My sweetheart and I had been chasing curves on National Highway 37, in the remote northeastern state of Assam, for five hours when we spotted the first elephant-crossing sign on the edge of Kaziranga National Park. As if on cue, our driver swerved to an overlook, revealing a herd of Indian elephants feasting on a 12-foot-tall stand of elephant grass. It was an auspicious first encounter with the famed megafauna of Kaziranga.
Located on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, the swampy 106,000-acre Kaziranga National Park is home not only to wild tuskers but also to globally threatened species like the majestic Bengal tiger and the Indian one-horned rhino. There is no better place on earth to see the myopic, armor-skinned, minivan-size beasts Marco Polo allegedly mistook for unicorns. In fact, the preserve's 1,650 rhinos represent two-thirds of the species's global population.
Touring the park by jeep, not only did we encounter rhinos and elephant herds; we crossed paths with water buffalo and even monitor lizards. On day two of our tour, an outwardly docile ten-foot-long tiger emerged and lay insouciantly on the road. That evening, we relived our sightings over cocktails at a rustic eco-lodge near the park boundary, Wild Grass Resort, which hosted Monty Python alum and world traveler Michael Palin during his research for the 2004 BBC series Himalaya. Owner Manju Barua, an outspoken conservationist, has banned TV at the lodge. But with each day unfolding like an episode of Wild Kingdom, you won't miss it. DETAILS: Doubles from $60; 011-91-3776-2662085, www.oldassam.com