MEGHALAYA: “The abode of clouds” previously constituted the hill districts of Assam south of the Brahmaputra. Three tribes live in the hill areas of the same name: Garos, Khasis and Jaintias. The capital, Shillong, was previously the capital of Assam. The world’s wettest place is Cheera Punji to the southwest of Shillong which receives about 500 inches (1270 cm) of rain each year.
A third of the state is still forested but little of this is reserve forest and enjoys little protection. It is extraordinary that Meghalaya, with its rich animal and birdlife, extensive forest and untold insects has only two absurdly small sanctuaries. The state has a possible population of 2500 elephants but none of its habitat is yet protected. A proposal for a 112 sq mile (292 sq km) sanctuary to be called Balphakram, with a buffer area of a further 115 sq miles (299 sq km) is still pending. This area of evergreen and moist deciduous forest with large tracks of scrub, grass and bamboo, is representative of much of the state.
With its well-forested hills, steep gorges and rivers, it has tiger, leopard. gaur, wild buffalo, golden cat, clouded leopard, capped langur; Hoolock gibbon, leopard cat, black bear, serow and other animals have been recorded. Peacock pheasants are only one among the fascinating bird species seen. Permission to enter Meghalaya is obtainable. Permits for Shillong are often granted along with permission to visit Manas and Kaziranga Parks and Gwauhati.
Established in 1981 on 11 sq miles (29 sq km) of sal forest containing a good range of species including binturong, clouded leopard, golden cat and leopard cat. Best time to visit: Oct. — May. Accommodation: 2 forest bungalows Permission: Chief Wildlife Warden, Shillong, Meghalaya Nearest town, Rail & Air: Guwahati (40 miles/65 km)
This extremely small sanctuary of only 2 sq miles (5 sq km) was established in 1979. The forest is mixed everywhere, with some sal. Best time to visit: Dec. — Mar. Accommodation: 1 bungalow Permission: Chief Wildlife Warden, Shillong, Meghalaya Nearest town: Tura (25 miles/40 km) Rail & Air: Guwahati (130 miles/210 km) A biosphere reserve has been proposed at Nokrek east of Tura in the West Garo Hills.