Northeast India

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JAN Treks & Travels

Journeys to remember

NE-India comprises of seven states, also  called the Seven Sisters. Together they cover the most diverse range of cultures and landscapes than any comparable territory in India or elsewhere in Asia has to offer. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura are a clear case of ‘splendid isolation’. Trapped in a geopolitical dead-end street between China, Birma, and Bangaladesh, the narrow connection to the  ‘motherland’ seems a most unlikely lifeline. Until recently, not much support was coming in either, be it financially or otherwise, and many of the local tribes have taken up arms in order to get some sort of autonomy or even independence. The truth is, neglect by Delhi apart, that most people of the Northeast ethnically belong to SE-Asia, not to South-Asia. All but a few of the 225 tribes originally hail from Tibet, Southeast China, or one of the Indochinese countries. If you have been to Laos, for instance, you may experience strong déjà vus while visiting the bamboo villages of Arunachal Pradesh. In Tawang, nestled in the  Northwest of Arunachal, you’ll find the same Buddhist cultures as across the border in Tibet and Bhutan. And the former head-hunters of Nagaland share their unique culture with a large population living inside Birma. The good news is that things are getting better between India and her stepdaughters, and travelers should not be worried about their safety anymore.

Rhinos, elephants...

Northeast-India has the highest diversity of ethnic groups in Asia. As if that is not enough to stand out, the area is also part of two Biodiversity Hotspots, areas that have an exceptionally high biodiversity by world standards, as compared to their size. This has to do with the region’s location, at the junction of three main biogeographical regions: the North-Indian plains, the Himalayas and the Southeast Asian realm. As a result, you’ll find species together that elsewhere rarely meet. For instance, Namdapha N.P. in Arunachal Pradesh is the only park in Asia where tiger, common leopard, clouded leopard and snow leopard co-exist. At these cross-roads of evolution you can expect many endemic species, not to be found anywhere else. Such as the Hoolock gibbon (an ape), the pigmy hog, and the Assam roofed turtle, to name a few. Only a few years ago, a new bird species for India was discovered in Arunachal’s Eagle’s Nest Sanctuary.

Most, though not all, of these species are forest dwellers. The dense jungles of Assam and mountain forests of Arunachal Pradesh, together with the adjacent forests of Birma, form the largest contagious stretch of forest in South and Southeast Asia.  The forests are dwindling fast though due to illegal cutting and encroachment by settlers from elsewhere.

...and tigers

The national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and wildlife reserves of the Northeast are hidden gems. Though Kaziranga N.P. has gradually become more popular with foreign and domestic tourists, the wildlife enthusiasts can still have undisturbed views of herds of elephants, the rare Asian wild buffalo, the Indian one-horned rhino, and an amazing array of birds. To get an impression of the bird richness of Northeast-India, click on the link to a video on the left.

And what about the tigers? Well, they are certainly there, and especially in Kaziranga there is a healthy population. Given the rapid decline of the tiger populations elsewhere, the Northeast might very well become one of the last refuges for the tiger. The core area of Kaziranga has been proven to have the highest density of tigers anywhere recorded so far. At least 100 of the majestic cats live in the 800 km2 large park and an unknown number still holds out elsewhere in the Northeast. Two other substantial populations live in Manas N.P., on the border with Bhutan and in Namdapha N.P, on the border with Birma. Even if tigers ‘abound’ somewhere, seeing one is a different matter altogether, as it depends upon luck. From our own experience, we can say that chances in Kaziranga are about 10%, which is very good considering the fact that no ‘help’ is given in tracking the tiger (as is happening in Madhya Pradesh).

Whether you have a general interest in wildlife and are happy just to see some of the more spectacular, larger animals, or you are one of those die-hards who travel the globe to see the Bugun liocichla (the newly discovered bird), you are most welcome to ask us for a tailor-made tour. Our excellent guides and knowledgable naturalists will help make your trip an unforgettable one.




Video: Birds of NE-India