Learn to make cheese in the cool hill town of Coonoor, surf the waves of the Bay of Bengal and watch fireflies dance in the forests of the Western Ghats. Nivedana Jalan lists five unique experiences to try this vacation season
on a The sun shines down bright on Mumbai during the day, but after sunset, magic happens. Just a short drive from the city, tucked away in cool green foliage, hundreds of fireflies light up the forest near Purushwadi, a mountain village, turning the surroundings into a scene straight out of the movie Avatar. The sunny days right before the onset of the monsoon are the peak breeding period for fireflies that frequent the moist greenery of the Western Ghats during this time.
A firefly sighting is one of the most spectacular experiences you can have in the summer months. You can either chalk out an itinerary of your own and take a trip to Purushwadi, Rajmachi, Bhandardara and Malshej Ghat, or sign up for a curated walk through these areas with one of the several travel organisers in Mumbai. Purushwadi also hosts an annual firefly festival.
Learn cheese-making in Coonoor
Be it in sandwiches, burgers, pizzas or pastas, we love cheese. Now, imagine how much fun it would be to learn the ropes of cheese-making! At Acres Wild, a 22-acre farm stay in the quaint hill station of Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, you can learn how to make several varieties of cheese, such as gouda, Colby, Monterey Jack, cheddar, parmesan, feta, haloumi and mozzarella. Here, cheese is categorised into three types – soft, hard and advanced. All cheeses made here are vegetarian, using only microbial coagulant. This bed and breakfast farm stay is run by film director Mansoor Khan (Aamir Khan’s cousin). Cinnabar, a picturesque homestay in Kodaikanal, also offers one-day cheesemaking courses.
Float through the clouds at Bir-Billing
Picture yourself flying, surrounded by clear skies, with cool winds rushing through your hair and a lush green valley beneath you. Spectacular, isn’t it? There are few experiences that can match the thrill of paragliding. You can savour the adrenaline rush of the sport at Bir-Billing in Himachal Pradesh. And there is no time better suited to paraglide than the months of May and June, when the climate is pleasant and the sky clear.
Delhi is just an overnight journey away. The paragliding launch site is located in Billing, where your safety harness is set up and you can take your leap of faith from a cliff, along with a trained instructor.
After that, you’ll fly all the way down! There are quite a few operators in the area that curate and organise this unique flying experience. And it is one adventure activity you must try!
Fruit picking in Punjab and Bihar
Luscious mangoes, juicy lychees, sweet-sour jamuns – the list is endless. Summer sure does bring with it some delectable fruits! This year, instead of picking them from the local vendor, what if you could pluck them directly off the trees? Green Acres Haveli, a farm stay in Punjab, encourages its guests to engage in a fun-filled session of fruit-picking from its lush organic fruit farms. There are mulberries, jamuns and a host of other fruits that you can pick and savour on the spot. The patrons also share their knowledge about organic farming methods.
Muzaffarpur in Bihar, known as the lychee kingdom of India, is also famous for its Shahi lychees and has several popular lychee gardens in Bochaha and Jhapaha. These gardens welcome visitors during the fruit season (May- June). Here, you will learn a lot about fruit-farming traditions and Shahi lychees, and can also buy them at reasonable prices.
Ride the waves of the Bay of Bengal
The beach might not be ideal to lounge around in the sunny months, but there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying the cool waters of the Bay of Bengal. You can surf to your heart’s content during your summer vacation, and there are a number of schools along the coastline – which runs from Odisha all the way down to Tamil Nadu – offering hourly lessons. Surfing is an unforgettable experience – riding the high waves, becoming one with nature and feeling that moment of pride after having successfully ridden a full wave. Surfing makes you feel free and fearless, and also improves your ability to focus.
For those wishing to hone their balancing skills on surfboards, some training courses can even extend to two weeks. Popular surf schools along the coast include Surfing Yogis (Puri), Lonely Surfers (Visakhapatnam), Kallialay Surf School (Puducherry) and Bay of Life (Chennai).