| Nature inFocus

Maguri Beel

The wetland in the Tinsukia district of Assam has built a reputation for being a hotspot for wintering migratory birds in the country

Sanjay Prasad Ganguli

Maguri Beel

Maguri Beel or Maguri Motapung Beel, near the Motapung village of Assam’s Tinsukia district, is a major stopover for wintering migratory birds. The word Beel in Assamese means lake, and Maguri is the local name for a type of catfish. Ironically, a steep rise in fishing has led to the extinction of Maguri in the lake. The wetland, spread over an area of 9.6sq.km., was declared an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) in 1996. The lake supports approximately 110 species of birds and a large human population, most of whom depend on fishing for a livelihood.

The only mode of transport here is the wafer-thin fishing boats that call for a prayer every time you step inside them. But confidence grows once the boat lazily yet steadily meanders past the little harbour-like section of the lake, and you would have come across your first few ducks or storks by then. With freshly established faith in the dinghy, you move deeper into the marshy water body. Along the way, you will find yourself travelling in a zig-zag pattern, distracted by the wide variety of water birds on display.

Plan Your Trip

Getting There


The nearest airport is Dibrugarh Airport (DIB), situated about 48km from Maguri Beel. You can plan your flight on any given day as the airport is well connected to both New Delhi (over 2.5hrs) and Kolkata (over 1.5hrs).


There is a railhead at the town of Tinsukia—New Tinsukia Junction (NTSK). It takes roughly 30 minutes, give or take, to reach the border of Maguri Beel.


Tinsukia has a well-connected bus station, making it easily accessible by road from other major cities in Assam. One can also find overnight buses from Guwahati (483km).

Best Time To Visit


At Maguri Beel, wintering migratory birds start appearing during November and continue well into the next year till April. From November to January, the winter adds an element of magic to the photographs; cloaking every image, be it a portrait or habitat shot with a light mist that adds a touch of mystery. The rest of the day remains bright and sunny, so you get the best of both light conditions to shoot in.

Photographers/birders can spend a good day at the lake any time of the year. There will always be resident species, and the grasslands are never deserted either. Some of the highlights from the grasslands are Jerdon's Babbler, Chestnut-capped Babbler, and the highly sought-after Marsh Babbler and Black-breasted Parrotbill. Meanwhile, Yellow-bellied Prinias and Striated Babblers will be your constant companions.


Situated next to the famous Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Maguri Beel has always been in the shadows of its more frequented neighbouring water body. But over the past decade, the wetland has built a reputation for being a prime location for migratory birds. Located on the banks of the Dibru river, Maguri Beel is close to the prayag (confluence) of the Dibru and Lohit rivers, which go on to join forces with the Brahmaputra.

In 2020, as the world was still trying to get to grips with the pandemic, the Baghjan gas and oil leak caught the attention of the conservation world. On May 27, 2020, a fountain of crude oil polluted the waters of the wetland, and it caught fire on June 9.

Conditions have recovered since then, and one highlight for the Maguri Beel wetland post the disaster has been the sighting of a Mandarin Duck in the lake for the first time in 118 years.


The lake being so close to the town of Tinsukia means one has a wide variety of hotels to choose from. Kohuwa Eco Camp, located next to the lake entrance, would be a great option. You wake up to the sound of geese and herons long before the boat paddles touch the water. The morning chill from the lake hits you while you sip a hot cup of tea in the comfort of your balcony or outdoor kitchen. Your days end with the surreal experience of watching large flocks of birds flying overhead as they head back to their roost for the night.


See | Do

  • The early morning hours are best reserved for the grasslands, where you can see birds like Marsh Babbler, Jerdon’s Babbler and Chestnut-capped Babbler.

  • The beginning of the journey is like a harbour, with plenty of small islands and reeds. These are best for sighting Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Ruddy Shelducks and Bar-headed Geese.

  • The middle of the lake is full of ducks such as pochards, pintails, wigeons, etc. A few rarities include the Baer’s Pochard, Falcated Duck and Baikal Teal.

  • At all times, keep an eye on the sky, for sighting raptors, and photographing birds in flight.

Don't Miss

  • Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, which is around 1.5hrs from Maguri, is a perfect option for a day trip. The sanctuary is renowned among birders for lifers such as the Silver-breasted Broadbill, Red-headed Trogon, Blue-eared Kingfisher, and more.

  • The Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary is another must-see destination. Trackers from the forest department keep a close watch on the movement of the apes. Although it is a bit of a drive (4.5hrs away), it is worth the effort when you are guaranteed sightings of the only true ape species in India.

What To Pack

  • The mornings will be very chilly, especially on the lake, be sure to pack ample warm clothing. Also, be prepared to strip down to a single layer once the sun starts shining.

  • Carry a rain cover for your backpacks and camera gear.

  • Make sure to carry adequate sun protection. I’ve found it helps to wear sunglasses, as the sun’s reflection on the water will cause fatigue to your eyes over a long period.

  • Wear full sleeves as a precaution against the morning cold, and the blistering sun later in the day.

  • Carry leech socks if you plan to visit Dehing Patkai while you are here.

For Photographers

  • A telephoto lens at 300mm or 400mm should work well for creating habitat shots of the birds with the lake. It should be enough to photograph shorebirds and waders, and for shooting in the grasslands.

  • Pack at least a 500-600mm lens if you want to get shots of ducks, pochards, grebes, and more.

  • A tripod is a must, not because the boat isn't steady but because holding onto the lens throughout the boat ride will tire your arm, which may lead to shaky images.

Good To Know

  • The boat safari timings are from 6 AM – 9:30 AM and between 2 PM and 4:30 PM (or till the sun sets). The longer you spend here, the more your chances of spotting different species and achieving better photographs.

  • While Kohuwa Eco Camp doesn’t offer lunch, one common practice is to grab a late breakfast/brunch after your morning session at the lake.

  • While the boats are well-kept, there is a chance that the seats are wet from splashes and the morning dew. Be prepared to get your trousers wet or carry a plastic bag/sheet.

  • The same applies to the floor of the boat, where you will store your bag and other equipment.

  • With over two decades of experience in birding in the North East, Pabin Bhaiya is the best person to have on the boat with you, and also while exploring the grassland around the lake. He can also take care of your booking at Kohuwa Eco Camp, and arrange boat safaris for you. His reputation precedes him, as he remains booked for at least two months in advance. (+91 78969 24377 or +91 84720 71633)

Budget Per Person

  • There are no entry charges or camera fees for entering the water body.

  • Boat safaris for the whole day cost ₹1,600. The boat can accommodate 3 - 4 people and the boatman.

  • A one-night stay at Kohuwa will cost ₹1,500, which includes breakfast and dinner.

Sanjay Prasad Ganguli - Wildlife Photographer and Naturalist

Sanjay Prasad Ganguli

Wildlife Photographer and Naturalist

Sanjay Prasad Ganguli is a wildlife photographer and naturalist from Calcutta. Raised in the coastal town of Pondicherry, he found himself drawn to the wonders of the natural world from a very young age. The knowledge he has gained from his Master’s in Ecology and Environmental Sciences combined with his never-ending passion for the wilderness gives him an interesting perspective, which he likes to present through his photography and writing.