Enchanting forests of Namdapha

Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

In the easternmost corner of India lies the Namdapha National Park, a biodiversity hotspot, which attracts travellers from all over the country. Covering an area of 1808 square kilometres (core zone) and 177 square kilometres (buffer zone) Namdapha in Arunachal’s Changlang district was declared a tiger reserve as a part of Project Tiger in 1983. The remote location makes it a lesser explored national park in the country.

Namdapha offers an unparalleled experience in nature and plethora of birdlife and wild sightings to nature and wildlife enthusiasts. However, this does not exclude travellers who are seeking to explore the outdoors or looking for a therapeutic getaway with family. There is a lot to do in Namdapha’s forest magic.

Treks and leisure adventure

Namdapha has to be explored on foot because, after a point, there are no roads for cars. Deban is the most accessed forest camp, by the side of River Noa Dihing, a tributary of Brahmaputra. Apart from being surrounded by evergreen forests on all sides, Deban also encourages many outdoor activities.

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Trekking trails within the park are many. A nine-kilometre walk from Deban to Hornbill (known for spotting the bird) can take about two-three hours. Further from Hornbill, a downward descent to Firmbase can take upto seven hours. This is where River Namdapha makes an appearance. From here the trek takes a different form into a tribal village and finally concludes at Deban, after a rigorous seven-hour walk through the rainforest. It is always recommended to hire a guide who knows these trails and terrains.

River Noa Dihing that flows through the centre of the park allows many relaxed adventures. Walk across the river on manmade bamboo bridges. Angling is permitted seasonally on the river. It is advisable to check with naturalists or your guide.

Forests and wildlife rendezvous

As far as the eyes can go, Namdapha is covered with thick forests. While walking towards and away from Deban, expect to see scarlet minivets, slaty-backed forktails, collared treepie, greater yellownape woodpeckers and red-tailed minla in the rainforest.

It is also home to numerous species of orchids. The endangered and very rare, Blue Vanda orchid is found here. Foxtail and dendrobium are other orchids that fill the forest.

This national park is home to the endangered Hoolock gibbon. This tailless primate is known and spotted by the distinct sound it makes. At early hours of the morning, expect the park to resonate with gibbon songs.

Other species of mammals include leopard, Asiatic black bear, Indian bison (gaur), musk deers, Himalayan tahr, red panda, capped langurs, Assamese macaques, and yellow-throated marten, amongst many others.

Hire a naturalist and indulge in the large flock of birds that this forest is home to. From great hornbill, rufous-necked hornbill, white winged wood duck, Himalayan monal, owls, snowy-throated babblers, the gorgeous fairy bluebird and Mountain bamboo partridge, this park is a bird lover’s haven.

Village explorations and beyond

The village called Gandhigram (locally called Shidi) that lies at the south-eastern side of Namdapha, on the India-Myanmar border, is home to Lisu tribe. Visit here to get a glimpse of tribal rural life.

Miao, the closest town to Namdapha, is an ideal place to stay for those seeking a bit of village life and yet the tranquillity of the forest. It’s fun to try some local food in the market which is full of small eateries and shops.

Miao Museum exhibits different reptiles and amphibians’ species, along with other wildlife remains and relics.

Practical information:

Stay: Namdapha Jungle Camp in Miao has excellent rooms with attached bathrooms.
Getting there: Dibrugarh is the closest airport and railway station. From there, drive to Tinsukia, NH38 to Lekhapani via Ledo, SH to Miao.
Getting around: There are no roads within the national park, hence no jeep safaris. Expect to walk on foot.