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Introduction
 
There is no one way to describe Manas National Park.

Lying on the foothills of the Himalaya, Manas is the most stunning pristine wildlife habitat in India, comparable to the best in the world in the beauty of its spectacular landscape. It is also a UNESCO Natural World Heritage (in danger) site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve - a unique distinction. This Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forest Terrestrial Eco-region is also the richest in species of all Indian wildlife areas and the only known home for the rare and endangered Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog.

Manas is the closest I have come to seeing paradise on earth in my life - but that was 25 years ago. Today, Manas looks like an aged diva wearing rags, though I think I still caught the familiar sparkle in the eye.

The focus point of Manas National Park is the enchanting Manas River, named after the serpent goddess Manasa. It is the largest Himalayan tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra. Coming down the Bhutan Hills from the north, the crystal clear waters of the Manas river runs through the heart of the 500 sq. km core area of Manas Park. The main tourist spot of Mothanguri, on the northern border of Manas with Bhutan, is situated on the banks of this river.

Situated in the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, in Assam, Manas lies on the international border with Bhutan. It is bounded on the north by the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, on the south by populous North Kamrup district and on both east and west by buffer forest reserves which are part of 2,840 sq. Km Manas Tiger Reserve.

The Manas River flows through the west of the park, where it splits into two separate rivers, the Beki and Bholkaduba. These and five small rivers drain the Reserve which lies on a wide low-lying alluvial terrace below the foothills of the outer Himalaya.
Limestone and sandstone form the bedrock of the savanna area in the north while the grasslands in the south consist of deep deposits of fine alluvium.

Vegetation: The Burma Monsoon Forests of Manas lie on the borders between the Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan bio-geographical realms and is part of the Brahmaputra Valley Biogeographic Province. The combination of Sub-Himalayan Bhabar Terai formation with riverine succession leading up to Sub-Himalayan mountain forest makes it one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world.

Two major biomes are represented in Manas ~ the grassland biome and the forest biome.

The main vegetation types are: i) Sub-Himalayan Light Alluvial Semi-Evergreen forests in the northern parts, ii) East Himalayan mixed Moist and Dry Deciduous forests (the most common type), iii) Low Alluvial Savanna Woodland, and iv) Assam Valley Semi-Evergreen Alluvial Grasslands which cover almost 50% of the Park. Much of the riverine dry deciduous forest is at an early successional stage. It is replaced by moist deciduous forest away from water courses, which is succeeded by semi-evergreen climax forest in the northern part of the park. A total of 543 plants species have been recorded from the core zone. Of these, 374 species are dicotyledons (including 89 trees), 139 species monocotyledons and 30 are Pteridophytes and Gymnosperms.

Fauna: Manas is the melting point of the west and the east, with many species at the westernmost and easternmost point of their range representing a gateway for species exchanges between the typically Indian and Malayan' faunas.
A total of 55 mammals, 50 reptiles and three amphibians have been recorded, several species being endemic. Manas contains 21 of India's Schedule I mammals and at least 33 of its animals listed as threatened, by far the greatest number of any protected area in the country. Some, like the Assam Roofed turtle Kachuga sylhetensis, Golden Langur Presbytis geei, Hispid Hare Caprolagus hispidus, Pygmy Hog Sus salvanius and the only pure strain of Asiatic Wild Buffalo Bubalus arnee, are only found/best seen here.

Bird life: The diverse habitat of Manas is ideal home for a variety of specialized birds. Manas boasts the largest population of the endangered Bengal Florican in the world and is also a great place to see the Great Hornbill. The National Park lists around 380 species and the adjoining hilly terrain in Bhutan can easily add a hundred birds to that total. Good birds to look for are Greater Adjutant, Black-tailed Crake, Red-headed Trogon, Swamp Francolin, Wreathed and Rufous-necked Hornbill, Marsh and Jerdon's Babblers, Pied Harrier, Rufous-rumped and Bristled Grassbirds, Hodgson's Bushchat, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Finn's Weaver, Ibisbill and a variety of foothills species.

 
 
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