This cruise on the highest reaches of the Brahmaputra still navigable highlights the unique culture of the area, fusing Indian and S.E. Asian influences, with a visit to Sibsagar, the old capital of the Ahom kings, as well as to Majuli Island with its unique Hindu monastic communities famous for their dance drama. Wildlife is not forgotten though, and the cruise visits Kaziranga, where sightings of rhino are virtually guaranteed.
Day 1. Arrive at Jorhat airport and transfer 2 ½ hrs to Steemer Ghat, a lovely beach below jungle-covered hills and close to Kaziranga National Park. Alternatively arrive Guwahati airport and driven 4 ½ hrs to Steemer Ghat.
Day 2. Disembark pre-dawn and drive to Kaziranga National Park’s Central Range for an early morning elephant ride, the best way to get really close to the rhino and other animals. Return to breakfast on board cruising upstream with Kaziranga National Park on the right bank. Around midday we reach Vishnath, with an Ahom-period Shiva temple. There are other later temples too, and we walk through the town before reboarding and setting off again, with Kaziranga still on the far bank. Wild elephant may sometimes be spotted, and once, memorably, a tiger.
Day 3. The day is spent on the river, and we have a good chance of spotting Gangetic dolphin, as well as creating a sensation in bankside villages as we pass. We should arrive in the evening at lonely Dhansiri Mukh.
Day 4. This morning we land and take a jeep safari in Kaziranga’s little-visited Eastern Range, with grasslands much favoured by rhino, where you might spot the rare Bengal Florican. Returning to the boat, we continue our cruise upstream
Day 5. 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.
Day 6. Around breakfast time, we should reach Majuli Island, supposedly the world’s largest river island, and possessing unique Hindu monasteries famed for their dance-drama performances – the whole island is now shortlisted for future UNESCO World Heritage status. We visit a monastery at Auniati with an eclectic museum, then attend a dance performance at Kamalbari monastery, before cruising across to Neamati Ghat on the opposite bank.
Day 7. We visit Horu Charai tea estate this morning and see all the processes of tea production (factory inoperative between December and mid-March) then drive for about an hour to Sibsagar, the one-time capital of the kings of Assam. Shan by origin (Assam and Siam share the same derivation) but converted to Hinduism they ruled Assam for some 700 years until the 1820s, and their culture and architecture is a strange and delightful amalgam of Indian and S.E. Asian. We shall see temples with stupa-like profiles, and palaces of distinctive form – note the crocodiles and rather sexy caryatids that adorn the roof of the Rang Mahal. For the record book, the temple tank here is believed to be the world’s largest hand-excavated reservoir. We return to the ship which will have cruised up to Dikhou Mukh close to Sibsagar, and spend our last night on board. (Dependent on river conditions the last night may be spent at Neamati, close to Jorhat).
Day 8. AM drive c.2 ½ hrs to Dibrugarh airport, passing through this typical colonial town and major base for American flights over “The Hump” to China in WWII. Alternatively transfer c. 1 ½ hrs to Jorhat airport.