The festive season is coming up. Or perhaps someone close to you has a birthday around the corner? Either way, you'd be thinking of ideas for unique gifts. We say you forget that nice perfumed candle set or the new pair of trousers. Instead, check out these ideas for the best travel experiences you can send them on. It's something they’ll relish for the rest of their lives. So go ahead, save the wrapping paper and gift these next-level experiences to that special someone.
For the Artist at Heart
Sign up your friend for a botanical art workshop at an art studio in the picturesque Himalayan town of Kalimpong in West Bengal. Run by the award-winning botanical illustrator, Hemlata Pradhan, The School for Natural History Art is an offbeat experience where you can take a break in the hills, and take an informal art class perched on a hill with jaw-dropping views. Workshops and classes in natural history art, and various other art forms, are on offer here. That's apart from treks and walks in the middle of some of the most gorgeous scenery in India. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Gift a River Odyssey
Imagine exploring India's east coast from a floating boutique hotel, in a Raj-era room on a cruise along the Ganges. The seven-day cruise on the Ganges Voyager embarks from Howrah. Guests are ensconced in regal suites with all the comforts of a five-star hotel. With the closest roundtrip commencing on December 20 this year, bookings can be made for the limited slots at their website. Read a personal account of the voyage here.
Book a Stay at a Floating National Park
It can't get more memorable than this: a stayover at the world’s only ‘floating’ national park at the Loktak Lake in Manipur. The lake, with multiple ring-shaped landmasses floating on it (known as phumdis), is a marvel of nature. The Keibul Lamjao National Park here spreads across 40sq km and is situated on one of the phumdis. Gift a couple of nights at the Forest Rest House in Phubala. You can contact the tourist office in Imphal for details.
Into the Wild
If your friend has always been comfortable with the natural world, gift her/him a chance to help document local flora and fauna for conservation. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) is a pan-India wildlife research organisation which carries out various research projects across India aimed at conserving threatened species and habitats. You can enroll someone for a workshop at any of their centres in Mumbai, Delhi, or Nagpur. They have short workshops, and longer certificate courses in ornithology, butterfly studies, and marine conservation. Or you can gift a BNHS membership too. Check out their website for more.
For the Sustainability Buff
The Moving Upstream project by Veditum is perfect for people who like to explore the real India. Veditum is a crowdfunded collective documenting life along rivers. The Moving Upstream project is an attempt to document the rivers of India, bringing out first-person narratives along with data archives on the river’s condition and life of its people in an accessible format to the general public. Sounds intriguing? Pick a river for your friend and enrol them for initiative. Check here for an interview with the founder.
For the Adrenaline Junkie
For those who love adventure, taking an air safari sounds just about perfect, right? Try paramotoring. It's like paragliding but with a motor so you can control and move faster than when you are gliding. Gurgaon-based adventure company Flyboy offers a safe experience in air safari sessions. Book a flight here.
If your friend loves the beach more than the skies, book them a surfing stay at Shaka Surf Club. Run by India’s first professional female surfer, Ishita Malaviya, the surfing school is based at Kodi Bengre Beach in Karnataka. Check here for details.
For Green Warriors
All this year, nature has been telling us that we need to mend our ways. This is the moment to push away despair and learn to regenerate the planet, ecosystem-by-ecosystem. If you have someone in your life who is interested in learning the rudiments of sustainable food, in growing their own food, and taking care of the soil and earth, sign them up for a permaculture workshop at the beautiful family-run farm, Smell of The Earth. Situated in Birbhum, the farm is close to the picturesque university town of Shantiniketan set up by Rabindranath Tagore.
Another option is to gift a volunteer-stay at a forest garden situated at the 8 Mile village near Darjeeling. With a mud house, a herb garden, a backpacker hostel, TIEEDI is a great opportunity to connect to nature and the local community. One can join in and help tend the forest gardens while exploring trails, listen to birdsong and sounds of gushing waterfalls.