Be it the new trend of spelunking or a classic trek, let the spirit of the outdoors rule your summer. Shrabasti Mallik compiles a thrill list
I was standing on the edge of a bungee platform, peering down from the height of a 22-storey (83 m) building at a sliver of a stream meandering through a deep valley. I could hear the jump master faintly over the strong wind. “Do not look down. Here we go… one, two, three…jump!” The next thing I knew, I was in a free fall, hurtling down, heading straight towards the boulders. The wind drowned out my scream and just when it felt like a never-ending descent, there was a sharp pull at my body harness and my fall broke. As I swung, suspended head down, I let the gurgling stream and the tranquil hills calm me. I had taken my leap of faith. Back at the platform, loud cheers greeted me, even from those I had met only a few minutes earlier. This is what an adventure trip does – strengthens old bonds, creates new ones and helps you challenge yourself!
Here are six adventure sports that you could try your hand at in India this summer. So, gear up for the vacation of a lifetime.
A soft adventure sport, trekking is, above all, about exploration. When you set out with your basic equipment in place, you embark on an introduction to nature. And there are several levels of treks you can opt for, depending on distance and elevation. “Treks can be classified into three categories: easy, for first-timers, who prefer to take up routes that cover flat landscape and last a day or two; moderate, for more serious trekkers game for longer, more arduous journeys; and difficult, for seasoned trekkers who thrive on challenges and also wish to experience the culture of the places they are trekking through,” explains Mandip Singh Soin, an experienced trekker and founder and managing director of Ibex Expeditions. Even a relatively simple day hike can be an experience that lets you absorb more about a place, its culture and its personality. Since India has countless trekking routes, you can set out on your path of choice with an experienced trekker in tow – going out alone into the mountains is not a great idea and basic first-aid, camp craft, map reading and mountaineering courses are recommended before you do your first trek. Strenuous or difficult treks require a certain level of physical fitness and experience, along with a positive attitude.
If you thought fishing was only about a lazy afternoon spent dozing by the river bank, let angling enthusiasts tell you otherwise. Divided into three categories – coarse angling for inedible freshwater fish, game angling for edible fish like salmon, and sea angling enjoyed on beaches, rocks and piers – the sport is a game of wits as the fish try to outsmart you and you do likewise, armed with reel, tackle and baited hook. Early mornings and evenings are believed to be the best times for angling. But you can only go angling in India on a catchand- release basis and have to obtain prior permissions for several spots.
Where trekking lets you explore the unknown on terra firma, spelunking leads you to the mystical expanse within, and sometimes even under it! An adventure sport that can double up as a means of scientific and archaeological research, spelunking can transport you to a world within a world, with prehistoric rock formations, hidden streams and waterfalls, and more. Also known as caving, the sport is relatively new to India. Essential equipment includes nylon ropes, climbing harness, ascenders and descenders, ladder, scaling pole and hard hat/helmet with a chinstrap. Contrary to common perception, spelunking can be fairly low-risk, depending on the cave you choose. It is always best to go caving in a group of three or more and not alone, and people with respiratory and/or orthopaedic issues are advised to avoid the sport altogether. It is important to remember that there are various forms of life in a cave – from spiders and bats to rare plants and fish species – and you must be careful not to hamper their natural habitat during your sojourn.
One of the most popular adventure sports in the world, scuba diving is all about discovering a new habitat and giving in to the spirit of wonder. It is important to note, however, that scuba certification involves a lot of classroom work and in-water practice before an actual dive. A basic understanding of the equipment, diving safety, air and air pressure, and the physics of the activity is essential. Once you exit the bubble of basic scuba training, a world of different types of diving opens up to you – your next tryst with the sport could see you diving from a dive boat, shore diving from a sandy beach or even an inland lake. There are fixed entry and exit methods for different kinds of diving too – the giant stride entry, controlled seated entry or backward roll entry for boat diving; surf exit and rocky surface exit for shore diving, and so on. Prahlad Kakar, founder member of Lacadives, one of India’s first scuba diving institutes in Lakshadweep, shares, “When we started Lacadives 20 years ago in Kadmat, we would get mostly international divers and almost no Indians. Through the years, we have had as many as 10,000 Indian divers and trained several Indian instructors too. Like a snowball effect, scuba diving has now become one of the major adventure sports in the country.”
Bouldering is, in effect, rock climbing pared down to its bare essentials – no ropes, no harnesses and no hardware on relatively small rock faces, minimal gear outlay and easily accessible sites. It is also one of the most social adventure sports, mostly involving large groups that cover the same bouldering route – unlike the more isolated individuals or duos in rock climbing. Every climb, or “problem” as it is termed, has a solution that each climber must solve based on his/her body type and core strength. Solutions can vary from climber to climber, making bouldering quite an exercise not just for the arms and the legs, but the grey cells too. As breezy as bouldering can be at the beginner level, there are several grades that mark the difficulty level of bouldering problems using number-letter combinations – while the lowest on the scale can be conquered by first-timers, the highest should only be attempted by experts.
Considered an extreme adventure sport, it requires you to free fall from a high structure with an elastic cord attached to your ankles. There are a handful of activities or sports that can match the thrill of walking to the edge of a precipice and throwing yourself to the winds, but it is essential that you bungee jump only with a certified professional, who meets all standard safety regulations. Says Rahul Nigam, ex-army captain and managing director of Jumpin Heights in Rishikesh, “The biggest challenge of setting up a bungee jumping platform in India is the apprehension that people have about safety. This is why, for Jumpin Heights, we brought in experienced jump masters from New Zealand, the country where bungee jumping first began. The sport instils courage in whoever attempts a jump, because it takes real guts to actually do it.”