The sprawling Dibru Saikhowa National Park, spread over an area of 650sq km, is located close to the eastern border of Assam, straddling both the districts of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. An identified Important Bird Area (IBA), it is most famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses. In 1997, Dibru Saikhowa National Park became the ninth biosphere reserve out of the total 18 identified till date in India. Earlier known as Dibru Reserve Forest and Saikhowa Reserve Forest, this protected area was notified as a wildlife sanctuary in 1986, and a national park in 1999.

Comprising tropical moist deciduous forests, tropical semi-green forests, Salix swamp forests, moist evergreen forests, grasslands and canebrakes, Dibru Saikhowa National Park is one of the 19 biodiversity hotspots in the world. The region originally comprised a tropical rainforest but after the disastrous earthquake of 1950, it underwent major geomorphological changes and the rainforest eventually gave way to deciduous forests.

The park is bounded by the Brahmaputra river, Lohit river and Arunachal Hills in the north and Dibru river, Debang river, Dibru and Patkai hills in the south, making for beautiful, verdant surroundings. The climate is tropical monsoon – where the summers are usually hot, humid and wet with a maximum temperature of around 35°C. The winters are cold and dry, with temperatures between 7°C to 18°C.

Dinodia Photo Libary
Wild water buffalo
Wild water buffalo

Dibru Saikhowa is accessible round the year. Although the best time to visit this park is during the late winter and during the monsoon, the park may sometimes close due to heavy rain, without any prior notice. Therefore, it is advisable to check with the authorities and tourist guides before planning a trip here during the rainy season. Also, entry is not permitted in the park before sunrise and after sunset. Night halts and picnics are not allowed inside the park.

Entry Indians 100; Foreigners 500 Timings Sunrise to sunset Photography Indians 50; Foreigners 500 Videography Indians 500; Foreigners 1,000

ORIENTATION

There are two entry points to the park. One is the Guijan Ghat entry point and the second one is the Saikhowa Ghat or Dhola entry point. The former is about 10km from Tinsukia and Saikhowa Ghat/ Dhola entry point is about 50km from Tinsukia.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The Dibru Saikhowa National Park, created especially for the conservation of the rare and endangered white-winged wood duck, now houses numerous species of endangered mammals, reptiles and birds. Till date 36 species of mammals, 502 species of birds, 104 species of fish, 43 species of reptiles, 105 species of butterflies and 680 species of plants have been recorded here. Moreover, 25 per cent of India’s threatened bird species have been found in the Dibru Saikhowa National Park. The park is also home to nearly 50 feral horses, which can be spotted in the northern part of the park at the Churkey Chapori area. These horses are believed to have descended from the animals that escaped from the army camps during World War II. River dolphins are also often seen in the sanctuary’s water.

Dinodia Photo Libary
An adult pintail snipe at Dibru Saikhowa National Park
An adult pintail snipe at Dibru Saikhowa National Park

Wildlife frequently spotted here includes sambar, sloth bear, dhole, small Indian civet, Malayan giant squirrels, Chinese pangolin, capped langur, elephant, wild boar, Hoolock gibbon, hog deer and barking deer. If your luck holds, you might even spot one of the big cats – a royal Bengal tiger or a leopard – or the relatively rare Gangetic River Dolphin gambolling in the water.

Tip Hiring a local guide is highly recommended. They are a mine of information on the park and have adequate knowledge about the concentration of wildlife, making for a rewarding trip

Boat Safari

There are no elephant or jeep safaris in Dibru Saikhowa National Park and visitors have to hire a local boat to explore the park. You are likely to spot water buffalos basking in the sun by the muddy banks, turtles swimming past and groups of storks fishing in the water.

Trekking

Another rewarding way of exploring this national park is by way of trekking. The jungle is quiet, far away from the cacophony of the city, and the stillness is only broken by the rustle of dry leaves beneath your feet or the chorus of birdcalls. Your guide will lead you down the forest trails.

It is also possible to explore the two villages inside the park, Dhadia and Laika and see how the locals live. Or you could head to Maguri Beel, adjacent to the park, where a variety of birds can be spotted.

Written permission from the Park Authority is required to enter Dibru Saikhowa National Park. Indian nationals pay 100 as entry fee while foreigners pay 500.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

You may stay at Banashree Eco Camp (Cell: 09435335462, 099545 94940; Tariff: 1,200 per person, with meals) located near the park periphery in Guijan. Meals served are Indian. Another good eco-camp is Wave Eco Camp (Cell: 09954791573, 09707702040; Tariff: 1,000 per person, with meals) in Rangagara. An interesting way to explore Dibru Saikhowa is to stay at the Om House Boat (Cell: 09401100999, 08876907039; omhouseboat.com). You may opt for a one-night package (Tariff: 1,500 per person, with evening snacks and dinner) or Feral Horse package (2D/ 1N; Tariff: 3,500 per person, with meals). Day packages (Tariff: 1,000 per person, with breakfast, lunch and evening snacks) are also available.

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Mohanbari Airport at Dibrugarh (35km/ 1hr). Taxi costs around Rs. 2,000

Rail Nearest railhead: New Tinsukia Railway Junction (13km/ 20mins). Taxi costs around Rs. 600

Road Tinsukia is the nearest town. Taxis, autos and buses are available from Paradise Cinema in Tinsukia. The park is about 500km from Guwahati

FAST FACTS

When to go November–April

Tourist/ Wildlife offices

Tourist Information Office

Tinsukia

Cell: 09954292052

W assamtourism.gov.in

Divisional Forest Officer

Wildlife Division

Tinsukia

Cell: 09435171721

STD code 0374

State Assam

Location In Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts, on the southern bank of River Brahmaputra Distance 443km NE of Guwahati, 90 km NE of Dibrugarh city

Route from Dibrugarh NH37 via Lahowal, Tinsukia, Makum, Doom Dooma and Rupai Siding