The Beautiful Wilderness of Kaziranga National Park, Assam
- a small house at the gates of a park or in the grounds of a large house.
- a small, makeshift or crude shelter
or habitation, as of boughs, poles, skins, earth, or rough boards; cabin or hut.
Don’t make the mistake of calling Diphlu River Lodge (DRL) a resort, especially not when Mr Roy, the General Manager, is around. You’ll be quickly reprimanded for it. It is a lodge. They’re quite particular about such things, and all the better for it. It’s not much to look at – the cabins are largely bamboo, with thatched roofs, and the gazebo overlooks quite a small pond. But don’t let that fool you. They’ve got a good thing going.
Spend some time here and you’ll see.
Now, Kaziranga is very popular with tourists. In fact, it would be safe to say that it’s put Northeast India on the world tourist map. So, it’s no surprise that hotels and resorts of all shapes, sizes and budgets have sprung up like mushrooms in the monsoon. And they’re pulling out all the stops to grab eyeballs. Imagine a place in the middle of all this din that decides not to put up even a basic signboard at the entrance. That’s DRL for you. Although locating it is quite easy using Google Maps, it’s pointless unless you have a reservation. You can’t just drop in for a cup of tea, and that’s something you’ll appreciate immensely when you’re a guest there, like being on an island of solitude in the middle of mayhem.
The secret is service: unobtrusive and efficient. Perhaps it’s a skill they perfected when the Duchess of Cambridge was a guest, or maybe Kate came because they’d gotten it down pat. Even regular things like the turn-down service are made a bit better because of the attention to detail. No tea bags and milk powder in the rooms, here. There’s real milk in the mini fridge, and three types of tea leaves to choose from. But perhaps the best bit is that they only have one type of tariff, and it includes everything (see Where to Stay). Although it might seem like a tad much at first glance, it includes meals, safaris, guide fees, and even camera charges, which works out to be quite reasonable.
The property is on the banks of the Diphlu River, which runs along the southern border of Kaziranga, and its residents can often be spotted from the lodge. Large flocks of bar-headed geese can be seen feeding on the grassy banks of the river; rhinos, too, are known to make an appearance.
But that’s no surprise considering the sheer density of wildlife in Kaziranga, which is what makes it such a big draw for wildlife enthusiasts. The alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra River feed a thriving ecosystem, and the greater one-horned rhinoceros is an almost-guaranteed sighting on elephant or jeep safaris. Apart from these, a boat ride on the Brahmaputra for a chance sighting of the Gangetic dolphin also comes recommended.
Despite being situated along such a vibrant national park, it’s not just about the safaris at DRL. The folks here encourage you to try non-wildlife related activities, like tea garden visits and walks through rubber plantations, or just lazing back at the resort. As the evening sun bathes the mustard patch in a golden glow, and lilies tremble in the breeze, the gazebo becomes the best seat in the house at which to nurse your cup of tea till the stars come out.
Closest metro: Kolkata (1,148km)
Closest city: Guwahati (200km)
Closest airports: Salonibari Airport, Tezpu, is 68km away. Air India flies from Kolkata, with a stopover in Guwahati. But there are limited options to choose from. For more flexibility, fly into Guwahati. IndiGo, Jet Airways, Spicejet, Vistara, GoAir and Air India have daily, non-stop flights from Kolkata.
Diphlu River Lodge is a four-hour drive away.
WHERE TO STAY
Diphlu River Lodge: The lodge offers 12 cabins, all of which are built on stilts. Of these, eight are seperate and two cabins are semi-detached cottages.
Pick one of the four cabins that overlook the river, like Kate Middleton and Prince William did. The decor is unostentatious and rooms are large and well-appointed, with each opening into a small balcony. Beware of the jet sprays in the toilets, though. The force of the water is so high that a firm squeeze can cause a recoil almost like that of a small firearm.
WHERE TO EAT
All meals are served at The Machan restaurant in the common area.
The dining area opens out into two verandahs, one of which overlooks the Diphlu River. All meals are served buffet-style, with select items like omelettes and parathas being prepared on demand. Usually every few days, one meal is a traditional Assamese spread.