ASSAM DESPATCH 4:
DIBRUGARH/JORHAT TO GUWAHATI
Arrive at Dibrugarh, a typical colonial town and major American base in WWII, then be driven for 4 ½ hrs to embark your ship at Neamati Ghat. Alternatively, arrive at Jorhat airport for a 1 ½ hrs drive to the embarkation point of Neamati Ghat.
Your first excursion and experience of the rich variety of life along the Brahmaputra is Sibsagar, the one-time capital of the Ahom kings of Assam. Shan by origin but converts to Hinduism, the Ahoms ruled Assam for some 700 years until the 1820s. Their culture and architecture is a unique and intriguing amalgam of India and Southeast Asia. You’ll see temples with stupa-like profiles and palaces of distinctive form. The temple tank here is believed to be the world’s largest hand-excavated reservoir and quite the feat of engineering, as you’ll see. Lunch is taken at Horu Charai, a quintessential Assamese tea estate. Return to the ship and cruise downstream for three hours to Majuli island, one of the world’s largest river islands.
A microcosm of Assamese culture, Majuli is much-photographed but little-visited. It is a stronghold of the peaceful religion of neo-Vaishnavism and the elegant island satras — some for celibate monks, some for families — showcase a unique way of life where the faithful live simply, offering worship through gayan-bayan (songs and musical instruments) and readings.
You’ll visit a monastery at Auniati with its eclectic museum, then attend a dance performance at Kamalabari monastery. Later, return to the ship and cruise downstream for one or two hours.
A day spent mostly sailing languidly along the Brahmaputra, though you’ll stop for a short visit to a tribal river village. By afternoon, Kaziranga National Park will be on your left – wild elephants are sometimes visible from the boat and once, memorably, a tiger, so keep an eye out for movement on the banks.
This morning, you’ll arrive at the delightful temple town of Vishnath, known for its fine Ahom-period temple. Take a walk ashore to explore the architecture and village life before continuing the voyage down to a quaint mooring at Silghat, where butterflies abound in the surrounding jungle.
Go on your first safari in Kaziranga National Park, a jeep ride through the woodlands, grasslands and wetlands of the Western Range.
Today, you’ll be driven to Kaziranga’s Central Range for a morning jeep safari.
Covering an area of approximately 430 sq kms, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros as well as the Indian Wild Water Buffalo. It has also earned the distinction of having the highest density of Royal Bengal Tigers (one every five sq. km.) making this park an incredibly rich biodiversity hotspot. With its marshy swamps and thickets of elephant grass, this park supports large populations of Indian elephants, Indian bison, swamp deer, and Capped Langurs.
Kaziranga National Park frequently draws comparisons to the Serengeti in Africa due to the park's abundance of wildlife and birds and is considered a birding paradise. Bird species found here include the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, White-tailed Eagle, Himalayan Griffon and many more.
In the afternoon, you’ll explore more of the Kaziranga National Park on another jeep safari.
Cruise downstream under the seemingly endless new bridge to dock at Tezpur.
After lunch on board, you’ll visit the remains of the 6th century Da Parbatia temple with its exquisitely carved portal. Cycle rickshaws transport you through the bustling bazaars to Cole Park with its collection of mediaeval stone carvings. Later, you’ll reboard the ship and cruise downstream to moor for the night near the isolated Singri Hill.
The day is spent on the river, traversing a magical lunar landscape of sand islands before closing in on the range of hills beyond which lies Guwahati. Moor for the night not far from Ganesh Pahar.
This morning’s voyage is particularly picturesque, sailing by jungle-covered hills on the south bank. Reaching Guwahati by midday, you’ll moor opposite the city and climb up to the pretty Aswaklanta temple before driving out to the temple ruins of Madan Kamdev, their erotic carvings an indicator of the strong tantric traditions of the area. Return to the ship and cruise downstream to Sualkuchi either this evening or the following morning.
Take a walk through Sualkuchi, a bustling little town and the centre of Assamese silk production. Your visit to the weaving workshops is a rare opportunity to witness the whole process of silk manufacture, from cocoon and spinning to dyeing and hand-weaving into exquisite mekhela chadars (a two-piece sari, the traditional attire of an Assamese woman). You then sail up to dock close to the great Saraighat bridge and take a tour of Guwahati, driving up Nilachal Hill to the Kamakhya temple. With its tantric rites and animal sacrifices, the more squeamish may prefer to content themselves with its exteriors. Visit the poignant Commonwealth War Graves, the museum and the colourful bazaars.
Disembark this morning and transfer to Guwahati airport for your departure.
This itinerary, including the cruise and approximate driving durations, is subject to river and weather conditions. Kaziranga National Park comprises low-lying grassland, which may not be visitable when the river is at or near flood level.
The 'Brahmaputra Maximum' cruise is offered in the Boutique and Active Expedition cruising styles.
ABN Charaidew II
With 18 cabins in total, including two spacious deluxe cabins, 12 standard twin/double cabins, and four standard cabins with a queen bed for solo travellers, ABN Charaidew II is a boutique, modern ship that wonderfully blends traditional Assamese aesthetics with touches of colonial elegance. All standard cabins have French balconies, while the two deluxe cabins have a private balcony.
ABN Sukapha was designed specifically to navigate the mighty waters of the Brahmaputra river, making her an extremely adept yet comfortable active expedition-style ship. Her 12 cabins are bamboo-panelled, roomy and offer panoramic views of the river. Cane furniture on board, objet d'arts and handlooms on the ship are all locally made by talented artisans from Assam.