Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary
Make your way to a remote, pristine part of Assam to see one of India’s only ape species
Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary
The Hoolock Gibbon is popularly known as India’s only ape species. Technically, though, there are two lesser ape species, the Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) and the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys).
For wildlife enthusiasts hoping to get a glimpse of the Western Hoolock Gibbon, categorised as Endangered by the IUCN Regional Red List, the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary in Jorhat district, Assam is the place to visit. This tailless primate, with long arms twice the length of its legs, is a jungle gymnast, swinging through the isolated, evergreen forest.
Populations of this ape species are found across the northeast states of India, but one of the largest groups – around 100 individuals – live in this protected space, so it truly is the best place to see them.
Plan Your Trip
Jorhat (30km; 60 min away) is the nearest airport. However, Guwahati (350km; 8 hrs away) offers better flight connectivity than Jorhat.
Jorhat railway station is 20km away and is connected by trains from Guwahati. Guwahati Junction is well connected by trains from the rest of India.
Hoollongapar Wildlife Sanctuary is about 6-8 hours from Guwahati.
best time to visit
- November to February is the best time to visit. It is the coolest time of the year, with temperatures ranging from 8-25°C, although mornings inside the sanctuary can feel much colder.
- March to June These are the hottest months, with daytime temperatures of over 35°C.
- August to October Some outdoor enthusiasts prefer to visit in the monsoon, which is when the park is most luscious in vegetation.
The Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary used to be known as the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, until its name was changed in 2004. The sanctuary gets its name from the dominant tree species of the area, the Hollong (Dipterocarpus macrocarpus). It is the state tree of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Formerly a reserve forest, it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1997. At one time, the forests of this area extended till the Patkai mountain range and provided connectivity to the forests in Nagaland, but extensive habitat loss over the years has now left it as an isolated evergreen forest surrounded by tea estates and villages.
There are many hotels in Jorhat, but guesthouses in tea estates and homestays provide better access to the sanctuary. A day-trip from Kaziranga, which would take you around 3.5 hours each way, is also possible but is not recommended, as it would not give you enough time to explore the entire sanctuary, which is open from dawn to dusk.
Puronibheti Retreat and Thengal Manor are tea estate bungalows and will cost around ₹6,000-₹8,500 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Contact Uttara Gogoi on [email protected] or +91-94355-14177 for details.
Gibbon Resort, popularly known as Gibbon Guest House among locals, is situated about 20 minutes from the sanctuary. It has five rooms and a dormitory. A double room will cost around ₹3,000 per day, inclusive of meals. This option is highly recommended – the owner is a naturalist and a photographer, with excellent knowledge of the sanctuary and its inhabitants. Visit their Facebook page, or get in touch with Diganta Gogoi on +91-99544-03770 or [email protected] for details.
The Assam Forest Department inspection bungalow is the option that’s closest to the sanctuary. It has two rooms, each priced at around ₹800 per day. While staying here, you will need to buy your own groceries and ask the caretaker to cook for you. Contact the Divisional Forest Office on +91-376-2320008 for details.
The Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary is a 30-minute drive from Jorhat, Assam.
The early morning mist creates a surreal feeling in the evergreen forests of the sanctuary. This stream comes alive with butterflies as the day progresses.
Beneath the tall trees of the sanctuary, it's easy to get lost in the mysteries of the natural world.
A female Hoolock Gibbon nurses and nurtures her young one.
Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary is the best place to sight Hoolock Gibbons. Here, a male Hoolock Gibbon hangs from a branch before swinging onto another.
The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of birds. This Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus) makes a routine visit to a leaking tap for a drink and a splash.
This vine snake made an appearance on the roadside, en route to the sanctuary. Keep an eye out for insects, reptiles and amphibians.
Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary is also the best place to sight and photograph the Malayan Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor).
The shy and elusive Stump-tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides) is best seen here. It moves on all four limbs, usually on the ground, and is not seen often on trees.
A healthy population of Pig-tailed Macaques (Macaca leonina), along with other primate species, indicates a healthy protected environment at the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary.
The Pig-tailed Macaque, a diurnal species, feeds primarily on fruits and seeds. Young leaves, fungus, buds, shoots, insects, river crabs, nesting birds and other animal prey form the rest of its diet.
There are seven species of primates in Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary. Featured here is the Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta).
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See | Do
- Adult male and female Hoolock Gibbons do not differ much in size, but vary a lot in their colouration. Females are copper-tan, while males are black with a distinctive white brow. You can listen to their distinctive calls here — it's a jungle concert you won't soon forget!
The sanctuary is also home to six other primate species – Capped Langur (Trachypithecus pileatus), Pig-tailed Macaque (Macaca leonina), Stump-tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides), Assamese Macaque (Macaca assamensis), Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) and the only nocturnal primate in the north-east, the Bengal Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis).
- There are a few main trails within the sanctuary that you can walk on. But if you don’t sight the primates on the trail, do ask your guide to take you deeper inside. This way, you’ll get more of a feel for the evergreen forest. Some of the primates will be up in the canopy, and some can be seen on the ground.
- The park closes at 6pm, so if you want to see the nocturnal Bengal Slow Loris, you will need to take special permission to visit after hours.
- Walk along the railway tracks to spot some amazing butterflies, such as the Dark Archduke, Common Nawab, Common Tit, Red Lacewing, Commander, Himalayan Blackvein Sergeant, Himalayan Rusty Sailer, Blue Baron, Water Snow Flat, and Fluffy Tit. Make sure you also keep an eye for the trains passing by, and as always, have a guide with you to ensure you are safe.
- This sanctuary is a good place to sight the Malayan Giant Squirrel, Abbott’s Babbler, and the Blue Whistling Thrush. Also, look out for the huge earthworm mounds.
Good to know
- Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary is open from dawn to dusk. It is possible to spend the entire day within the park, as there is no restriction on the duration of a visit. But it is better to reach the sanctuary early, as gibbons are active very early in the morning and their activity reduces by 10am.
- Carry a packed breakfast and lunch from your hotel when spending the entire day at the sanctuary.
- Vehicles are not allowed inside the sanctuary. Wear a good pair of shoes, preferably water resistant, as you will have to walk a lot and might also need to go off trail.
- During and right after the monsoon, leeches are aplenty, and it is wise to carry leech socks.
- Diganta Gogoi from the Gibbon Guest House is an excellent naturalist, and can help you plan your trip. He has a lot of knowledge about spiders, butterflies and birds.
- A guide can be hired from the office of the sanctuary. As per the park’s policy, an armed guard will also accompany visitors out on the walk.
- You will find facilities like ATMs, restaurants, pharmacies, convenience stores, petrol bunks and hospitals in Jorhat, around 30km away. There are no facilities close to the sanctuary.
- Airtel and Jio provide decent network and data coverage close to the sanctuary office. Within the sanctuary, there is not much network coverage.
What to pack
- In summer, carry loose cotton clothes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion.
- There will be a lot of walking, so do ensure that you wear comfortable trekking boots/shoes.
- Full-sleeved shirts and trekking pants will help, as you might be walking through thick vegetation.
- During the winter, carry layered warm clothing, and a jacket.
- Mosquito repellent will come in handy.
- Leech socks will be useful.
- A torch for emergencies.
- Your camera gear.
- Bird and butterfly field guides.
- A notebook for your field notes.
- Always carry some amount of cash, as there is no ATM close by.
- A telephoto lens of at least 300mm focal length is essential. However, a 400mm or 500mm would be better as there are several birds in this sanctuary. These lenses will also help when the Gibbons are at the top of the canopy of the tall trees within the sanctuary.
- An ultra-wide-angle lens would allow you to capture the landscape of the sanctuary, sometimes with beautiful early morning fog.
- Carrying a tripod will help, as the forest is dense with very little light filtering through some areas.
- A macro lens and flash would allow you to capture butterflies and other insects found in abundance here.
- There’s nothing much for tourists to buy near the sanctuary, but don’t forget to get yourself some locally grown Bhut jolokia, one of the world’s hottest chillis, from the markets at Jorhat.
- Kaziranga National Park is about 3 hours away, where you will have the opportunity to spot the Indian rhino, elephants and the tiger.
- Tocklai Tea Research Centre, a 100-year-old research centre, is close by. Here, you can walk in the tea gardens and visit their museum. This can be done in the afternoon when the primate activity within the sanctuary reduces.
- Pay a visit to Lachit Borphukan’s Maidam, about 15km, or 35 mins away from the sanctuary. It is a memorial constructed in memory of Lachit Borphukan, a commander in the army and a local hero. He defended the kingdom, fighting the Mughals.
- Kakochang Waterfalls is an enchanting sight to behold and a popular scenic spot, about 98km or 3 hours from the sanctuary. Once you’re there, be prepared for a long walk through the woods and across streams to reach it.
Budget per person
Forest entry fees (₹50) and camera fees (₹50) need to be paid at the sanctuary office. Though many feel a one-day trip is sufficient, it is better to spend at least 2-3 days exploring the sanctuary.
Expect to spend approximately ₹2,500 per day per person, including mid-range accommodation, food, local transport, and the trip from Jorhat.