Why you should visit Bodoland & Manas National Park

by Jan 31, 2019Assam, Destination Guides, India, Northeast India54 comments

We came, we saw and we loved. This is what we felt about Bodoland. The place with its scenic vistas, wildlife sanctuaries and adorable people simply stole our heart. The week we spent at Bodoland during the Dwijing Festival was simply full of unadulterated fun and joy. Because we discovered the “land untouched”, experienced a very colourful festival in Northeast India, went for the longest safari of my life at Manas National Park and of course met some wonderful people on the way. The cherry on top is that fact that we were there as the “Ambassadors of Bodoland”, trying to bring Bodoland on the tourism map. So sit tight and experience the wonders of Bodoland with the 2 Backpackers.

Manas River-Manas National Park-Assam Tourism

Is Bodoland safe to travel?

It is true that even a few days back, the word ‘Bodoland’ was taken with much scepticism because of its past. It was not considered ‘safe’ to travel here. When I told my family that I would be travelling to Bodoland, they looked at me as if I were some weirdo.

But all these fear, doubt is a thing of the past.

Bodoland is perfectly safe to travel. Period. And so is entire northeast.

As a solo female traveller, I would definitely say that there are very few places in the country safer than these areas. And this realization comes only after my extensive travel in the northeast India, both solo and with Agni. So ditch that doubt, keep an open mind and come visit Bodoland.

Where is Bodoland?

Bodoland is the land of the Bodos, an indigenous inhabitant of Assam. Lying on the foothills of the Bhutan Himalayas, Bodoland comprises of the four districts of Assam. The area is now known as BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Area Districts) governed by the BTC (Bodoland Territorial Council) that has been given the legislative, administrative, executive and financial powers in the area.

We had visited Bongaigaon and Chirang area to attend the Dwijing Festival and also took a visit to the Manas National Park in the Baksa region. Kokrajhar and Udalguri district also falls under BTAD.

Dwijing Festival, Bodoland. Assam Tourism

What Bodoland has to offer to tourism?

Bodoland is unmatched in biodiversity with important wildlife sanctuaries and wildlife reserves. Manas National Park is one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries of Assam. Apart from its rich floral and faunal beauty, the area is culturally rich. It is the heartland of the Bodos, the largest ethnic group of Assam. The people fiercely protect their traditions and culture and will also happily welcome you to their folds so that you can experience the Bodo culture as well as their hospitality.

Inspite of being so culturally and naturally rich, the region has never been in much public eye, mostly because of insignificant promotion and negative publicity. Now, along with the help of Bodoland Tourism and Ambassadors of Bodoland, the region will surely come to the tourism map.

Assam Tea Gardens

What are the places to visit in Bodoland?

Manas National Park is perhaps the most iconic attraction of the region. But Bodoland is not only about wildlife. Here are some of the places that you can visit in Bodoland. We visited a few places while on our trip, but I would include a few more as well.

Manas National Park

As we mentioned before, Manas National Park is the most famous and developed attraction of Bodoland. Manas is an interesting place. It has a few specialities that make it singular from other places. Manas National Park is the only national park in India with five conservation status. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve, an Important Bird Area as well as a Biosphere Reserve. It is also the only forest area that has increased in size!

In 1992, UNESCO had declared the National Park as a world heritage site in danger. It was because of heavy poaching and felling of trees and other terror activities. Later due to the conservation efforts of the locals, the Manas national park was removed from the list of World Heritage Site in Danger. You can read about the conservation efforts in our post about MMES.

A walk with the elephants

We stayed at Smiling Tusker Elephant Camp at Manas. The camp had adopted two orphan elephants and named them Jaymala and Ratnamala. In the afternoon, we went for a walk with Jaymala and Ratnamala along the tea gardens. But first it was the time for some indulgence for Jaymala and Ratnamala. The mahouts took them to a nearby stream for a bath. Some of us went into the water with them to bathe them, scrubbing them with grass. It was good to see the two elephants enjoying the bath and sprinkling water on those who were around. Elephants are surely lovely creatures.

After a lazy bath, the duo took us for a walk. Yes, we followed Jaymala and Ratnamala through the tea gardens and the village roads. We would stop with them when they decided for a quick meal by breaking a branch. It was obvious that they were hungry after a bath! With the golden light of the setting sun, the whole place looked dreamy and all the photographers became busy for that ‘perfect’ golden hour shot.

Later we walked through the Bodo villages on the fringes of the forests. We simply entered into Bodo houses, took photographs and all that they did was give us a huge smile. Who said Bodos were not friendly?Wildlife of Assam-Bodoland-Manas National Park

A 7-hour long safari

Well, we must say that it was the longest safari that we ever did. And it was totally worth. The ride was bumpy, we got covered by dust, but we continued our quest to see the flora and fauna of Manas National Park. We spotted a few animals, drove through the green cforest, and then abruptly the scenery changes. Manas River appears out of nowhere and all of us get down to enjoy a few minutes at the riverbank. The Manas National Park is named after the Manas River that flows from the gorges of Bhutan.

A few minutes turned out to be quite some time. The landscape was so gorgeous! The clear blue waters of Manas River rippled across the rocky terrain. The white pebbles on the bank provided a perfect contrast to the blue waters. The green mountains provided the perfect backdrop to take photographs and selfies and make videos. And I stood there quietly for some time mesmerized. I think we were all quite glad to see the sudden change in the landscape.

We also visited the Bhutan border where the Bhutanese counterpart of the sanctuary is known as the Royal Manas National Park. The safari proved quite successful as we spotted elephants, rhinos, deer, Himalayan Giant Squirrels, water buffaloes and a few birds. We had a fleeting sight of the Himalayan Gaur, but no tigers. Not that we expected to see the big cat, but when our safari driver cum guide told us that he had spotted a tiger only a few days back, we became a bit hopeful. Well, we had to be satisfied with the sight of paws only.

Manas River-Manas National Park

Wildlife safari at Manas National Park

When we almost got trampled by an elephant!

Elephants are lovely. But only when they are domesticated or are at a safe distance. May be we were emboldened by our tryst with Jaymala and Ratnamala! During the safari, we saw a wild elephant and her cub standing peacefully. We did take some pictures from a distance, but somehow all those in our jeep decided to get a bit closer. We got down from our jeep and went towards the elephants. Niharika, a fellow blogger was with her camera trying to shoot the activity of the duo. Suddenly, there was a loud trumpet and I could see the mother elephant charging straight at us. There was only a thin fence between the elephant and us, which could have been very easily trampled by the elephant.

And we ran. We ran like never before. We ran for our life!

There were a few locals who then shouted at the elephant to calm it down. Thankfully, the elephant decided to listen to them or may be she showed mercy to us. Whatever be the reason, we thanked our stars for such a close encounter with a wild elephant! And I decided never to go so personal with any wild animal.

Those few seconds were the most remarkable as well as fearful moments. Interestingly, Niharika somehow managed to keep her camera rolling and we got shaky footage of the episode where you could hear our screams and then the sound of running.

Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism society

Enjoying a cultural evening

In the evening, a surprise awaited us. There was a Bihu dance performance by the local villagers. The Assamese songs have a very melodious and catchy tune. Not only you will fall in love with the songs, you will also tap your feet with the numbers. So all those who were present tried to perform Bihu dance. Although I am not sure what was actually happening. At least, we tried!

Bihu-Assam-Bodoland

Bihu dance assam

What is the cost of safari at Manas National Park?

At Manas National Park, you can go for an elephant safari as well as Jeep safari. Elephant safari takes place early in the morning at around 6:30 – 7:00 AM.  The rate for elephant safari is INR 500 for Indians and INR 1500 for foreigners.

Jeep Safari takes place in the morning (from 9:00 AM) and afternoon (from 2:00 PM) for half day and full day.

Entry fee for Indians is INR 100 and foreign nationals are INR 500. The cost of jeep safari is INR 2000 for half day and INR 4000 for full day.

A visit to MMES at Baksa

If you are visiting the Manas National Park, you must take a visit to MMES or Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society. The society is mainly responsible for the conservation of wildlife in the area. The poachers for whom Manas had got a ‘danger’ tag have now turned conservationists and they fiercely protect the forests and wildlife. Read about MMES in our previous post.

The Bhutan border at Nganglam is also quite near. It is a pleasant drive to the Bhutan border. Nganglam is known for its huge cement factory. You can enter into Bhutan by taking a permit at the checkpost. I think with a proper permit, this place can also be an entry point to Bhutan apart from Phuentsholing.

You may also like : Bhutan Travel Guide

Bhutan Gate-Bodoland-Assam

Kalamati

Kalamati literally means ‘black soil’. Located at the Chirang district, Kalamati is a part of the Manas reserve Forest and a buffer zone of the Manas National Park. Kalamati has unique landscape extending up to the Bhutan hills. The Kanamakra River flows through the valley near the Indo-Bhutan border. Incidentally, Kanamakra means ‘blind spider’, though I do not know why the river is called so.

Kalamati is the meeting point of the wild animals. They come here for licking salt the black soil of Kalamati contains. A very few visits this place. Since it was near the Bhutan border, we could see military outposts there. Kalamati is yet to be developed as a proper tourism spot, but it is a great place for a day visit.

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Because when you stop and look around, life is pretty amazing! Northeast India always has the effect of stopping me on my tracks and look around to admire its beauty. Be it the#landscape or the #people or its festivals, I am always in awe of the place. This is Kalamati, near Bongaigaon – also an Indo-Bhutan border. Its a place where very few tread. But the place stops you in track. We visited this place as #ambassadorsofbodoland during the #dwijingfestival And I thanks @everycornerofworld for capturing this moment! ? #travel #travelphotography #northeastindia #awesomeassam #natgeotraveller #travelgram #bodolandtourism #assam #kalamati #dwijingfest #incredibleindia #landscapephotography #blue @bodoland.ambassadors @incredibleindia @aweassam @bodoland_tourism

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Visit a Bodo village and get a slice of Bodo life

After our visit to Kalamati, we took a trip to the Bodo village to see and understand their way of life. The Bodos are a friendly lot. Always smiling, they do not hesitate to welcome their guests, how inquisitive they may be. Bodo society is mainly agrarian and weaving is also an important source of income. No Bodo house is complete without a loom and you can see women weaving a dokhna (traditional dress of the Bodo women) or Gamcha (they men wear these) while humming a melodious tune.

Weaving at Assam-Bodoland Tourism (1)

Life in a Bodo household

The Bodos have their own distinct culture and tradition. The Bodo houses are built around a courtyard. The head of the house stays at the northern side. Most of the valuables are also kept there. South side usually has the kitchen. The courtyard has a place for worship. Bodos usually follow Bathou Dharma and the Brahma Dharma. Most of the families rear silkworms for weaving too. The Bodos are also expert in bamboo handicrafts. The colourful culture of Bodos is reflected in their unique and distinct festivals, music, dance, handloom and handicrafts.

At the Bodo village, we also went along with the Bodo women to observe their fishing techniques. The women use baskets for catching fishes, something that I had seen at Basar too. But the process is different here. After that, we were invited for a sumptuous Bodo lunch.

Bodoland fishing

The Bodos are traditionally non-vegetarian. There were served with a large number of food items. It is in the Bodoland, I have tasted snails, pigeon and even silkworm for the first time. Though non-vegetarian options are plenty, vegetarians will not go hungry too. They use a lot of vegetables and herbs for cooking. The plain black daal (lentils) and a couple of vegetables were served for the vegetarians. And finally, there was the rice beer! We saw how they make rice beer through an elaborate process.

It would be really a crime if I do not mention about the pithas. Pithas are a sweet dish made of rice flour, sesame seed and often jaggery and it is one of my favourite dishes. The Bodos are also quite fond of paan (betel leaf) and supari (betelnut). They often have them and will also offer it to their guests. If you are having them for the first time, take in less quantity, because their betelnut is pretty strong!

Life at Bodo village-Bodoland

Cuisine of Bodoland

A few other interesting places:

Bogamati

Bogamati is located at the foothills of the Himalayas near the Bhutan border. It is a beautiful picnic spot around the Bornadi River.

Chakrashila Wildlife sanctuary

This is another wildlife sanctuary in the Kokrajhar area that is rich in diversity. The Deeplai Beel and Nayekgaon Rubber Garden are also important for Golden Langur viewing. Deeplai Beel is also the home to a large number of migratory birds.

The Baukhungri peak is an attraction in this area. A three-day festival is held at the Baukhungri hills during April.

Other places of interest are Chowki, Bhairabkhunda, Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary and Ultapani Reserve Forest. Ultapani is an important place for sighting Golden Langurs. You can visit the website of Bodoland Tourism to know more about these places.

Dwijing Festival

Dwijing Festival is a 12-day annual festival held during December and January to promote tourism and cultural activity in Bodoland. It is a culmination of song, dance, food, fair and all this interesting in Bodoland. The festival is held at the banks of Aie River in Chirand district near Bongaigaon. Read more about our guide to the Dwijing Festival at Bodoland.

Dwijing Festival Bodoland Assam Tourism

How to reach Bodoland?

The nearest airport is at Guwahati. From Guwahati, you can drive to any of the destinations in Bodoland. As for us, our trip started at Bongaigaon, about 185 km from Guwahati. Bongaigaon also has a railway station.

Bansbari Range, the entry point of Manas National Park is about 136 km from Guwahati and can be easily reached by car.

The Last Word

Manas National Park and wildlife have so long been the prime attraction of Bodoland. We personally think that cultural tourism can be developed very well around Bodoland. Adventure tourism is also being developed in the area. If properly nurtured and developed, the place can be a prominent tourist attraction.

Whether or not Bodoland gets to become a separate state or not, should not be a deterrent for developing tourism. I am sure the local people have understood the importance of peace and stable life.

The rivers are an important asset of the region and can be developed into tourism spots. There is ample opportunity for river sports like river rafting and angling in this region. Having said about the prospect of tourism development, we would also suggest that nothing should be done at the cost of nature and ecosystem. Sustainable tourism can bring in long term income and job for the community.

A few more pictures of Bodoland!

Smiling Tusker Elephant Camp-Manas (2)

Weaving at Assam-Bodoland Tourism (2)

Food of Assam

Bodoland Tourism

Places to visit in Bodoland - Assam Tourism

Bodoland Tourism

We had gone for a week-long trip to Bodoland as a part of Ambassadors of Bodoland. we stayed for 4 days at Bongaigaon and 2 days at Manas National Park. We have fallen in love with the place in these days. 

Do share your thoughts about Bodoland. Follow us on Instagram at @taleof2backpackers for more travel stories.

Agni & Amrita

Agni & Amrita

Travel Experts

We are Agni and Amrita, the story-telling team behind Tale of 2 Backpackers and partners in crime in travel and (mis)adventures of life. We have been travelling together for more than a decade looking for immersive experiences while enjoying the little beauties of life. We are intrigued by heritage, culture, festivals and people and that is reflected in our travel. And yes, we love the Himalayas too.

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54 Comments

  1. So beautiful place,best place for relaxing away from daily routine.

    Reply
    • Thank You! Dinesh

      Reply
  2. HI,

    Nice blog and content on Bodo land. Bodo Land is just below Bhutan. It is a really disturbing state and could not develop further due to political unrest. Bhutan national park “Royal National Park”. Further, Modi Government will do something to come up with Tourism development in Assam, especially the Bodo area. Even our international tourists coming to Bhutan enjoy going wild safari but entering Bhutan from Paro.
    Cheers
    Tshewang Penjor

    Reply
    • Thank you so much!

      Reply
  3. Wow, Bodoland is really a worth visiting place with all biodiverse nature and cultural activities. I would love to do Elephant safari as it must be interesting to explore a natural land with an animal. It must be scary when elephant ran after you and you ran at top of your speed but afterwards, it must be the most enjoyable moment. Visiting Bodo village to get a glimpse of local life is also sounding interesting to me.

    Reply
    • Thank you Yukti! Bodoland was really imeersive experience.

      Reply
  4. I have to admit I had never heard of Bodoland nor Manas National Park! But I love the sound of it – especially with all those beautiful nature reserves as you say. I’d love to try the local cuisine and the rice wine too. I think the local food can always reveal so much about a place or a culture. I’d love to see the Bodo women and their fishing techniques too. It makes me think of how far removed my culture is from the traditional methods and how much convenience we rely on these days!

    Reply
    • Thank you Juliette. Truly, we live a much convenient life in the cities. These Bodo people are traditional in their approach and its a great way to know about their culture.

      Reply
  5. I love that Bodoland is exactly that – the land of the Bodos. I think it must be popular for animal lovers who want to see wildlife and get up close to elephants like you did! It was good that you also dispelled the worry of safety when visiting the area. The food you enjoyed whilst there looked very good too and it’s great to try the local cuisine.

    Reply
    • Thanks Laura! Yes, Bodoland is quite famous for wildlife. But we had quite an experience.

      Reply
  6. Bodoland is still so untouched. I remember exploring some of the areas as a kid and your pictures bring back some of my cherished memories.

    Reply
    • I know the feeling Pujarini. Bodoland is really an untouched beauty.

      Reply
  7. Did not ever get a chance to visit it when I was in India but would love to on my return surely. The post gives all the information you required to make a trip to Bodoland I must say including the misconception of it not being safe. The natural beauty of it is absolutely stunning without a doubt and I would live to do the safari even though takes s few hours. Live the food element as well of the region so another reason. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Thanks Amar. Bodoland is quite safe to travel now. I think its high time people should start visiting these places.

      Reply
  8. Thank you for this very comprehensive post about a place rich in culture and natural resources. I spent some time in India but never heard about this place. After reading this, I’d love to visit someday in the future

    Reply
    • Thank you Daniel.

      Reply
  9. I have been reading about Bodoland from your blogsite and I am completely smitten by it. I am highly convinced that it is a must to visit Bodoland during my next north-east exploration. I would love to visit Manas National Park as well. Your photographs are beautiful. I am already sold!

    Reply
    • Thank you Shreya. Yes, a visit to Bodoland is must. It is really a beautiful place.

      Reply
  10. Your pictures are really making me want to book a safari. Its been a long time now, and I am itching for a little jeep safari tour.

    Reply
    • Thank you Bianca.

      Reply
  11. Wow, Bodoland is indeed looking rich of ethnic culture and resources worth exploring. You have captured them in their best.

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  12. What a beautiful place! I have never really heard of Bodoland before but it is definitely going on my travel bucket list. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  13. This is amazing! Elephants and gorgeous sunsets… this is my idea of a good time

    Reply
    • Thank you, Erica!

      Reply
  14. I haven’t heard of the place but the culture and beauty have remained untouched by the modern city. Its a good place to unwind and have some relaxing vacation, the dried fish looks so delicious!

    Reply
  15. Bodoland sure is another pristine gem of the North-East. A place that still retains an untouched aura and old world charm. The indigenous culture of the place is indeed such a treasure, and steps need to be taken to ensure its preservation. Also, it is heartening to note that the authorities are promoting tourism to the region, but hope that it leads to balanced and sustainable development.

    Reply
    • Thank you. We too hope that they maintain a sustainable tourism.

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  16. I’m glad to read about your journey. It looks so beautiful place from your pictures. Looks like you really enjoyed there.

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    • Yes, we had a wonderful time there!

      Reply
  17. Manas National Park looks beautiful, the wildlife safari is something I would also love to experience. However, you’re right, it is best to keep your distance from the wild animals and elephants, though usually calm, can get wild if they feel their privacy or safety is being compromised. I can only imagine how scary it would have been for you when that mother elephant came charging at you! I haven’t yet explored much of the North east (not at all, actually) and need to get myself there soon. Bodoland looks like a great place to start!

    Reply
    • Northeast is a lovely destination. Hope to see you soon here Medha!

      Reply
  18. Thanks to you guys for introducing Bodoland to me. It was a treat to know about the people and the culture. Here, you talked of Manas National Park, which is another interesting park apart from Kaziranga and others in Assam. I would love to visit here once.

    Reply
    • Thank you Shreya! Yes, please visit Bodoland. I am sure you will love the place. 🙂

      Reply
  19. Honestly, I never even heard about the Manas National Park before but your article (and even more your pictures) provided more than enough reasons to visit. Thank you for the lovely recommendation

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    • Thank you Daniel!

      Reply
  20. India is such a magical place. I have always wanted to visit. These photos are so inspiring, thanks!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Jessica!

      Reply
  21. The fish and skewers look good!

    We were on a tour in Thailand and one of the stops was an elephant camp/sanctuary/whatever. I already knew I wouldn’t ride them. While the rest of the tour group went on their rides, I stayed back and fed the baby elephant. There was so much sadness in the air.

    Reply
  22. It definitely seems worth it to me! What a beautiful place it is! I’d love to visit someday in the future, perhaps when my children are a little older.

    Reply
    • Thank you! Yes, please do visit the place.

      Reply
  23. Thank you for this very comprehensive post about Bodoland. It certainly is a place rich in culture and natural resources. I hope that the officials do well in planning the preservation of this important part of India.

    Reply
    • Thank you Doreen! We hope that too!

      Reply
  24. Thanks for sharing the information about this amazing place. The photos really reflected the culture, beauty of nature ………everything.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much. Glad that you liked the post!

      Reply
  25. Waoo, what a lovely place to visit. I enjoyed reading about Bodoland

    Reply
    • Thank you!

      Reply
  26. Bodoland looks like a place I would love to visit. I do like to go to less touristy destinations. I wouldn’t interact with any “domesticated” elephants though, I am against animal cruelty and we all know what the mahouts do to these poor creatures to break them.

    Reply
    • Thanks Joanna. Bodoland is a lovely place.

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  27. You have got me convinced!!! Looks so gorgeous!

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    • Thanks Natalie! We are glad that you liked it.

      Reply
  28. The safari looks amazing, I would love to be able to take my kids to one someday. Bodoland truly looks like an amazing place to visit.

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    • Thank you! Yes, Bodoland is a beautiful place. I am sure your kids will love the safari.

      Reply
  29. I didn’t know about this area of India! Thank you for sharing your adventure! Bodoland sounds like a place I would visit as I love wildlife sanctuaries. And it’s great that you can combine wildlife adventures with the experience of local culture!

    Reply
    • Yes, Bodoland is truly amazing!

      Reply

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