Easy Trip: Wild encounters in Kaziranga National Park, Assam

The low-impact thatched cottages might not look like much, but are quite luxurious
Photographer: T Krishna Prabakar

RIVERSIDE RENDEZVOUS

WORDS ANJUMAN DEODHAR
PHOTOGRAPHS T KRISHNA PRABAKAR

GREAT FROM Kolkata, Guwahati
GREAT FOR An unforgettable wildlife experience

Lodge

noun

• a small house at the gates of a park or in the grounds of a large house.

• a small, makeshift or crude shelter or habitation, as of boughs, poles, skins, earth, or rough boards; cabin or hut.

Don’t make the mistake of calling Diphlu River Lodge (DRL) a resort, especially not when Mr Roy, the General Manager, is around. You’ll be quickly reprimanded for it. It is a lodge. They’re quite particular about such things, and all the better for it. It’s not much to look at – the cabins are largely bamboo, with thatched roofs, and the gazebo overlooks quite a small pond. But don’t let that fool you. They’ve got a good thing going. Spend some time here and you’ll see.

Now, Kaziranga is very popular with tourists. In fact, it would be safe to say that it’s put Northeast India on the world tourist map. So, it’s no surprise that hotels and resorts of all shapes, sizes and budgets have sprung up like mushrooms in the monsoon. And they’re pulling out all the stops to grab eyeballs. Imagine a place in the middle of all this din that decides not to put up even a basic signboard at the entrance. That’s DRL for you. Although locating it is quite easy using Google Maps, it’s pointless unless you have a reservation. You can’t just drop in for a cup of tea, and that’s something you’ll appreciate immensely when you’re a guest there, like being on an island of solitude in the middle of mayhem.

The secret is service: unobtrusive and efficient. Perhaps it’s a skill they perfected when the Duchess of Cambridge was a guest, or maybe Kate came because they’d gotten it down pat. Even regular things like the turn-down service are made a bit better because of the attention to detail. No tea bags and milk powder in the rooms, here. There’s real milk in the mini fridge, and three types of tea leaves to choose from. But perhaps the best bit is that they only have one type of tariff, and it includes everything. Although it might seem like a tad much at first glance, it includes meals, safaris, guide fees, and even camera charges, which works out to be quite reasonable.

The property is on the banks of the Diphlu River, which runs along the southern border of Kaziranga, and its residents can often be spotted from the lodge. Large flocks of bar-headed geese can be seen feeding on the grassy banks of the river; rhinos, too, are known to make an appearance. But that’s no surprise considering the sheer density of wildlife in Kaziranga, which is what makes it such a big draw for wildlife enthusiasts. The alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra River feed a thriving ecosystem, and the greater one-horned rhinoceros is an almost-guaranteed sighting on elephant or jeep safaris. Apart from these, a boat ride on the Brahmaputra for a chance sighting of the Gangetic dolphin also comes recommended.

Despite being situated along such a vibrant national park, it’s not just about the safaris at DRL. The folks here encourage you to try non-wildlife related activities, like tea garden visits and walks through rubber plantations, or just lazing back at the resort. As the evening sun bathes the mustard patch in a golden glow, and lilies tremble in the breeze, the gazebo becomes the best seat in the house at which to nurse your cup of tea till the stars come out.

Spot rhinos and more in Kaziranga with Lonely Planet Magazine India’s March 2017 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.