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Fun in the backyard!

Preeti Verma Lal, Sep 24 2017, 0:58 IST
All you have to do is wear a wet suit, pack a tank of compressed air on the back, slip into fins, tie a mask, buckle a pair of goggles, and dive deep into the heart of the ocean.

All you have to do is wear a wet suit, pack a tank of compressed air on the back, slip into fins, tie a mask, buckle a pair of goggles, and dive deep into the heart of the ocean.

And one day God picked colours from the palette to paint India — frothy rivers, beefy mountains, deep valleys, dense forrests, precarious cliffs, powdery snowscapes… And when the landscape was painted, he packed gallons of adrenaline into the adventure junkie who loves to trek, hike, climb rocks, run trails, snow ski, fly fox, glide, board, dive. Then, he threw adventure darts on the map: Goa for water sports, Kamshet and Bir for paragliding, Madhya Pradesh for rock climbing, Arunachal for trekking, Andaman for scuba diving. A million adventure options for travellers who are now spurning vanilla beachside vacations and sight-seeing holidays and packing adventure into their itinerary.

A 2015 Ministry of Tourism (MoT) survey studying adventure tourist flow to 28 states in the country found that Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra attracted the highest number of adventure tourists in India. The adventure-seekers are growing ­— in 2015, there were 31 lakh adventure tourists (including foreigners). Waking up to the sunshine statistics of the adventure tourism market, the MoT has appointed The National Task Force (NTF) for the development and promotion of Adventure Tourism in India. The NTF will expedite opening of small airstrips for adventure tourism, opening of more peaks for expeditions; development of training and certification programmes through adventure-sport institutions, and to identify and promote activities in categories such as wildlife, forests, rivers, mountains, islands, deserts and coastlines, backwaters and deltas.

Here are 10 best ‘Where-To-Do-What’ adrenaline list:

Skiing in Kashmir

‘If there is a heaven on earth. It is this, it is this, it is this.’ When poet Amir Khusro described Kashmir as the closest approximation to paradise, he sure wasn’t specifically talking of the ski slopes, slaloms, powdery snow and glistening mountains. A skier might not be so poetic, but he too will hum jolly ditties to Gulmarg, the haven of ski lovers. Sitting on a plateau at 2,600 m above sea level, Gulmarg puffs as one of the highest lift-served ski resorts in the world. The Gandola Cable Car Lift, a big draw for the powder hounds and free-riders from all over the world, takes people from Gulmarg just below the summit of Apharwat (3,979 m). The skiing season in Gulmarg usually commences before Christmas (around mid-December) and continues till mid-April. Adding to the lure of the snow, heli-skiing was introduced in Gulmarg in 2011 with the opening of Kashmir Heliski (formerly, Gulmarg Heliski). Punch Peak is one of the highest peaks in the Pir Panjals, towering at 4,745 m, offering free-riders a descent of more than 2,000 m of thigh-burning vertical drop.

River rafting in Himachal

In summer, when the snow melts and feeds the starving rivers, the bravehearts throng to Himachal Pradesh to raft. The brimming rivers are not placid, but are volatile, speedy, dangerous. Tough to conquer. These rivers in the upper Himalayas have several staircase rapids cutting against the rocky banks; they crash into rocks, crevices, and break into white water rapids­ — foaming, swirling, and falling in a thunderous din. It is the challenge that makes river rafting a dare-do for the adventure enthusiasts. In Himachal Pradesh, there are options galore. Sutlej, Ravi, Beas and Chenab, the four main rivers, meander through Lahaul-Spiti, Kullu, Pangi, Chamba, and Kangra, and the valley of Sutlej. The popular river-rafting spots include the wild waters of River Sutlej in Shimla, River Ravi in Chamba, River Chandrabhaga in Lahaul, Pandoh Lake in Kullu, River Spiti in Spiti Valley. For amateurs, there’s Chamera Lake (Dalhousie). The 20-km stretch between Shamshi and Aut on the Beas has tremendous river-running expedition opportunities. Early-October to end-April is the best time for river rafting.

Mountaineering in Uttarakhand

A mountain might frighten the faint at heart. But for the mountaineer, the lure lies in the precarious precipice and the mighty peaks. And there is no better place for the mountaineer to test his mettle than the steep ascends of mountains in Uttarakhand. Ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 m, the Greater, Lesser and Middle Himalayas provide all types of mountaineering outings. Smug at 7,816 m in the Garhwal region, Nanda Devi is the second highest peak of India and best attempted between May and September. Perched between 6,334 and 6,904 m in the Eastern Kumaon region is Panchachuli, a group of five Himalayan peaks. For the avid mountaineer, nothing beats the magnificent view of the four-peak Chaukhamba from Guptakashi and the Vasuki Tal. The really daring mountaineer attempts the Shivling Peak that rises like a pyramid above the Gangotri glacier. Between May and September, adventure lovers trek nearly 32 km from Badrinath to the base camp of Swargarohini, a snow-capped peak in the Garhwal Himalayas region. Gaumukh, Om Parvat and Bhagirathi are the other peaks that bring mountaineers to Uttrakhand, often called Devbhumi (The Land of the Gods).

Trekking in Arunachal

Talley Valley. Bailey. Zero. Mechuka. Gorichen. Before stepping into the Orchid State of India, remember these names by rote. No, they are not names of orchids. These are treks that Arunachal Pradesh is famed for and draws avid trekkers from across the world. Best undertaken during May-June, a nine-day trek starting from Guwahati and traversing through Tezpur, Ziro and Pange, the trail ends at Talley Valley, a wildlife sanctuary and bio-diversity hotspot. The Bailey Trail traces an old trade route that connected India, Burma and Tibet, while the Ziro trek includes the magnificent Kardo Hills, a sweeping view of the breathtaking Ziro Valley, and the inevitable sight of the 25x22 ft Shiva Lingam on the Kardo Hills. The largely unexplored Mechuka trail takes about 15-20 days, and is certainly not for the weak-hearted. Running nearly 20 days, the arduous Gorichen Trek covers the high and the low regions of the state.

Some more fascinating trekking routes are: Bomdila-Seppa, Along-Mechuka, Daporijo-Taksing, Pasighat-Tuting, Pasighat-Mariang, Daporijo-Along and Bomdila-Daimara-via-Ramlingam and Chakku. The best months for trekking are May and October.

Scuba diving in Andaman Island

The water is emerald green, the beaches unexplored, the fish beautifully patterned, the corals in stunning colours. All you have to do is wear a wet suit, pack a tank of compressed air on the back, slip into fins, tie a mask, buckle a pair of goggles, and dive deep into the heart of the ocean. The cluster of islands offers myriad opportunities to the beginner as well as a dare-diver. Considered one of the best dive sites in the world, Havelock Island offers night diving at its Lighthouse; harsh corals at Aquarium are best for beginners; at Mac Point, divers can swim with the exotic dugongs; meet the sea turtles at Baraccuda City; find Napoleons amidst staghorn corals at Seduction Point. Neil Island, which includes dive sites called Margherita Mischief, K Rock, Bus Stop, and Junction, is also on every diver’s to-do list. Port Blair also has several dive spots, the most famous one being Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, a one-of-a-kind national park at Wandoor.

Flying fox in Kerala

If wishes were horses, angels would fly. Heard of that idiom? You’d never see the mythical flying horse, but you sure can be the flying fox and traipse through valleys and mountains, chasms and rivers. You needn’t grow wings either. Just hang on to the ultra-strong steel ziplines and look down on earth. And hundreds swarm to Kerala to become flying foxes, which is also known as zipline or zip wire and foofy slide in South Africa. Munnar, a hill station, is a flying fox hotspot; so is Dare Nature Camp in Wayanad, and the 250 m zip slide over Karlad Lake. The 300 m Muddy Boots hipline in Vythiri is often tagged the longest in the state.

Bungee jumping in Karnataka

Did you know that bungee jumping stems from an old manhood ritual from Pentecost Island (Vanuatu) where young men would jump off tall wooden stands with just vine leaves bound to their ankles (the length of the vine was calculated so that the young fellow’s hair touched the ground just as the elasticity reached its limit)? In India, bungee jumping has caught on as a big adrenaline rush. Several facilities offer season-specific bungee thrill, but Bengaluru is the only city with a permanent bungee jumping facility (Chamundi Hotel). Ozone in Bengaluru is another popular bungee destination.

Water sports in Goa

Kneeboarding. Flyboarding. Wakeboarding. Paddleboarding. Jet skiing. Paragliding. Kayaking. Snorkelling. Wind surfing. Scuba diving. White water rafting. Banana boat-tube ride. Parasailing. The country’s smallest state is really big on water sports. With countless beaches, Goa is the ultimate pilgrimage for all water sports enthusiasts. Go kneeboarding, wakeboarding on Candolim Beach, Mobor Beach, Rajbaga Beach; kayaking in Palolem Beach, Dona Paula, Hollant Beach. Windsurfing is best at Dona Paula Beach, Bogmalo Beach, Vagator Beach, Calangute, Colva, Palolem, Miramar, Baga Beach, while Grande Islands, St. George Island, Devagh Island, Pigeon Island, Netrani Islands are the favourites of scuba divers. While most water sports are unavailable during the monsoon, white water rafting at Mhadei river and Tilari river finds many takers between June and September. Flyboarding is done on Baina Beach, and snorkelling on Suzy’s Wreck, Bat Island and Navy Island situated near Bogmalo, Grande Island.

Paragliding in Maharashtra

Walter Neumark must have seen paragliding in a crystal ball. In an article in Flight magazine (1954), he had predicted a time when a glider pilot would be “able to launch himself by running over the edge of a cliff or down a slope…” Six decades ago, he could not have seen Maharashtra becoming a paragliding hub with various options available, of which Kamshet (16 km from the twin hill stations of Khandala and Lonavala) is on top of every paraglider’s wish list. The Sahyadri mountain ranges with low hills and proper landing space are perfect for easy take off. The February-October easterlies and the March-June westerlies prove very conducive. One can enrol for a three-day beginners’ course or attempt acrobatic paragliding 2,200 ft in the sky. Tandem and special tandem flights are also doable at Tikona Peth at Pawna Lakeside near Kamshet.

The other paragliding spots in Maharashtra include Ratnagiri Peninsula, exactly at the point where Shastri river enters the Arabian Sea, Lake Paradise, Telegaon Dabhade, Sanjay Rao, Golden Glades, Vadivali Lake, Village Uksan and Om Shanti Paragliding in Panchgani.

Rock climbing in Madhya Pradesh

Go back as far as in history and one will always find rock climbers. A Chinese painting dated 220 BC depicts a rock climber! However, it was only in 1880s Europe that rock climbing became an independent pursuit outside of mountain climbing. In India, rock climbing gained popularity after climbers from other countries came to India looking for challenges. Now, Madhya Pradesh is a sought-after destination for crack climbing, face climbing, slab climbing and simul climbing. The Satpura mountain ranges are ideal for rock climbing experience with Pachmarhi, Orchha, Gwalior, Chanderi and Jabalpur being the popular spots.

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