Thu 23 Nov: Auckland – Singapore – Kolkata
Our arrival into Kolkata will be our only taste of ‘India’ as you possibly know it. Kolkata is a heady mix of vibrancy and decay as the former all-powerful seat of British India until the capital was moved to Delhi in 1911.
The flight from Singapore arrives late evening and we will check into our hotel to get some much-needed rest. We will regroup the next day for lunch and some sightseeing. Overnight: Taj Bengal – Deluxe Room
Fri 24 Nov: Kolkata Sightseeing
With such a late arrival in Kolkata, the morning is free, so you can have breakfast when you are ready and recuperate from the long journey. Our hotel is located in Alipore, one of the greenest areas of Kolkata and provides a very well-located and comfortable base to start and end our adventure.
Prior to midday, we will have a briefing before heading out to lunch at the Oberoi Grand; not just a hotel but one of Kolkata’s most iconic structures.
After lunch, we will visit Victoria Memorial and the Marble Palace before exploring the local bazaars.
The Marble Palace (1835) and Victoria Memorial (1906-1921) are the palatial icons of the power, money and ego of the East India Company and after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, the British Empire in India.
Returning to the hotel the rest of the time is free and you can dine when you wish (on your own account) Overnight: Taj Bengal – Deluxe Room (B/L)
Sat 25 Nov: Kolkata – Guwahati – Peace Silk & The Mother Goddess
This morning we leave Kolkata and fly beyond the “Chicken Neck” to North-East India and the Guwahati. The largest city in the North-East with a population of approximately 1.1 million people, Guwahati sits alongside the south bank of the Brahmaputra River. It is famed for its holy sites and as the gateway to the North-East.
This afternoon we will visit Anderjuli Village and the Boro Family who weave Eri Silk which is also known as the “Peace Silk”. Unlike other silks, the silkworm is not killed as the fibre is only extracted from the cocoons after the moth has emerged.
See how this beautiful fibre is handwoven at home and meet Raja the enterprising young man of the family who has been using the power of social media to connect and supply the beautifully woven scarves to textile artists around the world.
Later we will visit the Kamakhya Temple. Dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya it is considered the most sacred shrine of Tantric Skaktism (goddess focussed Hindu tradition) in India. Overnight: Hotel Kiranshree Grand – Club Room (B/L/D)
Sun 26 Nov: Guwahati – Kaziranga
This morning we will leave Guwahati at sunrise (around 5.40am) making a stop at Ni4 an excellent pure vegetarian restaurant for breakfast enroute. The drive to Kaziranga National Park is approximately 210km / 04 hours excluding any stops. Our early start will ensure that we reach Kaziranga in time for our first safari into the Central Range of the park. This area has been consistently delivering some excellent Tiger sightings.
On arrival in Kaziranga we will check into our delightful lodge which offers panoramic views across the National Park and lush Assamese Tea Plantations.
Unlike the Tigers Parks of Central India, Corbett or Ranthambore you do not have to wake up in the dark of the night to get ready for the morning jeep safari at the crack of dawn. Jeep Safaris in Kaziranga start from 07:00 hrs/07:30 hrs. Entering the Park up until 09:30 hrs. But everyone has to exit by 12 noon. For an afternoon safari, you can enter the park from 13:00/13:30 hrs till 15:30hrs. You have to exit before sunset. Sunset Timings in November: between 16:30/17:00 hrs.
Overnight: Niltava by Iora – Luxury Tent (Fixed Walls, Canvas Roof) (BLD)
Mon 27 Nov: Kaziranga National Park Safari
Today we will head out both morning and afternoon on game drives in the National Park. This morning we will return to the Central Range so that we get to explore this area on both a morning and afternoon drive to give us the best possible chance of spotting Tiger.
After lunch we will return to the park for our afternoon safari to the Bagori Range, which has an abundant population of one-horned rhino, elephant and water buffalo. Overnight: Niltava by Iora – Luxury Tent (B/L/D)
Tue 28 Nov: Kaziranga – Majuli Island – Raas Leela Festival
Today we swap the lush greenery of Kaziranga for that of Majuli Island.
After breakfast we will drive approximately 110km over 2.5 hours to reach Neematighat. Here we will board the public ferry for a 1 hour upstream journey to Majuli.
Majuli Island & the Raas Leela Festival
Majuli is the world’s largest river island but it is slowing disappearing as the land is eroded away by floods. At the beginning of last century, it covered an area of 880 km2 and today that had been whittled away to 352 km2.
The island is considered the centre of Assamese culture and is home to the medieval Satras (monasteries) where monks, since the 16th century, have been leading an austere life mastering religious scripts, art, music, dance and handicraft.
The first such Satra was established in Majuli by the Vaishnavite seer named Srimanta Shankardev who is revered for his path-breaking contribution to the field of indigenous theatre, dance, music and visual art and craft. He believed that a harmonious society can be created only by individuals who are motivated by the need for harmony. Music was at the heart of Shankardev’s vision of a harmonious society just like Confucius of China. He combined Yoga and dance moves to create a unique dance form – Satriya – now a classical dance form of India.
The Raas Leela is an annual festival that celebrates the story and life of the Hindu deity Krishna showcased through the dances and plays of the different Satras. The festival dates vary according to the lunar cycles and can occur in October or November so we are incredibly fortunate that the stars have aligned for our visit to Majuli.
On arrival in Majuli we will check into our Eco-Lodge Mepo Okum (Happy Place). Our accommodation for the next two nights will be in the traditional bamboo cottages called chang ghars of the Mishing Tribe. The accommodation is very simple with no air-conditioning and hot water will be provided by the staff.
This afternoon we will take a gentle stroll to Dambukial Village which is close to where we are staying.
We will then have free time to rest and get some sleep until we get up to go to the Uttar Kamalabari Satra for the Raas Leela (dances) which stat at 1.30am the next morning.
All the characters of the dances, including those that are female, are played by the Satra’s male monks. The dances continue till sunrise, though we don’t have to stay right through the night and will return to our accommodation when ready. Overnight: Mepo Okum Eco Lodge – Mishing Cottage (B/L/D)
Wed 29 Nov: Majuli Island
After a morning to rest and recover, we will visit the Dakhinpat Satra before carrying on to Salmora, a traditional pottery village of the Kumars.
Pots were traditionally made and exchanged for paddy, which is a staple food of the island’s inhabitants. The pots are not made on a wheel but rather built by hand and the Kumars used to travel all the way along the Brahmaputra from Dhuburi to Sadiya to barter with their pots.
Returning to our accommodation our farewell dinner in Majuli will be the authentic food of the tribal Mishing community.
The Mishings are belong to the Tani people who speak languages of the Sino-Tibetan family. It is not known exactly where they migrated from but it is believed that they originally may have lived in the hills of present day Arunachal Pradesh. The Mishings share a number of cultural and linguistic similarities with the Adi Tribe as well as the Hill Miri and Dafla tribes. Around the 13th century and for the next two to three centuries, they started to migrate towards the plains of Assam, most likely in search of fertile land.
As fate would have it, the Mishings found the fertile river plains of the Brahmaputra and settled on both banks along the length of the river from Sadiya in the east to Johat in the west. Here they continued the tradition of living in thatched houses raised on bamboo stilts, protecting them from wildlife and the annual floods of their adopted home.
Most Mishings follow both the Donyi-Polo (the indigenous animistic and shamanic religion of the Tani) and Hinduism, though some have converted to Christianity.
Here’s what to expect: – Porag Aapin -rice cooked in a leaf which is locally called Tora Paat. It gives a distinct flavour to the rice. Then there will be Pamnam (fish baked in banana leaf), Pamnam Chicken (chicken baked in banana leaf) and Mamsing, chutney of dry fish. And delicious home-brewed rice beer -Apong. They also serve fish, chicken and pork cooked in bamboo pipes, a traditional technique of the Mishing tribe. Vegetarian? No problem. There will be vegetarian dishes too.
After dinner we visit the Natun Samaguri Satra for the Raas Leela starting at around 8.30pm. In contrast to the dances witnessed the day before, tonight we will witness the plays with the monks donning the masks that the Satra is famous for. Unlike the monks of Uttar Kamalabari Satra who lead a celibate life, the monks of the Natun Samaguri Satra are allowed to marry.
The mask making tradition is 400 + years old and was started by the Vaishnavite Seer Srimanta Shankardev for religious plays. The Masks are made of a particular clay, found only in Majuli, cow dung, bamboo, jute and cloth. They are then moulded to represent different emotions of the character and painted. Traditionally they were coloured with indigenous dyes but now poster paint is used. Each mask takes about a week to make.
Overnight: Mepo Okum Eco Lodge – Mishing Cottage (B/L/D)
Thu 30 Nov: Majuli – Dimapur
Today is a travelling day as we make our way to Nagaland. After breakfast we return to the jetty to board the ferry back to Neemtighat (approx. 1.5 hours downstream). We then drive to Dimapur. Dimapur may be only approximately 140km away but due to the roads it will take us about 5 hours to get there excluding any stops.
Overnight: Niathu Resort – Standard Premium Rooms (B/L/D)
Fri 01 Dec: Dimapur – Kohima
After breakfast we get back on the road for the 80km drive to Kohima which will take 2.5-3 hours. When we arrive in Kohima we will check into our accommodation. Lunch today is on your own account.
Kohima is the state capital of Nagaland, a town originally established by British Raj in 1878. The name is purely a British invention when they couldn’t manage to pronounce the indigenous Angami tribal name of Kewhira.
Later this afternoon we will visit the World War II cemetery. Here the Allied Forces won a decisive battle over the Japanese. There were heavy losses on both sides with war historians claiming that some of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat took place at Kohima. Located on Garrison Hill, the site of one of the battles, 1420 Commonwealth Graves are marked along with a memorial to the Sikh and Hindu soldiers who lost their lives and to the 2nd British Division who came to reinforce the troops who had held a much larger Japanese Army at bay for a number of weeks.
Overnight: Niraamaya Retreats Aradura – mix of superior, premium and classic rooms (B/L/D)
Sat 02 Dec: Hornbill Festival & Kigwema Village
After breakfast, we head to the Hornbill Festival for our first immersion into the rich customs of song, dance and food of the tribes of Nagaland. We will attend both sessions until around 2.30 pm.
Lunch at the Festival Site (on direct payment).
Leaving the festival site, we will visit Kigwema Village which is home to the Angami Naga people, one of the major Naga ethnic groups. It is interesting to get an insight into village life beyond the cultural activities of the Hornbill Festival. After our visit, we return to our accommodation for the night.
THE HORNBILL FESTIVAL
Also known as the ‘Festival of Festivals’ it is organised by Nagaland State Departments of Tourism and Arts & Culture and has been running annually since 2000. The Festival takes its name from the Hornbill Bird which is common to the folklore of all the tribes.
While each of the tribes of Nagaland has its own distinct festivals during the year, the Hornbill Festival has developed into an important annual social and cultural event. It has also been a boon for the tribes of Naga’s to preserve, showcase and promote understanding of their tribal customs, foods, games, dances and religious ceremonies.
Overnight: Niraamaya Retreats Aradura – Mix of Classic & Superior Rooms (B/D)
Sun 03 Dec: The Hornbill Festival & Kohima Cathedral
We regroup at breakfast and again head to the Hornbill Festival site to attend both sessions till around 2.30 pm. You will have another chance to sample Naga cuisine for lunch (on direct payment).
We will return to our accommodation, stopping on the way at Kohima Cathedral.
Nagaland is a predominately Christian state and the Mary Help of Christians Cathedral was interestingly mostly funded by Japan to commemorate its fallen soldiers at the Battle of Kohima. For those that may not be interested in the architectural or religious features of this unique cathedral, its hilltop site offers panoramic views of Kohima. Overnight: Niraamaya Retreats Aradura – Mix of Classic & Superior Rooms (B/D)
Mon 04 Dec: Kohima – Dimapur – Kolkata
Breakfast at the hotel before we farewell Kohima and drive to Dimapur. Here we board our nonstop flight to Kolkata arriving around 2.30pm. We will then transfer back to the Taj Bengal and the remainder of the day is free. Overnight: Taj Bengal – Deluxe Room (B)
Tue 05 Dec: Kolkata & Depart
Breakfast at the hotel. Today is free or perhaps you would like to join an optional excursion to the Weaver Studio (participation confirmed when booking if possible, please).
Later this evening we transfer to the airport and check-in for our flight home.
Weaver Studio Excursion
The Weaver Studio Textile Study Centre a pioneering private initiative by Kolkata local Ms Darshan Shah dedicated to the study and sharing of knowledge on the rich textile traditions of Bengal and India. They have a collection of 1200 rare and old textiles.
Here you can enjoy a creative and fun block printing workshop, creating your own piece of fabric to take home as a souvenir. After a lunch break at the Taj Bengal, there is time to browse the Weavers Studio’s retail outlet before we return to our hotel.
Day Use of your room at the Taj Bengal Included (B/L)
Wed 06 Dec: Auckland
Connecting in Singapore, we arrive back in Auckland late this evening.
ASSAM & NAGALAND HIGHLIGHTS
Estimated Tour Price:
NZ$9,679 per person twin/double
TOUR PRICE INCLUDES:
- Return International Economy Flights ex Auckland with accompanying tour escort Natasha Sinclair.
- Domestic airfares: Kolkata – Guwahati & Dimapur – Kolkata. Check in luggage is 20kg and hand luggage 7kg.
- 12 nights accommodation on a twin sharing/single occupancy basis at the hotels mentioned in the itinerary with day use of the hotel room on the last day in Kolkata.
- Breakfast x 12, Lunches x 8, Dinner x 9 (B – breakfast, L – lunch, D – dinner) as per the itinerary
- Transport throughout using the following vehicles. Drivers will generally be non-English speaking or have very limited English: Kolkata – Air-conditioned Mini Coach. Guwahati to Dimapur – Air-conditioned Innova Cars with 3 people per car. Note that the roads are poor and not suited to bus travel. On Majuli Island we will get around in a non-airconditioned Tata Sumo bus or similar.
- English speaking specialist local guide throughout the tour.
- Entry fees, monument fees, parking fees, road taxes, village visits and local sightseeing as per the itinerary.
- National Park entry fees and three jeep safaris with an expert safari guide at Kaziranga National Park.
- Public ferry charges to and from Majuli Island.
- Bottle of mineral water per person, per day during long-distance travel.
TOUR PRICE EXCLUDES:
- Indian Visa
- All beverages incl. water consumed at hotels/restaurants,
- Expenses of personal nature like meals other than mentioned above, tips (we will operate a Trip Kitty which Natasha will manage), laundry, telephone/fax calls, alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages, still & video camera fee at monuments, medical expenses, airfare, airport departure tax, any Insurance.
- Any optional excursions
- Any other services not mentioned in the inclusions.
In the case of any currency fluctuations or amendment in local Government taxes, or any fuel hikes, we reserve the right to adjust the tour price accordingly.
The above itinerary is subject to change due to airline reschedules, adverse weather and road conditions, unexpected political situations, or the decision by the host ground operator based on what is best for the group at time of arrival. Every effort will be made to deliver the itinerary and tour price exactly as stated