Arrive in Dibrugarh, a typical colonial town and major American base in WWII, then drive 2 ½ hrs to Dikhou Mukh and embark on the ship. Alternatively, arrive at Jorhat airport and drive 1 ½ hrs to Dikhhou Mukh. (Depending on river conditions, it may be necessary to board at Neamati, closer to Jorhat).
Excursion by road to Sibsagar, the one-time capital of the Ahom kings of Assam. They ruled Assam for some 700 years until the 1820s, and their culture and architecture are a strange and delightful amalgam of Indian and S.E. Asia. See temples with stupa-like profiles and palaces of distinctive form – note the crocodiles and caryatids that adorn the roof of the Rang Mahal. For the record book, the temple tank here is claimed to be the world’s largest hand-excavated reservoir. Return to the ship for lunch and cruise for 3 hours down the river to Majuli island, supposedly the world’s largest river island.
Majuli Island possesses unique Hindu monasteries famous for their dance drama performances – the whole island is now shortlisted for future UNESCO World Heritage status. You will visit Auniati monastery with an eclectic museum, enjoy a typical tribal lunch in a stilted bamboo hut, and attend a dance performance at Kamalabari monastery in the afternoon. Returning to the ship, you cruise downstream for an hour or two.
A day spent mainly on the river, though we shall stop and make a short visit to the tribal village of Jamuguri. By afternoon, Kaziranga National Park will be on our left – wild elephants are sometimes visible from the boat, and once, memorably, a tiger.
This morning you will arrive at the little temple town of Vishwanath, with a fine Ahom-period temple. Take a walk ashore before continuing the voyage to a delightful mooring at Silghat, with butterflies abounding in the surrounding jungle. We disembark and take a safari through Kaziranga National Park, taking a jeep ride through its Western Range, with good woodland, grassland, and wetlands, which can be viewed from look-out towers.
Disembark pre-dawn and drive to Kaziranga’s Central Range for an early morning elephant ride, the best way to get really close to the rhino. Kaziranga is a World Heritage site with a population of over 1000 rhinoceros and is the best place to see these beasts. There are also good populations of tiger, wild elephant, sambar, swamp deer, hog deer, wild pig and many other species. After breakfast, walk through terraced tea gardens and visit a village of the Mising tribe. In the afternoon, drive to Kaziranga’s little-visited Eastern Range for a further jeep safari before returning to the boat.
Cruise downstream under the seemingly endless new bridge to dock at Tezpur. From here, we travel by road to visit a working tea garden at Dhekiajuli, seeing all the stages of growing and processing tea (factory not in operation between December and mid-March). After lunch on board, we visit the remains of the 6th century Da Parbatia temple, with an exquisitely carved portal, then board cycle rickshaws to take us through the bazaars to Cole Park with its collection of mediaeval stone carvings. Reboarding our ship, we cruise down to the moor for the night near the isolated Singri Hill.
The day is spent on the river, traversing a lunar landscape of sand islands, then closing on the range of hills beyond which lies Guwahati. In the evening, we should reach the idyllic, isolated village of Ganesh Pahar.
This morning’s voyage is particularly pretty, with jungle-covered hills on the south bank. Reaching Guwahati at midday, we move opposite the city and climb up to the pretty Aswaklanta temple on the hill above before driving out to the beautifully sited temple ruins of Madan Kamdev, their erotic carving an indicator of the strong tantric traditions in the area.
We cross to the main waterfront for 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 the exterior. Visit the poignant Commonwealth War Graves, the museum and the bazaars before cruising down during lunch to the silk-weaving village of Sualkuchi. In the afternoon, drive out to Hajo, a place sacred to Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. Visit a Muslim shrine with extensive hilltop views over the surrounding rural landscape and the simple Hindu temple with its frieze of elephants and its sacred tank full of great carp, catfish and turtles.
Walk through Sualkuchi to visit weaving workshops and see the whole process of silk manufacture, from cocoon to spinning to dyeing and finally to handweaving into exquisite sarees and dress lengths before transferring to the airport for final departure.