When it comes to the National Parks of India, Kaziranga National Park of Assam is one of the most sought out ones by wildlife enthusiasts. Yet, while doing my research before visiting the place, I realized that there is so much more information about the place that is unavailable. Kaziranga National Park is basically divided into 4 ranges - Burapahar, Western, Central and Eastern Range. The most commonly visited are the Western and the Central Ranges even though I found the Safari at Eastern Range the most satisfying and here are the reasons why.
1) Far More Beautiful Landscape : We went for a Safari at the Central Range in Kohora first as information about Central Range is most easily available and everyone had recommended it in a lot of travel portals. Yet the landscape at the Eastern Range is far more diverse than any other range and the huge area out here encompasses so much more. Not only does one get to witness the grasslands along side a huge lake as soon as one enters through the gate, but surrounded by the hilly terrain on the other side this is quite a contrast to the one we witnessed at Kohora. One comes across regular tributaries of the Brahmaputra while doing the Safari and there also come a view point from where one can get down and see the mighty Brahmaputra flowing in it's full glory. Infact, they used to run a river Safari across the Brahmaputra sometime back from this range which now has been shut down for tourists. The Eastern range which is closer to Agaratoli also traverses through some huge Elephant grasses making the Safari all the more adventurous with the constant fear of the Big Cat hiding itself somewhere in the foliage.
2) Far Greater Animal Sighting : We missed out on sighting the tiger both in Central Range as well as The Eastern Range. Yet, for us a safari is not all about tiger sightings. We revel at the sighting of every animal which we can and one would find animals in abundance in Eastern Range. Though the general myth about Eastern Range is that it is a Birder's paradise but apart from catching glimpse of number of birds including the Hornbill we saw far greater animals including the One Horned Rhinoceros and far closer. Apart from the Rhinos, we spotted one 6 member family of Elephants that too pretty closely. Wild Boars , Elephants , Rhinos and Deers can be spotted along the lake as soon as one enters from the main gate. We even spotted Otters and Turtles by the river. Only animal we could have asked for that day was the Big Cat but we had to content ourselves by hearing the calling of other animals and feeling it's chilly presence without actually seeing it.
3) Far Less Commercialized : As compared to the other ranges, especially the Central and the Western Range, the Eastern Range is far less commercialized and as a result of this the no. of vehicles plying also are far lesser. This not only allows you to enjoy the Safari more and at the same time feel much closer to the nature . While at the Central Range , it felt like a convoy of jeeps moving together and on the other hand at Eastern Range for most of the Safari, it felt that we are alone in the jungle . Even our driver cum guide Ritu (whom we hired from our homestay Ethnic Cocoon ) at Eastern Range was far more professional as well as patient which is an essential quality in a driver taking you out on a safari .
4) Far More Humane : We found the Safari at the Eastern Range far more humane as the Safari out here is only allowed on Jeeps and not on elephants which is available at the Central and Western Ranges. Even though an Elephant safari would might result in getting a very close view of the rhinos, I would not recommend going on an Elephant safari to anyone especially because of the torture these animals endure from their childhood. For those who are unaware, baby elephants are separated from their mothers and are confined to small cages and thereafter tortured very cruelly in order to 'break their spirit' and tame them for human beings.
5) Far Greater Time : Last but not the least, being that one is allowed far greater time at the Eastern Range since the drivers out here are not in a rush as compared to the ones in Central or Western Range. Our driver Ritu took his own sweet time taking us around the park and was really interested in finding the Big Cat for us and had there been no limits on the exit time, I'm certain he would not have given up. As far as the Central Range in Kohora is concerned, the driver out there asked us to eat breakfast at ease and even though we were ready by 6am, we did not manage entering the gate before 8 am thanks to the lethargic attitude of our driver there.
This does not imply that the Safari at Central and Western Range is no fun. But, given a choice I would definitely recommend doing the Eastern range safari as well which a lot of people skip as it lies slightly away and off the radar.