Take the Plunge

They say travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer, and it’s true on many levels. More than just an escape, travelling has this wonderful way of educating you – about the world, as well as about yourself. It’s an interesting way to challenge yourself and face your fears; you’re sure to make a self-discovery, big or small.
That brings us to adventure sports, often found on many bucket lists in the form of bungee jumping or skydiving. While these activities were once hard to find locally, India now has many outlets if you’re up for some adventure. They may still seem like the domain of adrenaline junkies, but we think everyone should give them a go at least once. Water sports lead the pack and are relatively harmless; Goa is a favourite and hotspot for the gamut of sea-related activities, but the spectrum is much broader. Check out these amazing hotbeds of adventurous activity.

“I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience when my best friend Jatin and I took a trip to the Andamans to go deep sea diving at Aquarium Bay, close to Havelock Island. An hour prior to our dive, we were briefed on the hand signals we’d use to communicate while underwater with our instructor, Jurgen. The entire crew at the Sea Shell Resort where we stayed was very professional. After suiting up for the dive, they did a 15-minute practice run with us. This really helps someone grasp how the equipment works. The deep sea was more beautiful than we imagined. It was as if someone took cans of bright paint and threw them into the ocean. It’s difficult to put it into words; all I can say is that it was similar to the calm you experience during meditation. It’s a new world, and it comes to life right in front of your eyes. Deep sea diving in India is not given its due credit. There is so much on offer – as much (if not more) than Mauritius or Australia.”     – Arushikha

Scuba comes from the term ‘self-contained underwater breathing apparatus’ – the getup you wear when you go underwater. It might not make sense at first, but when you consider India’s miles upon miles of coastline, the country boasts some excellent places for scuba diving. One of the best is the waters of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Kavya Vinod, who went scuba diving on her trip there, believes the Andamans are the ideal dive destination. Instructors are easily available, prices are nominal (Rs. 4,500 for a session), and you don’t need to worry about losing your way or your nerve – an instructor will guide you through every step of the process. In fact, you don’t even need to how to swim! For the more adventurous, there’s the Deep Sea Diving three-day course, which costs between Rs. 15,000 and 20,000.
“The marine life was beautiful,” Kavya gushes enthusiastically. “Seeing coral and fish up close made my heart skip a beat. If you love the water and sea life, you’ll definitely enjoy scuba diving! But you need an adventurous spirit, and asthma and hypertension patients should step back – this isn’t the right activity for them. I’d suggest that everyone who can give it a shot does so. It’s like entering a completely different world!”

Another great dive destination is Lakshadweep, namely the islands of Kavaratti and Kadmat, where it is most popular. If the Maldives is on your to-do list, a trip to Lakshadweep provides a glimpse of the same dazzling blue waters and ocean life (the two sets of islands share the same waters). If you want some options a little closer to home, try Goa and Netrani. The waters may not be as transparent as those in the Andamans or Lakshadweep, but it’s a worthwhile experience. The best season for Goa is between October and May, and several scuba spots can be found in and around Grand Island. As for Netrani, an island some way off the coast of Karnataka, expect to spot some beautiful sea life there; the best time to visit this hidden gem is in December and January.
Snorkelling is another water sport that’s gaining popularity. Similar to scuba diving, it’s done at a much shallower depth, so there’s no need for any prior training or instruction. As well as the evergreen destination that is Goa, several places across India offer snorkelling. For most of the same reasons that make them ideal for scuba diving, the Andamans and Lakshadweep are perfect spots to go snorkeling as well (often at the same locations that offer scuba diving).

Additionally, the Konkan Coast in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka is a great option. A beach in Tarkarli offers would-be snorkelers a glimpse of some intriguing sea life – colourful coral and a plethora of underwater creatures make for extraordinary sights. If you’re lucky, you might just spot a sea turtle, eel or spotted ray!

Adventure junkie Ali Razvi loves a rush of blood to the head, so he made a rather difficult climb in Leh. “Like any other adventure sport, mountaineering is all about dedication, passion and discipline. You might wonder what we get out of such expeditions, but they teach us to lead disciplined lives. We have to fight altitude sickness, headaches, breathlessness and extreme cold. My visit to the Chadar Trek in Leh was a different experience. The weather conditions were very extreme – the day temperature was always below -10°C, and it would drop to -25° at night. The trail was slippery, and many times we had to cross knee-deep freezing water. When you survive such extreme conditions, you learn a lot about life.”

Let’s get back on land. India has a rich mountaineering history and culture, and many institutes offer training and courses for enthusiasts. This ‘hilly heritage’ is thanks to the iconic Himalayan peaks, making India quite the mountaineering destination – Dungri La, Khardung La, Chang La, and Rupin Pass are all great options. Remember that mountaineering is a tricky activity. If you’re keen, you’ll need to be in great physical and mental shape. Mountaineering’s arduous nature takes a toll on both mind and body, so it requires perseverance and practice. Apart from the mountains testing your will and stamina, your body will experience a range of severe weather conditions.

Done on water but usually located in the hills, whitewater rafting is an exciting sport that has become increasingly popular in India over the last few years. It can be quite dangerous, too – after all, you’re navigating an inflatable raft through a rapidly flowing river with unpredictable drops. Conditions may vary in intensity, but water rafting is more often than not a tough yet thoroughly invigorating adventure. India has plenty of spots that provide a range of rafting conditions. Dandeli in Karnataka is popular, and provides rafters with different terrains. Rishikesh is another great spot, the Ganges giving rafters a long stretch to cover; tough or easy, the Rishikesh rapids provide all sorts of conditions. Other prime locations include the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Kundalika and Teesta Rivers.

“When you’re hanging onto a raft on a river full of rapids with just a life jacket as backup, things are bound to be amazing. It was a weekend trip through the Greater Hyderabad Adventure Club that took me rafting in Dandeli, and I’ll never forget the rush and excitement of it all. You don’t need to know how to swim, but you do have to follow your guide’s basic rowing and balancing instructions. They also tell you what to do if you fall into the water... by making you jump in wearing a life jacket. They make you feel confident, so you’re less likely to panic if you do fall in. The path we took was nine kilometres long and had class three rapids; it took three hours and at one point, we were completely under water.”     – Siri

A kayak is a long boat tapered on both ends, and often accommodates one person (two people at most). You can go kayaking on the same rapids used for whitewater rafting, or on a more serene body of water. The Kali, Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers are some of the more popular kayaking locations in India. But bear in mind that the sport requires some amount of training – kayaking sites will provide all the necessaries.

What could be more thrilling than scaling the peaks of land? Try jumping out of an airplane and into the air, with an unbelievable aerial view of the earth below. There are a variety of skydiving methods – static line, tandem and accelerated freefalling; none are for the weak of heart. The sport fascinated India for years before making a domestic entry. It’s still relatively new – there aren’t too many places that offer assistance. Deesa in Gujarat was the first place to have a certified drop zone, and Aamby Valley in Maharashtra offers skydiving throughout the year; Mysore and Puducherry organise skydiving camps every now and then. Still, if this sport strikes your fancy, we recommend that you venture overseas to try it out.

 “I’d dreamt of flying like a bird for so long. After some research, I decided to go paragliding in Kamshet, Pune; it’s one of the safer aerial sports. I did a four-day elementary pilot course at Nirvana Adventures, one of the best in India. We went to Shinde Hill to practice bunny hops, running from a low altitude to launch into the air for a few seconds, just to get the hang of it. On day three, we launched from a small hill about 200 metres high; the hardest part was climbing the hill while carrying the glider! On the last day, we did five more jumps from the same hill. I later took a test to get my certificate. Chances are I’ll probably go back to complete 20 jumps: the prerequisite to advance to the next level.”         – Manideep

Skydiving entails a freefall with the help of a parachute, but paragliding is much more leisurely. Kept in the air with the help of a glider, you can go as long as a couple of hours and cover vast distances. Few things are more surreal than gliding across stunning expanses of land (the Serengeti and Ghats comes to mind). Try Billing in Himachal Pradesh, Nandi Hills in Karnataka, and Kamshet in Maharashtra if you want to give this sport a shot. We recommend Billing, which has received attention from international paragliding circles. Don’t worry about training, either; courses last a few days and include all the necessary instruction.