Image: Balan Madhavan / Indiapicture
Aim and ShootRelax and RechargeSoukya Holistic Health & Ayurvedic Treatment, Bangalore
Wildlife photography tours in Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks
Talat Khalid is a professional photographer, and organises tours, leading amateurs through national parks, from Tadoba to Kaziranga. A popular trek is the 11-day trip to Bandhavgarh and Kanha. “Apart from the Bengal tiger, Kanha is home to civets, langurs, hyenas and Indian bison. The terrain is flat with sal and bamboo forests, meadows and grassland,” he says. Groups are limited to five people.
Cost: Rs 19,500 per person.
Royalty and celebrities flock to this centre, which derives its name from the Sanskrit ‘soukhyam’ meaning wellness. At its helm is Dr Issac Mathai who integrates ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy and unnani to create specialised packages. Cost: Depends on the package. Daily rates: Sukha (Rs 16,740), Sundar (Rs 13,630), Swaad (Rs 8,850) Santosha (Rs 21,740)
Contact: www.soukya.com It Takes a VillageShakti Ladakh, Ladakh
Ladakh’s stark beauty can overwhelm a traveller. In the remote villages of Stok, Taru and Nimoo—all within a 28-mile radius—are three guest houses that allow tourists a taste of rustic luxury. The houses remain true to Ladakhi architecture, but the interiors are quietly opulent with pashmina duvets, furniture carved out of cedar, en-suite bathrooms and steaming showers. Tourists have yet to mark their presence in these villages, and the flower-filled meadows and sparkling streams have an almost other-worldly feel. Activities offered will appeal to both the Sybarite and the adventurer. There are hiking trips as long as six to nine miles a day, river rafting, and guided village walks. Guests can visit Buddhist monasteries or learn archery. Al fresco meals set in apple orchards and apricot groves followed by lazy afternoons on sun terraces overlooking the snow-capped Himalayas are a necessary indulgence. Each village house can accommodate up to six guests and comes with a staff including a chef and a guide. Shakti’s founder Jamshyd Sethna says the aim is to offer a genuine experience that is “both private as well as deeply comfortable, and showcases some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in the world”.Cost: Price on request
Volunteer TourismEcosphere, Spiti
Ecosphere in Spiti is an award-winning non-profit organisation that emphasises conservation and responsible tourism through short- and long-term volunteer programmes. “You could work on building projects like constructing a greenhouse or a solar bath, help out on a farm or herd the village cattle. Long-term volunteers can work in the Ecosphere’s office,” says Inshita Khanna, co-founder of Ecosphere. You work through the day, and spend the evenings exploring the valley. You can reside in homestays, guest houses or camps. Ecosphere works on sustainable development in the Spiti valley in collaboration with locals and focuses on economic and community development and environmental conservation. Ecosphere, along with Khanna, has won many awards for their initiatives including the CNN-IBN Real Heroes Award 2010 and the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, 2009.Cost: Depends on where you decide to stay. Homestays are in the range of Rs 800 to Rs 1,500 per day.
Want Cheese, Will Travel
Acres Wild, Coonoor
Nestled in the Nilgiri mountains is filmmaker Mansoor Khan’s family-run organic-cheese making farmstay. Khan and wife Tina have thrown open their 22-acre property to guests who wish to be inducted into the art of making artisanal cheeses. The basic course is two days. “Gouda, Cheddar, Colby, Parmesan, Romano, Monterey Jack, Halloumi, Feta and Mozzarella are some of the cheeses on offer. We also teach guests how to create flavoured versions. The cheese you’ve made is yours,” says Khan. The course is only open to houseguests staying in one of their three cottages.
Cost: Basic course, Rs 5,000; each extra cheese/day, Rs 1,500. Room rates start at Rs 3,000 per night in April 16- June 15
Contact: www.acres-wild.com Taking Flight
Ultra-light flying in Coorg
it’s a giddy feeling—being airborne on a powered hand-glider while swooping over Coorg’s landscape. That’s what Coorg Sky Adventures offers to adrenaline junkies. The shortest flight lasts for 10 minutes. But there are longer flights that last all day where you can see the majestic beauty of Coorg unfold. You fly over coffee plantations and the Brahmagiri range, and track the path of the Kaveri river. “There is no better way to see Coorg. You’ll feel the wind on your face when you sit in the open cockpit,” says Muthanna Mapangada of Coorg Sky Adventures. Flight paths can be tailor-made to suit a client’s wishes. While guests aren’t expected to go through any training before a flight there is a weight limit of 90 kg. It is not open to children below the age of 7. Ultra-light flights are available all through the year except during the monsoon.
Costs: 10 minutes: Rs 2,500; 30 minutes: Rs 5,000 and 1 hour: Rs 8,000
Contact: www.coorgskyadventures.com Riding on a High
Bike Tour, North-East India
The 476-km Manali-Leh trip is a rite of passage for every biker. The next challenge is the least explored part of India—the Northeast. Chain Reaction caters to bikers who prefer to eschew the logistics of travelling and jump into an adventure. The company conducts journeys across Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. Chain Reaction’s Shahwar Hussain provides tailor-made itineraries that range from a week to a fortnight. You can begin your journey in Guwahati and spend three days east to Tawang through Sela Pass, which is at 13,700 feet. The route with its breathtaking vistas and not-so-smooth roads will test your skill. You can recoup at Tawang for a day and enjoy the beauty of PT Tso Lake before heading to Kaziranga. After a day at Kaziranga, you ride to Lungwa, a village in Nagaland that shares a border with Myanmar. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience because you get to interact with Konyak warriors, and experience their culture,” says Hussain.
Cost: For Indians it’s Rs 4,000 per day
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(This story appears in the May-June 2014 issue of ForbesLife India. To visit our Archives, click here.)