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It was a Cold Winter Morning
It was a cold morning, I remember it was December 16th 2010. A breeze blows past you and you feel the chill, typical to what it is in India during this part of the year. I woke up early, took a hot water bath, had my breakfast (though only a cup of coffee and a slice of bread) and dressed up. I was getting ready to go to college but not to attend classes. Indeed all our Science departments (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Zoology and Botany) were going for an Environmental Science Project. We were instructed to reach the college by 8 a.m. in the morning. We were four friends from Rupai. Palash and Surajit would ride a motorcycle. So Sam and I decided to go by public transport. At 7:45 we reached Tinsukia Town. We headed towards the college which was about 1.5 kilometers from the bus stand. All of us gathered in front of the college gate, attendance was taken and we were ready to go. Where? The DIBRU-SAIKHOWA NATIONAL PARK which was at a distance of 13 kilometers from the town. We were 80 students plus two teachers, Mr. Biplob Banik (of Chemistry Department) and Mr. Satyajyoti Gogoi (of Physics Department) along with his 5 year old son. We hired 8 auto rickshaws and reached the Dibru-Saikhowa Base Camp at about 9 o'clock in the morning. Never before I have been to such exotic place. Neither were most of my friends.
Reached the National Park Base Camp
When all the students reached the spot, we were taken to the base camp where we freshened up. Everything was so natural, so pure. They had all modern facilities but very different from the polluted towns we have grown up and lived for so long. We were offered tea (which I do not drink, so gave it to someone else) and bread with jam. Then the National Park authorities came and welcomed us and introduced us to a guide who would walk us through the park. He seemed to know every bit of the park and briefed us about the history and geography of this place. We were surprised as well as happy to know how popular the Dibru-Saikhowa park is in the world and people from various regions come and visit it on a regular basis. He also showed us his binocular which was gifted to him by a traveler from the Netherlands.
Starting out on our Exploration
Getting into the boat
Looking for river dolphins
We were instructed to get into the boat (not a modern boat of course, but a wooden one good enough to hold 100 odd people). The guide was planning to show us river dolphins. Aren't dolphins marine animals? Yes they are but out of all the species in the world, 4 of them are restricted to freshwater habitats. There are 15 river dolphins in the waters of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. We were taken to a place in the middle of the river, which, according to our guide was the favorite spot to see river dolphins. We had a hard luck and none of us saw a dolphin at the slightest except a girl screaming out, "Hey dolphin, dolphin this side". May be she saw a big fish..LOL..
Entering the Park
The guide then took us to the side of the river, not the side we boarded the boat but the other side of the river and said "This is the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. Don't go your own way, anything can happen, just follow me". I took out my mobile, the network was gone. I was scared inside. What if I am lost, I can't contact anyone. Anyway we were 80 people and I was in a group of 10.
Struggling our way through the dense bushes
Inside the National Park
We followed the guide and he showed us various unique and rare tress and herbs. The Botany and a few of the Zoology students were very happy seeing these, but as a student of Physics, I never had interest in all such stuff. So I simply moved from the spot along with Palash and Sam to click some photos of the landscape which was fascinatingly awesome.
Then we were taken to a place, so clayey that I was finding it difficult to walk. So I stayed back. The tour guide's lectures sounded boring as he was only talking about plants. Then we were asked to gather under a huge Salix tree which is found in abundance in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. We gathered and the guide told us many stories about the park from the early 19th century and how it has changed over the years. How people all over the world praise Dibru-Saikhowa for conserving wildlife at its purest form, and on the other hand how it is fighting hard to save itself from natural as well as anthropogenic elements. We were now loving his lectures.
Ready to see the animals?
We were now done with plants and herbs and were waiting patiently for when the guide would show us animals as we have walked about 5 kilometers from the bank of the river and were well inside to see animals (according to us). Amidst the buzz, some guy from the crowd shouted out, "Sir, we have come to know about many plants, now let us go and watch the animals". The guide laughed out loud and said, "We are in the buffer zone buddy which spreads across 425 square kilometers and you will find animals in the core zone which covers an area of 340 square kilometers. If you go straight, it will not be less than 100 kilometers before you see an wild animal". All our dreams were shattered. There was utter silence. The only animal we found was a dog; felt like crying.
The dog we found in the park
We now headed towards the river bank and while returning we had to cross a village. A village? I was shocked. Even there was a school, of which Sam and I took some photos. We rested for 10 minutes in the village and drank some water, which the villagers were happy to give us. I later searched for this on the Internet, and came to know that there are two villages namely, Laika and Dodhia inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Leaving the Park
We waited for sometime near the bank of the river until the boat arrived. We were damn tired and even lay down on the grass near the river bank. But, somewhere deep inside our heart we were feeling sad to part with this wonderful place.We boarded the boat and sailed to that very spot where we could see dolphins. One moment I thought it was a waste of time to look for dolphins and the very next moment I saw 4 of them. They were beautiful. We enjoyed very much seeing the dolphins jump up in the air. We then returned to the base camp, freshened up a bit and went for the lunch planned on the bank side. It was an Environmental Project cum Picnic. It was an awesome experience. After the lunch we rested for sometime lying on the grass and sand. After that we had to leave as it was winter and it was getting darker. We were so sad to leave the place. We wanted to explore it more, we wanted to go into the depths of this paradise, but we couldn't. The only thing which consoled us was the feeling that we have been to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. We also shot enough photos to cherish this splendid trip all through our life.