Hornbill Festival & Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary with MV Mahabaahu Downstream Cruise



An experiential journey to take part in the most vibrant tribal festival of Nagaland, the Hornbill Festival. Dubbed as the “Festival of Festivals” this event provides a great introduction of the rich and traditional cultural heritage of the Naga culture in all its ethnicity, diversity and grandeur. Combine this with Hollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, more popularly known as Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary has a rich biodiversity and is home to the only apes in India. Travel through the lesser explored parts of the beautiful Assam onboard the MV Mahabaahu cruise on the Brahmaputra River. The Brahmaputra is the only river in India to be given a male name and travels 2,900km from Tibet, through India to Bangladesh where it flows into the Bay of Bengal. This is the greatest river island system with the smallest and largest inhabited islands of the world located here. It is the only navigable river of the world under the shadows of over 7,000 meter high, towering snow-covered Himalayan mountains. This is also the only river apart from the Zambezi River in Africa from which elephant, jeep and boat safaris can take place in the Kaziranga National Park, described as the Serengeti of India though, we are not doing elephant safaris unless specifically requested.

Destinations Covered

Detailed Itinerary

  1. Day 1 Arrive Kolkata


    After clearing immigration and customs, step into the receiving area where our representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel.

    Arrive at your hotel and check-in. The rest of the day is at leisure on own.

    Kolkata, the city of joy as it is called, is also commonly considered as the 'Paris of the East' as there's a happy amalgamation of different cultures, styles, and moods, coupled along with numerous forms of industries and commerce, and politics. Kolkata mainly gained importance in the times of British rule as it had been the capital of India till the year 1912. At present, although it is no more the capital of India, it is the capital of West Bengal and is one of the most important places of cultural workshops and industrial center.

    Overnight at the Hotel (No Meals)

  2. Day 2 Kolkata


    After breakfast, proceed for the city tour of Kolkata and start with the old British Calcutta. During the British colonial era from 1700 - 1912, Kolkata witnessed a spate of building in the city largely influenced by the conscious intermingling of neo-gothic, baroque, neo-classical and Oriental and Islamic schools of design. Unlike many minimalist north Indian cities, the architectural variety in Kolkata owes its origins to European Style imported by the British.

    Leave on a walking tour of the heart of British Kolkata, Dalhousie Square taking in the classical Post stuffed with fascinating tombs both within and without.

    Next comes the old Town Hall (1813) and the High Court (1872) by Walter Granville based on a Gothic building by George Gilbert Scott followed by a ramble in the surreal Park Street Cemetery, an amazing assembly of neo-classical funerary monuments.

    Next, visit the St. Paul’s Cathedral, built in the Indo-Gothic style of architecture, and was built in the year 1847 by Major W.N. Forbes of the East India Company. The height of the Cathedral is 201 ft. This Cathedral has the rare distinction of being the first Episcopal Church built in this part of the world. The peak of St. Paul's Cathedral has been designed as a replica of the famous Canterbury Cathedral's Henry Tower.

    Thereafter visit Mother Teresa’s House, called ‘Nirmal Hriday,’ and also visit Shishu Bhawan, located near her house. Mother Teresa’s great work of caring for abandoned children on the streets of Kolkata is carried out at this center. Watch the children’s face light up with just one smile of yours.

    Overnight at the hotel (B)

  3. Day 3 Kolkata – Dimapur & drive to Kohima


    In time check out from your hotel and transfer to the airport to board your flight to Dimapur.

    Depart: Kolkata 10:00 Hrs. IndiGo Airlines # 6E-6339
    Arrive: Dimapur 11:25 Hrs.  

    Arrive at Dimapur airport, visit local market is the oldest city in Nagaland and was once the capital city of Kacheri Kings.

    Thereafter, drive to Kohima arrive and check-in to the hotel.

    Overnight at the hotel (B, D)

  4. Day 4 Kohima


    After breakfast at hotel drive and visit the Hornbill festival.

    The Hornbill Festival is named after the large and colorful Hornbill bird which is displayed in folklore in majority of Naga tribes. The Hornbill Festival is one of the biggest celebrations of the native tribes of Nagaland and encourages inter-tribal relations and promotes the cultural heritage of Nagaland. The main aim is to revive and protect the culture, extravaganza and traditions of Nagaland. For tourists it is an opportunity to understand the people and culture of Nagaland.

    The Hornbill Festival is an amazing opportunity to experience the culture, food, handicrafts, songs, dances and customs of Nagaland. The festival is attended by all major tribes of Nagaland. The festivities begin by nine in the morning each day. The festival takes place amidst perfect replicas of tribal hutments with wood carvings and hollow log drum instruments, which are played in a memorable symphony at the end of the day. A major attraction of the Hornbill festival is the Hornbill National Rock Concert after sundown. Bands from all across the country come to compete in the concert. The concert is followed by a night market.

    The Hornbill Festival highlights comprise traditional Naga morungs exhibition and sale of Arts and Crafts, Cultural Medley - songs and dances, archery, indigenous games, Naga wrestling, Herbal Medicine Stalls, Food Stalls, Flower shows and sales, Beauty Contest, Fashion shows and Musical concert. Traditional arts are also displayed with paintings, sculptures and wood carvings by contemporary Naga artists. The evening music concert ensures that the festive spirit carries on throughout the night.

    Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

  5. Day 5 Kohima


    After breakfast visit Kohima (the capital of Nagaland). Sightseeing tour of Kohima excursion to Khonoma located 20 KMS away from Kohima in the west. Khonoma is village of Angami tribes having the customs of courage & valour.

    In the history it is written that Khonoma village protected numerous villages in its previous good time. The gate of the village speaks the British access’s story at the hills of Naga.

    Also visit War Cemetery a memorial of the soldiers during World War II. Take a tour of the Museum which has rare article’s collection of various tribal communities of Nagaland that tells the Naga’s tradition & history, also a short visit to local tribal market.

    Return back to the hotel. Evening at leisure.

    Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

  6. Day 6 Kohima – Jorhat


    Kohima - Jorhat (Approx. 125 Miles / 200 Kms / 7 ½ Hours drives)

    After breakfast check-out from the hotel and drive to Jorhat.

    Arrival Jorhat and transfer to the hotel.

    Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

  7. Day 7 Half Day Excursion: Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary


    Half Day Excursion: Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary (Approx. 16 Miles / 25 Kms / 45 Min. drives - One Way).

    Today early morning we drive to Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary in Assam is best known for its population of Hoolock Gibbon, the only ape species found in India.

    Located at 25 kms from Jorhat town, this sanctuary is an evergreen forest. Interestingly, these Hoolock Gibbons are very shy creatures and rarely come down to the ground. They even quench their thirst from water content of leaves. They live in monogamous family groups and would pair only with a member of the opposite sex from another group or family. A gibbon would rather remain alone, as a widower and never pair after one of them is dead.

    Hollongapar is the only sanctuary in India with seven primate species; those other than gibbon are stump-tailed macaque, rhesus macaque, northern pig-tailed macaque, Assamese macaque, slow loris and capped langur. Home to a variety of reptiles and 219 species of birds, this wildlife sanctuary is among the best spectacles of Assam.

    Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and covered clothes to avoid mosquitoes or any kind of ant bite.

    As remember that any kind of vehicle is not permitted inside the park premises, so be prepared to walk a lot.

    Thereafter, return back to the hotel and evening at leisure.

    Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

  8. Day 8 Jorhat – Neamati Ghat & Board to MV Mahabaahu Cruise


    (M.V. Mahabaahu sets sail at 15:00 hours)

    After leisurely breakfast drive to Jorhat to board the MV Mahabaahu Cruise.

    Today morning after breakfast check out from your hotel and transfer to the Neamati Ghat to board MV Mahabaahu.

    You are welcomed and ushered in to our cabins and soon after we enjoy lunch on board.

    Use the afternoon to settle in and this evening we indulge in a short local sail to enjoy the hues of the sun as it dips into the horizon.

    Raise a toast to the River Brahmaputra and enjoy this sundowner and look out for the Gangetic Dolphins that hunt in the vicinity of Neamati Ghat.

    Gather for a safety briefing and a presentation on the ship’s facilities as we sip on Assamese tea. Join us for a talk on the Shivasaagar, the Home-hosted lunch at a tea estate and Majuli, as an orientation before your visit these places.

    This evening gather in the lounge for drinks and move on for a sit-down Chef’s Welcome Dinner in the Ship’s Restaurant ‘Mungri Mungram’.

    You are briefed on the program for the following day once again.

    Guests also decide if they would like to go to Shivasaagar the next morning or would like to spend the morning relaxing on board. We all meet for Lunch at the Tea-estate.

    Wake-up calls are noted down according to the visit opted for.

    Overnight on board MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

  9. Day 9 Sibsagar/ Home-hosted lunch with a Planter’s family at their Tea-Estate


    After an early morning light breakfast, drive along the river and through the Assamese countryside, laden with huts, fish ponds and beetle trees. You witness road side vegetable vendors selling home-grown vegetables and fruits and some fresh catch of fish from the river.

    Reach Shivasaagar, the Ahom stronghold where monuments speak of an era of 13th Century, when the north-east was ruled by a Tibeto-Burman race that adopted the neo-Vaishnav philosophy of the locals. Visit the tallest Shiva Temple of India, Shiva Dol; Talatal Ghar, the Ahom Palace; the Rang Ghar, an amphi-theatre.

    Later, arrive at the Planter’s family home on the Tea-Estate and get a feel of the luxury, expanse and history of the years invested in growing one of the best aromatic teas in the world. Assamese tea is famous round the globe and is one of the only two places in the world which has native tea plants, the other being Southern China.

    We are welcomed by the guests and we help ourselves to the buffet of ethnic Assamese cuisine. After a relaxed meal and authentic Assam Tea we indulge in some tea-tasting and a talk by the professionals.

    This evening you return to the Ship at Sunset, freshen-up and step into the Lounge and enjoy a relaxed dinner in the Dining area.

    You are briefed on the program for the following day and we call it a day or continue in the lounge.

    Overnight on board MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

  10. Day 10 Majuli Island visit/ A Bonfire Evening with Barbequed snacks and Beverages on a deserted island, a unique experience


    This day the nature enthusiasts wake up early to enjoy a couple of hours of walk on the Neamati Bund which is a raised platform that juts out above the river. On one side is the river that constantly cuts and adds sand and on the other side a swamp fed by rain water which is a natural breeding space for birds. Enjoy a walk through this narrow village where the huts/homes have sprouted along the two sides of a 12 ft wide bund. At this early hour one can see the village waking up, milking cows, gardening, farming, children in uniform cycling to school and the fishermen fishing for a fresh catch from the net. This walk is an informal way of peeping into the simple unpretentious Assamese village life.

    After breakfast, MV Mahabaahu sails towards Majuli. You take our tenders to go ashore Majuli to experience the neo-Vaishnav culture of the world’s largest inhabited riverine island. Sail away in our tenders to Majuli to experience the neo-Vaishnav culture of the world’s largest inhabited riverine island.

    Enjoy Gayan Bayan, a religious dance by the priests. Drive to a different part of Majuli to watch ‘Dashavatar’’ by young Vaishnav girls and an episode from Ramayana - Mukha Bhavana. These are a peep into the varied and rich culture of Assam.

    You have lunch on board and enjoy the sail towards the Deserted Island. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee on the sun deck and watch the sun lowering itself.

    As the sun sinks into the horizon the navigation team locates an untouched deserted island moor for the night. The beverages are set and the seating arranged. The aroma of the barbecued snacks fills the air and soon the guests step out on the island. Drinks in hand we indulge in talks, charades, camp fire songs and story-telling and enjoy the star laden skies with the ambience of water all around. You pay homage to the Brahmaputra River by floating oil lamps.

    Move in to the ship’s restaurant to enjoy a sit-down dinner. After dinner the spirit of the evening moves into the lounge, watch a documentary/movie for an hour and retire to the comfort of your cabins.

    Overnight on board MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

  11. Day 11 Mishing Village Visit / Boat safari

    Kaziranga National Park

    This morning enjoy Yoga or a walk on the untouched silver sands of the island. After breakfast sit through a short orientation on the Mishing Village Visit and the Evening Boat Safari at Agoratoli.

    You take our tenders to the Mishing Village to witness life on Chang Ghars of Bamboo scaffolding, bamboo roofs and matted bamboo walls. The Mishing women arrange their looms beneath their raised homes and weave bright and colorful ethnic designs in their waft and warp. This village provides an opportunity to add Mishing woven fabric to your wardrobe or home décor.

    Return to the ship and the ship sails away towards the Eastern Range of Kaziranga.

    After a sumptuous lunch and some rest, you get into our tenders to study the shoreline of the Eastern Range of Kaziranga and understand how the mighty Brahmaputra shapes and re-shapes the Banks. This area is the confluence of Dhansiri and Brahmaputra and promotes itself as a playground for Gangetic dolphins, tiny Assamese roof turtles and fish eating avians. Any wildlife we see is a bonus.

    Enjoy the Chef’s cooking demo and a talk on Assam, its geographical location, the role of River Brahmaputra, the tribal life and commercial Ventures like Tea, Silk and Jute that Assam is famous for. This will be followed by a short orientation on the Jute Mill and the Tea Estate.

    Enjoy a relaxed lounge hour followed by dinner.

    Overnight on board MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

  12. Day 12 Weaver’s village at Bishwanath Ghat/ Sail to Silghat/ Tea Estate visit and/or Jute Mill

    Kaziranga National Park

    This morning we enjoy Yoga on the Sun Deck as the ship sails towards Bishwanath Ghat; to this tiny sub-urban village on the banks of the Brahmaputra which is sprinkled with temples and is a cosmos of weavers, fishermen, farmers, boat makers.

    Bishwanath Ghat wakes up once a week to the presence of MV Mahabaahu and the travellers of the world and excitement shoots across.

    The sound of the shuttle on tense warp and raised alternate weft moving back and forth is music to the weavers of this community. A Shiva Dol (temple) from the times of Ahoms looms over and a promenade along the outcrop of rocks and swinging country boats adds beauty to the area. The weavers display their stories on these colourfully woven fabrics and wait in anticipation. Bishwanath Chariali is the 6th Range of Kaziranga.

    Sail along Kaziranga and reach Silghat where the ship docks. After a relaxed lunch and some leisure, you walk to the Jute Mill to witness the complete process in a co-operative mill for turning the golden fibre into a gunny bag. All the families in Silghat and the Jute Mill have formed a special eco-system for themselves.

    From here drive to the Tea-Estate to see the women plucking tea-leaves and also to the tea-factory to see the leaves turn into various grains for packing (The tea-factory is operational till mid Nov and after mid-Feb).

    Enjoy the State Dance of Assam, ‘Bihu’ by young village boys and girls and return to the ship. Over tea-coffee and snacks enjoy A talk on 'Kaziranga and wildlife in India' and an orientation on the Elephant and Jeep Safaris.

    The evening leads us to the lounge and an early dinner. Wake up calls must be requested at reception for a 3:30 am coffee and light snacks in the restaurant. The group will depart for Kaziranga at 0400 hrs.

    Overnight on board MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

  13. Day 13 Kaziranga National Park

    Kaziranga National Park

    (An early morning Elephant Safari and a Post breakfast Jeep Safari)

    Today wake up much before the dawn and sip away at a strong cup of Assam tea, some coffee and cookies. Some fresh fruit, juice and some dry fruits are on display too. An hour of drive takes you to a resort in Kaziranga for use of facilities before we get ready for an elephant ride.

    You ride into the early morning mist and as the sun rays force the mist to thin, we witness wild life up close and personal; swamp and hog deer, Asiatic water buffaloes and Rhinos; all happily grazing within yards of each other. An hour of elephant back saga through tall elephant grass leaves us nonplussed and wanting.

    Drive to a resort where breakfast will be waiting.

    Energize yourself on regular continental breakfast along with a lavish display of Indian cuisine like dosas, idlis, coconut chutney, poori aaloo, paranthas and much more.

    Soon drive towards the range for a jeep safari to explore more of the wild life. You look for the Asiatic Wild Elephants, the striped cats, the Wild Water Buffalo with enormous horn span, the hog deer and the swamp deer and of course the one horned-rhinoceros that this UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for.

    The Jeep Safari ends by 1030 hours, when you head back to the Cruise witnessing the paddy fields fed by the Brahmaputra as our wheels cautiously maneuver around the Karbi Anglong bends.

    This evening Enjoy an Assamese themed evening; Assamese freshly caught fried fish for snacks, Assami Mekhla Chaadar and Dhoti Kurta with Ahomia music and Ahomia dance moves and to top it all an Assamese Dinner Menu.

    Overnight on board MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

  14. Day 14 A Bangla Village Visit and sail past Peacock Island


    This is a very relaxed morning. You can sleep in or be on the top deck to experience a session of Yoga and enjoy a peep into the traditional wisdom of the gurus from ancient times.

    Relish a laid-back relaxed breakfast from 0800 to 1000 hrs, a talk on Kamakhya temple and an orientation on the Bangla Village and Kamakhya. We also talk of our departure arrangements for the following morning.

    You leave for the Bangla village visit. Interact with the village folk and try to understand their simple and satisfied subsistence lifestyles. These folks who live off the Brahmaputra river, both for farming and fishing make a choice of living on fertile unclaimed sand bars. They understand that they can enjoy the privilege of owning large expanse of land only till the river decides to remain benevolent.

    The river claims their land during the monsoon and they must return to their haven on mainland or create one. The river starts receding from October to mid-Feb and slowly the snow-melt in the Himalayas starts creating volume and an indication to get ready.

    Sail on towards the Peacock island and enjoy the hills that surround Guwahati. We get together on the top deck to sail into Guwahati as the sun sets behind the Sarai Ghat road and rail bridge. Sarai Ghat marks the narrowest stretch of the river as 1.3 kms. Dock into Pandu Port and this marks the end of Cruising. You get together in the lounge for a relaxed evening.

    This evening enjoy the Chef’s ‘Alvida Bhoj’ - A Farewell Dinner.

    Overnight on board MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

  15. Day 15 Fly Guwahati – Kolkata


    This morning you are docked at Pandu in Guwahati. Enjoy breakfast on the ship and deboard at 0900 hrs.

    You get into our cars and drive to the famous Shakti Peeth of Kamakhya Devi, the Goddess of Desire. This temple is located on Nilachal hill.

    Post the temple visit, drive to the Guwahati Airport with countless memories of Assam and packed lunch to board your flight to Kolkata

    Depart: Guwahati 11:40 Hrs. IndiGo Airlines # 6E-394
    Arrive: Kolkata 13:15 Hrs.  

    On arrival in Kolkata, board connecting flight to onward destination.

    (B, L)

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