Anyone who has travelled by train or plane through India, or who has been driven on Indian roads, will be amazed to learn that there is actually a way to travel through the country in total serenity and comfort. Yet it is in fact possible to cruise for some 1750 miles on the rivers and inland waterways of India, passing through great cities, alongside wildlife sanctuaries and historical monuments and into the heart of rural India. ASSAM BENGAL NAVIGATION are pioneers in this exploration.
ASSAM BENGAL NAVIGATION is an Indo-British joint venture, with offices in Guwahati and the UK. With 3 cruise ships we are the largest and most experienced operator on Indian rivers. In 2003 ABN pioneered long-distance river cruising in India with our unique cruises on the River Brahmaputra in Assam, and in 2007 we were also the first to run cruises on the River Hugli between Kolkata and the Ganges. We were awarded the Indian National Tourism Award for Innovation in 2004-5. Experience counts for everything here, and our expertise in the field of river cruising on both waterways is unrivalled.
Our first luxury river boat, the “ABN Charaidew”, with 12 air-conditoned en-suite cabins was joined in 2006 by her near-identical sister ship “ABN Sukapha”. Cruises operate in Assam from October to April, and in Bengal virtually all through the year. Our fleet has increased with the launch of “ABN Rajmahal” in February 2014, a 22-cabin boat specifically designed for water levels on the Ganges.
ASSAM CRUISES, BRAHMAPUTRA. Wildlife and wilderness are the main features of a cruise in Assam on the vast Brahmaputra river – the river bed is often 20 or 30 km across, an empty world of sand spits and water with marvellous bird life and the occasional Gangetic Dolphin. The cruises here also give access to a number of India’s National Parks, including Kaziranga, perhaps the finest of all, and Manas, a Project Tiger reserve on the Bhutan border.
BENGAL CRUISES, GANGES and HUGLI. The waterways of the old Bengal Presidency now lie in the Indian states of Bihar and West Bengal, and in independent Bangladesh. Here in the north of the region the rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra meet head to head and then flow out to the sea through the world’s largest delta. Inland, however, on the rich agricultural land lie prosperous towns and villages, rich in history and culture. This is village India at its best, completely unknown to tourists. Cruises go north from Calcutta on the intimate River Hugli, and can be linked with our cruises on the Ganges proper from the Bangladesh border up to the historic city of Patna.
ASSAM JUNGLE LODGES. At Manas National Park ABN now has its own jungle accommodation, “The Bansbari Lodge”, situated right at the entrance to the Park. The 16 large twin-bedded rooms all have attached bathrooms and the lodge is simply but comfortably furnished.
At Kaziranga National Park, the “Diphlu River Lodge” opened in January 2008 and is run by ABN. In prime position, its cottages provide premier quality accommodation for a total of 24 guests. The airconditioned cottages are built on stilts with generous thatched verandahs and en-suite bathrooms, and have fantastic views directly overlooking the river and the National Park.
“A meeting of minds” best describes the first encounter between Andrew Brock and Ashish Phookan in Guwahati, Assam in 2001. Neither knew the other had been pondering how to initiate river cruising on the river Brahmaputra; both jumped at the chance to explore together this exciting idea. The Indo-British joint-venture company, Assam Bengal Navigation, was formed in 2002 with Andrew and Grania Brock, and Ashish and Jahnabi Phookan, bringing together expertise in tourism, experience of global markets and in-depth knowledge of North East India.
Chairman, Andrew Brock, first discovered his passion for India when after Eton and Oxford University he drove out to the North West Frontier on a travel scholarship. He joined one of the main UK tour operators to India and has run his own company, Andrew Brock Travel, from 1981 to 2009. He has Asian river navigation in his blood: his grandfather was a director of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company while another forebear ran Dennys on the Clyde which built many of the paddle steamers for the Brahmaputra and the Ganges.
Managing Director, Ashish Phookan’s background was in tea, with periods working in both London and Assam as a Tea Taster. He still retains an interest in a family tea garden. In 1989 he set up Jungle Travels India in Guwahati with his wife, Jahnabi, handling both incoming and outbound services.