April 1st: a very long day, very full of wild life. And one on which #2 guide tried (unsuccessfully) to fool us into believing that we had to drive our own elephants.
We started with a 5:20am alarm and 5:50am departure to catch our allotted elephants at 6:30am. When we arrived at the start point inside Kaziranga National Park our hearts sank, seeing a carpark full of cars and people. Happily half the cars were there to collect tourists returning from the 5:30 safari, but it still looked like too many people and too many elephants for the sort of quiet trek we wanted.
Everything was far better organised than we’ve encountered with previous elephant safaris – the mahouts were all park rangers and were armed with rifles (because rhino are dangerous, yo); the seats were comfortable benches with foot rests, on which we sat astride, 2 or 3 per animal; we were called up in turn for boarding.
Those elephants that were mothers had their baby elephants with them for the trek, which was adorable.
Once we were all settled, the whole group of elephants set off and immediately began to disperse, so that within a few minutes our two elephant team was alone in the grassland and it became the peaceful experience we desired. It was a beautiful misty morning and our favourite time of day, so we knew we’d be happy however little we saw in the way of wild life. But wait, what’s that with the disapproving look?
The other end of the rhino
Shades of grey
Mother and baby
There were lots of rare, one-horned rhino. Lots and lots. Some babies, some old, gnarly ones, and quite a few with wounds on their bottoms from fighting. This was very much a rhino safari but we did also see deer and wild boar.
An extra treat awaited us when we disembarked: the undulating concrete curves of the park lodge. Mostly occupied by goats.
The ride lasted an hour, but time flew. We were really sorry when it ended, but really glad to be on our way to breakfast: cornflakes, toast and jam, puri and aloo channa, bananas, juice, tea and coffee.