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The Great Indian Elephant Safari

A unique encounter with Arunachal Pradesh, one of the greatest bio-diversity & cultural hotspots of the World on the Elephant back!

Save the “MAHAKAL” - The Lord of the forest !

There are between 7,200 and 11,300 elephants in Northeastern India. One large population of 3,800 to 5,800 animals ranges along the Himalayan foothills from Northern West Bengal, eastwards through Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to the border of Myanmar. The vegetation includes alluvial grasslands, moist deciduous and evergreen forest. Key conservation areas include the Manas Tiger Reserve and Namdapha Tiger Reserve,

Orang National Park, Nameri Tiger Reserve, Pakke Tiger Reserve, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara National Park, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Another large population of nearly 2,000 elephants inhabits the alluvial floodplains of Kaziranga National Park and the Nagaland hills. A third population of about 1,400 elephants occurs in the Garo and Khasi hills of Meghalaya, and is under severe threat from habitat loss due to extensive shifting of cultivation. Small, scattered populations are also known from the Jaintia Hills, Cachar, Tripura, Manipur, and Mizoram.

It is believed that Elephants were brought in for forestry operations in Andaman & Nicober islands. In the northern part of the Andaman group, on Interview Island, the company carrying out the timber extraction operations went bankrupt. Being unable to transport the elephants out of the island, they released about 40 elephants into the wild in 1962. Some elephants later swam over to North Andaman Island. These populations have turned feral, and reportedly are facing crisis of existence.

The Cause

Chongkham is dominated by the Khampti tribal community whose association with the elephants is legendary and dates back to hundreds of years. The Khamptis are famous for their traditional skill of capturing wild Elephants and imparting training to tame the wild pachyderm. The tamed Elephants were earlier used to extract timber from the forest and also for ploughing in the farm fields, even for plucking tealeaves!

Chongkham was once considered as Asia’s richest village due to the revenue generated by timber harvesting and other timber-related activities. Unfortunately, the Khamptis and their beautiful elephants are almost out of job now due to the ban on timber felling. While accepting the fact that the ban on timber felling is necessary to conserve our forests and bio-diversity, the importance of conservation and respectful rehabilitation of the tamed elephants and their masters cannot be undermined.

The Great Indian Elephant Safari is a humble attempt to rehabilitate such orphan elephants that have served splendidly over a long period of time and deserve every support for a respectful livelihood.

The Destinations & People

Chongkham-Wakro-Miao-Nampong are tiny cluster of picturesque villages in Lohit valley surrounded by lofty mountains of Eastern Himalaya and fabled by many snow-fed rivers and pristine forests while the great Namdapha Tiger Reserve and Kamlang Sanctuary are part of the uninhabited contiguous forests of Eastern Arunachal Pradesh, one of the most diverse areas of Indian sub-continent – both naturally and culturally.

Some of the greatest river systems of Northeast India originate from this region, and the circuit offers the best tourism possibilities for the host communities and a great opportunity for the guests to explore the unique landscape, wildlife and culture of this region. Lying in the Mishmi and Patkai hill ranges of the East Himalaya, falling from the Yunan in China, the region shares a common boundary between India and Myanmar (Burma). The area is historically also important as both the Second World War-famed Stilwell Road (Ledo Burma Road) and Pangsau Pass belong to this region, and still carry the remnants of one of the most laborious and ambitious war projects of the Allied Force. The area is dominated by wonderful tribal communities such as the Khamptis, Mishmis, Singphos, Chakmas, Tangsas who have since long chosen to stay in isolation and practiced a way of life that has not changed much with the passage of time. Though the communities have slowly started becoming a part of the modernization, they have been able to retain their cultural and ethnic identity; their custom and tradition.

The Safari

Though elephant ride is a very common tourism activity in India, especially in the wildlife tourism destinations, elephant safari is not only a rare activity in India but also throughout the world. Discovering the world of the tamed elephants, the largest land animal and discovering the culture around them in itself is a major activity. Bringing back the old Shikar (Hunting expedition on elephant back was one of the most popular sports among the Maharajahs and British rulers in India) days by shooting with a camera is a lifetime experience for any tourist. Packaging this experience for the domestic & international market and bringing sustainable economic support to the region can be the fresh blood for the community movement and conservation of the great Indian elephants.

The safari will concentrate mostly in and around the forests, rivers and villages of Lohit valley with a base camp in Chongkham, ideally set for the International wildlife tourists with a Pilkhana, which consists 5 to 8 riding elephants to be engaged in the safari on turn basis. The tourist would be taken on the safari, two hours in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. The tourists would move on to the next temporary forest village/ community campsite/elephant camps, where the trained local villagers will provide services to the tourists and interpret their traditional knowledge & folk culture to them. There would be at least four such campsites in four villages before they return to the base camp.

The full expedition takes 11 nights/12 days in an all inclusive package starting from point of arrival (Dibrugarh) till departure with overnight halt at Dibrugarh/Digboi, Chongkham and its adjoining villages, Wakro and Namdapha Tiger Reserve. The trip package will include elephant safaris for 04 days, boat expedition on river Lohit, bird watching, nature trails, village tours, Buddhist cultural experience and local tribal cultural programme. Trained local guides will move with the groups and every group will have a dedicated specialist naturalist. A rescue & medical team will be attached to every group. In order not to encourage any form of mishandling or cruelty to the elephants the safari will be restricted to maximum 3 hours a day so that the elephants get enough rest and remain in good health. Under no circumstances the elephants will be forced to move on a safari unless our Mahouts are satisfied with their physical and mental health. Every morning and afternoon the Mahouts will check their health and mood, and report to the safari manager before the safari starts.

For shorter versions of the safari and a detailed day-to-day itinerary please contact us.