Midday arrival at Tezpur airport and transfer 30 mins to Steemer Ghat, a lovely beach below jungle-covered hills. Alternatively arrive Jorhat airport and driven 2 ½ hrs to Steemer Ghat or arrive Guwahati airport and driven 4 hrs to Steemer Ghat.
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.
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
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 (if water levels do not permit a landing at Dhansiri Mukh, Kaziranga will be visited from Steemer Ghat at the beginning of the cruise).
Another day spent cruising upstream. We shall take time to pause and walk through Jamuguri village, getting an insight into the life of rural India.
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, enjoy a typical Mising tribal lunch in a stilted bamboo hut, then attend a dance performance at Kamalbari monastery, before cruising across to Neamati Ghat on the opposite bank.
We visit Gatoonga 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).
AM drive. 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 transferred 1 ½ hrs to Jorhat airport.