Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary is a small wildlife reserve near Guwahati City in the state of Assam. It is famous as a suitable alternate to Kaziranga National Park to sight one-horn rhinoceros. Kaziranga is approx 220 kms away from Guwahati, while Pobitora is just 42 kms away. It is a very small sanctuary, but the density of rhinoceros are very high. The population of The Great Indian one-horned rhinoceros is so dense in Pabitora, that you can easily sight 10-15 rhinoceros in the different part of sanctuary during an hour of elephant safari. Although, the sanctuary covers the area of 38 square kms, but the population of 98 rhinos are generally concentrated in the area of 16 square kilometers.
How to Reach Pabitora? The only option to reach there is by a hired cab. I didn’t find any public/shared vehicle going to Pabitora. We hired a Maruti Swift from Six Miles Area of Guwahati and it charged us INR 1900 for the return trip. However, later we realized that it was negotiable upto INR 1700 at least. From Paltan Bazaar, a cab should charge you approx. INR 2200 for the return trip.
Sanctuary Timings: The sanctuary is open from sunrise to sunset, but it has fixed timings for elephant safaris. Two Elephant safaris are there in the morning. The official timings are 0630 hrs and 0730 hrs for one hour duration each. But these timings are not fixed. The officials conduct both the safaris between 0630 hrs to 0930 hrs, subject to the availability of the tourists. If sufficient number of tourists will not reach by 0630 hrs or weather will be foggy (in winters), they generally start it around 0800 hrs. Second safari may or may not be there, depending on the tourist availability. I had heard about an additional elephant safari at 1430 hrs, but the mahawat of my elephant informed that after 1000 hrs, elephants go to the sanctuary with forest personnel for their official routine inspection, so there is no safari after 1000 hrs. I am not sure about this 1430 hrs timing. I think, it varies from season to season. Its better to coordinate with forest officials before heading there, so that you can know the exact status of safari timings and accommodation availability.
Jeep Safari for one hour is available throughout the day, without any fixed timings.
Note: It is better to coordinate with the officials before going to the sanctuary (Contact Number: Range Officer, Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary , Mayang, Morigaon 03678-248157) . At the time of heavy rush, they give priority to the groups who have coordinated in advance. If rush is there, then you may miss a chance to get accommodated in the safari. We reached there without any coordination, but only few people were there, so we got the chance.
Entry Tickets and Safari Cost: There are various types of entry tickets available at the sanctuary. The ticket prices are different for Indian and Foreign Nationals.
Typical ticket prices are like this:
View fee per person/per entry/per day for entering the park : INR 50 for Indians and INR 500 for foreigners
Fee for visiting full day till sunset: INR 200 for Indians and INR 2000 for foreigners
Fee for Elephant Safari per person/per trip of one hour duration: INR 450 for Indians and INR 1000 for foreigners
Toll for river/canal cruise or road trip (jeep safari) per person/per trip of one hour duration: INR 300 for Indians and INR 300 for foreigners
An entire jeep can be hired at the cost of INR 1000 for an hour jeep safari.
For Indians: INR 50 for still camera, INR 500 for video camera and INR 500 for movie camera.
For Foreigners: INR 50 for still camera, INR 1000 for video camera and INR 1000 for movie camera.
So, for an Elephant Safari, you have to pay INR 550 that include INR 50 (entry fee) plus INR 450 (elephant seat fee) plus INR 50 (still camera fee).
Where to Stay at Pabitora: At least 4-5 hotels are there in the area of Pabitora. The best option is to stay at Forest Department Guest House.
Our trip to Pabitora: We wanted to go for the morning elephant safari at Pabitora. Our cab driver reached outside our hotel in Guwahati at 0530 hours in the morning. We were already prepared by that time, so hit the road to Pabitora straight away. It is just 40 kms from Guwahati (via Chandrapur), but we were supposed to reach there in one and half hour at least, because of the foggy weather. We passed along the Brahmaputra river, but couldn’t able to see its grandeur properly due to the fog.
When we reached Pabitora at 0715 hours, two more groups were already there. Ticket counter was open, but they asked us to wait till the weather improvement. As there was only few tourists present for the safari, the officials were in no hurry. They wanted to wait for some more groups, and by that time weather might had been cleared also.
For next half an hour, no other group arrived. Weather was cleared significantly, so they allowed us to go inside the sanctuary. We bought our entry tickets and moved ahead.
Entry to the Sanctuary: A water canal surrounds the sanctuary from all the directions near the ticket office. We are suppose to cross a hanging bridge of iron steel to enter in the sanctuary area. The bridge is really a hanging bridge, and it started shaking and fluctuating with our movement. We hold the side jaali (grills) to maintain our balance and moved carefully.
After crossing the bridge, we went towards the residences of mahawats. There were 5-6 elephants available for the safari. The guides took us on a raised platform, known as the elephant ride point. From that raised platform, we rode on the elephant’s back carefully. Generally, they write the guide name on the ticket slip, but if there is no rush, you can chose any elephant and the guide.
Normally, they accommodate four people on a single elephant, three tourists and one mahawat. But, during our trip, there were only few tourists, so they accommodate 2 or 3 people on a single elephant.
Elephant Safari: All elephants moved together in a group towards the forest. Apart from those elephants, there was a small elephant on which, two armed guards were riding. 10 minutes after leaving the ride point, we entered into a dense forest.
Five minutes later, we were able to sight the first rhinoceros in that dense forest. There was lot of excitement in the crowd, but mahawats signalled us to remain silent. We moved through that forest for 15 minutes, and then reached to the other end. Beyond that there was a widespread area of high grass lying in front of us. That grassland has the grasses upto one meter in height and, in those grasses, wonders the best wildlife of the sanctuary. We were easily able to sight many rhinoceros all around us. Some were moving closer towards us, while some were grazing in the remote corner. Sighting the great Indian one-horn rhinoceros is indeed a visual treat and an exciting experience and also, less complicated than sighting the tigers at the famous national parks.
We were able to spot a baby rhino as well as a rhino couple, who was making love. The mahawats were not interested to disturb the love making couple in a remote corner, so they didn’t go there and we moved forward for the return journey.
Interestingly, almost all rhinos had a small wound on their back. They fought regularly and their sharp horn generally hurt their back badly.
Other animals of Pabitora include Wild Buffaloes, Wild Boar, Jackal and Leopard, but we were only able to sight two groups of Wild Buffaloes and a wild boar.
At the other end of the grassland, there is a bird-watching point of Pabitora. This wildlife sanctuary also has a rich bird-life.
The entire safari route is about 4-5 kms long. You can travel much farther by a jeep, but that jeep will move only on the unpaved road, and you can’t go closer to the rhinos.
We returned back to the raised platforms, where another group of tourists were waiting for their safaris. A banana seller was there selling bananas at high price (INR 50 for 6 bananas), so that tourists could feed the elephant with their own hands.
Form there, we back to the forest office via the hanging bridge over the canal. There was nothing more to visit there, so we started our journey back to Guwahati.
The weather was very clear by then with bright sun in the sky. The road passes through the small villages, covered with the palm trees and surrounded by small hills. Whole area looked really beautiful. We were unable to notice that beauty during the onward journey because of the fog. We arrived back to our hotel at 1030 hours. That small trip to Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary only took five hours, but we had a nice flavour of wildlife in that worth-visiting trip.
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