ASSAM DESPATCH 3:
RIVER ISLAND CRUISE
SILGHAT TO DIBRUGARH/JORHAT
Arrive at Jorhat airport and drive 2 ½ hrs to Silghat, a picturesque beach below jungle-covered hills and close to Kaziranga National Park. Alternatively, arrive at Guwahati airport and drive 4 ½ hrs to Silghat.
After an early breakfast, 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, the 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.
Returning to the ship, you’ll cruise upstream with Kaziranga National Park on the right bank to anchor for the night at Vishnath.
This morning you’ll visit Vishnath, known for its Ahom-period Shiva temple. Walk through the town before reboarding and setting off again, with Kaziranga still on the far bank. Keep an eye out for wild elephants which have been spotted, and once, memorably, a tiger.
A leisurely afternoon of cruising down the river offers a good chance of spotting the endangered Gangetic dolphin, as well as observing life in the bankside villages as we pass. Arrive in the evening at Dhansiri Mukh.
This morning, you’ll dock and take a jeep safari to Kaziranga’s little-visited Eastern Range, with grasslands much favoured by rhinos where you might also spot the rare Bengal Florican. Return to the boat and continue your cruise upstream.
Today brings another opportunity to watch life unfold on the riverbanks as you cruise upstream. The languid pace of life onboard the boat offers a rare opportunity to sit and watch the world slip by, chat with fellow guests, or catch up on your reading. You’ll have time to stretch your legs with a walk through a bankside village, gaining an insight into life in rural India.
You should reach Majuli Island around breakfast time. One of the world’s largest river islands and 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 before cruising across to Neamati Ghat on the opposite bank. In the afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to visit a nearby village.
Today you’ll visit a tea estate in Jorhat, and observe the journey from tea bush to cup. (Please note that the factory is inoperative between December and mid-March.) Later, you’ll be driven to 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. Return to your ship, which will have cruised up to Neamati Ghat, close to Jorhat.
This morning, you’ll be driven to Dibrugarh airport, a journey of around 4 ½ hours, passing through this typical colonial town and a major base for American flights over 'The Hump' to China in WWII. Alternatively, there’s the option of a 1 ½ hour drive to Jorhat airport.
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 'River Island Cruise' cruise is offered in the Boutique & 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 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 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.