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17 nights
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Passage through Assam

A journey along the mighty Brahmaputra River through Northern India’s Assam region aboard the the RV Sukapha

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  • History and Culture
  • Wildlife Tours/ Natural World

Think of Assam and your first thoughts probably involve tea and maybe temples. Certainly it is not noted for its tourism, mostly because of the lack of comfortable accommodation and transportation. This is a great pity, as this state that lies south of Tibet and Bhutan and north of Bangladesh has so much to offer the naturalist, bird watcher or cultural traveller. One of the world’s great rivers, the Brahmaputra runs for some 1800 miles from its source in the Tibetan Himalaya to its delta in the Bay of Bengal. Nothing can prepare the traveller for the vastness and emptiness of this great water highway, as myriad channels ply through seemingly endless archipelagos of sand islands. Within striking distance of the river are a number of significant national parks. Among these is the World Heritage Site at Kaziranga, where the world’s largest population of rhino reside.

This unusual journey will appeal to those who wish to witness this extraordinary area, its diverse cultures and marvellous wildlife but who are weary of the more well trodden paths around the world. The roads may be poor and the tourist infrastructure very much in its infancy, but that is precisely why we find this region so exciting. Now is the time to visit before big business moves in with the resort hotel chains and all other paraphernalia that 21st century tourism entails.


Sukapha

Sukapha

Built in Calcutta in 2006, the 22 passenger RV Sukapha is a 40 metre long, twin-engined, steel hulled passenger ship, and a near replica of her sister vessel the RV Charaidew.  Named after the Ahom Dynasty established by Sukaphaa, a Shan prince who came to Assam from Burma in 1246, she is well suited to the challenging conditions of the River Brahmaputra where she first plied, and is equally at home on the waters of the Ganges.

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Itinerary

Day 1 - London to Kolkata.

Fly by scheduled indirect flight from London to Kolkata.

Day 2 - Kolkata.

Arrive in the morning and transfer to your hotel for a two- night stay. Enjoy an afternoon city tour.

Day 3 - Kolkata.

Our morning excursion will include a visit to the flower markets and a cruise down the River Hooghly. After lunch visit the Marble Palace and the South Park Cemetery, the last resting place of many of Kolkata’s early British settlers.

Day 4 - Kolkata to Guwahati.

Depart on a morning flight to Guwahati. On arrival drive up Nilachal Hill to see the holy Kamakhya temple. With its tantric rites and animal sacrifice, the more squeamish may prefer to content themselves with the exterior. Visit the poignant Commonwealth War Graves cemetery. Finally walk through a local market before embarking on the the RV Sukapha.

Day 5 - Ganesh Pahar.

The day is spent cruising upstream, with hills rising on either side, often battling against strong currents. We have time though to pause and visit the north bank village of Khirakata, with its lush green fields.

Day 6 - Cruising.

Leaving the hills behind, we enjoy our first taste of the wilderness experience, sand banks like icebergs on either side. We may make a short stop to visit a bankside village, creating a sensation as we do. We moor for the night in a lunar landscape of sand islands, with hopefully the Himalayas in view and providing a contrasting backdrop in the distance.

Day 7 - Tezpur.

We cruise on to Tezpur, where after lunch we visit the 6th century Da Parbatia temple ruins with a beautifully carved portal, then explore the town by cycle rickshaw, stopping at Cole Park with medieval stone carvings saved from sites all over the region, and aim to pass by the bungalow once lived in by Alexander Bruce, pioneer of the tea industry.

Day 8 - Nameri National Park.

After an early breakfast we drive for some two hours to the Nameri National Park at the foot of the blue hills of Arunachal Pradesh, the old North East Frontier Agency. Here we take a float trip of around two hours duration down the Jia Bhoreli River through the park, with excellent birdwatching (look out for the great hornbills) and perhaps the chance of sighting wild elephant.

Day 9 - Kaziranga.

Continue upstream, passing below a seemingly endless new bridge across the vast width of the river bed, to moor at Steemer Ghat (sic), a lovely beach backed by jungle-covered hills. In the afternoon we drive to Kaziranga’s Western Range for a jeep safari and to scan the wilderness from an observation tower. Kaziranga is a World Heritage site and with a population of well over 1000 rhinoceros is the best place in the world to see these beasts. There are also good populations of tiger, wild elephant, sambar, swamp deer, hog deer, wild pig and many other species.

Day 10 - Kaziranga.

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 and other animals. After breakfast at a lodge, we walk through terraced tea gardens and past a Karbi tribal village, then drive to a Mising tribal village, with their distinctive houses raised on piles. After lunch either take a jeep safari in the little visited Burapahar Range before returning to the boat, or if preferred return directly to Steemer Ghat, visit a delightful Assamese village nearby and walk along a path alive with butterflies to a solitary temple on the river bank.

Day 11 - Vishnath.

This morning set sail 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.

Day 12 - Cruising.

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 13 - Kaziranga.

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 14 - Cruising.

Another day spent cruising upstream. We shall take time to pause and walk through a tribal village, getting an insight into the life of rural India.

Day 15 - Majuli Island.

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.

Day 16 - Sibsagar.

We visit Horu Charai tea estate this morning and see all the processes of tea production 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. We return to the ship which will have cruised up to Dikhou Mukh close to Sibsagar, and spend our last night onboard.

Day 17 - Assam to Kolkata.

Disembark after breakfast for your flight to Kolkata. On arrival transfer to your hotel for your overnight stay.

Day 18 - Kolkata to London.

Depart this morning by scheduled flight (indirect), arriving into London this evening.

Dates and Prices

SPECIAL OFFER - SAVE £500 PER PERSON FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY
Prices per person based on double occupancy
20 November 2014 to 7 December 2014 • 15 January 2015 to 1 February 2015 • 12 February 2015 to 1 March 2015
Category Brochure Price Special Offer Price
Category 1 Upper deck twin £5395 £4895
Category 2 Upper deck double for sole use £6695 £6195

Tour Reference Code: RCASSAM15

Price includes: Economy class scheduled air travel, three nights hotel accommodation in Kolkata on full board basis, 13 nights aboard RV Sukapha, full board throughout, shore excursions, experienced UK tour manager, transfers, port taxes, UK airport taxes.

Not included: Travel insurance, Indian visa, camera fees in national parks, gratuities.

NB. Ports subject to change. Itineraries may vary according to river conditions. Elephant rides are subject to availability. Wildlife sightings are not guaranteed. All special offers are subject to availability. Please note that road conditions in Assam are often poor, therefore overland journeys will be slow and at times subject to delays.

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Destinations

  • India

    To see our current selection of tours in India click here.

    India is a beautiful and bamboozling place, where holy cows amble along the streets, bask on heavenly beaches next to modern hotels and where ancient temples sit perfectly at home besides shiny new offices.

    The most enigmatic of countries, India is a relentless assault on all of the senses at once. It is an extraordinary place, one of the world's great human melting pots where an incredible array of cultures, religions and ethnicities live in reasonable harmony. It teems with one-sixth of the planet's population from rural villages where life hasn’t changed for hundreds of years, to ultra-modern cities like Mumbai that ooze western sensibilities. India is simply vast, varied and, above all, unforgettably beautiful.

    You could spend a lifetime exploring the echoes of ancient cultures, and the country's dramatic landscapes, including the mighty Himalayas. The most frequently visited part of India is the Golden Triangle, comprised of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. The people-packed cities of Mumbai (Bombay) and Kolkata (Calcutta) have a bustling, colourful charm, while the holy city of Varanasi and the awe-inspiring temples of Tamil Nadu are rewarding places of pilgrimage. Ancient frescoes are on view in the Anjanta Caves in Maharastra and dotted across India are 28 World Heritage Sites. Every region in India is stippled with an unmatched depth of history, diversity in cultures and language, monuments and beauty of settings.

    As a tourist there is something to cater to every taste be it adrenaline-fuelled explorations, luxurious pampering or simply relaxing. India's real allure and magic comes from the sheer assortment of things to do in every region: In Delhi, catch a rickshaw through the narrow lanes to the Red Fort, take a ride on the new world-class metro or visit it’s wonderful Lodhi Gardens. Perhaps you would prefer a more sublime treat such as floating on a houseboat through Kerala’s dreamy landscapes. You can choose to be overwhelmed by the vivid colours and overpowering aromas of a spice market. Or in Rajasthan, you can bounce up and down on a camel through the mystical deserts or sweat with the locals on a train through mountainside tea plantations. And, even if you do all that, you still won't have scratched the surface.

    Still, India is a wonder wrapped in contradictions. It is hard to overlook the fact that it has extraordinary displays of wealth as it does poverty. Modern architecture and corporate parks are growing but there is still a paucity of infrastructure. However, as a tourist there are responsible ways to visit as discussed in this guide.

    Don’t expect to absorb all it has to offer in one visit, this is a country best approached as one would a smorgasbord. It’s a much more palatable experience if you take a sampling of what is on offer and then revisit for more.

    It can be a baffling and at times an overwhelming place to visit but one thing is for certain, no matter how ready you are to leave by the end of your trip, within a few days after departure, you'll be longing to return.

    • Key Facts

      Capital:

      New Delhi.

      Geography:

      India shares borders to the northwest with Pakistan, to the north with China, Nepal and Bhutan, and to the east with Bangladesh and Myanmar. To the west lies the Arabian Sea, to the east the Bay of Bengal and to the south the Indian Ocean. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are Indian territory but lie off the coast of Thailand in the Bay of Bengal. Sri Lanka lies off the southeast coast, and the Maldives off the southwest coast.

      The far northeastern states and territories are all but separated from the rest of India by Bangladesh as it extends northwards from the Bay of Bengal towards Bhutan. India is separated from the rest of Asia by mountain ranges, forest, and desert -the Himalayan mountain range in the north, the Thar Desert in the west and the Chin Hills and Patkai ranges in the east. The Indus River runs through the northern disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The most sacred of rivers, the Ganges, is in the east.

      Government:

      Republic.

      Head Of State:

      President Pranab Mukherjee since 2012.

      Head Of Government:

      Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since 2004.

      Electricity:

      230-240 volts AC, 50Hz. Some areas have a DC supply. Plugs are of the round two- and three-pin type.

      Timezone:
    • Money

      Currency Information:

      Rupee (INR; symbol Rs) = 100 paise. Notes are in denominations of Rs1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Rs5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 20, 10 and 5 paise.

      Note:
      The import and export of local currency is prohibited. Sometimes smaller vendors will not take bills larger than Rs 500. It is best to carry a range of rupee notes if you are shopping at bazaars and local markets.

      Credit Cards:

      In major cities, the full cadre of banks cards are generally accepted including debit cards, American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. However, in smaller towns and villages, choice is generally narrowed to cash or MasterCard and Visa.

      ATMs:

      24 hour ATM machines can be found in all the major cities and most large towns. Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus are amongst the most commonly accepted cards.

      Travellers Cheques:

      These are widely accepted and may be changed at banks and larger hotels. The most widely accepted currencies include US Dollars and Pounds Sterling. Some banks may refuse to change certain brands of traveller's cheques whilst others may exchange quite happily.

      Banking Hours:

      Mon-Fri 1030-1530; Sat 1030-1300.

      Currency Restrictions:

      The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import of foreign currency is unlimited. However, amounts exceeding US$5,000 or equivalent in cash, or US$10,000 or equivalent in all forms of currency must be declared. The export of foreign currency is allowed up to the amount imported and declared.

      Currency Exchange:

      Currency can be changed at banks, airports or authorised money changers. Many hotels also have facilities to change money but this is a more expensive option. It is illegal to exchange money through unauthorised money changers. US Dollars and Pounds Sterling are the easiest currencies to exchange.

      Currencies: Exchange Rates:

      • 1 AUD = 41.62 INR
      • 1 EUR = 78.24 INR
      • 1 GBP = 100.49 INR
      • 1 USD = 61.95 INR

    • Climate

      Best Time To Visit:

      The weather is mainly hot most of the year with significant variations from region to region. The coolest weather lasts from around the end ofNovember to the beginning of March, with fresh mornings and evenings, and mostly sunny days. The really hot weather, when it is dry, dusty and unpleasant, is between March and June. Monsoon rains occur in most regions in summer anywhere between June and early October.

      Western Himalayas: Srinagar is best from March to October; July to August can be cold and damp in winter. Shimla is higher and therefore colder in winter. Places like Gulmarg, Manali and Pahalgam are usually under several feet of snow from December to March and temperatures in Ladakh, which is a high-altitude desert, can be extremely cold. The mountain passes of Ladakh are accessible from July to October.

      Northern Plains: Cities like New Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow and Patna experience an extreme range of temperatures and are typically warm from April to mid-June, falling to almost freezing at night in winter between November and February. Summers are hot with monsoons between June and September.

      Central India: Madhya Pradesh state escapes the very worst of the hot season, but monsoons are heavy between July and September. Temperatures fall at night in winter.

      Western India: November to February is most comfortable, although evenings can be fairly cold. Summers can be extremely hot with monsoon rainfall between mid June and mid September.

      Eastern India: Weather in states like Orissa (which is flood-prone) are defined by cooler weather from October to February, scorching heat from March to May and unavoidable drenching from the monsoons from June to October.

      Southwest: The most pleasant weather is from November to March. Monsoon rains fall anywhere between late April and July. Summer temperatures are not as high as Northern India although humidity is extreme. The coast benefits from some cooling breezes. Inland, Mysore and Bijapur have pleasant climates with relatively low rainfall.

      Southeast: Tamil Nadu experiences a northeast monsoon between October and December and temperatures and humidity are high all year. The hills can be cold in winter.

      Northeast: March to June and September to November are the driest and most pleasant periods. The rest of the year has extremely heavy monsoon rainfall.

Sukapha

Built in Calcutta in 2006, the 22 passenger RV Sukapha is a 40 metre long, twin-engined, steel hulled passenger ship, and a near replica of her sister vessel the RV Charaidew.  Named after the Ahom Dynasty established by Sukaphaa, a Shan prince who came to Assam from Burma in 1246, she is well suited to the challenging conditions of the River Brahmaputra where she first plied, and is equally at home on the waters of the Ganges.

 
  • Sukapha
  • Lounge
  • Cabin
  • Twin Cabin
  • Lounge
  • Restaurant
  • On Deck
  • Your Cabin / Suite

    The vessel has 12 generous-sized twin-bedded cabins located on the Upper deck. All cabins measure 4.5metres by 3.4metres and are en suite with shower and WC. Bathrooms have shaver sockets, a hair drier, and a selection of boutique toiletries.  All cabins have individually controlled air conditioning facilities and under-bed storage for clothes and suitcases. Built-in wardrobes with hanging and shelf space also contain individually programmable electronic safes. Each cabin has a large window with sliding glass panes as well as fly screens, while two comfortable rattan armchairs are well-placed for looking out and enjoying the passing landscape.

  • Your Dining

    The single seating dining room is located on the Lower deck and provides a varied cuisine of both Western and Assamese dishes for lunch and dinner. Assamese is food is generally prepared without chillies to accommodate for Western taste, but hotter versions are available on request. There will always be a vegetarian option available, and most dietary requirements can be catered for given previous notice to Noble Caledonia in writing. A good selection of local Indian beer, wines and spirits is available.

  • Your Space

    All cabin accommodation is located on the Upper deck, as is the bar and saloon area. The spacious saloon overlooks the bows, and has outside space accessible through sliding glass doors. The saloon is well equipped with relaxing furniture crafted from natural materials and local fabrics and has a bar area and well-stocked library, with DVDs which can be watched on the TV facilities available.

    The spacious Sun deck has generous amounts of seating in both shaded and outside areas, as well as an honesty bar for beer and soft drinks, as well as a 24hr complimentary tea and coffee station. There is a small salon located on the Main deck offering selected treatments for both men and women.

    Wifi is not available on the ship, but a dongle can be rented for use on your own laptop.

    Extensive use has been made of eco-friendly laminated bamboo panelling to furnish the vessel, and most fabrics onboard have been hand-woven by tribal people in remote villages.

  • Life Onboard

    Every evening before dinner there is an informal briefing in the Saloon by the ship’s manager and the onboard guide. The following day’s programme will be covered, whether it is a rickshaw ride, a meeting with a rural village community, an elephant safari or an excursion reached by mini-bus, all details will be covered in these relaxed meetings. 

    While sailing you can relax on the Sun deck and take in your surroundings while the onboard naturalist will be available to identify birds or wildlife. In the evenings enjoy a drink in the Saloon, always sociable this is an opportunity to relax after an active day, perhaps enjoy a film, or partake in a game of cards, scrabble or browse the ship’s well-stocked library.

  • For Your Comfort

    The RV Sukapha meets all statutory safety requirements, and a full safety briefing is given on boarding. You are welcome to visit the bridge and observe the master and pilot at work navigating their way through the shallows and sandbanks of the great Indian rivers. Often embarkation and disembarkation will be by means of the country boat which acts as our tender. Moving from ship to country boat to shore is secure and easy with plenty of railing, while ever-willing crew members are always on hand to assist. The owner and operator of the vessel, the Assam Bengal Navigation company, is an Indian/British joint venture based in Guwahati and its directors have a wealth of experience in operating river vessels in India.

  • Deck plans
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Tour Extensions

    • Join us after your cruise for an exploration of Bhutan, in the heart of the Himalayas. The people of Bhutan are known for their warm hospitality and added to this, we are surrounded by some of the most dramatic scenery in the world.

      Day 1 - Kolkata to the Thimphu Valley.
      After breakfast transfer to Kolkata Airport for your flight to Paro. On a clear day, the flight is breathtaking, with views of major Himalayan peaks such as Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, and on the final approach Bhutan’s own snowy peaks, the sacred Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tserimgang. On arrival at Paro airport, you will be met by your representative and drive from Paro to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan and an exciting blend of tradition and modernity. Check-in to your hotel for a two night stay. Remainder of day at leisure.

      Day 2 - Thimphu Valley.
      Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. Today’s full day of sightseeing in Thimphu valley includes visits to National Memorial Chorten; the building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”) and a monument to peace. In the evening, take a stroll along the town’s main street.

      Day 3 - Punakha.
      After an early breakfast depart for Punakha. Drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft), stopping briefly to take in the view and admire the chortens, Mani walls, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast will be revealed in all their glory. On arrival check-in to your hotel for an overnight stay.

      Day 4 - Paro.
      This morning we set off early for Paro with a stop en-route at Semtokha Dzong, “the place of profound tantric teaching”. In the afternoon drive towards the north end of the valley to view the Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum. The museum collection includes ancient Bhutanese art and artefacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection. Then drive down to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) situated at a commanding height overlooking Paro valley. Check-in to your hotel for a two night stay and this evening we will visit a traditional farmhouse for an opportunity to interact with a local family and learn something of their lifestyle.

      Day 5* - Paro.
      In the morning, take an excursion to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. After lunch, there will be free time for you to explore.

      Day 6 - Paro to Kolkata.
      After an early breakfast, transfer to Paro airport for your flight to Kolkata. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay. Afternoon at leisure.

      Day 7 - Kolkata to London.
      Depart this morning by scheduled, indirect flight, arriving into London this evening.

    • Price Includes: Economy class scheduled air travel, five nights hotel accommodation in Bhutan on full board basis, 1 night in Kolkata on bed & breakfast, shore excursions, transfers, Bhutan Visa fee, Tourism Fee.

      Not Included: Travel insurance, gratuities.

      NB: Minimum numbers are required for this extension to operate. Please note that the high altitude of this tour may affect some travellers. You are advised to seek medical advice before booking.

      * Please be advised that on DAY 5 of the itinerary, trekking/hiking will be involved in the excursion, from the Taktsang base to the monastery, clients will need to be at a reasonable level of fitness.

River Guides

  • To see our current selection of tours for the river Brahmaputra click here.
     
    • Brahmaputra

    The Brahmaputra flows 2900km (1800 miles) from its source, the Chemayungdung Glacier, in the Himalayas to meet the Ganges and thence to the Bay of Bengal. It passes through several countries and changes its name along the way. In Tibet it is the Tsangpo (“the Purifier”) and its Chinese name is Yarlung Zangbo. There are a number of tributaries that join the river close to its source including the Lhasa (Kyi) that flows past the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

    While still in Tibet the river passes through deep gorges (the walls 16,500 ft, 5,000m high at some points) and then into Assam in India where in the rainy season it can be up to five miles wide and there can be major floods when the Himalayan snows melt from June to October. It flows on through Bangladesh (as the Jamuna) and it is only around 900 miles (1450km) before its end that the river is called Brahmaputra (“Son of Brahma”) a rare masculine river name in India where mostly they are feminine. The stretch that is navigable by cruise ship is around the Assam region of India. This is best known for its tea growing but there are other crops too as well as wild hilly countryside, national parks with elephants and rhinos, beaches, jungles, rural villages and an abundance of wild life.

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