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Anyone who has travelled through Indiaby train or road will be amazed tolearn that there is actually a form ofsurface transport through the country thatoffers total serenity and comfort: for it ispossible to cruise for some 2,820 kilometresalong the rivers of India, passing greatcities, wildlife sanctuaries and historicalmonuments, and journey into the very heartof rural India by boat. Indeed once, suchrivers as the Ganges, Hugli andBrahmaputra were all vital arteries for theEast India Company, as for other empiresbefore them, and British-run passengerboats plied these rivers from the early 18thcentury until competition from the railwaysbecame just too great by the end of the 19thcentury. Passenger boats on theBrahmaputra, however, continued to operateuntil the early 1950s when the tensions thatemerged between India and Pakistan afterPartition in 1947 finally spelt the end for rivertraffic. Until that time, daily passenger boatsfrom Kolkata plied the Brahmaputra throughAssam, aboard them a complement of teaplanters, forest officers, soldiers and districtmagistrates; indeed, during the SecondWorld War, they also played a vital role inbringing in troops and evacuating casualtiesduring the great battles of Imphal andKohima in 1944. Today, however, inassociation with a pioneering Indo-Britishcruise company, Naturetrek offers you theopportunity to re-live the experience of thosedays of the Raj, aboard a luxury 24-berthvessel exclusively chartered by us to providea river cruise with a dedicated focus on thewildlife and national parks of Assam.This 10-night cruise will include most of thehighlights of Assam, with a particular focuson the wildlife, wilderness and tribal villagesand cultures that represent the key points ofinterest along the mighty Brahmaputra, for often the riverbed is 20 to 30 kilometresacross, an empty world of grass-coveredand forested islands, sand spits andchannels, favoured only by rural fishermenand a marvellous birdlife. We will also lookout for mammals, especially when passingthrough Assam's national parks, althoughthroughout our cruise we may expect to seethe endangered and enigmatic GangeticRiver Dolphin, a real highlight of this journey. We begin our cruise, after a night in thefascinating old colonial city of Kolkata and adomestic flight, near Jorhat in Assam. Ourfirst point of call will be the GibbonSanctuary at Mariani, where we will walk inthe forest in search of Hoolock Gibbons,India's only species of ape, and a wealth ofbirdlife. Next stop will be Majuli Island,reputedly the world's largest river island andshort-listed for future UNESCO WorldHeritage status on account of its richculture. Here we will visit some of theisland's unique Hindu monasteries (famousfor their dance drama performances),experience a typical Mising tribal lunch in astilted bamboo hut, and enjoy the birds ofSakuli Bheel (lake). On other occasions wewill spend time gently cruising down theBrahmaputra, relaxing and birdwatchingfrom the sundeck, perhaps with a visit to atribal village. On our fourth day Kaziranga National Parkwill appear on the left bank and we nowhave a chance of seeing wild AsianElephants and wild Water Buffalo from theboat, perhaps even a Tiger! During the nextthree days we have the pleasure of India'sfinest national park alongside us, and in itwill enjoy an elephant ride and jeep safaris.Kaziranga is a 430 square kilometre park,consisting of broad tracts of tall elephantgrass interspersed with evergreen forests,shallow lakes and reedbeds. It is probablythe best place on Earth to observe the veryrare Great Indian One-horned Rhinocerosand it is possible to encounter as many as40 of these prehistoric-looking beasts duringa day in the field. Asian Elephants and wildWater Buffalo are also plentiful, as areSambar, Hog and Swamp Deer, and WildBoar, the prey of the Leopards and Tigerswhich roam the park, although amid somuch cover they are always hard to see. Wemay even chance upon some of the moreelusive residents such as Gaur, Leopard Catand Sloth Bear, whilst the rare CappedLangur, Assam Macaque and HoolockGibbon form a trio of primates that inhabitthe woodlands. Despite the profusion ofmammals, the birdlife is not eclipsed and atremendously diverse bird list features manyrare or local species such as BengalFlorican and Adjutant Stork. Leaving Kaziranga, we will next exploreNameri National Park (which lies in theHimalayan foothills an hour's drive north ofTezpur) both on foot and by means of a raftjourney through the park. Seasonal channelspermitting, we will also visit Orang NationalPark, which lies alongside the Brahmaputra,exploring it by means of a smaller boatwhich we will take up a tributary into theheart of the park where we will search forbirds and mammals by jeep.Towards the end of our river cruise we willexplore a range of jungle-covered hills andvisit the idyllic and isolated village of GaneshPahar where we will take a birdwatching walkthrough rice paddies and unspoilt forest.These pretty hills, or the Golden Langurs ofPeacock Island, are likely to be amongst ourfinal memories of the stillness and beauty ofthe mighty Brahmaputra, before we mustdisembark at Guwahati and commence ourjourney homeward. For tour memberswishing to extend their holiday, werecommend a post-tour visit to theSunderbans, the world's largest delta andmangrove swamp, renowned for itswaterbirds and man-eating Tigers!Brahmaputra Cruise A magical 14-day holiday to Assam which includes a unique 11-day wildlife cruise down the Brahmaputra River, visiting Kaziranga, Nameri and Orang National Parks, and taking in local tribal culture. Thursday 13th December - Wednesday 26th December 2012 Cost: £3,395 Thursday 7th February - Wednesday 20th February 2013 Cost: £3,295Thursday 7th March - Wednesday 20th March 2013 Cost: £3,195Thursday 7th November - Wednesday 20th November 2013 Cost: £3,495Thursday 30th January - Wednesday 12th February 2014 Cost: £3,395*Thursday 27th March - Wednesday 9th April 2014 Cost: £3,295*Sunderbans extension available on all tours Cost: £795 Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationBURMAKAZIRANGANATIONAL PARKNAMERI N.P.ORANG N.P.BRAHMAPUTRARIVERDARJEELINGBAY OFBENGALBHUTANBANGLADESHINDIAASSAMKOLKATASUNDERBANSNATIONAL PARK(EXTENSION)JORHATGUWAHATITIBETPAROOutline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Kolkata.Day 3/12Fly Jorhat for 11-dayBrahmaputra wildlifecruise.Day 13End cruise; fly Kolkata.Day 14Fly London.Sunderbans extensionDay 14/17Sunderbans NationalPark.Day 18Kolkata.Day 19Depart Kolkata.Day 20Arrive London.Accommodation For this voyage Naturetrek chartersthe RV Charaidew. For vessel detailssee page 280. In Kolkata weovernight in a comfortable 3-starhotel, all rooms with private facilities.Food Included in the price, except formain meals in Kolkata. Allow £40. Grading Grade A. Focus Birds, mammals and local culture.Leader Sujan Chatterjee, Manoj Sharma,Nick Acheson or Tika Ram Giri, pluslocal guides. Business classsupplementFrom £1,950.Single room supplement £2,195 (February, November andDecember); £1,995 (March);extension: £250.Web quick search: IND02*Dates and prices subject to confirmationin our 2014 brochure.271Brahmaputra RiverKaziranga National ParkRV CharaidewEXCLUSIVENATURETREK CHARTER

Far out in the Indian Ocean, nearly600 kilometres to the south-west ofIndia, lie the beautiful coral atolls ofthe Maldives. These really are the desertislands of our dreams - warm turquoisewaters lapping against white sandybeaches edged with gently swaying palmtrees! Many of the 1,192 islands that makeup the archipelago (only 300 are inhabited)are also ringed by pristine coral reefs,famed for their marine-life which attractsdivers and snorkellers from around theworld. For many people these exquisiteislands and encircling coral reefs requirelittle introduction, but the waterssurrounding the Maldives hold a lesswidely known, but equally exciting naturalattraction, cetaceans. In the past twoyears, 18 species of whale and dolphinhave been recorded in these waters.Spinner, Bottlenose and Risso's Dolphinsare all common, as are Short-finned PilotWhales, Sperm and Dwarf Sperm Whales.Even the Blue Whale, the largest animalthought to have ever inhabited the Earth, isseen regularly; and in recent years therehave been increasing sightings of severalof the beaked whale species, that group of rarely observed, deep ocean cetaceansthat we still know very little about. With such an abundance of marine-life onoffer, the best way to explore thisarchipelago is by boat. We have thereforetaken the exclusive charter of the 32-metreMV Ari Queen - a comfortable cruisevessel that accommodates just 16 guestsin en suite, air-conditioned cabins - forthis voyage. This will be our home forseven nights as we explore the many bays,atolls and reefs in search of cetaceans,huge Manta Rays, graceful White-tailedTropicbirds and an abundance of othermarine-life. Our holiday begins with a flight to Malé,the capital of the Maldives. After a night toenjoy our first taste of this tropicalparadise, we will board the MV Ari Queenand head out to explore the multitude ofislands and atolls that dot these turquoiseseas. Our exact itinerary will be keptflexible and in the hands of our guide, Dr.Chas Anderson, a professional marinebiologist who has lived and worked in theMaldives since 1983. Each night we willanchor in a sheltered lagoon within one ofthe many atolls and start each day with theopportunity to snorkel on the reef. We willthen head out to sea in search ofcetaceans and other wildlife, returning toshelter once again in the evening, tosnorkel, eat and sleep. The great attraction of whale and dolphin-watching in the Maldives is the diversity ofspecies that can be seen here. On this tripwe can expect to see about a dozenspecies, the calm clear waters oftenallowing unrivalled views. Large pods ofSpinner Dolphins are a common sightleaping out of the water and twirling in theair as their name suggests. Risso's andStriped Dolphins are also regularly seen,together with Cuvier's Beaked Whale andShort-finned Pilot Whale. Dwarf SpermWhale, the smallest 'whale', is common inthe Maldives, but rarely seen elsewhere.Indeed, this cruise probably offers the bestopportunity to see this elusive speciesanywhere in the world! Other species tolook out for include Bryde's and SpermWhales, pods of False Killer Whales and afew rarities such as Rough-toothed Dolphinand Blainville's Beaked Whale. For the veryfortunate there is the ultimate goal of aLongman's Beaked Whale, one of therarest species in the world, but one that Dr.Anderson has seen, and photographed,several times in these waters!Birdlife on the Maldives is not prolific, butthere are some interesting and beautifulspecies to look out for. The graceful White-tailed Tropicbird is likely, along withAudubon's Shearwaters and the menacingoutlines of Lesser Frigatebirds. Of all thebird families, however, it is the terns thatdominate here and we could see 10 or sospecies including Saunder's Little Tern,Lesser Crested Tern, Black-naped Tern andLesser Noddy. The Maldives are rightly famous for theirsea-life and, in addition to the cetaceans,our cruise will introduce you to a wealth ofmarine creatures from the diminutive clownfish to the mighty Manta. Over 1,000species of fish have been recorded hereand you can expect to see over 200 ofthese whilst snorkelling. Hawksbill andGreen Turtles are another treat to look outfor on the reefs, whilst flying fish areabundant in the open water and regularlyflushed into the air as we cruise from oneatoll to the next. Even a Whale Shark ortwo is possible! There will also be theopportunity to snorkel with Manta Rays,one of the ultimate marine experiences.The sight of one, or more, of thesemagnificent creatures (which have awingspan of over two metres) effortlesslygliding past beneath will not only fill yourthoughts on the long journey home but besure to remain in the memory for life. Mantas, Dolphins & Coral Reefs - A Maldives CruiseA 10-day holiday, including a 7-night whale-watching cruise through the warm, turquoise waters surrounding the Maldives.Friday 15th February - Sunday 24th February Cost: £3,395272Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryMALDIVEISLANDSSUVADIVAINDIANOCEANEQUATORMALÉOutline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Malé.Day 3/9Maldives cruise.Day 10Fly London.AccommodationFor this voyage Naturetrek hasexclusively charteredtheMV AriQueen (see page 280). Cabins aretwin-bedded and air-conditionedwith en suite facilities. In Malé weuse a comfortable tourist resort onone of the palm-fringed islandsnear the airport. Food All included in the price, except formain meals in Malé. Grading Grade A. Easy and optional daywalks only. FocusCetaceans, birds, Manta Rays andother marine-life. LeadersDr. Chas Anderson and Naturetreknaturalist.Single room supplementNot available.Web quick search: MDV01Friday 23rd September -Sunday 2nd OctoberCost: £3,295EXCLUSIVENATURETREK CHARTERManta RaySpinner DolphinThe Maldives