Tag Archives: Wayanad Splash

Wet n’ Wild: Water sports across India

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Raft in lesser-known rivers from the Himalayas to the Western Ghats, surf with swamis, swim with dugongs, rapel down waterfalls or kayak in wild streams; ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY give the low down on aqua sports across India

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Sure you’ve got drenched in the surf at Tarkarli, felt invigorated in the icy Ganga while rafting at Rishikesh, done water scooter rides at Digha or Dona Paula and parasailing off Goa’s beaches… Yet, there’s no dearth of aquatic adventures in India, thanks to a 7000km long coastline and numerous lakes, streams, rivers and waterfalls pulsating with action.

The inaugural Vizag Yachting Festival, a first-of-its-kind event in March 2018 saw adventure enthusiasts cruise in plush yachts like Gypsea and Sea Norita in the Bay of Bengal. Wayanad Splash, Wayanad Tourism Organization’s unique monsoon festival, transforms Kerala’s hill district into an outdoor playground. Offroad rallies over hills and streams, river rafting in bamboo boats and mud football in slushy rice fields; it’s just the shot of adrenaline to shake away the monsoon blues. Local adventure outfit Muddy Boots organizes rafting on the Pozhuthanna and Triathlon on the Kabini River.

Malabar River Festival in July is South India’s only extreme adventure competition and the biggest kayak festival in Asia. Organized by Kerala Kayak Academy and Madras Fun Tools on behalf of Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society, nearly 200 participants from across the world converge at Thusharagiri in Kozhikode district. These events mark a new chapter in the world of aqua sports in India.

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Raft the rapids

Wild rivers, rapids with funky names and the invigorating splash of cold mountain water; nothing beats the thrill of white water rafting. Criss-crossed by rivers tumbling down mountainous tracts, India is a rafter’s paradise, with every river having a unique character. Snow-fed Himalayan rivers provide top-notch rafting and operators like Ibex Expeditions, Aquaterra and Red Chilli run the Tons, Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and other rivers in Uttarakhand.

At Rishikesh, few do the full 36km stretch from Kaudiyala via Marine Drive, Brahmpuri and Shivpuri to Lakshman Jhula. Brave 13 Grade I-IV rapids like Daniel’s Dip, Roller Coaster, Golf Course and Sweet Sixteen, go body surfing and steel your nerves for some cliff jumping. In Ladakh, choose from day trips around Leh, longer runs on the Indus or the challenging 14-day Zanskar river expedition from July till September. In Himachal Pradesh, try the Beas or a 25km stretch in Spiti from Rangrik near Kaza to Sichling, with Class I-II rapids. In Arunachal Pradesh, there’s good rafting on the Upper Subansiri and the Siang from Yingkiong to Pasighat. The rafting location is so remote it takes five days just to reach the launch point!

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John Pollard of Southern River Adventures, pioneer of rafting in South India, has introduced 6 stretches from Dandeli to Coorg since 1999 and is partnering Goa Tourism from 2012. In Karnataka, get entangled in Adi’s Beard and Stanley’s Squeeze on the Kali river at Dandeli or tackle Milky Churn and Wicked Witch on the raging KKR (Upper Barapole) river in Coorg. ‘White water’ John describes Tilari as ‘the most advanced rapids south of the Himalayas’ and a 10km stretch of the lower Mhadei river promises spectacular jungle scenery along the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and Grade II-III rapids like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Y-Fronts.

Unlike the usual rafting season of October to May, in Goa it’s a monsoon activity from June to October. Yet, some dam-fed rivers like Kundalika are accessible all year round. At Kolad, Maharashtra’s only white water rafting site, tackle a 14km stretch of the river with a dozen Class II-III rapids like Morning Headache, Johnny Walker, Rajdhani Express and Boom Shankar.

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Dive right in

Turquoise waters, great visibility, untouched coral reefs and a remote location 1000 km from the Indian mainland, the Andamans offers the best diving and snorkelling opportunities in India. North Bay, 10 min by boat from capital Port Blair, and Wandoor Marine National Park stretching across 280 sq km 15 islands like Jolly Buoy and Red Skin, give the ideal introduction to the underwater world through glass-bottomed boat rides and snorkeling.

For diving, head straight to the adventure hub of Havelock Island in Ritchie’s Archipelago. After introductory sessions at Hathi Tapu (Elephant Beach), a speedboat takes you to remote dive sites like Barracuda City, Dugong Dungeon, Turtle Bay and Barren Island, India’s only active volcano. A range of PADI courses – basic one-day courses to specialized programs – are offered. Slip away to the quiet Neil Island for snorkeling and swimming with dugongs.

Kitesurfing near Rameshwaram C55A9949

Off the west coast, head out to the 36 coral islands of Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea. Lacadives, pioneers of diving in Lakshadweep since 1995, now run a dive centre at Chidiya Tapu in the Andamans and offer diving courses and reef adventures at Cinque, Rutland and Passage Islands! They also run a ‘Scuba in the City’ program with pool-training facilities in Mumbai and Bangalore. Dive Lakshadweep in Agatti, has 2 hr dive sessions in the lagoon for first timers, besides PADI’s Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) Introductory Dives and open water courses. Dolphin Reef and Sting Ray City northwest of Agatti Island and Japanese Garden near Agatti Island Beach Resort are popular dive sites. Diving in Lakshadweep outside the reef is possible only after the rains (15 Sep-15 May).

If time is a constraint, there’s enough action closer home on the Coromandel Coast. Temple Adventures, named after an artificial reef they built 5km offshore shaped like the Mahabalipuram Shore Temple, offers a Try Dive and snorkeling and surfing lessons at their facility on Covelong Road. There are also PADI certified dive courses and open-sea dives up to 50m at Temple Reef (20 min by boat) or The Wall, an inter-continental drop 15km offshore (45 min by boat).

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Temple towns & Surfing Swamis

Who would have thought surfing and spirituality go hand in hand? Just beyond Udupi, Kaliya Mardana Krishna Ashram at Mulki or ‘Ashram Surf Retreat’ is run by Hare Rama Hare Krishna devotees, with surfing lessons, yoga, meditation, veg food and total detox (no smoking or alcohol)! Go river kayaking and ride the Zodiac boat to local surf breaks like Swami’s and Baba’s Left. April-May is mild surfing season with 1-2 m waves and 8 feet waves between June-September. For banana boat rides and adventure-themed vacations, venture up the coast to Sai Vishram Beach Resort at Baindoor and Devbagh Beach Resort near Karwar.

The temple town of Rameshwaram is fast emerging as a pilgrimage spot for kite surfers. A steady wind speed and scant rains provide ideal conditions for kite surfing or surfboarding powered by a kite. India’s first female kite surfer Charmaine of Quest Expeditions teaches wave-style and freestyle riding and jumps at kite spots like Swami’s Bay, Lands End lagoon and Fisherman’s Cove. It’s possible all year round, with north winds blowing in winter (Oct–Mar) and south winds in summer (Apr–Sep). In Maharashtra, Ocean Adventures does surfing, wakeboarding and other water sports at Ganpatipule.

Kitesurfing near Rameshwaram C55A9982

Canyoning & other adventures

Come monsoon, the Konkan resuscitates itself with swollen rivers, mist-laden ghats and waterfalls at every turn. At Vihigaon, near Igatpuri, challenge yourself by rapelling down a 100 ft high slippery cataract, set amidst hills and paddy fields. Offbeat Sahyadri also organizes canyoning at Bekare near Karjat, Dudhani near Panvel and Dudhiware near Lonavala.

For sportfishing, hit the high seas off Chennai for Giant Trevally, tuna, mackerel, barracuda, barramundi, wahoo and sailfish. Angling operators in Goa and Chennai offer day packages to estuarine sanctuaries, breakwaters, wrecks and offshore ledges. Or head to Ritchie’s Archipelago in the Andamans for deep-sea fishing with Mikes Fishing Adventures and Monster Fishing. That’s the thing with marine adventure, once you’re hooked, you look for excuses to dive back in…

Deep sea fishing in the Andamans IMG_4556

FACT FILE

When to go
Vizag Yachting Festival (28-31 Mar, 2018)
http://www.vivagyachtingfestival.com

Malabar River Festival (19-22 July, 2018)
http://www.malabarfest.com

Wayanad Splash (7-9 July, 2018)
http://www.wayanadsplash.com

Where to Stay
Sai Vishram Baindoor Beach Resort
Ph 9449817535
www.saivishram.com

Devbagh Beach Resort
www.devbaghbeachresort.com

Adventure Outfits
RAFTING

Ibex Expeditions
Ph 011-26460244/46
www.ibexexpeditions.com

Aquaterra
Ph 011-29212641, 29212760, 41636101
www.aquaterra.in

Red Chilli Adventure, Rishikesh
Ph 0135-2434021
www.redchilliadventure.com

Goa Rafting/Southern River Adventures
Ph 9545305734, 8805727230
www.goarafting.com

Coorg Whitewater Rafting
Ph 0876-2346289
www.coorgwhitewaterrafting.com

Wild River Adventure, Kolad
Ph 9819297760
www.koladrafting.com

Mercury Himalayan Explorations, Kolad
Ph 92728 82874
www.kundalikarafting.in

KAYAKING

Muddy Boots, Wayanad
Ph 9544201249
www.muddyboots.in

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CANYONING

Offbeat Sahyadri
Ph 9987990300, 9664782503
offbeatsahyadri@gmail.com

DIVING

Barefoot Scuba, Havelock
Ph 044 24341001, 95660 88560
www.diveandamans.com

Dive India, Havelock
Ph 99320 82205
www.diveindia.com

Andaman Bubbles, Havelock
Ph 03192 282140, 9531892216
www.andamanbubbles.com

Lacadives
Ph 9820890948, 9619690898
www.lacadives.com

Dive Lakshadweep
Ph 9446055972
www.divelakshadweep.com

SURFING

India Surf Club, Mulki
Ph 9880659130
www.surfingindia.net

Quest Adventures, Rameshwaram
Ph 9820367412, 9930920409
http://quest-asia.com
www.thekitesurfingholiday.com

Temple Adventures, Mamallapuram
Ph 9789844191, 9940219449
www.templeadventures.com

Kallialay Surf Club, Mamallapuram
Ph 9442992874, 9787306376
kallialaysurfschool@hotmail.com

Ocean Adventures, Ganpatipule
Ph 99755 53617

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SPORTFISHING

Monster Fishing
Ph 98450 15472
www.theandamans.com

Mikes Fishing Adventures
Ph 95660 88560
www.wildandamans.com

Andaman Sea Gamefishing
Ph 99332 04012
www.andamanseagamefishing.com

Goa Fishing
Ph 94220 59303, 96374 82626
www.goa-fishing.com

Chennai Sportfishing
Ph 044 42102287, 9500032662/9
www.chennaisportfishing.com

Barracuda Bay
Ph 9841072072
www.barracudabay.in

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of JetWings magazine.

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Wayanad: Kerala’s Heartland

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Misty hills, green valleys, heart-shaped lakes, monsoon festivals and delightful new resorts, Wayand never ceases to amaze, discover ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY

Chembra trek IMG_1399_Wayanad-Anurag Mallick

As we negotiated the highest peak in Wayanad, the top seemed achingly near, ringed by a tiara of clouds. Our reticent VSS (Vana Samrakshana Samiti) guide from Meppadi made an odd clucking sound to get our attention and motioned below. We looked back and gasped at the sight.

It was indeed a heart-shaped lake, or as locals quaintly called it ‘Hriday Saras’! When we sat by it half an hour ago, it looked more like liver, but from up here there was no mistaking its shape. We pointed to the top and asked ‘Chembra’? Some more guttural sounds followed, which seemed like a ‘no’.

Chembra Heart-shaped Lake IMG_1479_Wayanad-Anurag Mallick

There must have been five points where this strange monosyllabic interaction took place and with each successive crest, Chembra seemed to elude us. It was a lot like our experience in Wayanad, where each step showed us a new aspect to this fascinating hill district of Kerala. The summit, at 6,800ft, was wreathed in clouds and it started to drizzle, so we made our slow descent down the grassy slope.

Our guide disappeared for a while and returned with what looked like a wild orange. We greedily tore into its thick skin and bit into the flesh but it turned out to be grapefruit. ‘Bambli moos’, mumbled the VSS guard. Later, we learnt that its Malayalam moniker was a corruption of the Dutch and French name pamplemousse.

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The colonial stamp on the region was a recent one and as one peeled away the layers, Wayanad seemed wrapped in several histories. The imprint of early man is evident at Edakkal Caves, India’s most important prehistoric rock shelter, with Megalithic and Neolithic wall etchings like the Chieftain dating back to 4000 BC! It also has its ‘Kilroy was here’ equivalent. A scrawl in Brahmi script ‘Palpulita nandakari bedungomalai kachhabanu nanduchatti’, loosely translated to ‘Nandu, who killed many tigers on this mountain, was here.’

This was hallowed land where Lord Rama crossed over the Brahmagiri Hills from Coorg to Kerala, where he performed the pind daan for his deceased father Dasratha at the Thirunelly temple and shot an arrow that ‘pierced the mountain’, which was hence called Ambukuthy. There’s even a temple of Seetha Devi, Lava and Kusha at Pulpally.

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Jainism once prospered here and the wily Tipu Sultan converted a 14th century Jain shrine into an ammo dump, which led to the place Ganpathivattom being renamed Sulthan Bathery after the sultan’s battery! Wayanad was a tactical stopover between his capital Srirangapatna and the Malabar coast. The legendary Van Ingen family, taxidermists to the Maharajas of Mysore, were based in Wayanad. Many of the estates and bungalows they once held, are now resorts – like Tranquil Plantation, not far from the tribal heritage museum at Ambalavayal.

The district has a very large tribal population, chiefly the Kuruchiyas, Kurumbas and Paniyas. It was Kerala Verma Pazhassi Raja of Kottayam (a local principality, not the south Kerala town) who mobilized them into a guerilla army and eventually perished fighting the British. If Tipu was the Tiger of Mysore, Pazhassi Raja was undoubtedly the Lion of Kerala. His memorial stands proud at Mananthavady.

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Yet, Wayanad’s secrets hide in plain sight. Ruins of Jain shrines lie in scenic coffee, coconut and spice plantations. It was spices grown in the highlands around Wayanad that fuelled the lucrative trade in coastal centres like Thalassery and Kannur. We dropped off our guide at Meppadi and continued to the misty ghats of Lakkidi near Vythiri.

By the roadside we stopped at an unusual tree that was ensnared in chains. This is Wayanad’s famous Chain Tree. The story goes that Karinthandan, a young tribal helped a British engineer find a safe route through the treacherous Thamarassery Ghat. Unwilling to share the credit, the Britisher killed him and Karinthandan’s restless spirit began haunting travelers near that spot. After a string of accidents, a priest was brought to perform a puja and pacify the spirit, which was supposedly chained to the tree. We sent a silent prayer for safe travels and wheeled offroad from Vythiri.

Chain Tree Lakkidi IMG_7274_Wayanad-Anurag Mallick

Wayanad, the hilliest district in Kerala is also its least populous. We lurched up the mountain slope to Vythiri Resort, which did more to put Wayanad on the map than the unassuming, dull brown Wayanad Laughing Thrush. Long before tourism opened up in Wayanad, it had been wowing travelers with its treehouses, swaying bridge, streamside cottages and local cuisine. Almost every resort in Wayanad is tucked away in an estate, on a mountain or by a stream.

In nearly a dozen visits to the district, we’ve had the chance to stay at some really special spots. Over a waterfall at Meenmutty Heights, around boulders and caves at Edakkal Hermitage, in a colonial era cottage at Tranquil, by India’s largest earth dam Banasura Sagar at Silver Woods and Banasura Island Retreat, in cottages by a waterfall at Blue Ginger… you dream it, it’s out there!

Banasura Island Resort IMG_7455_Wayanad-Anurag Mallick

There’s a whole new crop of resorts in Wayanad. After years of manning Tranquil Resort, Victor and Ranjini Dey have opened their own homestay Amaryllis at Deydreams Farm. It is named after the vibrant long lasting flower, the first one they planted along the driveway when they bought the patch in 2008. The floral theme continues with garden rooms named Azalea, Begonia and Callindra while the tree villas Solandra and Poinsettia overlook the backwaters of Karapuzha reservoir in the distance.

For a closer view of Karapuzha, stay at Vistara by the Lake, with private balconies, immaculate gardens and an outdoor pool overlooking the reservoir. It’s pet friendly too! One place that’s neither pet friendly nor kid friendly (purely due to safety considerations) is Pepper Trail.

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Located in the historic Mangalam Carp Estate set up in the late 1800s by pioneering planter Colin Auley Mackenzie, it comes with two treehouses and two suites in a 140-year-old Pazhey Bungalow. That’s the thing with Wayanad – depending on your predilection, you can choose to be a couch potato or a super trooper game for any adventure.

Trek to Banasura Hill or Little Meenmutty waterfall overlooking the 1700 hectare Banasura Sagar. Dotted with 19 islands, the speedboat rides on the reservoir mark the start of Hydel Tourism in the district. Get a dose of responsible tourism with DTPC Kalpetta’s Village Life Experience tours that include visits to tribal hamlets, nature walks through plantations and paddy fields and learning how eucalyptus oil, tribal weapons, leather drums and pottery are made, ending with a tribal ethnic meal.

Wildlife-Tusker by the road IMG_7652_Wayanad-Anurag Mallick

Hike to waterfalls like Soochipara (Needle Rock), Kanthampara and Meenmutty Falls or go on day trails or multi-day hiking, cycling and kayaking adventure trips with Muddy Boots. Spot packs of dhol on the hunt at Tholpetty or tuskers by the road at Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary.

Lakes like Pookote and Karalad are already popular among tourists for boating or you could drop by at Uravu’s bamboo processing center near Kalpetta, where handicrafts are fashioned out of bamboo like spice boxes, lampshades and Rainmakers (hollow bamboo instrument with seeds cascading through it to mimic the sounds of rain).

Uravu bamboo products IMG_7354_Wayanad-Anurag Mallick

While Wayanad hums to an ancient rhythm, it is indeed in the rains that it comes alive – when streams, waterfalls and grasslands revive and paddy fields turn into venues for mud football, coconut tree climbing and crab catching! So take the winding road to wonderland and make a splash in Wayanad…

FACT FILE 

Getting there
The Kozhikode–Mysore highway NH 212 passes through Wayanad via Vythiri in the west to Sulthan Bathery in the east. Kozhikode International Airport at Karipur is the nearest airport, 95 km from the district headquarters Kalpetta.

When to visit
Great all year round, some wildlife areas are closed in summer due to threat of forest fires. In the rains, Wayanad Splash in July is a unique monsoon festival with offroad rallies and other events. www.wayanadsplash.com

Wayanad Splash-Mud football IMG_1261_Wayanad-Anurag Mallick

Where to Stay

Vistara Wayanad
Karapuzha, Kalathuvayal, Ambalavayal
Ph +91 9072111299
vistararesort.com

Amaryllis
Narikund P.O., Via Ambalavayal
Ph +91 9847865824, 9847180244
amarylliskerala.com

Pepper Trail
Chulliyode, Sulthan Bathery
Ph +91 9562 277 000
www.peppertrail.in

Banasura Island Retreat
Kuttiyamvayal, Varambetta P.O, Padinharathara
Ph +91 94955 53311
www.banasuraisland.com

Wayanad Silverwoods Resort
Manjoora P.O, Pozhuthana, Kalpetta
Ph +91 9746475714, 9562088844
www.wayanadsilverwoods.com

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Vythiri Resort
Lakkidi P.O, Wayanad
Ph +91 4936 256800, 255366, 94470 55367
www.vythiriresort.com

Blue Ginger Spa Resorts
Melapoonchola, Vythri
Ph +91 9287439315, 9287439303
www.bluegingerresorts.com

Meenmutty Heights
Ph +91 9656056215
www.meenmuttyheights.com

Sunrise Valley
Ph + 91 9526072777
www.sunrisevalleywayanad.com

Greenex Farms
Ph +91 9846131560, 9645091512
www.greenexfarms.com 

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What to Do

Uravu
Thrikkaipetta, 7km from Kalpetta
Ph 04936 231400 www.uravu.org

Chembra Trek
VSS Office, Erumakkolly
2km from Meppadi

Muddy Boots
Ph +91 95442 01249
www.muddyboots.in

For more info

District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC)
Civil Station, North Kalpetta
Ph 04936 202134
www.dtpcwayanad.com

Wayanad Tourism Organisation (WTO)
Vasudeva Edom, Pozhuthana PO
Ph 04936 255 308, 8547255308
www.wayanad.org

www.keralatourism.org

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine. 

Waterworld: Aquatic adventures across India

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With a 7000km coastline, hundreds of rivers and waterfalls, a long monsoon and spurt in adventure outfitters, India is fast emerging as a destination for water sports, discover ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY.

Surf with Swamis, swim with dugongs, rapel down waterfalls, attend monsoon carnivals and raft in rivers from the Himalayas to the Western Ghats as you discover India’s top water sports haunts…

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Raft the Surla Mhadei, Dudhsagar Falls & other adventures (Goa)
Most popular beaches like Baga, Calangute, Candolim and Dona Paula offer a range of adventure sports like parasailing and water scooter or jet ski rides. But all the offbeat action in Goa is tucked away from the beaches in the lush hinterland. Brave an adventure bike ride from Kullem as you wade through mountain streams to reach the base of India’s fifth highest waterfall Dudhsagar. John Pollard of Southern River Adventures, who pioneered 6 rafting stretches in South India, recently teamed up with GTDC to offer white-water rafting in Goa for the first time (two daily batches at 10:30am and 2:30pm). The lower 10km stretch of the Mhadei where it joins the Mandovi promises Grade II-III rapids like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Y-Fronts. Veluz, the base camp, is 1km from Valpoi bus stop in Sattari Taluka, 45 km from Panaji (1½ hrs). The season lasts from July to September (Rs.1500/person). However, between October and May, head to the Goa-Maharashtra border for the most advanced rapids south of the Himalayas. The Tilari River Gorge, 10 km from Dodamarg on the Kudashi Village road boasts Class IV rapids and requires good swimming ability and fitness levels. It’s a whole new way to let your hair down in Goa! Ph +91 7387238866, 8805727230 info@goarafting.com www.goarafting.com

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Waterfall rapelling at Vihi & Kolad rafting (Maharashtra)
There’s more to water sports in Maharashtra than Tarkarli. Come monsoon, the Konkan revives with swollen rivers, mist-laden ghats and waterfalls at every turn. At Vihigaon (13km from Kasara near Igatpuri) you don’t just gaze at a waterfall, you literally rapel down one! Surrounded by hills and paddy fields, the 100 ft tall 30 ft wide rockface is a slippery challenge. Offbeat Sahyadri, Ph 9987990300, 9664782503 E offbeatsahyadri@gmail.com also organizes canyoning (Rs.750/head) at Bekare near Karjat, Dudhani near Panvel and Dudhiware near Lonavala. Adventure outfits like Trek Mates India, Nature Knights and Aberrant Wanderers offer several monsoon treks to Kalsubai, Malshej Ghat and other spots in the Sahyadris. At Kolad, Maharashtra’s only white water rafting site, tackle a 14 km stretch of the Kundalika River. Being dam-fed, it’s a perennial attraction with a dozen Class II-III rapids like Good Morning Buddha, Morning Headache, Johnny Walker, Rajdhani Express and Boom Shankar. Wild River Adventure Ph 9819297760 www.koladrafting.com, Mercury Himalayan Explorations Ph 92728 82874 www.kundalikarafting.in

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Surfing with Swamis & Rafting in Coorg/Dandeli (Karnataka)
Surfing in India was probably something people did on the Internet, until the Surfing Swamis showed up! Run by Krishna bhaktas, Kaliya Mardana Krishna Ashram at Mulki (30 km north of Mangalore) or Ashram Surf Retreat promises adventure buffs the real deal – surfing lessons (Rs.1500/day), yoga, mantra meditation, healthy veg fare and complete detox (no smoking/alcohol allowed)! Go river kayaking and ride the Zodiac boat to local surf breaks like Swami’s, Baba’s Left, Water Tank and Tree Line. With empty beaches and just 3 guest rooms (Tariff Rs.3500-4500), it’s a quiet place to flounder in anonymity. April-May is mild surfing season with 1-2 m waves but expect 8 feet waves between June-September. India Surf Club Ph 9880659130 www.surfingindia.net. For water sports and banana boat rides, head up the coast to Sai Vishram Baindoor Beach Resort Ph 9449817535 www.saivishram.com, Devbagh Beach Resort www.devbaghbeachresort.com near Karwar and Paradise Edge Resort at Hankon, en route to Dandeli. Karnataka also offers some great rafting opportunities like the Kali river at Dandeli, Cauvery at Dubare and KKR or Upper Barapole in Coorg Ph 08762346289 www.coorgwhitewaterrafting.com. Coorg Adventure Sports organize sailing, kayaking and other water sports at Hyrige reservoir.

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Attend Wayanad Splash, a monsoon carnival & boat races (Kerala)
With the advent of rains, Kerala transforms into a rich mosaic of green paddy fields and swollen lakes as every corner throbs with life and vitality. While the monsoon is great for romantic holidays, Ayurveda retreats and witnessing Kerala’s snake boat races, there’s one region that celebrates the rains unabashedly – the hill district of Wayanad! Wayanad Splash www.wayanadsplash.com is a unique monsoon festival that has transformed the lull of off-season into prime time fun. Get a rush of adrenaline with offroad rallies over streams and mountains. Enjoy river rafting in bamboo boats. Play mud football and kabaddi in specially prepared rice fields. Stay in Banasura Island Retreat as you trek to Banasura Hill overlooking India’s largest earth dam. Or climb Chembra Peak, Wayanad’s highest mountain to see its heart-shaped lake! The weeklong event by WTO (Wayanad Tourism Organization) at Kalpetta (9-15 July, 2014) ushers in the monsoon season with local adventure outfit Muddy Boots (Ph 9544201249 www.muddyboots.in) organizing Triathlon on the Kabini, rafting on the Pozhuthanna and several such adventures.

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Scuba & Snorkelling in Ritchie’s Archipelago (Andamans)
Turquoise waters, great visibility, beautiful coral reefs and some of the best marine life in India, that’s Andamans in a nutshell! Only 30 of the 532 islands are inhabited, leaving an untouched expanse of underwater delights waiting to be explored. A 2.5 hr flight from Chennai or Kolkata deposits you at the capital Port Blair. Glass bottom boat rides and snorkeling at North Bay, Jolly Buoy, Red Skin and Wandoor Marine National Park are a good curtain raiser for the serious stuff to follow. Take a Makruzz boat to Havelock Island, the hub of adventure sports. Dive shops like Barefoot Scuba Ph 95660 88560 www.diveandamans.com, Dive India Ph 99320 82205 www.diveindia.com and Andaman Bubbles offer a wide range of courses. Beginners go through introductory sessions at the picturesque Hathi Tapu or Elephant Beach. Day trips usually include 2 dives with packed lunch. After a detailed briefing, dive masters lead teams to remote dive sites around Ritchie’s Archipelago like Barracuda City, Dugong Dungeon and Turtle Bay. Lacadives www.lacadives.com has started a new dive centre at Chidiya Tapu and offers reef adventures at Cinque, Rutland and Passage Islands! To get away from all the action, slip away to the quiet Neil Island for snorkeling around the reefs and swimming with dugongs.

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Diving/Surfing off Mamallapuram & Pondy (Tamil Nadu)
If you don’t have the time or money to travel to the Andamans or Lakshadweep to dive, here’s some good news – there’s enough action on the Coromandel Coast. Temple Adventures (Ph 9789844191, 9940219449 www.templeadventures.com), a PADI certified scuba diving outfit is just a shell’s throw from Chennai near Indira Gandhi Sports Complex on Covelong Road. Get snorkeling lessons for Rs.800/hr and surfing (Rs.800/3hrs) with bodyboards, surfboards and equipment on hire. Experienced instructors teach you to scuba dive off the Pondicherry coast with Rs.1,500 for a Try Dive and Rs.2,000–21,000 for PADI courses. For surfing, contact Kallialay Surf Club (Ph 9442992874, 9787306376 kallialaysurfschool@hotmail.com). Further south, the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust near Rameshwaram’s Pamban Bridge offers glass bottomed boat rides (Rs.50/head, 8 persons/trip) at Mandapam Beach Park (Ph 9443112740; Rs.5 adults, Rs.3 child, Rs.5 swimming pool, 7am–5.30pm). Contact Wildlife Warden, Mandapam (Ph 04567 230079)

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Adventure Sports at Tajpur (West Bengal)
Tucked away between Shankarpur and Mandarmoni, just 16km east of touristy Digha, Tajpur is West Bengal’s emerging adventure hub. For starters, it has one of the few motorable beaches on the east coast. Several nature camps and local outfitters organize a range of adventure activities like parasailing, kayaking, snorkelling, coastal biking and treks, rubber boat propelling and even water zorbing! Tajpur Retreat Hotel also has a 35-feet high artificial rock wall and high-rope activity system within the campus for you to sharpen your instincts before you hit the high seas. www.tajpurhotel.com

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Rafting in the Himalayas
The snow-fed rivers of the entire Himalayan range provide the most exciting rafting opportunities in India. The country’s leading rafting operators Ibex Expeditions (Ph 0 11-26460244/46, www.ibexexpeditions.com) and Aquaterra (Ph 011-29212641, 29212760, 41636101 www.aquaterra.in), run several rivers. Choices at Ladakh include day trips from Leh, 2-3 day rafting trips on the Indus or the challenging 14-day Zanskar river expedition from July till September end. In Himachal Pradesh, try the Beas or a 25 km stretch in Spiti from Rangrik (4km from Kaza) to Sichling, with many Class I-II rapids. In Uttarakhand, the Tons offers Class IV rapids besides 4-5 day expeditions on the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. The most popular site remains Rishikesh with a 36km stretch of the Ganga from Kaudiyala via Marine Drive, Brahmpuri and Shivpuri to Lakshman Jhula having 13 Grade I-IV rapids like Daniel’s Dip, The Wall, Club House, Initiation, Good Morning, Roller Coaster, Golf Course and Sweet Sixteen. Go body surfing or steel your nerves for some cliff jumping as you camp on sandy banks in basic tents. Live it up at Neemrana’s Glasshouse on the Ganges in an orchard once owned by the Maharaja of Tehri. In Arunachal besides the Upper Subansiri, go rafting on the Yargyap Chu, Siyom and the Siang from Yingkiong to Pasighat. The rafting location is so remote it takes five days of travel just to reach the launch point! October till April is the usual rafting season in most places.

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Diving in the Lakshadweep Islands
400 km from the Kerala coast and reachable via Kochi, Lakshadweep is a group of 36 coral islands in the Arabian Sea. Lacadives (Ph 9820890948, 9619690898 www.lacadives.com) the pioneers of diving in India in Lakshadweep since 1995, now offer diving courses in the Andamans besides a Scuba in the City program with pool-training facilities in Mumbai & Bangalore. Dive Lakshadweep (Ph 9446055972 www.divelakshadweep.com), the latest entrants on the scene, are located near the State Guest House in Agatti with another dive base at the famous Agatti Island Beach Resort. First-timers can try a dive session in the lagoon to familiarize themselves with breathing underwater. The 2 hr practice session, with 25 min spent underwater till a maximum depth of 6m, costs Rs.1,700. Guided snorkeling off the beach costs Rs.500 and Rs.1000 at the reef. PADI’s day long Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) Introductory Dives for Rs.4500 give a good diving experience for those who do not have enough time for a full open water course. Dolphin Reef & Sting Ray City to the northwest of Agatti Island or Japanese Garden and Ocean Club near Agatti Island Beach Resort are popular haunts. Diving beyond 35m is not permitted in the Lakshadweep and diving outside the reef is possible only between 15 September and 15 May.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared as a Cover Story on 23 February 2014 in  Sunday Herald, the weekend supplement of Deccan Herald.