrowed into a path and led through the dense forest.
On the way we found a herd of spotted deer scampering by. The sanctuary is dotted with several water bodies, where the animals and birds are seen alike. Some waterbodies are crowded by the Indian water buffalos. Sensing their aggressive nature, the other animals, presumably, prefer to stay away.
While we were submerged in such wild thoughts, the driver suddenly pulled the brakes and the jeep came to a halt. Sensing some animal had been spotted we looked ahead. There it was – the Indian one-horned rhinoceros with all its glory.
Along with the rhinoceros, it houses other mammals such as the wild boar, Indian water buffalo, barking deer, Indian leopard, and golden jackal. The grasslands provide food and habitat for them.
We were informed that some rhinos have been relocated to the Manas National Park to balance out the overwhelming population at Pobitora. The sanctuary with tall trees, waterbodies, and grasslands is a feast to the eyes. Having spotted some rhinoceros at a distance we craved some more sightings.
As the rhinoceros runs the show there, we wanted to see one close and upfront. As chance would have it, spotted a giant rhino. It was digging out something from the wet mud at a distance. To get a better view our jeep hurtled on toward its direction. As it was busy with its endeavor, we went on clicking at him. However, the driver maintained a safe distance as the rhinos have a tendency to charge at vehicles.
Birds at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary boasts of having the highest rhinoceros density. It is also home to a variety of avian species as well. We were overwhelmed to see so many birds. Starting from the whistling ducks to the cormorants, green pigeons, parakeets, you name them, they were aplenty.
In the evening, we rested at the resort. The resort has a bird observatory where one can sit for hours. Click pictures of various birds that are lured with fruits and other edibles kept on the branches of the trees. We were lucky enough to spot three hornbills busy nibbling at a bunch of ripe bananas.
That night it was very cold. As it was the last night in Pobitora, we did the packing and hit the bed early. It was around midnight when suddenly there was an eerie noise in the backyard. I woke up with a start; the sound instantly sent a chill up my spine. We couldn’t fathom what was happening. It was inky dark outside the window. We heard a man yelling at the top of his voice. Trying to drive away an animal that had wandered away from the forest in the dead of night. He was also pointing a torch at it to scare it away.
Rhino night visits
The next morning, the owner, grinning from ear to ear, informed us that it was a Rhino that had come to eat the juicy grasses at night and they are regular visitors. However, the staff in the resort are on guard. They also have a pair of stray dogs that are on a constant vigil to keep the wild animals at bay.
Indian water buffalo runs away when it feels intimidated by the light of the torch. The rhino stays on and finishes the food and eventually moves away, not giving a damn about the light and sound show that goes on to drive it off.
On that funny note, we bade goodbye to the people who took good care of us during our stay. Headed to Kaziranga for an upcoming adventure.
This is a guest post by Koyela Barman
Koyela Barman is an English teacher based in Kolkata. Traveling is her passion. Visiting to new places, meeting new people, and learning about their lives have always fascinates her. It helps her escape from the humdrum of city life.