Padded feet fall softly on the rugged terrain deep in the Himalayas leaving behind pug marks like breadcrumbs. But no matter how close to a snow leopard you think you are, they always seem to be a few steps ahead of you. In an expedition like no other, prepare to spend a week in the frigid recesses of the mountain range as you plunge into the habitat of this predator. The mountains are a-calling.
One word that simply captures the essence of a vast expanse of lake set in a remote, unfrequented corner of India – Magic. A vehicle can only take you as far as Korzak, but the green barley fields and the purple mountains along your uphill walk to Tso Moriri make for a lasting impression. The pristine waters of the lake reflect the blue domed sky like glass; take a picture here to remember the exquisite vista.
The higher you get, the faster you fall…But at Magnetic Hill the fallen rise! Turn off your engine and watch in awe as the inexplicable magnetic aberration pulls you uphill! Whether you look to the laws of physics or local folklore to decipher the conundrum before you, one thing is certain, the excitement at Magnetic Hill is infectious.
The Great Rann of Kutch morphs into one of the largest salt flats in the world come winter. This white expanse beckons all ‘perspective shot’ lovers, and nearby Kala Dongmar is also an illustrious vantage point overlooking the Rann. If you look closely enough on a full moon night, you might catch the elusive night lights that may just be urban legend.
Looking at the carpet of pink that lays at your feet it is easy to see why the place is protected so fiercely. When the morning fog lifts, the sheer variety of flora can captivate you for days. Interestingly, trivia buffs will have a ball alongside the nature lovers – the Kaas stretched as far as the eye could see at one point. Find out what changed at the iconic pink valley of Maharashtra.
A jungle cat strolls casually to a stream, its confidence remarkable. And though she barely looks at you, your heart pounds in your chest. The National Parks are home to numerous species of deer, birds and boars; comprehensive ecology where you can catch a gypsy ride through the wilderness and hop on an elephant for a short safari to where the tigers lounge.
You wouldn’t think the brackish waters of Cumbarjua could ever be attractive, but the Mugger Crocodiles would disagree. These large reptiles haunt the cloudy waters, lying in wait with their open mouths, jagged teeth lining the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom. A true-blue Crocodile Dundee experience awaits the brave few who would board a traditional boat and set off in search of the little Muggers.
The Narmada River, the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh, cleaves through shimmering boulders that feel like a whole world removed from normalcy. As the oars swish through the water and bounce across the surface in perfect rhythm, the sun moves across the sky turning white marble to pink, green and blue. Don’t forget to pick up a marble souvenir on your way back.
If the national animal of India wasn’t a tiger, it would probably have been the Indian Rhino. This horn wielding animal is one of the gentlest and, as we’ve seen in the past few decades, one of the most resilient beings on Earth. At Kaziranga National Park, you can hop on an elephant and traipse into the depths of the jungle to catch these unique creatures in action.
After all the excitement of a North-Eastern escapade, it is important to just relax and unwind – where better to do this, than at Tarku? The therapeutic stay, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is as close to paradise as you can get (if paradise was a tea plantation smothered by clouds of the fluffy kind). If not, at least stop by on your way to take some amazing pictures that you can look back on when you’re back in the grind.
Something seems to let loose every time you watch a dolphin do a backflip. You look on with childish abandon, pointing and ooh-ing at the cutest sea creatures on the planet. Step onto a boat, anticipation growing as you head out on Chilika Lake; you’d be lucky to catch a dolphin in action as they cut through the calm waters.
If a lion’s roar sends shivers down your spine, then the gait of a tiger stalking you will leave every hair standing on end. At Sunderbans, it’s best to let sleeping tigers lie. When you glide down the river that flows through the jungle, you might be tempted to ask the oarsman to take you closer to a lounging tiger, but rest assured that this is just the ploy of the tiger trying to get you close enough to grab a bite!
Secrets are an exciting prospect for anyone. The lure of the secluded and unknown is mindboggling to say the least; none more so than at Baratang Island. The indigenous, aggressive Jarawa Tribe ensured few ever ventured into the depths of what is now a Tribal Reserve. The tropical side of Andamans is brought to the fore when you explore the limestone caves or mud volcanos, after a short boat ride through a mangrove.
Kowtow to the elephants as Mowgli once did, in reverence to these mighty, yet gentle beings that roam the jungles. They’ll walk the pachyderm corridor come time to migrate, to get from the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve to the Nilgiris North and we bet you won’t want to miss this!
Who doesn’t like to start their mornings with a freshly brewed cuppa Joe? The idyllic plantations of coffee, neatly lain out in rows upon rows, and the morning croons of the cuckoo ringing clear through the air is as good a breakfast call as it gets. While hiking to the top of nearby Mullayanagiri and exploring the ancient temples of Belur and Halebid are great activities at Chikmagalur, Coorg entices with nearby Bylakuppe (second largest Tibetan settlement outside Tibet).
The epic transformation of gentle giants to bulldozers that razed the forests in the past, comes to life in the tales the naturalist whispers in your ears, as the mahouts rehash early commands that get the elephants to mimic logging activities. After the riveting re-enactment, you can climb onto an elephant’s back and head into the jungle for a quick safari.
Wicker weaves float silently on the still waters of Kabini – the best way to get close to the birds without scattering them. Hop onto a typical fisherman’s coracle, and sail the vast expanse of the reservoir with the sun setting in the background. The spellbinding vista is second to none, but is best experienced after a gruelling day of wildlife safaris in the nearby forest recesses.
Like a scene from a Dutch postcard, the Tulip Garden on the banks of Dal Lake unfurls a carpet of colorful flowers. Asia’s largest tulip field beckons the intrepid wanderer with lush fields set against a backdrop of lofty, snowcapped mountains. Trust us when we say, it will take your breath away.
Hills and knolls swathed in green welcome you to the cleanest village in Asia. The air seems cleaner and every cell tingles with glee as you enter Mawlynnong. And deep within the undulations, two banyan trees proclaim their fondness like no other. Their roots stretch and twine, reaching across a stream, to form a living root bridge that can support up to 50 men. Now there’s a love that can withstand anything!
Tufts of green and brown intertwine on the backwaters, at Pichavaram, in a delightful maze of arches and swaying roots. You will finally grasp the true essence of serenity as you tune out everything but the call of the birds and the rhythmic swoosh of oars. Some claim they can hear their heart racing with premonition as they head deeper and the twines reach down from the canopy. However, the depths remain ever inviting to the adventurers of the world.