Kaziranga National Park
Best for: One-horned rhinoceros, tigers, (wild) elephants, wild buffalo, monitor lizards, and water birds like the bar-headed goose, grey-headed lapwing, and spot-billed pelican
Logistics: The grass literally grows as high as an elephant’s eye at this 106,000-acre park in Assam—the most easily accessible state in India’s far northeast. A five-hour drive from the state capital of Guwahati in east India (670 miles from Calcutta), the park lies northeast of the narrow neck of land between Nepal and Bangladesh along the shores of the Brahmaputra River. A bird census of nearly 500 species makes Kaziranga a must for ornithologists, while February boasts chances of seeing resident mega-fauna (when the tall grass has died or been selectively burned for winter). A local lodge or travel agent can book a private Jeep tour or elephant ride through various parkland habitats. Arrival of monsoon season in April determines park closures.
Accommodations: Wild Grass Resort is a model eco-lodge with 18 airy rooms (plus tents and a cottage). As tireless wildlife advocates, resort owner Manju Barua and his staff facilitate conservation; plus, Barua employs villagers in order to support the local economy. Order an authentic Assamese meal of banana flowers and a mild red curry with fish (doubles from $75; www.oldassam.com). In most cases you’ll rely on a park-assigned vehicle and driver (in accordance with park rules), but Wild Grass will try to pair you with one of its own preferred guides.
Tip: Wear knee-high socks in case you get out of the jeep within safari buffer zones; terrestrial leeches are common pre- and post- monsoon.