HomeCruiseIndia: By river cruise ship through Assam

India: By river cruise ship through Assam

Meter-long sandbanks that change shape every day. There are countless small boats from which fishermen throw their nets into the water. Cattle and buffalo who approach the unstable bank to drink and run the great risk of being overwhelmed by the mighty river. The Brahmaputra is no ordinary stream. It’s as wide as an ocean. And it shapes the Assam region in northeastern India. A life without the river, which is a lifeline but also shows enormous destructive power during the monsoon season, is unimaginable for the people here.

Brahmaputra means “son of Brahma” in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language, the Hindu god who created the world. The river originates at an altitude of approximately 5,200 meters in the Himalayas in China. It passes through deep gorges, absorbs water from other rivers and grows into a huge river in Assam, India.

The river cruise is the longest in the world

Despite its width, the Brahmaputra has rarely been navigated by large ships as it passes through Assam and Bangladesh, where it flows into the Indian Ocean at the Bay of Bengal. However, things are changing. India and Bangladesh want to bring more goods to the water and are working closely together to achieve this. Individual canals and smaller rivers were dug and thus made navigable. This also opens up new opportunities for tourism. Travelers from both countries can now embark on the world’s longest river cruise.

This is possible on the new “RV Ganga Vilas”. The luxury vessel, which offers space for 36 passengers, made its maiden voyage between January and March. The “Ganga Vilas” travels for 51 days. She covers a distance of 3,200 kilometers and crosses a total of 27 river systems. The journey begins in the holy city of Varanasi on the Ganges. The ship then skirts the megacity of Calcutta and passes through mangrove forests in the Bay of Bengal before finally turning onto the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.

In eleven days we will cross Assam

The “Ganga Vilas” travels on the river in Assam for eleven of the 51 days. The region has not yet been developed for tourism, but it has many cultural and natural treasures to offer. This includes Kaziranga National Park, which passengers explore on shore excursions. Here, over an area of ​​over 900 square kilometers, more than 500 different species of birds live. Especially herons and storks, such as the rare giant stork and the marabou, find a perfect habitat in the partially flooded prairies.

As in many regions of India, multicolored kingfishers can also be observed in Kaziranga National Park. The little bird has become the symbol of the country because it is spotted here so often. There are dozens of species. The most famous Indian beer is also named after the so-called Kingfisher.

“The first animal protection efforts in this area date back to the colonial period,” says Sabyasachi Bhattarcharjee. He is a local travel companion on the “Ganga Vilas” and provides passengers with information on Indian culture and history during shore excursions. However, a few more years passed before the Kaziranga area received the highest protection status as a national park in 1974. Since 1985 it has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Indian rhino is the star of Kaziranga National Park

The most important species in the park is the particularly protected Indian rhinoceros. There are only about 4,000 specimens of this species left in the world. About two-thirds of them live in Kaziranga National Park. Vishnu Singh organizes shore excursions to the “Ganga Vilas”. He knows the animals of the national park like no one else. Based on the length of the horn, he can determine how many years the Indian rhino has already lived. Animals can live up to 60 years.

Many Indians visit the national park to see the “Big Five”. In addition to the Indian rhino, these also include the Basaringha deer, water buffalo and elephants. If you travel through the park in an SUV, you will also have the chance to spot a Bengal tiger from a safe distance.

To the mask maker on Majuli Island

A few miles upstream from the Brahmaputra lies the world’s largest inhabited river island: Majuli Island. It is also known for its biodiversity. But also for their cultural treasures. Hem Chandra Goswani lives and works in Majuli. In his workshop, the guru creates masks made from bamboo, cow dung and clay, painted with natural dyes. The guises of deities and demons are used in traditional festivals across the country.

Pilgrims head to the Satra monasteries

Majuli is a famous pilgrimage site in Assam. About 350 monks live in Satra’s local monasteries. From childhood, future monks welcome their parents to dedicate themselves entirely to their religious education. Members of the Mising tribe also live throughout Majuli. The Buddhist tribe, originally from Assam from Southeast Asia, has lived for centuries in simple stilt houses made of bamboo.

Over the last 30-40 years the river island has lost a third of its surface area due to soil erosion and will lose even more. An enormous challenge for the approximately 160,000 residents of the island.

The tea is harvested four times a year

The Assam region is famous throughout the world especially for its tea. “We harvest four times a year,” says Bhattacharjee. “The best harvest is in May.” In India, plantation work is the responsibility of women. The collectors collect up to four kilograms of leaves every day. 620 million kilograms of tea are produced in the region every year.

Nahir Sen is the owner of a tea plantation near Silgath. A few hundred meters away is his tea factory, where the leaves of the tea plants are transformed into black tea as we know it. To do this, they must be dried, fermented and chopped in several steps.

There is a lot of history in Sivasagar

Just before Dibrugarh, the cruise destination, is the historic Sivasagar. The place was the capital of the erstwhile Ahom kingdom in the 18th century. The Ahom kings, who did not live as lavishly as the Maharadjas in central India, also built the first amphitheater in Asia in the 18th century: Rang Ghar is still well preserved today, as are the city’s three most important Hindu temples.

It is above all the encounters with people in their habitats that make the journey through India and especially Assam so unique, regardless of whether you are on board for only part of the journey or completely immersed in this very different. days.

Tips for your river cruise through Assam

Registration: For entry to India An e-visa is required, which can be obtained within a few days on line can be requested.

Best time to travel: The “Ganga Vilas” goes from Varanasi to Dibrugarh and back only outside the monsoon season, between September and March.

The ship: The 62 meter long “Ganga Vilas” is the first river cruise ship built in India. It offers space for 36 passengers in 18 cabins on three decks.

Travel: The world’s longest river cruise can be booked through Swiss Travel Agency Trip to Thurgau and its partners can be booked. A complete 53-day trip costs 23,300 euros. But it is also possible to book just part of the route. The travel price includes domestic flights to/from Delhi to the ship’s departure and arrival locations. Meals are included in the price, as is the cost of excursions. There is always a German-speaking tour guide on board.

Source: Reisereporter

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