Birthday road trip to Pobitora – one horned rhinos and black magic

For Johanna’s 30th birthday we rented a motorbike and drove from Guwahati to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. It was such an amazing road trip and one of the (many) highlights of our whole journey. Being on two wheels and driving through Assam’s countryside was great. In Pobitora we did a rhino safari and could also spot rhinos along the road while driving. We spent the night in a bamboo hut in Mayong, the village of black magic. And of course, there were some “cocktails” and some “cake” for the special occasion.

One of the rhinos we saw in Pobitora
One of the rhinos we saw in Pobitora

Renting a motorbike in Guwahati

We rented a Royal Enfield motorbike from Trivane Rentals in Guwahati. We got the most beautiful one (at least in Johanna’s opinion). It was red Classic 350 decorated with prayer flags between the handlebars. 1,5 days costed 1500 rupees (18 euro). The rules seemed to be a bit stricter than in other parts of India, as they wanted to see Seri’s driving license and he also had to sign some form. 

From Guwahati’s traffic to Assam’s countryside

Driving in India is not an easy task. The traffic in Guwahati was pretty chaotic and when we got out of the city, we still had to stay really focused in order not to crash with a cow, goat, puppy, pig, human, bike, car or a truck.

Little goat on the road
Little goat on the road

Besides paying attention to the possible hazards, it was also interesting to observe the others on the road, especially how creatively people were transport things. We saw a rickshaw transporting big table with chairs, women carrying long branches of wood or water barrels over their heads, a man transporting 3-meter-long bamboo ladder on a bike and something that looked like a walking bush but turned out to be a man carrying huge pile of leaves on his back. The scenery on the way was beautiful with lots of little villages, fields and nature.

As we got the bike in Guwahati, there was some gasoline left in the tank. We wanted to fill the tank in the city but there were no gas stations on the way. Surprise, surprise, not long after exiting the city, the engine stopped, and it was clear that we were not going to make it to the next gas station. We parked the bike next to the road and luckily didn’t have to wait long, until two men drove by on scooters. We stopped them and they agreed to help us. Johanna stayed waiting with the motorbike as the other man took Seri to a nearby gas station to get a canister of fuel. The guys didn’t speak any English but once again we realized that it’s possible to cope without common language and that you can find helpful people everywhere.

Johanna and Enfield waited here while Seri went to get some gasoline
Johanna and Enfield waited here while Seri went to get some gasoline

Other than that, the journey went well. The way from Guwahati to Pobitora is only 45 kilometers, so in less than two hours we reached our destination.

A Jeep safari in Pobitora

There are two options to get into the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Either to go on a jeep safari or to go on an elephant safari. We don’t support riding elephants, and neither should anyone else. Therefore, it was clear that we were going to opt for the jeep. When booked directly at the ranger office, one hour of safari (that turned out to be almost two hours) with a very dedicated driver/guide and a security guard costed 1000 rupees (12 euros) for the whole jeep, plus 500 rupee (6 euros) entry fee and 300 rupees (3,5 euros) taxes per person. In our opinion this experience was totally worth the price. 

The ranger’s office is located just before the entrance. The jeeps are called ”Gypsy” here.
The ranger’s office is located just before the entrance. The jeeps are called ”Gypsy” here.
Before entering, we had a quick lunch next to the entrance. Our second Assamese thali!
Before entering, we had a quick lunch next to the entrance. Our second Assamese thali!
Our ride
Our ride

There are about 3500 Indian One Horned Rhinoceros living in the wild and around 100 of them live in the Pobitora. Our driver had an excellent eye for spotting rhinos and not long until he stopped and could point us the first ones. These two rhinos were far away and walking in the tall grass, but still we were thrilled to see them.

The first rhinos we saw on our safari
The first rhinos we saw on our safari
Johanna watching rhinos
Johanna watching rhinos

We would have been happy even if this was the only sight of rhinos we were going to have. But during our safari we spotted over ten of those! The last one we saw from a few meters distance. It was so amazing to see these animals in the nature. Almost like looking at dinosaurs or some creatures from fairytales.

At the end of our we saw this rhino from close up...
At the end of our tour we saw this rhino from close up…
...isn't it beautiful, you can see very well the impressive structure
…isn’t it beautiful, you can see very well the impressive structure

Besides rhinos we saw loads of cows, a buffalo, wild boar and different kinds of birds. The next day we saw even more rhinos, but before that it was time to celebrate Johanna’s birthday!

Rhinos, birds and cows living in harmony
Rhinos, birds and cows living in harmony
Wild bore
Wild bore
These elephants were unfortunately not wild, as they had chains around their ankles
These elephants were unfortunately not wild, as they had chains around their ankles

The Village of Black Magic

Mayong, also known as the “village of black magic”, is the nearest village to Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. There are many stories about this place, telling about people disappearing into thin air or turning into wild animals. Sorcery and witchcraft have been practiced here for centuries and apparently there are still some witches along the residents of Mayong.

A little bit creepy painting spotted in Mayong
A little bit creepy painting spotted in Mayong

Unfortunately (or maybe good so?) we didn’t manage to see any magic tricks or supernatural happenings. Still, knowing the village’s reputation added its own thrill to our walk in almost complete darkness back to our hut after doing some shopping in the village’s market place. There would also be a fascinating museum about black magic in Mayong, but it was closed due to construction works.

Streets of Mayong at sunset
Streets of Mayong at sunset
The market of Mayong where we did some shopping for the evening’s party
The market of Mayong where we did some shopping for the evening’s party

Birthday celebration at Maibong Eco Resort

Maibong Eco Resort was conveniently located just few meters from the entrance of the wildlife sanctuary. They had different priced huts and one could also sleep in a tent for 500 rupees (6 euros) a night. As it was Johanna’s birthday, we took the fanciest bamboo hut that costed 2200 rupees (26 euros) including breakfast.

The interior of our comfy hut at Maibong Eco Resort
The interior of our comfy hut at Maibong Eco Resort
The terrace was nice too
The terrace was nice too

Our hut had a comfy terrace on the lush yard, where we could sip some ”cocktails”, aka Old Monk rum mixed with Sprite from tea cups and a “cake”, aka some over sugared deep-fried sweets we had found from Mayong’s market. Seri had even organized a candle so Johanna could make her birthday wishes.

Johanna’s birthday ”cake” and ”cocktails”
Johanna’s birthday ”cake” and ”cocktails”

We also had a great dinner at the resort’s restaurant. The birthday party wasn’t very wild though, as we went to bed before 11. Yes, we are both officially old now. At night we heard some mysterious music and yelling from afar. Johanna got worried that we might have been missing out on some great black magic party. 

Lovely morning at Maibong Eco Resort

In the morning one worker of the resort came to us and without explaining anything else he just told us to grab our camera and to follow him. He brought us to the resort’s bird watching area. It was a wonderful way to start the day, watching the colorful birds that have come to eat the fruits the workers had left for them. 

What a nice surprise to see these birds in the morning
What a nice surprise to see these birds in the morning

Then it was our turn to have breakfast. We had had the dinner in the resort’s restaurant already in the evening, but just now at daylight we could see how the restaurant was built next of a beautiful pond. 

The restaurant of Maibong Eco Resort
The restaurant of Maibong Eco Resort

Spotting rhinos along the road

After breakfast it was time to start our journey back to Guwahati. The worker knew to tell us where we could spot some rhinos, so before setting off to Guwahati direction, we drove to the place he had suggested for us.

On the way we saw people working on the fields
The area is a lot used for agriculture – on the way we saw people working on the fields
What a beautiful scenery
What a beautiful scenery
On the way, these rangers on elephants told us the exact spot where they had just seen rhinos
On the way, these rangers on elephants told us the exact spot where they had just seen rhinos

And wow! We could really spot rhinos just along the road. We stopped there for a while to watch them. Soon we even spotted a mom rhino with a calf. There were also other animals and many birds. It was just amazing.

Our lovely Enfield with cows, birds and rhinos in the background!
Our lovely Enfield with cows, goats, birds and rhinos in the background!
Mom rhino with its baby seen from the road
Mom rhino with its baby seen from the road

Visit to Chanaka Riverbank

On our way back to Guwahati we did a little detour to the Brahmaputra river. There is an area known as Chanaka, which is a wide dried up sand plateau, like a beach by the Brahmaputra river. It was not possible to swim there, though. People had come there with families and friends to have picknick and there was also a basic looking eco camp. For some time, we also watched a pig playing around in the sand.

Chanaka
Chanaka
The Brahmaputra River
The Brahmaputra River
The local guys were interested to know where we are from and what we are doing here
The local guys were interested to know where we are from and what we are doing here

This was a nice detour, even though the road leading there was shitty. Sometimes it consisted of stones the size of a fist. To sum up the road conditions on this whole trip we would call it a mixture of dirt pile, roller coaster and a road.

Mustard fields on the way
Mustard fields on the way
Girls crossing a bridge
Girls crossing a bridge
Seri crossing the bridge
Seri crossing the bridge
On our way back to Guwahati we had a stop by this small roadside shop. We had some chai and cookies with these friendly men and in the end they didn’t let us pay anything.
On our way back to Guwahati we had a stop by this small roadside shop. We had some chai and cookies with these friendly men and in the end they didn’t let us pay anything

Pobitora vs. Kaziranga 

Originally, we had planned to go to Kaziranga National Park instead of Pobitora. It’s Assam’s biggest national park and the place where most people go to watch the rhinos. On the contrary, many haven’t even heard of Pobitora. We just happened to read something about it online by accident and concluded that it fits better to us, as we usually try to avoid the most crowded tourist places. There are less rhinos living in Pobitora than in Kaziranga, but the area is much smaller, which means that the chances to see some are higher. Also, everything, from accommodation to the price of jeep safaris, is cheaper. Compared to Kaziranga, some 200 kilometers away from Guwahati, Pobitora is also more conveniently located. Even we have never been to Kaziranga, we are convinced that choosing Pobitora was the right decision, as our trip there was perfect.

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3 thoughts on “Birthday road trip to Pobitora – one horned rhinos and black magic”

  1. Tätä oli todella kiinnostavaa lukea. Jossain vaiheessa mietin Kazirangaa osaksi siirtynyttä matkaamme, mutta jossain vaiheessa tuli luovuttua siitä. Jos tuonne päin tulee lähdettyä, niin ehkä Kaziranga siiten vaihtuu meilläkin Pobitoraan.

    Toivottavasti koronaepidemia ei vaikuta negatiivisesti sarvikuonojen suojelutyöhön. Salametsästys taitaa nyt olla helpompaa kuin tavallisesti.

    1. Hei kiva kuulla! Juu toi Pobitora on tosiaan sen puolesta myös hyvä että on lähempänä Guwahatia. Tosin jos teillä olisi tarkoitus koluta luonnonsuojelualuetta useampi päivä, niin siihen Kaziranga on varmaan parempi. Pobitora on sen verran pieni, etten tiedä kuinka moneksi päiväksi siellä olisi nähtävää, mutta ainakin noin yhden yön reissulle just passeli. Ihanaa että vaikka nyt onkin pysyttävä kotona, niin tulevien reissujen suunnittelusta voi saada kivaa reissufiilistä.

      Ja niinpä, voi ei! En ollut rehellisesti sanottuna tullut aikaisemmin ajatelleeksi edes koronan vaikutuksia tähänkin asiaan.. 🙁

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Johanna & Seri

We are Johanna and Seri and this is our travel diary. At the moment we are on our way overland from Finland to India and beyond. Read more about us here.

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