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Things you should know about Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
Just 12 km from the hustling town of Tinsukia, the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is an island forest cut off from mainland Assam by rivers. Brahmaputra and Lohit rivers shield the park on the north, whereas the Dibru flows along the south.

Dibru-Saikhowa is situated between Dibrugarh and Tinsukia and covers an area of 350 sq. km. The forest consists of a wet evergreen forest, tropical moist deciduous forest and grasslands. In 1997, a 765 sq. km. area was declared as a biosphere reserve with 340 sq. km. as core area. In 1999, the 340 sq. km. was declared as a national park.

Originally, DibrSaikhowa was declared a sanctuary to conserve the habitat of the rare white-winged wood duck. In India, white winged wood duck is seen only in Dibhrusaikhowa Park and Nameri Sanctuary, also in Assam. The park is also home to other rare mammals like Wild Buffalo, Feral Horse, River Dolphins, Capped Langurs and Tigers. The last census showed a tiger population of 27 here. The other mammals found at Dibrusaikhowa are Clouded Leopard, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Sloth Bear, Dhol, Hollock Gibbon, different types of Macaques, Hog Deer, Barking Deer, Civet Cat and Elephants.

Feral (escaped and living wild) horses are the most attractive inhabitants of Dibru-Saikhowa Park. During World War II, tamed horses had escaped the army camps, and others were released here during the catastrophic earthquake of 1950. The current feral horses are the descendants of the tamed horses. Feral horses are a beauty to watch, but are not easily accessible. The best time to see them is during April to August when the water levels are high and the islands easily accessible. In other season the water level is down, one has to walk for a few kilometers before reaching them.

The ivory-fringed sand banks and the palatial forest ground of Dibru-Saikhowa is also home to a variety of birds like White Winged Duck, Bear’s Poachard, Greater Spotted Eagle, Bengal Florican, Pale Capped Piegon, Great Pied Hornbill, March Babbler, Jardon’s Babbler, Black Breasted Parrotbill, Greater Adjutant Stork, Lesser Adjutant Stork and the Great Grebe.

One can sail the huge expanse of Dibrusaikhowa, catching glimpses of many water birds. Children soaked and enjoyed on the banks in the afternoon sun. The banks are lined by acres and acres of tea estates intermittent with a village or two. The circuitous way is taxing, but rewarding. The forest ground came in sight and the river basin got narrower. The banks had witnessed the brunt of the river, eroding the multiple trees in its radar with every surging flood.

Dibru-Saikhowa Park is a biodiversity hotspot with different types of vegetation, like the grasslands, moist deciduous forest and evergreen forest. Our motor boat was parked against an island and we treaded our way on the soft ivory sand. We found fresh foot marks of an elephant and on the opposite bank a cluster of wild buffaloes remained indifferently basking in the sun. Our guide showed us some ground orchids, usually seen here in the months of March and April.

The park is often compared with the Sunderbans of West Bengal, and locals here claim that Dibru-Ssaikhowa has a beauty which still remains hidden from the gaze of many. It is hence a story untold. The Dibru-Saikhowa forest is open to tourists from November to April. In monsoons, the water levels go up dangerously, though the park remains accessible and is a beautiful sight. The only way of reaching Dibrusaikhowa is with boats. Guijan and Saikhowa are the two ghats which connect to Dibru-Saikhowa.

Guijan is a serene place overlooking Brahmaputra river. The river basin is so vast that it stretches to the horizon. One can see Dibrusaikhowa Park from Guijan, but the approach is along a circuitous way due to dangerous water levels and strong currents. Guijan is a stunning landscape of tea estates, flanked by the backwaters of the Brahmaputra. The rustic set-up at Guijan amidst the tea estates make for very interesting photography sessions. Cycle is the major source of transportation here. Every morning, the locals clad in brilliantly colored outfits, ply on their cycles to their work at the tea estates. Village students walk to school. The tea estates are vast and absolutely desolated, cloaked in mist during the mornings. The cold is gripping and one can indulge in walking the length and breadth of these tea estates breathing fresh air.

Ferries at Guijan Ghat usually carry locals across the river to the only village within the park confines; but a ride to Dibru-Saikhowa requires a further negotiation on the rates. Tinsnkia town too offers comfortable hotels. Guijan Ghat has the Banashree Resort, which offers very comfortable, ethnic living and is the nearest to Dihru-Saikhowa forest. Banashree has cottages made in traditional styles, primarily out of bamboo and grass. The food is a platter of mouth watering Assamese dishes.

Joynal Abedin, the resort owner, indulges in cooking the best recipes, guiding you around the forest and offers interesting information on Dibru-Saikhowa. In the past, Abedin was a keen hunter, sometimes for himself and often for people in high positions with whom he wanted to maintain good relations. An incident in 1980 changed the course of his life.

As a favour to a senior army official, he was asked for a pair of wild buffalo horns. Considering the clout of army officers in those days, Abedin could not decline the request and set out for hunting. He shot down a wild buffalo only to know later that she was carrying a young one inside. The realization transformed Abedin. Since then, he has been educating people on the richness of the forest. He has vast knowledge of the flora and fauna here and now spreads his wisdom at ecotourism camps. Abedin together with the Deputy Commissioner of Dibrugarh district, Krishnakant Dwivedi, has formed a conservation group involving many local folks in anti hunting and preservation programs. Educating the locals of the rich forest and its effects on them is what Abedin believes in. The team has come up with a wonderful book on Dibrisaikhowa called Incredible Dibru-Saikhowa. It is like a bible on the place, covering the mammals, birds, reptiles and flowers of the area.

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