Monks, Tribes & Rhinos

India

Culture | Tribal | Wildlife

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Dates & Prices

Intro


FEATURED IN `TOP 10 ADVENTURE` - WANDERLUST & REAL TRAVEL MAGAZINE

Encounter the ancient Apatani tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and chill out in bamboo huts on Majuli Island, the world’s largest river island. See how tea is grown in Assam`s famous tea estates, and spot one-horned rhino and other stunning wildlife on elephant-back in Kaziranga National Park. Rise above the Himalayan clouds to stunning Tawang, home to the world’s second largest Buddhist monastery, perched on a mountain edge overlooking Bhutan.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Walking safari & boat ride in Nameri National Park
  • Meet the Apatani tribal people in Ziro
  • Jorhat - tea plantation tour.
  • Elephant-back safari, one-horned rhino & other wildlife in Kaziranga
  • Visit the world's second largest Buddhist monastery in Tawang

Places Visited

Nameri National Park - Ziro - Jorhat - Majuli - Kaziranga National Park - Bhalukpong - Dirang - Tawang - Bomdila - Tezpur - Guwahati

What's Included

Airport pick-up & drop-off
Domestic flights
Ground transport & driver
Escorted guide
Accommodation
Most meals (refer to itinerary)
Restricted area permits for Arunachal Pradesh
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Activity fees (rafting, safari)
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Guwahati - Nameri N.P.

Arrive midday into Guwahati, Assam (flying from Delhi or Kolkata). Your guide and driver will greet you at airport for onward drive to the Eco-Camp on the fringes of Nameri National Park. Depending on arrival time, go for a wander in the open fields and watch villagers gather their cattle as the sun sets. Feast on Assamese cuisine in the open air dining area and enjoy a drink by the bonfire. Stay in very good bamboo tent/cottages, complete with comfortable bamboo beds and attached bathroom. Overnight in Nameri.

Meal plan: Dinner

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Day 2 : Nameri National Park

Early morning chai, then set off for game walk. Cross the river by boat to Nameri National Park. Explore the forest by foot, looking out for langur monkeys, wild elephants, barking deer, rare birdlife and more. Return to eco-camp for breakfast. Head down to the River Bhorelli for a relaxing boat ride and stop off on the bank for a freshly cooked lunch. Rest of afternoon free. Evening meal and overnight in Nameri.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Reached by river, Nameri National Park is a beautiful forest area inhabited by langur monkeys, elephants, barking deer, rare birdlife and more.

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Day 3 : Ziro

Early breakfast, then set forth on the tribal circuit, winding your way through lush tropical mountain scenery. Arrive in Ziro, home of the little-known Apatani tribe, whose older women bear distinctive nose-plugs and tattoos. Depending on arrival time, visit nearby Hong village, one of the largest tribal villages in Asia, where you will get a rare and privileged insight into an almost medieval world. Overnight in Ziro.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Ziro is the home of the little-known Apatani tribe, whose elder women bear distinctive nose-plugs and tattoos. The area is surrounded by paddy fields where you can learn about the ingenious system of ‘pisci-culture’ where villagers breed fish and grow fish on the same plot of land. Ziro also boasts a craftshop run by Future Generations Arunachal (a worthy NGO supported by Travel The Unknown.) Nearby tribal villages include Hong Village, the largest tribal village in Asia, where you will feel you have entered an almost medieval world.

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Day 4 : Ziro

Full day to explore Ziro. Take a walk out to the paddy fields where you can learn about the ingenious system of 'pisci-culture' where villagers breed fish and grow rice within the same plot of land. Visit the craftshop in Ziro, run by Future Generations Arunachal, a worthy NGO supported by Travel The Unknown. Overnight in Ziro.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Apatani practice pisciculture 'aquaculture' along with rice farming on their plots so that two crops of rice (Mipya and Emoh) and one crop of fish (Ngihi) are raised together. This is a unique practice in Ziro. The Apatani add varieties of domestic waste products to their paddy field to enhance crop productivity, soil fertility and feed the fish.

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Day 5 : Ziro

Free day to explore Ziro and nearby tribal villages. Hiking possibilities. Overnight in Ziro.
Other than Hong, other less well-known tribal villages nearby include Hijo, Hari, Bamin and Dutta.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 6 : Ziro - Jorhat

Early start for journey to Jorhat, located on the banks of the Brahmatputra. Arrive around lunchtime. Check into tea bungalow. After lunch, proceed for a tour of the tea plantations for which Jorhat is renowned. Return to the bungalow. Rest of the evening free to relax. Overnight in Jorhat.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Jorhat is the second largest city in Assam and is situated by the Brahmaputra river. Jorhat is renowned for its tea and for being the last capital of the Ahom Kingdom, meaning it is now home to many historical monuments of Assamese culture. Tea is part of the agriculture-based industries and occupies an important place in Assam culture, especially as plants have always grown naturally in the Upper Brahmaputra valley. The entire Jorhat district is surrounded by tea plantations and has tea factories. There are about 135 tea gardens in the surrounding areas. 

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Day 7 : Jorhat - Majuli Island - Jorhat

Early morning private ferry to Jorhat. Spend the day exploring one of the largest river island's in the world. Visit the island's ancient satras (rare Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries worshipping Lord Vishnu). Pop into the local mask shops and pottery workshops and watch master craftsmen at work. Late afternoon take the ferry back to Jorhat. Evening free to relax. Overnight in Jorhat.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

One of the world's largest river islands, Majuli Island is located in the Brahmaputra River and runs for 80km from east to west and 15km north to south and a total area of 875km2. It used to be much bigger than this but has decreased as a result of erosion from the river. The island has a population of 150,000 and there are 243 villages. With a natural and cultural heritage site with water bodies covering most of the areas, Majuli attracts a wide range of birds. Aside from the rice field landscapes, fish traps and water meadows, the local Mising people and Satras make the island a fascinating place.

There are just under 30 Satras in Majuli and each Satra acts as a cultural activity centre for its region in festivals and occasions. Formed by the Assamese philosopher, Sankardev, the religion is based on the caste system and idol worship. Dance and play-acting of scenes from the holy Hindu scripture (Bhagavad Gita) have an important role. Pottery in Majuli is also very famous because it is made from beaten clay that is burnt in ovens fired with driftwood.

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Day 8 : Jorhat - Kaziranga National Park

After leisurely breakfast drive to Kaziranga National Park. Check into your accommodation. After lunch, leave for your afternoon jeep safari in Kaziranga. Look out for the park's abundant and rare wildlife. Return to your lodge on the fringes of the park. Savour a delicious Assamese meal and have a drink by the bonfire. Overnight in Kaziranga.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Kaziranga National Park is home to two-thirds of the world's population of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros at just under 2000. A few centuries ago, the Indian one-horned rhino ranged across the north Indian plains in the wetlands of the rivers Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra. Today it is found only in pockets of Assam and in Nepal. Kaziranga also boasts a range of other wildlife and harbours about 15 species of India's threatened mammals including the most dense population of Royal Bengal tigers, Indian elephants, sloth bears, Gangetic dolphins and an extraordinary bird population. Kaziranga National Park is located partly in Golaghat District and partly in the Nagaon District of Assam and covers an area of 430km2. It lies in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra and annual flooding and burning has maintained the grasslands predominant in the west. It became an official national park in 1974, but was established as a reserved forest in 1908, a game sanctuary in 1916, a wildlife sanctuary in 1950, and as a World Heritage site in 1985.

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Day 9 : Kaziranga National Park

Early wake up with hot cup of chai and biscuits. The jeep will take you to the Central Sector for your elephant safari. As the sun rises, ride on elephant-back and wade through thick elephant grass looking out for the endangered one-horned Indian rhino. Witness a host of other wildlife, including tigers (Kaziranga is home to the largest concentration of tigers in a protected area although sightings are still rare). Return to the lodge for breakfast. Morning to relax. After lunch, take an afternoon game drive for more wildlife spotting. Evening free. Overnight in Kaziranga.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 10 : Kaziranga National Park

Visit Panbari Forest Reserve to look for the elusive hoolock gibbon and visit the nearby tea estate. After lunch, rest of day free. Suggested visit to Mising tribal village close to the lodge. Overnight in Kaziranga. 

Note:  Panbari Forest Reserve is occasionally closed, in which case an extra morning game drive in Kaziranga can be arranged. Payment for this would be direct on site. Otherwise, morning would be free.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Situated just outside Kaziranga National Park, Panbari Forest Reserve is spread over an area of just 10 sq km, making it easy to see the entire park in just a couple of hours. The reserve is home to several endemic bird species and is the home of the elusive hoolock gibbon. A local tea estate is located nearby.

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Day 11 : Bhalukpong

After breakfast, set off for Bhalukpong, a small town on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Check into your cottage. Relax and rest of day free. Options include taking a walk along the riverbank and wander the local shops and roadside restaurants. Overnight in Bhalukpong.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Bhalukpong  is a small town situated on the Assam-Arunchal Pradesh border, in the southern reaches of the Himalayas. Once governed by local tribal Aka rulers, it is the headquarters of the Bhalukpong circle, and was declared 'off-limits' by the British in 1873, escaping their control. With a small road connecting to the neighbouring town of Bomdila, the area boasts the Tipi Orchidarium, which contains over 2,600 orchids belonging to 80 different species. Other tourist attractions include the Pakhui Game Reserve, and the area is popular for fish angling and river rafting on the Kameng River. The Aka tribe festival, Nyethidow, is celebrated each year in January. 

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Day 12 : Dirang

Cross the border into Arunachal Pradesh and drive through the Eastern Himalayas to Dirang. Arrive late afternoon. Rest of day free. Enjoy the picturesque surroundings of Dirang Valley. Overnight in Dirang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 13 : Dirang

Spend the day exploring Dirang. After breakfast, visit picture-postcard Old Dirang, its winding streams and Old Fort. Take a light trek through Sangti Valley and enjoy fantastic views of Dirang. Afternoon lunch, rest of day to relax or wander around Dirang. Overnight in Dirang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The gateway to Tewang Valley, Dirang is a small picture-postcard hill station composed of winding streams and an Old Fort, located on the banks of the river Kameng. Old Dirang is made up of a quiet picturesque Monpa stone village, while the commercial services are found in New Dirang, which opens out to rice and crop fields in the north. Trekking through the Sangti Valley offers fantastic views of Dirang, while the hot water spring is a welcome attraction to weary travelers. Situated up 500 metres of stairs, the spring is considered a holy place, with its sulphur-enriched waters having many medicinal qualities. With breathtaking views over the peaceful valleys, Dirang is the perfect place to discover the fantastic wildlife the area has to offer while you rest from your travels.

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Day 14 : Tawang

After breakfast, start the journey to Tawang, one of the most remote Buddhist outposts in India. Rise high above Himalayan clouds and through snow-capped peaks passing yaks en-route. Drive via Sela Pass, one of the world's highest motorable passes at 4400 metres, stopping off for noodles at the tea shop. Arrive late afternoon. Rest of the day free to relax. Enjoy Tibetan-style food for dinner. Overnight in Tawang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 15 : Tawang

Early morning walk to Tawang Monastery, the largest Buddhist monastery outside Tibet. Perched majestically on a Himalayan cliff face looking into Bhutan, admire the huge statue of Lord Buddha and the sublime panoramic views. Proceed on to Urgelling Gompa, the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama, then on to charming Ani Gompa (nunnery), and watch the lowering of the Indian flag at the Indo-China War Memorial. Overnight in Tawang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Tawang is a thinly populated mountainous tract situated at approximately 3000 metres in the north-west corner of Arunachal Pradesh. The district is surrounded by Tibet in the north east, Bhutan in the south west and West Kameng District in the south east. 

Tawang derives its name from the majestic Tawang Monastery ('Ta' - horse, 'Wang' - chosen). Perched atop a ridge with views out to Bhutan, Tawang Monastery is almost 400 years old and one of the oldest and largest in Asia. It houses more than 700 monks and controls 17 gonpas as well as a few nunneries in the region. The monastery was founded by Merag Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1681 in accordance to the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama. As legend goes, the site was chosen by the horse of Merag Lama. Merag Lama, unable to decide a site to establish the monastery, was seeking divine guidance when he found his horse was missing. After searching, he saw it standing quietly on a hilltop. Considering this as a sign of divine blessing, he decided to construct the monastery at this very spot, built with the help of volunteers from the neighbouring villages.

The independence of India from Britain severed Tawang from Tibet, and it was not until 1962 when the Chinese troops conquered Tawang and destroyed parts of the monastery. For months it was controlled by the Chinese nationalist troops. After the retreat of the Chinese troops, Tawang once again came under the control of India. 


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Day 16 : Tawang

Free day in Tawang. Your guide can suggest activities and walks. Overnight in Tawang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 17 : Bomdila

After early breakfast, start drive down to the small Buddhist town of Bomdila. Lunch en-route. On arrival, check-in to accommodation and refresh. At dusk, visit the local monastery to see the monks go to prayer. Evening free. Overnight in Bomdila.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Bomdila is a small Buddhist town situated about 800 metres above sea level with views of the snow-capped Himalayan mountain range. It is a scenic and serene area clad with orchard trees and has gained a reputation as a local cultural hotspot. There is a large craft centre displaying local arts and crafts. 

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Day 18 : Tezpur

After breakfast drive to Tezpur stopping at the Orchid Centre in Tipi which houses over 7500 orchids. On display are some of the finest species of orchids in the world, with intriguing names like the 'Dainty Lady's Slipper'. After lunch continue drive to Tezpur, and check into hotel on arrival. Rest of evening free. Overnight in Tezpur.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Tipi Orchid Centre is 65 km away from Tezpur in Assam. One of the main attractions of the centre is theorchid glass house, with a fibreglass roof, display gallery and a central pond with fountain. The house alone accommodates about 1000 exotic orchids displayed in pots and hanging baskets. Tezpur is one of Assam's most beautiful cities filled with parks, lakes, stunning views and the Brahmaputra River running through its centre. Sights include Chitralekha Udyan (a U-shaped pond set in lawns with sculptures) and Ganeshgarh temple. Agrigarh Hill is believed to be the site of Banasura's legendary fire fortress, used to protect his daughter from suitors.

Tezpur is often regarded as the cultural capital of Assam, being an ancient city built around mythology, folklore and legends, as well as the birthplace of many renowned artists. Located on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, it is a place of natural beauty and archeological ruins. It also houses some of the best tea gardens in Assam, on which Tezpur's economy primarily depends. 

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Day 19 : Guwahati

After breakfast leave for Guwahati. Check into hotel on arrival. Rest of day free or optional excursions can be arranged, for example a visit to the Kamakhya Temple, where animal sacrifices are still a daily occurrence, or a visit to the quaint Umananda Temple located on a small island in the Brahmaputra. Overnight in Guwahati.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Guwahati is popularly known as ‘the city of eastern light’, and situated on the banks of the Brahmaputa River and the foothills of the Shillong plateau. Many Hindu temples are found in the area, including the Kamakyha Temple, where animal sacrifices are still a daily occurrence. Nearby is the quaint Umananda Temple situated on an island.

The Kamakhya Temple had been built in reverence to Goddess Sati. King Nara Narayana of Cooch Behar rebuilt the temple in 1665 after it had suffered destruction at the hands of foreign invaders and this is why images of the builder and related inscriptions can be seen there. The temple consists of seven oval spires, each topped by three golden pitchers, and the entrance spirals down to a curved path, linking the main road to the temple. Animal sacrifices are still practised daily here, so be warned!

On Peacock Island, the temple of Umananda was built in 1694 by the Bar Phukan Garhganya Handique by the order of His Majesty Swargadeo Gadadhar Singh one of the ablest and strongest rulers of the Tai Ahom dynasty. The Shiva temple is set at the top of a flight of steps. The original temple was however immensely damaged by a devastating earthquake of 1897. Later, it was reconstructed by a rich local merchant who chose to inscribe the interior part of a Siva temple with Vaisnavite slogans.

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Day 20 : Departure

After breakfast, transfer to airport for onward flight to Delhi or Kolkata.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Reviews

NE India is so different from other parts of India and not many tourists go there so it is really adventurous travel but safe in the knowledge that the places have been checked out before hand by TTU staff or their reps. We had already enjoyed a 3 week group tour in this part of the world with TTU and were keen to explore more without going back to places we had already visited. So, the tailormade tour allowed us to see more and even get to places that you don't find in the guidebooks - yet! We stayed in a tribal village that had never hosted western tourists before; we were the first tourists that TTU had arranged to visit a remote valley (Meshuka) in Arunachal Pradesh that was reminiscent of Tibet or Ladakh. We were treated like celebrities in some places and the locals wanted photos taken with us as much as we did! Take the opportunity now to go to a part of India with TTU that is not yet found in the brochures of most other adventure travel companies.....

Julie Crank , Tailormade North East India

This was a very varied and interesting trip to a forgotten part of India. If you like off the beaten track travel it is definitely worth the effort but go with an open mind and keep a smile on your face.

Richard Williams , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

I`m very pleased with the way the trip was arranged for me, it was well organised and went very well. The itinerary was just the right pace to enjoy everything without rushing too much. It was never going to be cheap for 1 person travelling alone but I thought it was very reasonably priced.

Dewi Evans , Tailormade North East India

I`m sure I could not have found a better operator for the type of complicated Indian tour I wanted to undertake on a limited budget. India is an intimidating country to visit, and I suspect that some operators look down on the first time visitor, or disparage their requirements. Travel the Unknown, by contrast, helped me all the way, and their local guides were superb.

Andrew Martin , Tailormade North East India

I had been studying the Apatani Tribe for quite some time… I’m talking roughly 7 years! Travel The Unknown made my dreams come entirely true. They organized every aspect of my experience in the most minute detail. I have never felt such confidence in an agency nor worked with one more knowledgeable about their destination. Because of them and their kind efforts, I will continue to travel with Travel The Unknown for all future expeditions to this or similar regions. Thanks, Travel The Unknown, for everything!

Christian Noni , Tailormade North East India

This was my first experience of using Travel the Unknown having enjoyed small group adventure holidays for many years. I was attracted to the company because it seeks out the more unusual and lesser known areas of a country and I was not disappointed by my visit to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. There is a clear contrast between the people and the scenery of these two regions and we saw very few western tourists particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. The tour was well organised with plenty to see and do.

Keith Lewis , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

Travel The Unknown`s North East India tours have zoned in on the absolute prime attractions, visiting a string of culturally unique, scenically stunning places - and maximising every moment spent there. They`re also to be commended for their integrity, having established excellent relations with local tour operators, sympathetic to the remote communities they visit. Their outstanding guides take great care to respect and protect indigenous lifestyles in these delicate regions.

Vanessa Betts, Author, Footprint Guide to Northeast India , Tailormade North East India

I would highly recommend Travel the Unknown to anyone visiting India. The service we received both prior to, during and following our travels was always timely and excellent. We were able to customize our trip to our liking and to enjoy a wide variety of activities. The guides in every location were outstanding! Honestly. Having travelled through much of the world I can truly say that we have never been more impressed with the quality of the guides arranged for us in each location, as well as the service we received. Similarly, the hotels were excellent and allowed us to live very comfortably while, at the same time, enjoy an authentic Indian experience. If you haven`t already booked your trip with Travel the Unknown, then either do so now....or at least give them a chance to show you what they can offer.

Tracey & Gary , Tailormade India

I have been on 3 tailor made trips with Travel The Unknown and have found them to be knowledgeable and reliable. We`ve stayed in some wonderful places and have had some unusual and satisfying experiences that go beyond the standard tours.

Joan Edmunds (USA) , Tailormade India

A really well planned trip. We experienced life in Northeast India in just the way we wanted to. We loved the game reserves and saw a rock python which thrilled our guides as it is even rarer than the tiger! We visited villages and were able to interact with local people and loved the busy markets in Delhi and Calcutta. A special highlight was the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland; shown to us by our very own Naga guide Kezo. Kezo accompanied us for 15 days of our trip and ensured that we had many very special experiences - even taking us to the home of one of his Aunts where we spent a couple of hours sitting by the bonfire chatting.

Ann Holgate , Tailormade India

Kolkata is a real eye-opener. The walking tour was a real highlight and our guide was great at showing me places I`d never have found otherwise. The Sunderbans was just beautiful. The guide was very friendly and the boat cruises were relaxing. My cottage was delightful and the food at the Tiger Camp was delicious. A great way to end the trip!

Jennifer , Raj, Tigers & Mangroves, India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India
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