Assam is naturally endowed with rich wildlife. But our thoughts generally directs towards the one-horned rhinoceros whenever we talk of wildlife in Assam. But the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary at Jorhat in Assam is a special place. For it houses the only ape that is found in India, the Hoolock Gibbons and Northeast India’s only nocturnal primate, the Bengal slow loris. We visited Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary after our wonderful trip to Majuli.
The Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary is actually an isolated forest track near the Assam-Nagaland border set amidst the tea gardens and small villages. Initially, the forest used to extend to the foothills of the Patkai range. Even when the forest was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1997, the forest extended from Assam to Nagaland. But an extensive expansion of tea gardens and human settlement fragmented the forest and the reserve became isolated from the foothills. Also, a railway track running through the sanctuary has further fragmented it. Currently, the sanctuary is fragmented into five segments.
Wildlife at Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary
This is the only sanctuary in India to be named after gibbons as it contains the largest density of gibbons. The sanctuary is the home to seven types of apes – western hoolock gibbon, Bengal slow loris, stump-tailed macaque, northern pig-tailed macaque, eastern Assamese macaque, rhesus macaque, and capped langur. Apart from the apes, the forest is also abundant in elephants, tigers, leopards, jungle cats, civets, Himalayan squirrels, wild boars and other mammals. There are also a large number of bird species and several types of snakes inhabiting the forest.
The sanctuary has a rich diversity of flora as well. The tall hollong trees form the upper canopy (at around 90 feet), the Nahar trees form the middle canopy (at 30 feet) and the shrubs form the lower canopy. The forest is so dense that the only way to explore the place is by foot, inspite of the fact that the forests contain wild animals like leopards, wild elephants and wild boars. No vehicles are allowed inside the sanctuary. This is quite a rarity in the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India. So it is essential to take a guide and an armed guard with every group that enters the forest.
You can spend hours inside the forest hiking and looking for wildlife. Even if you do not spot any wildlife, the walk below the canopy of the trees will be quite satisfying. Some parts of the forest are so thick that you will not be able to see the sky. A little into the forest and you will be greeted by sounds of birds and calls of different species of monkeys. We did sight a few wildlife in the forest.
How to Reach Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary
The nearest airport is at Jorhat while the nearest railway head is Mariani. From Jorhat, you can take a shared taxi or auto to Mariani. From Mariani, book an auto to the Sanctuary.
Best Time to Visit:
The best time to visit the sanctuary is from October to March. To sight wildlife, you need to visit early in the morning.
There is a Forest Rest House within the sanctuary. Alternatively, you can stay at Jorhat town.
Some Facts & Trivia:
- No vehicles are allowed inside the sanctuary. So the only way of exploring the forests is by walking.
- It is mandatory to have a guide and a forest guard with each group.
- Entry Fees is INR 250 per head. Charges for DSLR Camera is INR 500 extra.
- Early morning is the best time to visit the sanctuary to sight wildlife.
- If you are visiting the forest during the monsoon, wear leech socks or carry salt to ward off leech attack. During and after the monsoon, the forest becomes full of leeches.
- Seven out of nine non-human primates are inhabitants of the sanctuary
- The male gibbons are black in colour while the females are brown.
- The Hoolock Gibbons can move at a speed of upto 55 kms per hour and cover upto 6 metres with just one swing.
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