Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better-Albert Einstein

As my daughter & I made our way on National highway 40 from Shillong to the Nameri national park, the 280 kms/166 miles drive seemed very comfortable thanks to a 4 lane highway, which has recently been upgraded and en route we broke journey at the Misa club for a pre arranged sumptuous lunch. This club also has an 18 hole golf course and is very popular with the local tea planters & their families. We later checked into the Ambrosia bungalow at the Wild Masheer Lodge located in the midst of a Tea plantation with bungalows that date back to many years into history of the British Raj and were excited to live the lifestyle of a colonial tea planter on this 22 acre sanctuary alas if only for 3 days!

The Brahmaputra Valley in Assam was the first region in India where modern tea production started and while the tea plant is indigenous to this region its large-scale production began only after the British East India Company lost its monopoly of trading tea from China in the 1830s and were looking for alternative sources. Soon there were hundreds of acres of Tea plantations across Assam, followed by the Nilgiri Hills, Darjeeling Hills, the Dooars and Kangra Valley catapulting India to rank amongst the top 5 tea producers in the world.

An early dinner and we were off to bed at 10 pm thrilled with the thought of what tomorrow would bring. We rose at the crack of dawn and after a cuppa of coffee & cookies headed to the Nameri national park where arrangements were in place to raft downstream on the Jia Bharoli river and to experience stunning vistas of the snowcapped mountains of Tawang in the distance, the gentle 1-2 grade rapids, colourful migratory and local birds. This river known as Kameng on the Arunachal side, has one of the best fresh waters in the country that flow from the glaciers, provides peace and quiet amidst bird calls to those who seek serenity and on disembarking we returned to our lodge at around noon to enjoy lunch in the resort’s charming dining room.

Early evening we chose to visit the botanical garden on the lodge’s premises, the Burra bungalow and later rode bicycles amongst the picturesque tea gardens, past streams, rivulets & villages soaked in the local flavour.   

On day 3 we crossed the Jia Bharoli river with our guide and an armed guard in tow and explored the Nameri forest on foot (Jeep safaris are not permitted). The park is renowned for endemic bird sighting opportunities and is an ornithologist’s delight and were lucky to see the maroon oriole, orange belled leaf bird, scarlet minivets and mammals like the capped langur, Malayan giant squirrel and also experienced a mock charge by a lone tusker! There are different species of hornbills and while we saw the wreathed and pied to see about 20 great hornbills on a giant tree was surely the icing on the cake.

Later this morning we return to the lodge, freshen up ,check out and head to the Manas national park, a distance of  270 kms /160 miles and a drive lasting approximately 5 hours. This park which is spread across Assam & Bhutan is also a UNESCO World heritage site, project Tiger, an elephant and biosphere reserve. Early evening we arrive at the Musa Jungle lodge located a stone’s throw from the main gate of the Manas park, get a glimpse of the park from the patio of our room, of rhinos and elephants across the electrified fence. 

On day 4 we focused on wildlife sighting in the company of our wonderful naturalist and saw at almost hand shaking distance rhinos, bisons, wild buffalos, herds of elephants including a mock charge by a giant sized elephant who was protecting the young calves while enhancing our adrenaline rush.  Sadly, we missed spotting the elusive Black panther by a whisker before it disappeared into the thick undergrowth. Apart from a plethora of bird species indigenous to the Himalayan foothills and endemic to India’s North East we were told by our guide there are rare sightings of the tiger, leopard, the clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, the endangered Hispid hare, pygmy hog and sloth bears. Unfortunately, our luck didn’t hold and that’s a good enough reason to return to Manas. 

The avian family apart from the Hornbills  also includes the Pallers Fishing eagle, the great white bellied heron, spotted wren babbler, blue headed roch thrust and the emerald cuckoo.

On Day 5 we decided to raft down the Manas river and our 3 hour adventure began near the Indo-Bhutan border and ended up close to the main entry gate of the Manas park. The river named after the serpent God Manasa takes her birth in Bhutan before it debouches into western Assam in India. The river is a confluence of some of Bhutan’s biggest rivers and is home to the largest golden Mahseers in the world.

Our rafting experience down the Manas will be embedded in our memory as one of the most stunning sights we have seen on our extensive travels- the Himalayan foothills in Bhutan formed the spectacular background while we had for company by the water’s edge wild buffalos, the migratory Siberian ducks and otters.   

We return to our lodge, check out and make our way to Guwahati airport- 140 kms/84 miles and the drive lasted about 3.5 hours. Our only disappointment of the adventure was the Musa lodge which is looking tired and is in dire need of refurbishment.

For us Assam was just the experience we were looking for :

Earth & Sky, woods & fields, lakes & rivers, the mountains are excellent school masters and teach us more than we can ever learn from books- John Lubboch – an English banker, politician and naturalist.

Getting there– The gateway city is Guwahati

Distances :

Shillong to Nameri National park – 280 kms/166 miles- 5 hours

Wild Mahseer Lodge to the Nameri park- 13 kms/8 miles-30 minutes

Nameri to Manas National park- 270 kms/160 miles -5 hours

Manas to Guwahati airport- 140 kms/84 miles-3.5 hours

Guwahati to Nameri- 205 kms/123 miles- 5 hours


Manas- www.musalodge.comManas


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