A tiny red and green signboard at the side of the road to Bhalukpong will lead you to Nameri National Park: every wildlife enthusiast’s dream. Spread over an area of 200sq km, Nameri was declared a national park in 1998. The flora here consists of semi-evergreen, moist deciduous forests with small stretches of open grasslands along rivers. Creepers, epiphytes and clump-forming bamboo are also part of the vegetation. If you go in the right season, you might just be treated to the sight of a variety of orchids in bloom.

Divided by the Brahmaputra tributary of Jia Bhoroli, Nameri is a tiger reserve as well as home to many wild elephants – the human-elephant conflict in this park is one of the highest in the world. It is also a haven for around 400 bird species.

Amongst these is the endangered white-winged wood duck. There are only about 1,000 of these ducks left in the world, about half of them in Northeast India. One of the sizeable populations is found in Nameri. Other avian species include blue-eared kingfisher, great, wreathed and rufous-necked hornbills, hill blue flycatcher, red-throated pipit, slender-billed oriole and also the white-crowned forktail.

Archyushman Dubey
A brightly coloured ruddy shelduck, Nameri NP
A brightly coloured ruddy shelduck, Nameri NP

A seemingly endless kuchcha road, complete with bumps and potholes, will lead you deep inside the jungle, which might be troublesome if you are a first time visitor, as it is very easy to lose your way. You could base yourself in the tourist lodge, which offers comfortable cottages, or in the ecocamp. Either way, you will be staying well within the territory that tigers usually frequent, deep inside the jungle, far away from civilisation. In the deafening silence of the jungle, tigers are not the only animals to keep an ear out for. Even as you sit around the bonfire at night, it is not unusual to hear firecrackers from the nearby hamlet. This is an often-used trick to chase away herds of hungry elephants that trample through the paddy fields in search of food.

Park Entry Indians ₹50; Foreigners ₹500; Ferry ₹20 Timings 6.00am– 2.00pm Photography ₹50 Video-graphy ₹500 Nature Trail Indians ₹70; Foreigners ₹520; Guard ₹100 Rafting Indians ₹1,700 (2 pax); Foreigners ₹2,100 (2 pax)

Anwesha Madhukalya
A slender boat glides across the waters of the Jia Bhoroli
A slender boat glides across the waters of the Jia Bhoroli

THINGS TO DO

Safaris are not on offer in Nameri but that doesn’t mean visitors have to wait for the wildlife to come to them. There are a number of ways to explore the park – be it by boat or simply on foot. Visitors are allowed to go on a couple of set walking trails that wind their way through a few kilometres of forest, grassland and the riverbank with an official guide. They also have the option of row-boating down the Jia Bhoroli, passing through gentle shallow rapids and gentler deep stretches, watching the forest on both sides.

Trekking

The delightful difference between Nameri and other tiger reserves is that you can walk. Nature walks or treks through the jungle and over dry riverbeds will leave you feeling like a wilderness explorer. Prior permission is needed for these trips, which are organised by forest authorities. Visitors are accompanied by forest guards who are usually well-versed in the various species that inhabit the park. Besides the tiger and elephant, you might be lucky enough to catch sight of leopard, slow loris, sambar, dhole, barking deer, sloth bear, Indian bison, fox, capped langur, and a variety of turtles including the Indian soft-shelled turtle and Asian leaf turtle.

Serious birders will also enjoy such nature trails, one of which includes waking up at the crack of dawn and crossing the Jia Bhoroli in a small dinghy to get to the jungle. Take a moment here to drink in the sunrise and savour the tranquility that only the start of a brand new day in a jungle can offer.

River Rafting

A trip to Nameri is incomplete with-out trying the river rafting here. Beginners can easily surf the docile rapids of the Jia Bhoroli river. The trip usually commences 13km upstream and should not last more than three hours if you don’t halt along the way. It is highly likely you will spot birds such as Ibisbill and long-billed plover along the way or see bigger animals drinking at the banks of the river.

Birdwatching

Nameri is home to more than 300 species of birds. There are four species of hornbills, an abundance of mynahs, bee eaters, barbets, babblers, bulbuls, plovers, ibis, bills and many more.

Pygmy Hog Breeding Centre

Located close to the Eco Camp, the pygmy hog breeding centre is run by EcoSystems India. One of the country’s most important endeavours to revive the population of a highly threatened species, it is worth a visit to catch a glimpse of the tiny hogs in their breeding pens. The centre’s campus itself is full of wildlife, with the staff having recorded nearly 80 species of birds and 147 of butterflies.

Tip Carry binoculars. Do not wear bright colours, especially red. Wear comfortable walking shoes or boots as there is an abundance of leeches

WHERE TO STAY

Eco Camp (Tel: 03714-292644, Cell: 09854019932, 09678182784; Tariff: ₹1,800), on the west side of the Jia Bhoroli river, is a comfortable option geared to give you an experience of the river and the forest. It offers well-appointed tents with atached bath-rooms, tucked away under massive trees. The camp is a pleasure to stay at if you’re game to go basic. On offer are boating and hiking through the forest, with forest department guards. Jia Bhorelli Wild Resort (Cell: 08011159372, 09859547605; Tariff: ₹2,000) on the outskirts has cottages with spacious rooms. The resort also organises river rafting, jugle trails and tribal village visits. The Wild Mahseer (Cell: 09833631377; Tariff: ₹8,700–25,000, with meals and activities) is another option at the Addabarie Tea Estate in nearby Balipara.

There is also Assam Tourism’s Prashanti Lodge (Cell: 099541 91202; Tariff: ₹1,200–1,800), about 30km further up at Bhalukpong.

FAST FACTS

When to go November–April is the best time to visit as the wether remains very pleasant Best sightings February–March

Tourist/ Wildlife Offices

Tourist Information Office , Tezpur, Tel: 03712-221016, Cell: 09854334080

Range Office, Potasali Village, Nameri, District Sonitpur, Cell: 08474067329, STD code 03712

GETTING THERE

State Assam

Location In the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Sonitpur District

Distance 216km NE of Guwahati, 35km N of Tezpur

Route from Guwahati Take NH37, turn to NH36 and take NH52 via Tezpur

Air Nearest airport: Tezpur (40km/ 1.5hrs), connected to Kolkata and Silchar by Air India. Taxi costs ₹1,200

Rail Nearest railhead: Guwahati (212km/ 5hrs). Taxi costs ₹4,000 approx

Road From Guwahati, take NH31 to Baihatta Chariali; NH52 to Balipara via Mangaldai, Kharupatia, Rowta, Orang, Dhekiajuli and Mission Chariali; state road to Nameri turn-off via Charduar; forest road to Nameri NP. Bus State as well as private buses are available from Guwahati every 30 minutes. They drop you at Balipara (18km). Taxis charge ₹400 for a drop