London / Qatar / Kolkata (Calcutta)
Depart on a morning Qatar Airways flight from London Heathrow to Kolkata (Calcutta) via Doha. On arrival transfer to the Oberoi Grand Hotel where two nights are spent. Centrally located in the commercial heart of Kolkata’s main shopping and business district, the Oberoi Grand was a classically designed residence and combines Victorian architecture and charm with state of the art amenities and facilities. There are a variety of excellent restaurants to choose from and an exclusive spa and fully equipped gym and fitness centre.
Morning at leisure to relax at the hotel.
Lunch under own arrangements. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, Kolkata is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of East India. Occupied by the East India Company in 1772 and later under the British Raj, Calcutta served as the capital of India until 1911. Afternoon tour of the colonial buildings of the old British Calcutta. Visit the Pareshnath Jain Temple, devoted to the 23rd Jain Tirthankar, which is one of the most revered and holy shrines of the Jains in Kolkata. Return to the hotel. Welcome dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast, visit the famous white marble Victoria Memorial with its miniature paintings of Queen Mary, King George V and Queen Victoria. Continue to the Indo-Gothic St. Paul’s Cathedral which was built in 1847 by Major W.N. Forbes of the East India Company. It was the first Episcopal Church built in this part of the world and its peak was designed as a replica of the famous Canterbury Cathedral’s Henry Tower.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Continue to Nirmal Hriday (Mother Teresa’s House), the home for the dying which Mother Teresa set up in 1952. Each day the nuns would walk through the streets and bring people who were dying back to Nirmal Hriday where they would bathe them and give them the opportunity to die with dignity and the rituals of their faith. Return to the hotel. Dinner under own arrangements.
Kolkata (Calcutta) / Jorhat
Transfer to Kolkata Airport for a domestic flight to Guwahati and onwards to Jorhat. On arrival transfer with picnic lunch to Neamati Ghat to board the MV Mahabaahu. Afternoon tea to raise a traditional toast to the Brahmaputra River as we try and catch a fleeting glimpse of a Gangetic dolphin. Welcome drinks and dinner on board. Seven nights full-board on the MV Mahabaahu.
Sail to Neamati Ghat. Drive to Sibsagar, the ancient capital of the Tai-speaking Ahoms who came from Yunnan and China in the 13th Century AD. Sibsigar literally means “the ocean of Lord Shiva” as the town is built round a huge water tank, dug over 200 years ago. Visit the Talatal or Karen Ghar, the palace of the Ahom Kings. Continue to Rang Ghar where the royals held wrestling bouts and buffalo fights to entertain their guests. Explore Sigsabar town before driving to the Harucharai Tea Estate for a traditional Assamese lunch and a relaxed afternoon to explore the estate in order to get an insight into the lifestyle during the British colonial rule. Return to the boat for dinner on board.
Majuli / Mishing Village
Optional morning yoga or a walk along the swamps to catch a sight of owls, orioles, eagles, kingfishers and swallows. Sail towards Majuli Island, home to the Vashnavite Hindu faith, which is one of the largest river island systems of the world. After breakfast, there will be an introductory talk on Majuli and Vashnavism before departing for the mainland to visit Garamur Satra for a performance by Satriya singers and dancers. Continue to Kamlabari Satra for a performance by the Vashnavite monks.
Return to the boat for lunch as we sail towards a beautiful Mishing Village on the banks of the river where they live in “Chang ghars”, houses on a raised platform. Return to the boat and sail to Dhansiri Mukh near the eastern range of Kaziranga National Park where the waters of the Dhansiri and the Brahmaputra rivers meet. Enjoy an evening under the stars on a stunning deserted island.
Sail to the eastern range of Kaziranga National Park for a morning boat safari looking out for roof turtles, otters, elephants, wild buffalo, rhinos, water lizards, herons, kingfishers, and serpent eagles. Return to the boat for lunch.
Afternoon cooking demonstration with the chef followed by a talk on Tea, Silk and Jute in Assam.
Bishwanath Ghat / Silghat
Sail to Bishwanath Ghat. After breakfast and a short talk on Kaziranga, go ashore to explore the thriving village of Bishwanath Ghat. Visit Shiva Dol which was built in 1734 and is believed to be the tallest Shiva temple in India.
Return to the boat for lunch and sail to Silghat to visit the Kaliabore Tea Estate to watch the local woman pick the leaves before visiting the tea factory to see the process involved in making a cup of tea. Return to the boat for dinner on board.
Kaziranga National Park
Early morning departure to Kohora Mikimukh Point in the Kaziranga National Park for an elephant-backed safari. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the park is home to 180 different mammals including wild elephants, tiger, deer, Asiatic wild buffalo and a rich variety of birds including Great Hornbills, Great Adjutant Storks and the Black Necked Cranes. After breakfast, drive to Bagori in the Western Range of Kaziranga for a safari in open Jeeps to explore this stunning area of the park dotted with large water bodies known as “beels”.
Return to the boat for lunch and for an afternoon at leisure to enjoy your impressive surroundings. Traditional Assamese dinner on board.
At sea / Peacock Island
This morning sail towards an island occupied by a bangla speaking Muslim farming community.
After lunch, visit Peacock Island, home to the endangered Golden Langur monkeys. Anchor at Pandu Port for a formal Assamese evening and the “Alvida Bhoj” or farewell dinner where you raise a toast to Devi Kamakhya for the journey you have safely completed.
Guwahati / Delhi / Doha
Breakfast on board before departing to the Kamakhya Temple. The Kamakhaya Temple in Assam symbolizes the “fusion of faiths and practices of Aryan and non-Aryan practices”. It is named after Kama Khya, the goddess of desire. Transfer with a packed lunch to Guwahati Airport for an afternoon domestic flight to Delhi. On arrival, hotel day rooms will be available to freshen up for dinner at the hotel before returning to Delhi Airport for Qatar Airways flight to Doha.
Doha / London
Depart from Doha on a connecting Qatar Airways flight from Doha to London Heathrow.
It was a complicated and very individual trip, and several changes were made by me during the planning. None of this seemed to worry Ayesha and everything went according to plan.- AM, India, 2014