Manas National Park

Part grassland and part forest, this wild space is home to species of rare and endangered wildlife that you won’t find anywhere else

Suvayu Paul

Manas National Park

Against the backdrop of the Eastern Himalayas, where wooded hills give way to alluvial plains and tropical evergreen forests, Manas National Park in Assam is the only landscape in the world where pristine Terai grasslands can be seen merging with the Bhabhar grasslands. It is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. The name shared by both national parks is derived from the tumultuous Manas river that swirls down the rugged wooded hills.

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, this national park harbours the most number of endangered species mentioned in the ‘IUCN Red List’ from India – including tigers, elephants, One-horned Rhinos, the Assam Roofed Turtle, the Hispid Hare, Capped and Golden Langurs, and the Bengal Florican, to name a few. The rich variety of flora and fauna makes this a dream destination for any nature lover.  

Plan Your Trip

Getting there

Air

Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport, popularly known as Guwahati International Airport is the nearest airport (170 kilometres; 4.5 hours away).

Rail

Guwahati is the gateway to the northeast, well connected to all major cities of India. There are several trains heading to Guwahati from Howrah or Delhi that stop at Barpeta Road Railway Station, which is 22 kilometres to Bansbari, the entry point of Manas.

Road

NH31 adjoins Barpeta Road, which is 22 kilometres to Bansbari. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Bansbari from Barpeta Road. Manas is also well connected to Siliguri (326 km away) and Bagdogra (335 km away).

best time to visit

Both summer and winter are good times to visit Manas. The park remains open from October to May every year. During the monsoon (from June to September, sometimes mid-October), the park remains closed, as Assam experiences heavy rainfall and floods every year.

Winter (November - February): For birdwatchers, winter is the most favourable time to visit the park – Manas is home to many migratory birds during this season, such as the Northern Shoveler, Greater Spotted Eagle, Amur Falcon, Ferruginous Duck, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Brown-headed Gull and many more. However, in November and December, the forest becomes very dense after the rains and the chance of seeing big wildlife movements reduces. Daytime temperatures usually range between 15-25°C during this time.

Summer (March - May): In March and April, the elephant grasses are burnt down (this is a grassland management practice employed by the forest department every year to reduce the risk of forest fires) and there is maximum visibility, so the chances of animal sightings increase. Also, the Simul trees in Manas are in full bloom in March, and you will see the roads covered with cottons from the Simul flowers. However, Manas experiences extremely hot summers, with daytime temperatures soaring up to 37°C. The hottest month is May.

Stay

There are only a handful of accommodation options in Manas.

BUDGET: 

Mothanguri FRH: This is the only accommodation available inside the forest and that too, in the core area. This government-run resort is situated on the bank of the river that divides Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. The rest house has two wings: one, a 127 year-old heritage bungalow located on a small hillock, the other, a newer construction. In the daytime, you can enjoy stunning views of the roaring Manas river with the Bhutan Himalayas in the backdrop. After dark, walking in this area is strictly prohibited. Also keep in mind, this place is not meant for seekers of luxury. The amenities are basic. There is no electricity during the day, and the place runs on solar for a few hours after dawn. The food is simple too: usually, local rice with dal, one vegetable curry and a choice of egg, chicken and fish. You will get hot water on request. Approximately ₹1,250 per night. 

Contact Mr Rupam Mukherjee to reserve a room or book a jeep safari: +919830654492 / +918420773373.

MID-RANGE: 

Bansbari Lodge: This is an old building adjacent to the gate of Manas National Park. Surrounded by tea gardens on one side, and the jungle and Himalayan foothills on the other, this lodge is the most sought after by tourists who want to stay outside the National Park. The rooms are comfortably furnished and attached western-style bathrooms have running hot and cold water. This lodge also has a small library. Approximately ₹2,450 per night. 

Contact Ms Bijita to make a reservation: +919954205360 / +919864032322.

Birina Eco-camp: This resort is a semi-luxurious option right next to the tea gardens, and was formerly the manager’s bungalow at Fatimabad Tea Estate. Choose from tents, cottages, or regular rooms. The bathrooms are large, clean and fitted with geysers. Just opposite to the entrance of the resort, tea garden starts. Prices range from ₹1,500 to ₹2,500 per night. 

Contact Mr Pathak to reserve a room: +919957067159/ +919435390407

See | Do

  • Look out for the Capped Langur, Pygmy Hog, Asian Elephants, Hog Deer, Wild Water Buffalo – all listed as endangered or vulnerable on IUCN’s Red List. If you are lucky, you may even encounter a leopard or black panther and even a tiger. You can ask your safari jeep driver to drive up to Panbang village (a small settlement in Zhemgang district of south Bhutan) in Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan. Though this international border check-post is unmanned, it is always advisable to carry your passport or another form of photo identity. The village is about a one-hour drive away, through the hills and by the Manas river. The main attraction is a hanging bridge over Manas river.
  • Manas is heaven for bird-watchers. There’s a good chance you’ll get to see the Long-tailed Broadbill, Silver Breasted Broadbill, Sultan Tit, Brown Oriole, Pygmy Woodpecker, Scarlet Minivet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Red-headed Trogon, Bengal Florican and a lot more.
  • You can also take a safari to Kakoijana, in the buffer area of Manas National park, to see endangered Golden Langurs. Kakoijana is around 80km from Bansbari and it takes around 1.5 hours to get there. Upon reaching Kakoijana, you will have to get down and start walking through the hilly terrain to look for the Golden Langurs.
  • Don’t forget to shop for traditional Assamese handloom fabrics from the nearby Boro village at a very reasonable rate, directly from the community. Shop for mekhlas ( Assamese-style saris) and Assamese gamchas (handloom towels). The villages are a 5-10 minutes’ drive from Bansbari.

Good to know

  • Barpeta Road is the nearest town with an ATM, pharmacies, and petrol pumps.
  • All the major mobile phone networks provide moderate to good coverage outside the national park. However, in Mothanguri FRH you won’t get any mobile coverage.
  • There are several watchtowers at various locations inside the jungle to observe wildlife movements. All of them have washrooms.
  • Book Mothanguri FRH well in advance (at least three months ahead). There are only a few rooms available, so getting a booking there is not easy.
  • Carry plenty of bottled water if you want to stay in Mothanguri. You may get bottled water upon request, but it is always better to carry your own.

What to pack

  • During the summer, carry loose cotton clothes, a hat/cap, sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • In winter, carry layered warm clothing, a jacket, woollen cap, muffler, and gloves. You should carry light warm clothes even in March, as it can be quite chilly out on early morning and evening safaris.
  • Don’t forget spare batteries for your camera and a power bank to charge your mobile if you are planning to stay in Mothanguri FRH.
  • Binoculars for birdwatching.
  • A bird-watching field guide.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • A torch for emergencies.
  • Emergency medication and prescription medicines.
  • Always carry some amount of cash, as there is no ATM at Bansbari.

For photographers

  • A telephoto lens of at least 300mm focal length is a must. However, 400mm is better, as there are plenty of birds in vivid colours in Manas, but most of them are in the canopy. Also, you won’t be able to get very close to the wild animals. Because there aren’t that many tourists to this area, animals in the jungles of here are generally shy and don’t allow one to get close.
  • Tripods are not very useful on safaris; a bean bag would be the best way to stabilise heavy tele-lenses in the jeep.
  • Always try to carry a wide angle or kit lens to capture the interesting landscapes. You will get beautiful panorama shots of the savanna grasslands, and the Beki and Manas rivers.

in Between Safaris

  • A nature walk from Mothanguri FRH which follows the course of the Manas river, can be arranged. While strolling, look out for the Great Hornbill, Khaleej Pheasant, fishing eagles and kingfishers. You may also see Smooth-coated Otters searching for fish in the river. You can take a short animal trail through the jungle foliage where, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the Capped Langur in the high forest canopy. If you are even luckier, you may even encounter Golden Langurs. A forest guard and a naturalist/guide will accompany you.
  • You can also go river rafting. Look out for elephants, Wild Water Buffaloes, and Smooth-coated Otters roaming on the bank of river Manas. You can get some amazing habitat shots from your rubber boat. The boat ride starts from Mothanguri and ends at Bispani, around 35 kilometres away. It would take around three to four hours to reach Bispani. From there you will be picked up by a pre-arranged vehicle.
  • Don’t forget to visit the nearby Boro villages outside of the national park. The Boro, an aboriginal tribe of Assam, has a rich culture of music and textiles. The resorts outside of the park can arrange a village walk where you can observe their lifestyle, and also experience how traditional fabrics are woven by village women.
  • In the evening, resorts outside of the park can arrange tribal dance performances of the Boro villagers and other local tribes on request. The performers unfold the age-old stories of their rural life through dance – a truly enthralling experience.

Budget per person

Transportation from Guwahati to Barpeta Road will cost you around ₹3,500. Accommodation at Manas National Park is around ₹2,000 per night, on average. The cost of food will be around ₹700 per day.

A half-day safari costs ₹2,900 per Gypsy; a full-day safari is ₹4,900 per Gypsy. This includes toll tax and gunman fees. Elephant safaris can be organised from the Bansbari Gate inside the park, and are priced at ₹800 per person. Forest entry fees are ₹100 for Indian nationals; ₹650 for foreign nationals. Camera charges are extra. Guide/naturalist charges range from ₹500 to ₹2,000, depending on how long you are out on safari.

You will need to budget for additional activities such as river rafting – which will cost you around ₹6,500. Rafting can be done throughout the season provided the boatmen and boats are available.

Suvayu Paul - Wildlife Enthusiast

Suvayu Paul

Wildlife Enthusiast

An IT professional, Suvayu is a passionate photographer by choice. Whenever he gets time away from his busy office schedule, he makes sure to visit different national parks across India to observe and photograph the inhabitants of the jungles. He posts as @suvayu.paul on Instagram and blogs at suvayupaul.wordpress.com.