It's one promotional line which is sure to get that adrenalin flowing—'Set foot in places usually inhabited by explorers, adventurers and other exotic species'. The race is on to get there before they are taken over by the teeming masses. For the fire of adventure has been kindled in Indian hearts and now there's no stopping them. With travel entrepreneurs introducing new destinations and innovative adventure tours every year, you don't have to look very far for that holiday advertised in some foreign glossy which you've been drooling over. Ask for it and it's there. A growing number of agencies, such as Wanderlust Travels, have a number of exciting options.
TREKKING: Artfully designed packages take you through the Garhwal, Kumaon, Himachal, Lahaul-Zanskar-Ladakh and Sikkim Himalayas, touching on places of interest and soaking in changing cultures as the landscape changes. Other packages offer different combinations of trekking with rafting, trout fishing, mountain biking, wildlife, pony treks, hot spring baths, alpine flower treks and more.
RIVER RUNNING: Leading river running experts have opined that Indian rivers have some of the most potentially exciting stretches of river running in the world like those on the Ganga—Three Blind Mice, Crossfire, Return to Sender, Roller Coaster, Golf Course and The Wall. The most popular: the Ganga (grade II-IV); Bhagirathi (grade III-IV); Alaknanda (grade III-IV).
Managed by professionals, the expeditions once again combine leisure with adventure in packages like float trips, white water rafting and wildlife tourism.
JEEP SAFARI: For those with limited time and wanting to cover more destinations, the ideal way to explore the Himalayas is by road. Himachal and Ladakh have an excellent network of roads passing over some of the world's highest passes and breathtaking landscapes. The Overland Trans-Himalayan Jeep Safari takes you from Delhi through Nalagarh, Narkanda, Sangla, Puh, Kaza, Chotadhara, Jispa and Sarchu to Leh. Likewise, there's the Kumaon Panorama, The Forbidden Land—along the Tibet Road, High Road to Ladakh and Island and Wildlife Safaris in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Corbett.
DEEP SEA FISHING, SCUBA DIVING, SNORKELLING: Off the Malabar coast in the Arabian sea is the beautiful island resort of Bangaram in the Lakshadweep islands. Go deep fishing for Sail, Barracuda, Seer, Houndfish and the Giant Trevelly. The Andamans and Lakshwadeep islands offer excellent facilities for snorkelling and scuba diving. For snorkelling, one need only be a casual swimmer to get going, the flippers doing much of the work for you. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors' open water courses are used. Exciting day trips to the islands are add-ons.
PHOTO SAFARI: View India through your lens. An opportunity to capture the essence of India in a short span, or you might spend a lifetime trying to document the subcontinental splendour. Accomplished photographers accompany and guide you in your choice of location and itinerary.
AERO SPORTS: Like a child's fantasy come true, giant balloons billow out and rise in the sky in colourful parade as balloonists suspended on what seem like baskets sail along in their hot air airships. The basket is like a floating balcony and carries three-four persons and the balloon can rise to a height of 2,000 ft. Wanderlust is the only agency in India offering this sport. Para jumping and free-fall parachuting are also on offer for the first time. Exciting Rajasthan and Himachal balloon safaris combined with camel safaris with overnight stay in Palace hotels are currently the rage on an Indian Rajputana tour. Kangra and Kasauli are exciting Hang Gliding centres. Kangra holds the annual hang gliding championships which attract the best in the world. Bungee jumping is also being introduced this year at Waterbanks Island Camp and Resort, a 15-acre island on the Damdama Lake.
WILD INDIA: Tours of national parks. Corbett, six hours by road from Delhi; Dudhwa bordering Nepal; Sariska, four hours from Delhi; Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, four hours from Delhi; Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, accessible by train from Delhi; bison terrain Kanha and Bandhavgarh, accessible by train or by air via Khajuraho; Gir, the last home of the Asiatic lion, accessible by road from Ahmedabad; Bandipur, Nag-arhole, Mudumalai, accessible by road from Bangalore, Mysore; Periyar Tiger Reserve, accessible by road from Kochi; and Kaziranga National Park, known for its one-horned rhinos and the tiger. Accessible from Guwahati by road.
ORNITHOLOGIST'S TRAIL: Roam the Garhwal valleys to have your fill of Himalayan dippers, forktails or a variety of river chats, wagtails, woodpeckers or colourful pheasants who rule the pinewoods. Kestrels, golden eagles and even the lammergeir are common sights. Or revel in nature in the Valley of Flowers. Alternate tours take you through the scrub jungles of the Rajasthan desert and the wetland reserves famous for wild fowl and waders, Siberian cranes and flights of geese. Or move down south for its reserve of herons, pelicans and the prehistoric marshmugger, one of the three species of crocodiles found in India.
CAMPING: An exciting new destination is the Sangla Valley tucked away in the Himachal Himalayas, steeped in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, at an altitude of 12,000 ft. Timberline Trekking Camps offers other exciting options like Kinnaur, 240 km from Shimla on the old Hindustan-Tibet Road, washed by waterfalls which transport you back to the days of the Silk Route. Chortens and temples abound on the route from Kalpa to Chitkul. Just rugged barren mountains, a desolate stillness and the sound of silence broken by gushing rivers and breathtaking gorges. Special campsites offer activities like mountain biking, stargazing, trekking, kite flying, fishing, bird-watching, wildlife, nature walks, photography and camp games.
MOUNTAINEERING: Last but not the least, and certainly not for the faint hearted, mountaineering as a sport offers the greatest challenge as well as a rare experience. But requires exhaustive planning, elaborate logistics, specialised equipment and technical guidance. Now travel agencies take care of all that. There are several packages which offer expeditions to selected peaks in the Himalayas with varying degrees of difficulties. Designed for the beginner, budding mountaineer and high adventure seekers at altitudes ranging from 17,000 ft to 25,000 ft. Spread out over the Himachal, Garhwal, Ladakh and eastern Himalayas, other interesting expeditions include conquering passes like Kalindi, Hamta, Yamnotri, Gulap Kanfri, Mana Parbat, Kullu Pumori, Mount Shiva and Mount Sumeru. For those not in the know, the government of India, in collaboration with the Chinese government, has also opened up the Kailas-Mansarovar trail to a lot more tourists and pilgrims than allowed earlier.
Ultimately, all the fun in the world is just a booking away. For details regarding packages, pricing and duration of tours, contact:
Wanderlust TravelsM 51-52 Palika Bhawan, Opp, Hotel Hyatt Regency New Delhi-110066
Tel: 6875200, 6881206, 6111889 Fax: 6885188, e-mail: travel.wan-der@ access.net.in Internet: http://www. inetindia. com/wanderlust
Timberline Trekking Camps,206-207, Allied House, 1, Local Shopping Centre, Madangir, New Delhi-110062 Tel: 6984037, 6984049 Fax: 6980746, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: http//www.indiacon-nect.com/trekking.htm
Choice Travel PlannersE-53, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi, Tel: 6947444/5/6
Wildrift AdventuresNew Delhi Tel: 6220529
Snow Leopard Adventures, New Delhi Tel: 6898654, 6891473 Fax: 6895905.