In order to escape from our hectic schedules, many of us head to secluded locations to find solace. But how about trying some adrenaline-filled, heart-pounding action for a change? India is not short of destinations, which provide you just that. From caving in Meghalaya to bamboo rafting in Kerala, we tell you some adventure activities you can indulge in and where to head for a dose of your preferred action.
Caving as an adventure activity in India is popular in Meghalaya, which houses some of the largest caves in the country in its Jaintia Hills, Khasi Hills and Garo Hills districts. In fact, Jaintia Hills is home to the Krem Kotsati-Umlawan cave and the Shnong Rim section, the longest and most popular cave systems in mainland Asia.
The Shnong Rim section, in particular, is known for different formations like stalagmites, stalactites, cave curtains, etc. As per adventure websites, most of these passages are ‘live’, meaning you have to either walk through deep waters or swim to navigate these caves.
From knowing how to tie different kinds of knots to crawling and walking in tight spaces, this outdoor activity tests your mental and physical strength. A word of caution from experts: never go caving alone. They also recommend checking your equipment beforehand and intimating people outside on your estimated time of return, so that they can alert a search party in case of a distress call.
Best time: November-March
Other destinations you can try: Aurangabad caves in Maharashtra, Araku Valley in Visakhapatnam, and Badami in Karnataka
HOT AIR BALLOONING
The concept of hot air balloons, popular in the West, has found many takers in India recently. So much so that a host of destinations offer this fun-filled activity. In locations like Rajasthan and Agra, hot air balloon trips take you over palaces and forts, giving a spectacular view. You can try the activity in Jaipur as well.
These gigantic balloons are made of a synthetic fabric and have a basket attached, which carries passengers and the operator. The fuel used is liquefied propane. Once the gas is lit, the rising temperature makes the balloon float.
But remember that hot air balloon rides are subject to certain weather conditions. They can be conducted either early in the day or towards the evening, depending on the position of the sun. Wind conditions are also kept in mind. Basic fitness levels are a must since you have to stand during the entire time.
Best time: Year-round,
depending on weather conditions
Other destinations you can try: Lonavla in Maharashtra, Goa, Delhi-NCR and Haryana
How about exploring the flora and fauna in the depth of our seas? Underwater walking lets you do just that. You can observe the wide range of marine animals and plants in their natural habitat.
With the help of a helmet with a transparent visor and a special breathing apparatus that allows normal breathing when submerged, you can walk freely on the ocean floor. In the Andaman Sea, it’s like stepping inside a gigantic aquarium. It’s home to more than 200 species of corals and 500 species of fish. In fact, the reefs and islands are important feeding grounds for species like the dugong and different kinds of sea turtles.
Even though certified guides accompany you during the course of the walk, people with medical conditions such as asthma or other breathing problems are advised against this adventure activity.
Best time: November-March
Other destinations you can try: The Maldives and Goa
Imagine being tied to a zip-line connecting two opposite mountaintops. You start from one end and ‘fly’ across to the other propelled just by gravity. That’s what flying fox entails.
The adventure activity is popular in many destinations across the country. You can glide across canopies of forested valleys, whitewater rapids or even desert lakes. If you try this exhilarating sport in Neemrana, Rajasthan, you will find yourself flying past Neemrana Fort Palace and the breathtaking Aravalli mountains. In Munnar, Kerala, you will get a view of thick green forests, high hills, green valleys and rivers.
Those who have tried river-crossing might find this activity familiar, but it doesn’t require as much effort, say experts. However, there is a lot of equipment involved—think ropes, harness, pulley, helmets and so on.
But people with vertigo or a fear of heights might not enjoy this much.
Best time: Year-round
Other destinations you can try: Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Kikar in Punjab and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand
Surfing as an adventure activity is fast becoming popular in the country thanks to our vast coastline. Some of the best states for surfing in India are Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Kerala’s Kovalam beach, in fact, is probably the most popular surfing spot in the country. The beach is a good place for beginners too, as there are numerous surf clubs in the area.
However, it’s not an easy sport, as it takes some time to learn to paddle, stand up and ride the unpredictable waves. Naturally, knowing swimming is a must. Amateur surfers are often advised against surfing during the monsoons, as the sea tends to get rough at that time.
Since most Indian beaches lack a proper lifeguard system, it’s better to surf with a friend, say experts. They also say you should first get accustomed to one surf spot before moving to a new one.
Best time: October-April
Other destinations you can try: Gokarna in Karnataka and Paradip in Odisha
Move over parasailing and speedboats. It’s time for flyboarding. In India, you can enjoy flyboarding at Baina Beach in Goa, which is considered the hub of all watersport activities.
A recent invention by French jet ski racer Franky Zapata, a flyboard is basically a combination of a jetpack and hoverboard. It’s fitted on to the feet of the user and connected by a long hose to a nearby watercraft. Water is pumped at high pressure, propelling the user 30-40 feet up in the air—he can also dive headlong through the water down to 2.5 m, or 8 feet. Riders use their feet to control the direction in which the flyboard travels and their hands to maintain balance.
You can learn to flyboard in less than an hour and even perform spins, back flips, etc. However, it’s important to know swimming for this activity.
Best time: November-March
Other destinations you can try: As flyboarding is relatively new to India, Goa is the only place currently where you can enjoy this watersport
Off-roadinginvolves driving a vehicle—an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) to be precise—on unsurfaced roads or tracks, navigating through boulders and rough terrain, including desert trails, mountain paths, riverbeds and dirt tracks.
Off-roading in India is done in ATVs such as 4x4s, jeeps, snowmobiles, dirt bikes and quad bikes. For this activity, you can head to locations that provide a rough terrain—the outskirts of Gurgaon, the thick rainforests of Goa and the rocky terrain of Nubra Valley, Ladakh.
From dune-bashing and cross-country rallies to competitive trials, there is no shortage of activities in this sport. You can also opt for the ‘winch’ ride, in which you attempt to access areas that would be impossible without the use of a winch (a hauling or lifting device)—think ditches, deep gullies, steep boulders and so on.
For this activity, you need to be medically fit, as apart from controlling the vehicle, you also need the presence of mind to navigate. Most off-roading experts recommend that you keep medicines and first-aid kits close by in case of emergencies.
Best time: Year-round
Other destinations you can try: Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Barmer in Rajasthan; and Rann of Kutch in Gujarat
Rock climbing and rappelling enthusiasts will love this activity, as waterfall rappelling is a combination of both. It requires you to descend down a waterfall, using the same technique applied in the adventure sport of rappelling. The only difference being that you not only face rugged rocks, but a relentless force of water as well. And this makes it much more tricky and adventurous.
With waterfalls that have an average minimum height of 200 feet, locations like Thane in Maharashtra and Coorg in Karnataka are some of the popular spots for this activity. But don’t try it without an expert at hand, as it requires great strength and isn’t for everyone. You should also carry extra clothes and some medicines.
Best time: Year-round
Other destinations you can try: Vihigaon waterfall in Nashik, Maharashtra; Neer Gaddu in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand; Sandhan Valley in Pune; and Jogini waterfall in Manali, Himachal Pradesh
In microlight flying, you fly in a lightweight aircraft—usually a one- or two-seater—with fixed wings. Though you can’t commandeer the aircraft—you need a licence and certain number of flying hours in your kitty to do that—you can be a co-pilot. Once the pilot gets you airborne, you are allowed to try basic manoeuvres like going up or down and turning the aircraft, using basic rudder control. You can try this aerosport in Mysuru in Karnataka and Jakkur, a suburb in Bengaluru.
Also, you don’t need to worry about crash landings. In the case of engine failure, the aircraft can safely glide back to earth because of its high-lift wing design.
While everybody is eligible for microlight flying, it’s important that you be comfortable with flying and heights. If you suffer from epilepsy, high blood pressure or any heart condition or neurological disorder, you should avoid this.
Best time: Year-round except when visibility is low
Other destinations you can try: Tambaram in Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Now this is an activity that is completely off the beaten path—jumping off a helicopter and landing directly on to a white snowcapped mountain. Heli-skiing is basically downhill skiing that’s done with the help of a helicopter, not a ski lift.
The mighty Himalayas are considered one of the most popular destinations for heli-skiing in India. While Auli, Uttarakhand, is known for its untouched, virgin slopes, you can also consider Hanuman Tibba in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Another option is Gulmarg in Jammu & Kashmir, which is known for its high mountains and excellent terrain.
What makes heli-skiing more exciting is that it allows you to reach untouched peaks that can’t be accessed by ski lifts. Then, of course, there’s the spectacular view. As per travel and activities platform Thrillophilia, the best type of snow for this activity is the deep and fluffy type, or granular snow, also known as ‘re-crystallised sugar snow’.
There’s also the option of ‘heli-boarding’, where you use a snowboard instead of the usual skiing equipment.
Safety is of paramount importance because of steep slopes and the possibility of avalanches. Every heli-skiing expedition has certified guides and safety experts who earmark areas and slopes that are ideal for the sport.
Best time: January-March
Other destinations you can try: Pithoragarh and Kumaon in Uttarakhand
In this watersport, you stay afloat on a vessel made of bamboo stems to get a taste of nature, as you traverse your way through a river. A popular attraction at Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, Kerala, bamboo rafting is almost a day-long affair—visitors are required to take a short hike through dense forests before they board the raft.
Once aboard, you steer through the river, taking in the sights and sounds.
Bamboo rafting might not have the rush and thrill of basic rafting, but it’s a delight for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Plus, there is no scope of man-animal conflict since most areas of the
jungle you pass by are under constant supervision of forest guards. Visitors are also accompanied by guides.
Best time: Year-round, especially pre-monsoon months
Other destinations you can try: Wayanad, Kerala
Zorbing is a recent entrant in India from New Zealand. In this sport, you get inside a big inflatable ball known as the ‘orb’—it’s lightweight and made of flexible plastic—and roll down slopes or glide across water bodies (aqua zorbing). There are usually two types of orbs: harnessed (for one-two riders) and non-harnessed (for up to three riders).
Zorbing is popular in many parts of India, including New Delhi, while aqua zorbing is a popular sport in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Areas with lush greenery and clear slopes are usually preferred by enthusiasts for zorbing.
Light injuries like bruises and scratches are possible. Also, people with breathing problems should avoid this activity since it involves being inside an enclosed space. People with a history of head and neck injuries should also give it a miss.
Best time: Year-round
Other destinations you can try: Lonavla in Maharashtra, Manali in Himachal Pradesh and Pahalgam in Jammu & Kashmir
Developing a new taste
Indian are turning over a new leaf when it comes to satisfying their appetite for adventure trips, say experts. Apart from trekking, activities like biking and cycling are becoming increasingly popular. As per travel operators, people are bored of package holidays where they end up staying locked in their hotel rooms. “I see a lot of growth in high-altitude treks because of two reasons. First, it’s inexpensive. If you compare a seven- to eight-day trip with a trek, the latter will be cheaper. Second, people in India don’t exactly know what trekking means. So they want to experience it. Apart from that, there is a lot of interest in biking and cycling in the Himalayas,” says Rohan Jain, co-partner of New Delhi-based travel company Renok Adventures, which was started in 2011.
Apart from new activities, Indians are exploring new locations, too, as per Jain. The places that used to be first on the list of many are no longer the preferred destinations. Locations like Spiti—which is being dubbed as ‘the new Ladakh’—and many other places in the north-east are gaining more traction. “Ladakh has become too commercialised. People want to go to Spiti now… Bhutan is also a popular destination for adventure activities,” Jain adds.
The scene around the globe
Not every country has the resources or terrain to pull off adventure tourism. As per the 2016 Adventure Tourism Development Index (an annual ranking by Adventure Travel Trade Association and George Washington University, US), Iceland is the best destination for adventure enthusiasts.
Here are the top five countries, as per the index:
– New Zealand