If you’re hankering for a change of pace from the city rush, here are some rejuvenating getaways. Sign up for quiet time on these cruises down rivers and lakes in India.
Most of the cruises along the Brahmaputra begin in Assam. Pass through Kaziranga National Park where, if you’re lucky, you may spot a royal Bengal tiger. You have a higher chance of spotting a great Indian one-horned rhinoceros though, as two-thirds of their world population can be found in these grasslands. Some of the cruises stop by river islands like Majuli, for safaris, village walks and visits to tea gardens. The length of these cruises also differ. Brahmaputra River Cruises has options that will cover these activities. Make sure you confirm the availability of specific activities that you’re looking forward to before booking your cruise.
Chilika lake in Odisha is India’s largest brackish water wetland, a Ramsar site and an Important Bird Area according to BirdLife International. Grass Routes Journeys has a half-day birding cruise in Chilika lake with a local conservationist. Watch out for migratory birds like black-tailed godwits, bar-headed geese and spot-billed pelicans. The Nalabana Bird Sanctuary also lies on the eponymous island in the middle of the lake. The best time to go on these cruises is between October and February, because the lake dries up in the summer. Also, there’s a wider range of migratory birds in the area during winter.
The Mandovi river originates in Karnataka and runs right through Goa. The Goa Tourism Development Corporation has a selection of cruises along the river. Their backwater cruise takes you through the Chorao and Divar islands, past the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and docks at a spice plantation for a guided tour and lunch. Keep an eye out for friendly dolphins. Alternatively, Sea Eagle Cruises operates a range of trips along the Mandovi from a sunset cruise, to one that takes you birdwatching, crocodile-spotting and on a nature trail.
You can spend days navigating the backwaters across this state, and still not cover all there is. The backwaters consist of about 1500km of canals including rivers and lakes from one end of Kerala to the other. Vembanad lake, not only the largest in Kerala but also in India, is a lagoon that occupies a central portion of these waters and has been declared as a Ramsar site as well as an Important Bird Area according to BirdLife International. Cruises from Kochi and Alleppey tend to be most popular. Xandari Riverscapes is one of the companies that operates cruises on traditional houseboats (known as kettuvallams) in Alleppey. For a change of pace, you can also opt to make pit stops at temples, churches and other historical places during the cruise.
Fabiola Monteiro was formerly a member of National Geographic Traveller India's digital team. Since then, her words have featured in The Hindu, Mint Lounge, Roads & Kingdoms, The Goya Journal, and Condé Nast Traveller India. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro and is on Instagram @fabiolamonteiro.