7 Night Cruise sailing from Kaziranga to Dibrugarh aboard ABN Sukapha.
Assam Despatch 3: River Island Cruise
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, and the cruise also visits Kaziranga, where sightings of rhino are virtually guaranteed.
Day 1. Embark at Steemer Ghat, a lovely beach below jungle-covered hills and close to Kaziranga National Park.
Day 2. 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.
Day 3. 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.
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 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 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. Disembark
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