Manas Wildlife Sanctuary

Spring eventually comes to Montana and then eventually another and then yet another. This process has fascinated me since my youth and has again. From stark and sensory depraved explodes color, sight, sound, and smell. Things are flying, running, and calling. Dry brown leaves swirl in the sharp early wind. Life begins again. Dreams begin again. Wrote my piece last night and have been pruning my roses. I love roses. Canadian geese sail overhead. I think some tulips may bloom tomorrow. It is quiet here right now.
-John Eickert

I shall not forget my first elephant ride. Standing before such, a colossal docile beast is intimate and humbling. I ascended a shaky branch and fiber ladder to a small platform. The mahout directed me to my place near him on the howdah. The mahout was named Sah Urendar. Pronounce his name slowly and you will understand what the elephant must do to become domesticated. With a cry of “hut, hut, hut” from the mahout and more encouragement, the elephant was off and gliding through the Sal forest and down to the tall river grass. An elephant moves in great rolling strides and rapidly covers even the most uneven ground. No SUV would dare to attempt this same terrain. Soon I was in rhythm and silently we crept through the forest. Spotting wild game from this perch, high above was easy and safe. I had hoped to see a tiger, but instead came away with an amazing encounter. We happened upon a lone bull elephant and he did not appreciate our company. Practicing great skill and control my mahout backed our elephant away from the danger. The tension was enormous and our elephant wanted to bolt through the grass, such an adventure! It takes great skill to train, discipline, and command any animal. How more so the world’s largest land mammal!

India has many great game parks. If I were to experience a “first” elephant safari and encounter the living fiction of Kipling, where would I go? Far from anywhere, in the foothills of the Himal and the border with Bhutan is a seldom-visited wildlife sanctuary named, Manas. Manas is in the northeastern hill state of Assam. You can use your rail pass to get near here; a city named Nalbari is your jumping off point and place to arrange for the approach to the Manas by boat. Manas is a World Heritage Site and part of Project Tiger. Above the river, the hills carry scattered patches of simul, khoir, udal, bohera, and kanchan trees, which give way to evergreens. Once out of your boat and onto your elephant a multiday safari is possible with perhaps three or more hours of riding each morning. These remote hills have an array of wildlife with wild buffalo, swamp deer, hog deer, sambar, rhino, and elephant seasonally common. If you are lucky and patient, there are slow lorries, capped and golden langur high overhead. Crouching in the bushes far below your howdah could be a pygmy hog or hispid hare who might be hunted by tiger, leopard, or maybe even the rare clouded leopard. During migration, there are flocks of redstarts, forktails, mergansers, and ruddy shelducks, watch along the Manas River for otters.
An elephant safari is not to be missed. I cannot put it more simply. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place, remote and wonderful. Take along your favorite Kipling and let me know, I might join you. As always, be sure to take the time and take your time.

Contributed by John H.Eickert

Num Bum Adventures or call 406-777-2228.

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