Guwahati to Shillong via Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary
A road trip from Guwahati to Shillong is not quite a first-time experience for me. I have traveled this stretch a few times, for work, or for exploring other parts of Meghalaya, or even to catch a local festival in Shillong.
A road trip from Guwahati to Shillong is not quite a first-time experience for me. I have traveled this stretch a few times, for work, or for exploring other parts of Meghalaya, or even to catch a local festival in Shillong. But a few weeks ago, when my cousins and I planned a weekend getaway to Shillong, it became more than just a drive from one city to another. I usually take a bus when I am by myself and maybe that is why I never get to see what's on the way. But with my cousins, it was supposed to be more of a relaxing trip and so we started searching for rental cars, which we would keep with us throughout our trip for local travels as well. Of all the rentals available we discovered that Savaari's Guwahati to Shillong taxi fare is cheap and they have all local, licensed drivers, who were experienced with the route.
The scenic route
The road from Guwahati to Shillong is perhaps one of the best for driving in North East India. It is usually a three to four-hour drive through the winding, hilly roads, terraced plantations, and dense mountain bluffs. Occasionally, you pass a stream or a river, which makes for an incredible view. Traveling in a car (which I didn't have to drive) turned out to be so much better with the views and frequent stops to take photos or grab a bite. Now, I could never do all these on a bus or a train ride. One of my cousins had recently seen a documentary on the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the most popular sanctuaries of North East India, and she was keen on visiting. Turned out, that it was right on our route! So, it automatically became a part of our itinerary.
Where the wild things are
After crossing Assam, we kept driving on NH 6 for about an hour, and at nearly 44 Km, we reached Shangbangla. But we had to take a touring permit from the Forest Range Officer in Nongpho, which was another 40 to 50-minute drive from Shangbangla. It was quite a back and forth on that kind of terrain, but it turned out to be completely worthwhile once we reached.
The sanctuary was 17 Km westward from this point and situated in the Lailad village of RiBhoi district. We took the narrow exit and crawled through the rugged road. I was glad we took an experienced driver and did not try this stunt by ourselves. Soon, we were rolling on a narrow trail canopied with thick forests. After driving for 14 Km through such landscape, we reached the sanctuary entrance. Hidden from direct sunlight, most parts of the sanctuary were moist and damp. We learned from our driver that this sanctuary is actually more popular for bird watching. Being moist and warm, the forest lands were perfect getaways for migratory birds from colder locales. And in the summer months, the residential birds would nest in these forests, making for a great birding adventure.
We started exploring on foot and walked through the nature trails lined with deciduous trees, wildflower shrubs, and some medicinal plants. There was a forest official leading a group of tourists. We overheard him talking about the history of the sanctuary. It was established in 1981 and was once a rich habitat of some prominent wild species like the Royal Bengal Tiger, Indian Bison, Himalayan Black Bear, Clouded Leopard, and many more. But over the years, most of these animals are facing the threat of extinction. In recent times, the forest department has set up trap cameras across different parts of the forests to observe these animals and ensure their safety from poaching or other interferences.
We kept walking for a few kilometers and on our way, spotted a few brown hornbills and the bush quail. There were also a few other species of birds we saw at random, but couldn't identify. But if there was one thing constantly keeping us company throughout our hike, it was the insect community of Nongkhyllem. There were at least 15 different types of insects and spiders that I could spot.
After almost two hours of walking, photographing, and trying to spot different creatures, we returned to our initial plan and headed back on the highway. Although we reached Shillong much later than we had expected, it turned out to be a fun and exciting drive for us. I have always been mesmerized by the landscape of Meghalaya with its rocky terrain, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and more. This trip to Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary exposed me to the wild side of this beautiful land.
My recommendations –
Always rent a reliable and licensed car from Guwahati for a comfortable and convenient journey.
For birding trips, visit between October to April.
For faster processing, get the touring permit much prior to your visit to the sanctuary.