Assam Despatch 3:
River Island Cruise
From USD 2,380 per person
Arrive at Jorhat airport and drive 2 ½ hrs to Steemer Ghat, a lovely beach below jungle-covered hills and close to Kaziranga National Park. Alternatively, arrive at Guwahati airport and drive 4 ½ hrs to Steemer Ghat.
Today after an early breakfast, drive 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.
Besides wildlife, Kaziranga National Park is also a birding paradise. A few of the bird species found here are the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, White-tailed Eagle, Himalayan Griffon and so on.
Kaziranga National Park also frequently draws comparisons to the Serengeti in Africa due to the park's abundance of wildlife and birds.
Returning to the ship, we cruise upstream with Kaziranga National Park on the right bank to anchor for the night at Vishnath.
This morning, visit Vishnath, known for an Ahom-period Shiva temple. Walk through the town before reboarding and setting off again, with Kaziranga still on the far bank. Wild elephants may sometimes be spotted and once, memorably, even a tiger.
Good chance of spotting the endangered Gangetic dolphin, as well as creating a sensation in bankside villages as we pass. Arrive in the evening at lonely Dhansiri Mukh.
This morning, we land 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 our cruise upstream.
Another day spent cruising upstream. We shall take time to pause and walk through a bankside village, getting an insight into the life of rural India.
Around the time of breakfast, we should reach Majuli Island, one of the world’s largest river islands.
A microcosm of Assamese culture, Majuli represents rural idyll in Assam. A stronghold of the peaceful religion of neo-Vaishnavism, 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.
We visit a monastery at Auniati with an eclectic museum, then attend a dance performance at Kamalabari monastery, before cruising across to Neamati Ghat on the opposite bank. In the afternoon, visit a nearby village.
We visit Horu Charai tea estate this morning and witness all the processes of tea production. (Note: the factory is inoperative between December and mid-March.) Later, drive for about an hour 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 strange and delightful amalgam of India and Southeast Asia. We shall see temples with stupa-like profiles and palaces of distinctive form. For the record book, the temple tank here is believed to be the world’s largest hand-excavated reservoir. Return to your ship, which will have cruised up to Dikhou Mukh close to Sibsagar. (Dependent on river conditions, the last night may be spent at Neamati, close to Jorhat.)
This morning, drive for 2 ½ hours to Dibrugarh airport, passing through this typical colonial town and major base for American flights over 'The Hump' to China in WWII. Alternatively, drive for around 1 ½ hours 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 'Brahmaputra Taster' cruise is offered in the Boutique Expedition cruising style.
BOUTIQUE EXPEDITION CRUISING
with ABN Charaidew II
Our selection of boutique cruise ships are comfortable, contemporary, and celebratory of Assam and Bengal's rich regional heritage. They are designed to reflect a sense of homecoming to the region: the unique objets d'art and handicrafts aboard the ships have been carefully collected and curated over the years, and the locally made furniture and textiles are a product of traditional craftsmanship and modern design intervention.
As such, each boutique ship was designed to be purposefully distinct in its style, with interesting stories that accompany each ship's décor.
ABN Charaidew II has 18 cabins: two spacious deluxe double-bedded cabins and 12 twin/double-bedded cabins on the upper deck, and four cabins with queen size beds on the main deck, for which we charge no supplement.
All cabins have en suites with W.C., a writing desk and chair, mini-fridge, individual climate control, and storage space. The standard cabins have French balconies, while the two deluxe cabins have a private balcony.
There are three cabin categories on ABN Charaidew II:
UPPER DECK DELUXE DOUBLE-BEDDED CABIN
This cabin (350 sq. ft.) is located on the upper deck. The spacious cabin opens out to a comfortable sit-out, offering guests a better vantage point from which to watch rural India glide by.
UPPER DECK TWIN/DOUBLE-BEDDED CABIN
This cabin (240 sq. ft.) is located on the upper deck, and can be converted into twin or double beds.
MAIN DECK CABIN WITH QUEEN BED
Featuring a queen bed, this cabin (170 sq. ft.) is ideal for solo travellers, for which we charge no supplement.