The Awesome Gibbon Sanctuary In Assam.
Being so close to the legendary Kaziranga national park, the tiny Gibbon Sanctuary in Assam becomes not much more than an afterthought at best for most travellers. The truth is that despite it being easily accessible from the main highway that links Guwathi to Dibrugarh, most tourists miss it entirely. It does not get nearly enough press because it lacks the massive animals that people want to see, such as the Bengal Tiger or the Rhinoceros.
To me, it is a real shame this place is overlooked so often because there is so much here for those who make an effort to seek it out. I want to set the record straight. After all, it is dedicated to the very noble cause of protecting India’s only ape. The small yet significant population of Hoolock Gibbons are critically endangered. Your money is well spent here as it helps to sustain their dwindling habitat, and they are a delight to watch as they move gracefully through the high forest canopy.
Also known as the Hollongapar Sanctuary, it makes for an easy day trip for those on their way to Majuli Island, and for more information on that, just click the link provided. It just involves you spending two nights in Jorhat instead of one. The rewards are well worth your troubles, guys. It is an absolute pleasure to stroll around the picturesque forest in search of these elegant beasts. Even if you were to miss them completely, it would not be the end of the world as there are so many incredible animals for you to discover.
Getting up close and personal with the hoolock gibbons is an extraordinary experience and one that is sure to stay with you for the rest of your lives. What’s more, this is an essential piece of conservation as they cling to their very existence in their mini home. The Gibbon sanctuary is one of the smallest reserves I have ever heard of, at not even twenty-one square kilometres! However, it packs a big punch by God. Before we talk too much about that, let us talk a bit about Assam itself to give you an overview of what to expect.
Covering 78,438 KM2, Assam is the largest of the seven states that make up the fabled seven sisters that makeup Northeastern India. The wholes area is considered one of the most biologically diverse parts of the planet, but Assam reflects that the best is my humble opinion. Emerald green rice paddies and manicured tea plantations have become iconic to Assam, but it is so much more. Millions of years of evolution have given rise to astonishing biodiversity. From some of the grandest mammals to be found anywhere on earth to a mind-bending number of macrofungi, you can find it all here.
To the north of Assam lies the Himalayan kingdoms of Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan and Tibet. To the east are Nagaland and Manipur. To the south is the steaming jungles of Meghalaya, Bangladesh, Tripura and Mizoram. To the west is Bengal, which is only connected to the rest of the country by the thin Siliguri corridor. As you can well imagine, there is a good reason for all of this diversity.
Travel here is not without its complications, though. Every year the mighty Brahmaputra river bursts its banks, and much of the state can become heavily flooded, bringing havoc to your travel plans. It is probably best to avoid the monsoon, to be quite honest. The gateway to pretty much anywhere in the state is from Guwahati. It is relatively easily accessible from many major cities in North India, such as Delhi, Varanasi or Kolkata. From Guwahati, You will then need to make your way to Jorhat and then connect to the Gibbon Sanctuary.
The Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary.
The tiny park offers a refuge for six other primates including, the Capped Langur, Rhesus Macaque, Assamese Macaque, Bengal Slow loris and the Stump-Tailed Macaque. Their home is heavily fragmented from the encroachment of tea plantations that you can see on every side of the park’s approach. There is also a railway line that runs right through the park, breaking it up even further.
The rangers proudly informed me the forests were also home to Tigers, although I can find no evidence anywhere that this is true. The Apex predator is the Indian Leopard, and there seems to be quite a few of those. The park is also home to Elephants, Boars, Jungle Cats, Pangolins and three kinds of Civet. There are also two hundred and nineteen species of birds recorded inside the park and several species of snake.
You will have to be escorted by an armed guide inside the park as there are some big animals in there and it is policy. The local people advised me to be careful when approaching the main gate as Elephants frequent the tea plantations. You will have to walk right through one to get to the entrance from the road. I have had run-ins with wild elephants before, so I can say with great confidence that they can be quite aggressive.
I found the bird watching to be much better in the tea plantations. There is only the occasional tree, so everything is a lot more open than in the thick jungle. As a lover of Indian birds anyway, I loved the walk and found it very rewarding as I spotted some species I had never seen before.
The cost of a foreign ticket is Five hundred rupees and two hundred and fifty for Indian nationals. A camera will set you back another five hundred, and this includes your phone so keep it hidden away unless you want to pay again.
Getting a nights sleep.
There is a government rest house at the park entrance, but that would probably be hard to book. While you would be waking up with the wildlife, I would imagine food is hard to organise as there is no restaurant and no shops anywhere nearby.
Most travellers will stay in Jorhat. If you decide to do this, may I say that Hotel Heaven is an excellent choice? It is one of the few hotels in the area that both accepts foreign tourists and is affordable. While the hotel is definitely not heaven, the staff are friendly and will do nicely for a decent nights sleep. There is a restaurant that sells tasty food, and it has Wifi downstairs. The rooms are between 800 and 1200 rupees for a nights sleep, so it’s good value considering. I think some of the other hotels on that road will accept foriners but do not count on it.
The Shared Auto stand is conveniently just outside the hotel on the main road. That means if you are going to either the Majuli island, The Gibbon Sanctuary or the Railway station, you won’t have far to walk.
Getting there and away.
Getting to the park is easy enough. You get shared auto from near the bus stand in Jorhat to Mariani. Then you get another very close to the park entrance. The local people will know exactly where you are heading, and they will point you in the right direction. They will also tell you when you arrive as it is far from obvious. There is not a signpost anywhere to be seen. It is a ten-minute walk down a small dirt path to where you can pick up a guide. Obviously, get there as early as you can as animals are more active in the cool of the morning.
When it is time to leave, just walk out to the road and flag down another shared auto back the way you came. For more information on using the insanely confusing Indian public transport system, check out my post on getting around the country.
Summary of my guide to The Awesome Gibbon Sanctuary In Assam.
If you have the time to stop at this astonishing Gibbon sanctuary in Assam, it would be a real shame to miss out. It makes for an amazing day in nature. It also provides a rare chance to explore Indias natural spaces on foot. That is not something that happens very often, to be perfectly honest, as the Indian government are super careful over safety.
It is unfortunate that most people are likely to pass right through without ever hearing of it. Unless you type the name directly into Google, it is hardly advertised. It makes for an awesome add on to your itinerary if you are going to Majuli Island, Kaziranga national park, or simply passing through Jorhat. It is a real underdog destination, but that is what I want my website to be all about. For more suggestions on some more intrepid destinations in India, feel free to check the link.
I think I have provided enough information to get you to the gibbon sanctuary but if you need to know any more about the area, leave your questions in the section provided, and I will get back to you. If you have any suggestions on what you would like me to write about pleaselet me know. I want to provide my readers with the service they are looking for. The best way for me to do that is to listen to you and what you have to say, so knock yourself out, as your feedback is more than welcome. That’s about it for now, so until the next time, my fellow intrepid traveller’s happy trails.
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