First Indo-Bangla river cruise sets sail on Brahmaputra

The cruise left the Pandu port on a 17-day voyage with 30 persons on board including nine foreign tourists.

Dazzling sandbars, lush forests, close encounters with wildlife and ancient architecture: these are some of delights awaiting passengers on the MV Mahabaahu, the ship that set sail on the mighty Brahmaputra on Monday on its first-ever sojourn to Kolkata via Bangladesh.

The cruise left the Pandu port on a 17-day voyage with 30 persons on board including nine foreign tourists.

Three Unesco World Heritage Sites — Sundarbans, Mosque City of Bagerhat (Bangladesh) and Manas National Park in Assam —  are among its stopovers.

“Those on board will enjoy the trans-boundary landscape of lower Assam—Bangladesh—and southern part of West Bengal,” said Neena Morada, the cruise director of MV Mahabaahu. 

“Our effort is to offer tourists to experience this ‘off the beaten path’ on the deliciously lush landscape where more than 700 rivers braid through the country. Travelling by boat provides a fabulous opportunity to see the country differently.”

Morada said Bangladesh isn’t a “tick-the-sight-off-the-list type of destination of the world”.

“This will allow the country to reveal its intricate weave of majority Muslims, Christian Adivasi tribal, Buddhists and Hindu cultures. Hilsa fishing with otters, floating markets and clay pottery is part and parcel of Bangla life,” he said.

In October last year, India and Bangladesh signed a new river route protocol, according to which tourist vessels from Assam will sail through Bangladesh for Kolkata. MV Mahabaahu is a joint venture between Adventure Resorts & Cruises Private Limited and Assam Tourism Development Corporation.

However, the official inauguration of the cruise service was postponed due to the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections. The Brahmaputra is part of the National Waterways-2 of the Inland Waterways Authority of India.

During the 1,250-km journey through five major rivers, tourists will enjoy the beauty of Sundarbans, the largest mangrove in the world having Royal Bengal tigers, the Gangetic and Irrawaddy dolphins and crocodiles.

The Mosque City of Bagerhat, a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site famous as the ‘mint town of the Bengal Sultanate’ or Khalifabad, located at the confluence of Ganga and Brahmaputra in Khulna division of Bangladesh is another major stopover.

“They can also enjoy jeep and elephant safari inside Manas National Park in Assam, another World Heritage Site. It is famous for its 55 mammals and 420 species of birds. It is also a home to Royal Bengal tigers, golden langurs, capped langur, hoolock gibbons, one-horned rhinos, barasingha, wild water buffaloes and four types of hornbill,” Morada said.

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