Dubai - Kolkata
Your flight departs from Heathrow in the afternoon, bound for Dubai. You arrive at Dubai just after midnight to meet your connecting flight to Kolkata. You’ll be met and taken to your central hotel, from where you’ll be able to explore this city of contrasts. Your sightseeing tour will show you towering examples of the architecture of the Raj, like the Victoria Memorial and the High Court, juxtaposed against a backdrop of shanty towns, chaotic alleyways and local bazaars. Dust-red London buses plough along teeming streets alongside hand-drawn rickshaws and bullock carts. The glittering restaurants and shops of modern Chowringhee contrast with the fascinating but down-at-heel district of Kalighat. Mother Theresa’s house and the Potter’s Village are in sharp relief to the grandeur of the Marble Palace, Indian Museum and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
A colourful morning awaits as you stroll along banks of the Hooghly River to visit Kolkata’s famous flower markets – a maze of narrow, flower-bedecked alleyways – and onwards by ferry to see Calcutta’s Botanical Gardens; considered the finest in India. The lakes, lawns and forest of rare trees sprawl over 273 acres and include Palmyra palm and mahogany avenues, plus palm, orchid, fern and cacti houses and a herbarium of 40,000 dried plants.
Stay: Three nights in a premier room at the Oberoi Grand.
Kolkata – MV Mahabaahu
This morning you’ll fly to Jorhat, via Guwahati. At Jorhat you’ll board the classy MV Mahabaahu river cruiser and set sail along the majestic river – possibly accompanied by Gangetic dolphins. For the next four days you’ll cruise in perfect luxury, taking in the sights, going on shore excursions and listening to talks about the cultural heritage and history of the places you’re visiting. You’ll stop at Sibsagar, founded in the 13th century and built around a vast water tank created by an Ahom queen. Here you’ll visit India’s highest Shiva temple and walk around the royal palace and amphitheatre before taking afternoon tea on a traditional, family-owned tea estate.
The following day you’ll set off on a nature/birdwatching ramble to observe owls, orioles, changeable eagles, adjutant storks, sea gulls, kingfishers, swallows and many more species. Then your cruise takes you to Majuli, before landing in Satra where you’ll experience interesting cultural performances by Satriya singers and dancers. In Kamlabari Satra, Vaishnavite priests worship by dancing and chanting, whilst a trip to a Mishing village will reveal houses on stilts and the expert weaving skills of the Mishing women. Back on board there will be a talk on ‘Assam, its Geographical Location & Importance’.
Your final day of cruising treats you to a boat safari to watch roof turtles, water lizards, otters, elephants, wild buffaloes, rhinos, darters, herons, pied and white throated kingfishers and serpent eagles. To put it into perspective, you’ll also have a talk on ‘The River Brahmaputra and the Life that Exists Alongside’.
Stay: Four nights in a superior cabin aboard MV Mahabaahu.
Kaziranga National Park
Day 9 of your itinerary takes you to a lodge set in the wilderness countryside of Kaziranga National Park. But first you’ll have another fascinating talk by an expert on Kaziranga and its wildlife. You’ll then land at Bishwanath Ghat to visit the Shiva Dol before sailing on to Silghat and the vast undulating expanse of tea bushes that is the Kaliabore tea estate. Then it’s time to say goodbye to MV Mahabaahu and journey off to explore Kaziranga National Park. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park stands on the flood plains of the Brahmaputra and is the natural home of 180 different mammals, including the greater one-horned Indian rhinoceros, wild elephants, tigers, deer, bison, and a rich variety of birds. You’ll be staying on the banks of the river, with perfect views of the jungle.
Stay: Two nights in a cottage at Diphlu River Lodge.
Your next destination is truly luxurious in the modern sense. You’ll travel over to Guwahati where you’ll be staying in the heart of the city’s cultural and business district, in a stylish hotel with a full service spa, swimming pool and sumptuous rooms.
Stay: One night in a superior charm room at Vivanta by Taj Guwahati.
Glenburn Tea Estate
Now it’s time for tea. After a morning flight over to Bagdora you’ll be met and driven through breath-taking scenery to the Glenburn Tea Estate in the foothills of the Himalayas. Here you’ll experience a mixture of relaxing tranquillity, fun and adventure. You can enjoy gentle strolls through acres of tea plantation, tea tasting sessions and nature walks to see butterflies and the local flora and fauna. You can also explore the forest, camp out on the banks of the Rungeet, swim, play croquet and beach cricket or fish for trout. Day trips to Darjeeling and Kalimpong are also available.
Stay: Three nights in a bungalow suite at Glenburn Tea Estate.
Bagdora – Kolkata – Dubai - London
Finally you travel overland to Bagdogra Airport for your internal flight to Kalkata. You’ll arrive in the afternoon, in time to catch your connecting flights to Dubai and then London, arriving at Heathrow early the following morning.
Alison was more than helpful and practical. Nice people travelled in Royal style.- MC, Seychelles, 2014