Assam's iconic Kaziranga National Park reopened today for tourists with all COVID-19 safety norms in place. The almost seven-month-long closure since March because of coronavirus lockdown and then the monsoon has been the longest in its 112-year history.
For now, only jeep safaris are allowed. The elephant safaris and other activities will start from November 1.
Home to the rare one-horned rhinoceroses and tigers, besides other wild life, the Kaziranga Park was formally opened by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today morning.
The Chief Minister said he hoped reopening the park would help revive Assam's tourism sector and help unemployed youths in and around Kaziranga find meaningful employment.
He also called on the people to maintain all COVID-19 protocols in visiting the Kaziranga National Park and other such places of tourists interest amid the pandemic.
Kaziranga Park Director P Shivkumar explained the rules of resumption of tourist activity in the park amid the pandemic.
According to the park authorities, wearing masks, using hand sanitisers and maintaining social distance will be a must for all visitors.
All tourists and guides would be subjected to thermal scanning, and health checks. Only the symptomatic would be allowed in, he said, adding, "The safari jeeps and all other vehicles will also be sanitised (on each trip)."
Only a limited number of jeep safaris will be allowed at a time.
For now, jeep safaris are only allowed to Kaziranga Range (Kohora) and Western Range (Bagori) because of "inclement weather and road conditions", an official notice read.
"From November 1, elephant safari will be started. Five new destinations have been opened for tourists with a mix of jeep safari, river tourism and trekking," Park Director P Shivkumar told NDTV.
All of Assam's five national parks and 18 wildlife sanctuaries were closed in March in view of the coronavirus outbreak. They remained closed in July because of the monsoon, like they always do. However, unprecedented floods in the Brahmaputra basin submerged almost the entire Kaziranga Park, killing 100 animals, including the endangered one-horned rhinos.