The Manas wildlife sanctuary is located in the State of Assam and is one of the biggest sanctuaries in India. The park is named after the Manas River that runs through the heart of this protected wilderness. This park is ideal for someone who wants to go off the beaten track and absorb the beauty of Indian wildlife in its virgin form. The sanctuary is located in the foothills of Himalayas and is home to hundreds of species of animals and flora. The tiger reserve was created in the park in 1973 in light of the extensive poaching of tigers for the ‘medicinal’ properties of their body parts. This sanctuary provides refuge to many endemic species such as Assam Roofed Turtle, The Pygmy Hog, Hispid Hare and The Golden Langur.
The park is located approximately three miles away from the nearest airport at Borjhar making it easily accessible by Air. The capital city of Guwahati is also located at a two hour drive from the wildlife sanctuary. The nearest railway station is on Barpeta road which is located approximately thirty two kilometers or eighteen miles from the National Park. To reach the sanctuary by road is a little difficult since there are no direct buses from Guwahati. A bifurcation on the National Highway 1 at link road makes it a travel option that is not recommended.
The park is famous for its elephant rides from Mathanguri which last for about three hours and take the tourists into the heart of the jungle where other means of transport are unable to reach. A jeep ride through the park is the other option if you are planning a faster way to get around the park. Cameras and other equipment may have a fee along with the charge of the rides. Also make sure that you carry a pair of binoculars which are extremely important for game spotting.
The park is home to numerous species of fauna and a safe haven for migratory birds as well. Some of the famous and endemic species include the Golden Langur, The Insipid Hare and the Pygmy Hog. Furthermore, migratory birds such as Cormorants, Forktails, Riverchats and the ruddy shell ducks can be seen in winter. However, the famous attraction is the Red Panda which is also on the endangered list and the population of this rare species continues to decline due to poaching and habitat destruction. It can be found on the higher slopes of the Himalayan foothills although it is not easy to spot.
The park is not completely accessible in the monsoon and the best time to visit is between October and April. The climate is usually pleasant during these months and wild animals are easier to spot. However the temperature can drop at nights in winter and daytime temperatures during summer are high in the southern parts of the park.
The park is also a tiger reserve and has approximately 80 tigers in the park; however, it is difficult to spot a tiger in this huge park since tigers are sparsely populated and find good cover in the dense forest. Apart from being a Project Tiger reserve it is also a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site.
The Manas national park extends further into Bhutan and has approximately six rivers running through it including the Manas River itself. The park is known for its rich bio diversity due to the alluvial plains formed in the forest because of the rivers. The Manas River also provides the opportunity for a boat ride which starts in Mathanguri and ends thirty five kilometers away. This is one of the three ways of getting around the park and the best option if you do not want your shoes to get dirty.
There are many other wildlife species excluding the endangered ones and some of them include leopards, wild buffaloes, Indian elephants, the Indian deer, Sloth bears, and the Sambhar. There are over three hundred species of birds, eighty species of reptiles and fifty five species of mammals. This place is also the attraction of bird watchers and ornithologists from around the world.
The closest hotel to the park is the Banasbari which is located at the entrance of the park; however the hotel only has limited number of rooms and tourists need to book the rooms well in advance. The hotel has running hot and cold water and is simple but comfortable and it also offers medical assistance. The next option is the Mathanguri resort located inside the park; however it does not have catering services and you have to bring your own food. Travel guides are available at the resort and can be hired for a tour in the sanctuary. This is also the most economical option as you do not have to pay for the non existent catering. The Manas Jungle Camp is situated at the eastern front of the sanctuary and the tariff can range from a hundred American dollars to a thousand dollars. Cottages are also available in the Camp and can be chosen if you are traveling in a larger group.
As far as food is concerned the park is not well equipped and the resorts inside the camp do not have rations for cooking. The best option is to eat at the hotel that you are staying in; however if you choose to stay inside the camp then a better option would be to coax the local caretakers to cook for you. This is not a part of their job but they may agree to it if you have the rations and a handsome tip to pay for their services. However, continental as well as local food is available at the Bansbari lodge which is better than cooking and paying by staying inside the park.