Join veteran Trip Leader and Asia explorer Devendra Basnet for a fascinating cultural and wildlife adventure in India’s remote and undiscovered northeast. One of the least visited parts of the country, this region is diverse and intriguing, full of unique tribal peoples, exotic wildlife, and magnificent scenery. In Assam, we stay at a colonial-era tea estate, walk through lush tea gardens, and boat on the Brahmaputra River to Majuli Island, home to famous Hindu monasteries. Heading to Nagaland, a narrow strip of mountain country along the Burmese border, we immerse ourselves in a little-known culture that has survived from the turn of the 13th century when the Ahom kings from Thailand migrated through Burma and settled in these lush sub-Himalayan foothills. These Tibeto-Burmese tribal groups, collectively known as the Nagas, each have their own languages and traditions. One of our journey’s highlights is the joyful Hornbill Festival, a celebration of the Nagas’ cultural diversity, where we witness their traditional music, songs, elaborate costumes—complete with jewelry and body tattoos—and even ceremonial head-hunting dances! Our adventure ends with thrilling gameviewing in the great Kaziranga game sanctuary, which shelters India’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceros.
Days 1-4, Nov 25-28, 2017
Kolkata / Jorhat, Assam / Sivasagar
Arrive in Kolkata (Calcutta) and spend the day exploring this vibrant city with a walk through the bazaars to get a taste of Bengali culture. In the tea-growing region of Assam, we enjoy a morning walk through the soothing aromas of tea bushes and visit a tea factory to learn about the tea making process. We explore the ruins of the Ahom Kingdom in Sivasagar, with temple visits, including Sivadol (Shiva Temple), and the well-preserved Rang Ghar.
Days 5-6, Nov 29-30, 2017
Majuli Island / Nagaland
We ferry across the great Brahmaputra River to Majuli, a large island with fascinating tribal villages and Hindu monasteries where they teach a philosophy of religious tolerance and peace. The island and waterways are rich in birdlife in the winter months. In nearby Hollongpar Gibbon Sanctuary, we walk through the dense subtropical jungle to look for the Hoolock gibbon, the only ape species in the Indian subcontinent. We drive along a winding road, dotted with small villages and towns, into the Naga Hills. The fiercely independent Naga people, whose land lies between the Hindu civilization of India and the Buddhist civilization of Burma, have a culture all their own and a famed warrior past.
Days 7-9, Dec 1- 3, 2017
Mokokchung / Touphema / Kohima
Mokokchung is the cultural center of the Ao tribal people. In our explorations of several surrounding villages, we have the opportunity to visit sites steeped in local folklore and culture. We'll stroll through the village of Touphema, enjoy visits to tribal homes, and meet locals to learn about the Angami culture and Naga history. Kohima, a town seated in a saddle spread across two hills, played a strategic role in World War II as the route the Japanese took to reach the plains of India. We visit the National Museum and walk up to Kohima Village, traditionally called Bara Basti (“12 villages”), the original settlements of the Angami people that expanded to become present-day Kohima.
Days 10-13, Dec 4- 7, 2017
Immersed in the spectacle of the Hornbill Festival, we enjoy a lively celebration of the cultural diversity of Naga tribes where traditions are shared in impressive displays of costumes, body and facial tattoos, ornaments made of boar tusks, folk songs, dances, and games. Crossing the Assam border, we head to Kaziranga National Park. By 4WD vehicle, we set out for game viewing in this wildlife-rich park, home to the endangered Asiatic one-horned rhino, herds of water buffalo, monkeys, boars, and exceptional birdlife. If we’re lucky, we'll see a herd of Asian elephants before transferring to the airport for departure on Day 13.