Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


Adventure secrets

Buy This Whiskey, Own A Land In Scotland!

Planning to get a land in Scotland? Why not buy a bottle of whiskey instead! Yes, you read it right. Scotland’s one of the finest single-malt whiskeys, Laphroaig, offers a lease on a square foot of land with the purchase of each bottle. When you buy one, you lawfully become a ‘Friend of Laphroaig’. And, as a ‘Friend’ you will be given a numbered plot (one square foot) of the distillery land, represented by your own little flag!


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Currently owned by Beam Suntory (American subsidiary of Japan’s Suntory Holdings), Laphroaig was founded in Scotland in 1815 by Donald and Alexander Johnson. It is the only Islay Scotch whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales.


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Talking about the rates, a ten year old Laphroaig can cost you around US$50 (approx. ₹3344), an eighteen year old bottle can cost you around double of that (around ₹ 6688) and the 25 year old one will lighten your wallet by approximately US$ 400. (approx. ₹26755). So, once you get your hands on any of these three, just register the bar code placed on the bottle to the Laphroaig website. And that’s it! You will, then, be a proud owner of a piece of land in Islay, Scotland.


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Ever heard of an eatable Margarita?

No, this isn’t your traditional glass of tequila and fruit juice cocktail that you sip casually on a usual Friday evening. Doug Laming’s Margarita is definitely much more interesting than that! As suggested by the name, this cocktail was introduced by Molecular Mixologist, Doug Laming at his experimental lab i.e. Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining, Sydney.


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Laming uses ‘Cointreau Caviar Spherification’ to create spheres of Tequila, Cointreau and syrup, which results in little ‘pearls’ of alcohol that burst in the mouth!  While the glass is only there for decoration, to actually consume this margarita, one has to lift up the salt rimmed lime and eat the pink finger lime and the two types of the caviar pearls. One contains a Souza Gold tequila and sugar syrup and the other contains Cointreau. Basically, you eat these and lick the salted lime. It’s a margarita unlike any other kind that you may have had.


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111 days, 11 countries, 1 family: This Family Took An Incredible 111-Day Road Trip From India To France

How do I Take Great Wildlife Photos?

Noted photographer Archna Singh gave Travel Secrets writer Nirav Shah a quick tutorial in wildlife photography.



Be extremely patient. I have had to wait for 4-5 hours while a leopard slept on the tree just to catch different expressions on its face.


Maintain distance. This is important to catch the animal in their natural behaviour, to respect them and their privacy and most importantly, for your own safety.

Early morning and late evenings before dusk are the best times to shoot. Most of the animals are out at this time, when the heat is low. The light is also softer.

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Never use your camera flash. It scares the animal away and is disrespectful.

Always keep the camera ready, even a 1-minute break can make you lose a wonderful shot. The animals always catch you off guard!

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Do not just take pretty pictures: try and bring out the emotions that the animals express

A tip for tourists: Guides/drivers at national parks in India will often park their cars in one place and claim that the animal will come here (based on sightings or pug marks). Do not listen to them, but make them take rounds since more often than not, this is a tactic to only save fuel, and you will never end up spotting any animal.

About Archna Singh


Trained at: NIFT, and under acclaimed photographer Akhil Bakshi

In love with: Africa! She’s also a regular at Ranthambhore and Ladakh.

Showcases her work at:

Her Kit (in 2012, when we published the story):

1. Canon camera – 1Ds Mark III (serial no. DS 126161/617957)

2. Canon camera – 1D MARK IV (serial no. DS 126221/1431300181)

3. Canon camera – G11 Power Shot (serial no. 0245200409)

4. Canon Zoom Lens – (EF 800MM 1:5.6) – Serial No. 14634

5. Canon Zoom Lens (100-400MM) – ET-83C (serial no. 462100)

6. Canon lens – (EF 200MM 1:2L) – Serial No. 11216

7. Canon Wide Angle Lens 16-35MM – EW-88 – Serial No. 1063057

8. Canon Lens (24-70MM) – EW-83F – Serial No. 1907442

9. Canon Fisheye lens -15mm – Serial No. 54259

10. Canon Extender 2xIII – Serial No. 8420002650

11. Canon Extender 2xII – Serial No. 132951

All images are with courtesy  Archana Singh

Input: Travel Secrets Correspondent Nirav Shah

Tell Me More About China’s Panda Park

China’s 600-acre Panda Base is located just about 20 km from the north suburb of Chengdu city. ‘Cute’ and ‘cuddly’ Pandas frolic here, in their lovingly simulated natural habitat. Our correspondents Rakhi Agarwal and Supriya Kantak take you there:

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Here, they swim, climb trees, munch on bamboo and roll in the dirt; just like they would in deep wilderness. Bamboo trees form a welcoming canopy overhead. Birds tweet in the bushes: your chance to spot some endangered species, and some well-loved ones. Think black-necked cranes, thrushes, cuckoos, Kingfisher. Stop by to share a snack with friendly peacocks and pheasants strutting freely about.

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Pandas are peace-loving, happy with their bamboo diet. But if provoked, their powerful jaw muscles and 150-kg weight can give you the shudders.

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Pandas get their name from the Chinese words ‘Pan and Da’ meaning ‘fat and big.’ In anticipation of a big bear hug, Supriya and Rakhi entered the protected area; a maze of winding paths with bamboo shoots forming an arch overhead. There are other trees, of course- mostly tall and big. Willows, Gingkos, Chinars, Yulans…the names aren’t all familiar, but the fresh air cools your face and warms your heart.

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The 60 acre Panda Base also houses a charming lake, teeming with cranes and Mallard ducks and well swans. But more than that it showcases nature’s genius at thinking up shapes and sizes and colour schemes! So while gazing at the Aquarians swimming together in happy harmony how can you miss the beautifully mismatched yellow, red and orange set against the blue water? Once you have had your fill of the lake’s beauty, enjoy a scoop of ice-cream. On your way out, you must stop at the souvenir shop; take a sneak, though you should know that the shops inside offer lower prices.

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This article first appeared in our July-August, 2012 edition.

Ever done a Snowmobile Ride with Dog Sleds?

For most of us, riding through the snow on a dog sled would be a new kind of thrill. For residents of Grey County, Canada, it is a routine mode of transport.

Grey County is bordered in the north by the impressive Georgian Bay, 220km by 100km, making it almost as large as Lake Ontario, one of Canada’s five Great Lakes. It is just 150 km away from Toronto, west of the Blue Mountains area of Collingwood, where skiers take on snowy slopes.

Mike Keenan took a thrilling ride across Grey County. The idea of Corporate Honchos going to work in Snowmobile excited him.

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Driving on a snowmobile is a lot like cross-country skiing: an opportunity to observe nature’s pristine fields bordered by naked deciduous trees shrouded in hoar frost, providing a mystical dimension. The trees glow along the carpet of snow; their crystals beam in jewel like fashion, a sparkling dance in strong sunlight, glistening and forcing to stop to revel in magnificence of it all.

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Snowmobiles are machines that transport you deep into the woods, offering vistas of partly-frozen creeks and snow-clad pine and spruce, uneven land, large rocks and limbs providing a unique gestalt. They are responsive and easy to drive, right hand controlling gas and left hand, the brake. As promised, the machine virtually stops on its own with the release of gas.

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There are 3,000km of groomed trails in the Grey-Bruce area, with no dangerous lake or water crossings. Trails are signposted and easy to follow. Mike witnessed myriad tracks, a large hare, perhaps a wolf but no actual wildlife, and although the trails he travelled were graded ‘Limited,’ they are fine with deer, white owls and the sheer beauty of nature in Grey County’s winter wonderland. Gloves, pants, helmet and boots kept them warm. There are two kinds of snowmobile enthusiasts: hard core, racking up as many kilometers as possible and the recreational, out of pure enjoyment. Many people even show up in business suits, the office goers.

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Next it was ‘Hike!’ that they repetitively shouted as teams of dogsled raced along a circular route at Doug Nixon’s Rob Roy Dog Sledding Adventures. The Alaskan and Siberian huskies, harnessed in two teams of two dogs per sled make you wonder how four dogs are able to carry each sled and the large musher. Mushers stand on two thin runners with a brake pedal in the middle. After a few sprints you get the feel of it, leaning into the turns, the sled easily maneuvers on the terrain.
It was minus 2 C, but the owner, Doug, said that these snow dogs liked it colder at minus 10-15 C. They are born outside and live outside.

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This experience was shared in the November-December 2012 issue of Travel Secrets magazine.

Help me plan a trip to Ghana

Excellent choice! If you ever happen to be in the western part of Africa, do not pass up on the opportunity to travel for a week in Ghana. Terrains change from thick rainforests to vast savannas within a day’s travel. Elephants forage a few meters away, as you watch in awe. Get to know the slave culture of yester years first hand or watch true ancient African culture surround you.

TS Correspondent Nirav Shah was lucky to explore this land a couple of years ago. He swung on rope bridges high up the rainforest canopy and climbed the highest peak in Ghana. Here are a few tips from him to make the best of your trip.

 Where to go and What to do

Cape_Coast_Castle_GhanaCape Coast: An idyllic ex-colonial coastal town frequented by foreigners, famous for its sea food, slave castles and night life. Relax by white surf beaches and do canopy walking at the Kakum National Park, a rain forest that is a short taxi ride away. Thin rope bridges connect huge trees hundreds of feet above the ground. Visit the imposing Cape Coast and Elmina castles for a lesson on the infamous days of the slave trade. On a lighter note – don’t miss hilarious shop names of shops here.

Image: Anthony Pappone on flickr
Image: Anthony Pappone on flickr

Kumasi: Alternatively known as the ‘Garden City’ for its beautiful flowers and plants, this town is the seat of the Ashanti King – a powerful ruler of a tribe that once lorded over most of West Africa. Kumasi is steeped in cultural heritage, and has attractions such as Fort Kumasi, the Hat Museum and the Kumasi National Cultural Center. It also has a decently maintained zoo that boasts of a diverse variety of birds and animals.

Independence_Square,_Accra,_GhanaAccra: The capital of Ghana, this city is a typical urban centre with traffic snarls, pollution and busy markets. While Accra does not boast of many tourist attractions, it is a good base from which to explore different regions of Ghana. Photography enthusiasts should not miss out on photo walks through the bustling markets here!

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Mole National Park and Larabanga Mosque: Located in the northern part of the country, this is where you can experience a savanna environment. Standing 20 meters away from a herd of male elephants with no vehicle to run back to, or watching antelope jump around as you walk in the park can definitely be your trip highlights. However, sighting the lion is a rarity that requires persistent exploration over more than one day. The Larabanga mosque – the oldest mosque in West Africa built in the 15th century is a few miles from the park, and is a must-visit.

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Wli Waterfalls: The Volta region in East Ghana is inarguably the most beautiful; and the existence of stupendous waterfalls such as the Wli waterfalls, the highest waterfalls in Ghana at 60M bear testimony to this. Bathing under the cascade is refreshing, especially when you have thousands of bats resting on the cliff walls. A challenging 3 hour hike can take you to the upper reaches of the wall where the the waterfall takes on a vivid beauty.

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Mount Afadjato: When in a country, why not climb its highest peak! Especially when it is like Mount Afadjato, Ghana’s highest sole-standing mountain located in the Volta region that takes an hour to summit with the help of a guide. The view from up the mountain is incomparable, and a hike around it is a the perfect way to explore the rain forest.

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Tafi Atome Monkey Village: A visit to this village demonstrates a locale where humans and monkeys cohabit and live together. Definitely a must-visit if you want to overcome your fear of our closest animal brothers.

Know before you go

Transport: Accra is the ideal airport to look for a flight to. While taxis are available for inter and intra-city travel; using state buses and tro-tros (shared taxi vans) are a cheap option for the budget traveler. Ghana has good quality roads and hence travelling long distances usually does not take much time.

Telephone: SIM cards of multiple service providers e.g. MTN are easily available.

Currency: The Ghanian currency is the Cedi, with current rates at 1 Cedi = 30 INR

Visa: Visa applications have to be made to your nearest Ghanian embassy, and require ~1 week for processing.

Some useful websites and blogs:

Ghana Tourism Authority

Ghana Tourism official website

Ghana in Living Colour – Intrepid Travel

Two years in Ghana

Easy Track Ghana

Ghana Guide and Blog


What are some of the best Monsoon getaways in India?

We took your question to Aloke Bajpai, Founder Partner of The Explorers India, a travel organisation that specialises in experiential tourism and adventure.

Over to him:

Come monsoon and most people begin to dread endless traffic and having to wade to office through water logged roads. But you only have to travel a short distance from the cities to soak in a light drizzle, the sound of a gushing waterfall, the sight of abundant greenery, and the monsoons don’t seem so bad at all.

Monsoon getaways 1 - by Aloke Bajpai

Pack a light lunch, put on a trench coat and head on a monsoon hike – it’s the best way to welcome the rains. To begin with, those in Mumbai could trek from Vasai to the waterfall in Tungareshwar. The flattish path lies between thick woods and is a great way of being close to nature without being too far from the city.  The adventurous can either consider Chanderi for a difficult but worthwhile two-day hike or embark on the gradual climb to Kalsubai, Sahyadri’s highest peak. If you’re considering a trip to the hill station Matheran this season, skip the toy train or road and trek through the Garbett Plateau instead. You’ll be rewarded with great views as soon as you begin.

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As most national parks close entry to visitors come rains, you could drive to the small town of Ramnagar in Uttarakhand from Delhi and hike through the buffer zone of Corbett National Park. It’s highly recommended for wildlife enthusiasts who can learn about the flora, spot birds and animals from a close distance, and enjoy the trek all the way till Nainital. Rishikesh and Kasauli are great bases for some short monsoon treks as well and so is B.R. Hills in Karnataka.

Monsoon getaways 2 - by Aloke Bajpai

Another activity that is best enjoyed in the monsoons, especially in Mahrashtra, is Waterfall Rappelling. Kune waterfall near Lonavla can be accessed after a two-hour long trek and once there, through a certified agency and guide, one can start rappelling at a height of 75-80 feet. Kondana caves near Karjat are a good spot too. For those interested, rain-fed rivers like Kundalika and Pej offer opportunities of rafting.

Cycling through the countryside also makes for an extremely pleasant activity during monsoon. Karnataka provides plenty of traffic-free, scenic routes to cyclists. The Bangalore-Mysore Highway is a great way to start and you can cycle onwards to Ramnagara, a small town about 50 km from the city known for its 400 year old Big Banyan Tree, and Manchinbele Dam. Those in Mumbai can consider cycling towards Vasai to the beachfront of Arnala or you could take the route from Alibaug to Murud Janjira that goes through Korlai fort and small hospitable villages.

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If you can, however, manage to take a few days off work, skip all the above options and escape to Wayanad in Kerala instead. Whether it be a trek in the drizzle from Kalpetta to Soochipara falls, gliding through the backwaters or cycling across stretches of tea gardens and forests – you’ll have plenty to do and thank the rain gods for.

 Aloke Bajpai spoke to TS Correspondent Sarita Santoshini.

Photos courtesy The Explorers India

I’ve seen most of the touristy Switzerland. Somewhere fresh this summer?

You can always come to us for just the right advice! Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan discovered a stunning Swiss gem on her recent trip. It’s the Klosters region, quiet, lovely and relatively tourist-free, unless you count Prince Charles, who is a regular guest!

Why Klosters

If you are taking a holiday in Switzerland, you probably have greenery and serenity in mind. Klosters ticks those boxes in bold! And if it is adventure you seek, there’s plenty of that to be had here, too.

Nestling in what has remained the rural part of the Prättigau (Graubünden), Klosters, with its romantic village-like atmosphere, stands in stark contrast to the nearby Alpine metropolis of Davos. It’s a tiny town dotted with shops selling outdoorsy sportsgear, and cosy restaurants. A silvery river streaks across the town, and big mountains gaze indulgently down upon the town.


Hotels and homes all over Klosters are laden with flowers. The combination of wood, greenery and brilliant blossoms is heady and irresistible!


The photo above shows Hotel Alpina: we stayed here and totally loved it. Not only is it beautiful, but located right across the small railway station. The cable car up to a gorgeous mountain is also across the road. The rooms have a homely touch, breakfast is delicious, and the staff warm and welcoming. This hotel is proof that you don’t need to be a five-star to be a five star experience!


See? This is a house in Klosters…one among dozens we gaped at! So much beauty, sprinkled all over, just like that!

Lazy, sunlit lunches in Klosters are a food lover’s dream come true. Our dream came true at this one:


Every delicious dish here reflects the freshness and beauty of the region.


And how can you ever leave without indulging in Switzerland’s best-loved comfort food, starring potatoes: yes, we’re talking about Rosti!


Paired with local wine and sunshine, all this good food is the perfect recipe for an afternoon snooze. We took our cue from this bovine beauty and treated ourselves to a nap, too!


The valleys of Klosters will take your breath away. It is easy to lose track of time gazing in the distance and feeling your soul heal. Far in the distance, on gleaming tracks, the bright red streak of a train passing by, is stunning against the green backdrop: quintessential Switzerland!


A whole mountain of adventure awaits to be explored: your kids are going to be floored!


To hear more of our adventures in Klosters, grab a copy of Travel Secrets magazine’s May-June 2015 issue.

Have you cruised over Vancouver, Canada on a floatplane?

No? You will want to, once you find out how much fun Sonali Shah had while cruising and flying around in one. 

Over to her:

As I fly over mini islands, I peer to see boats leave a foamy trail and watch the water below me shimmer. And the sea seems to merge with the clouds as the sun plays its tricks. I gaze farther and can’t tell whether I am seeing the mountains, clouds—or is it water? The cockpit of a floatplane does prove to offer the best view with enchanting illusions. I am flying over Vancouver in west Canada in a floatplane and thoroughly enjoying myself.

seaplane canada

Floatplanes, also called seaplanes, are those that can glide over water as well as take a tour of the sky. A typical routine commences at the harbour, so take-offs and landings are on water, and a short scenic flight in between makes up the rest of the programme. Floatplanes are popular in Canada, not just for tourists, but also for many a wealthy businessman to get from one city to another.

I suggest a floatplane ride during summers to discover hidden Alpine lakes and one during the winters to meet hanging glaciers and mountain ridges of the region. If you’re a skilled skier, you can go down the slopes in style. You can also set off on day trips to bays and small islands in the neighbourhood. Maybe pack a picnic basket to take along or bring back a bounty from the local farmer’s market? The options to sight-see and participate in outdoor activities are numerous – bike excursions, whale-watching, city tours, kayaking and wine tastings are available on different routes.

Vancover canada

On the day I showed up in Vancouver for a short, scenic ride, the waiting lounge for passengers looked pretty busy. We showed
our boarding passes at the gate and filed ahead to board the aircraft, but I fell behind the line as I was shooting pictures. Now as luck would have it, I was the last person to board the plane and could not sight a vacant seat. Before I could voice my concern to the crew member at the door, he smiled at me and said, “Go on ahead to the cockpit, right beside the pilot.” I was mighty excited at hearing that and would’ve done a little jig at the spot, if I weren’t inside an aircraft! The pilot was a friendly fellow who asked me put on a set of headphones if I wanted to communicate with him, or hear his “jibber jabber” with the base over the radio. He was generous with information about where we were flying and said that he finds Vancouver to be the most beautiful city in Canada, to fly over.

The pontoons on the plane helped us take off on the sea, spraying water on either side and we cruised ahead faster than I had imagined. It picked up enough speed for me to begin to worry and soon, without a warning, lifted itself up, and the rotating blades on the nose did a good job of keeping us midair. After about 25 mins of breath-taking views of Vancouver, we glided back with a spray to the harbour. I stepped out feeling a tad woozy, and think that my tummy had a hard time deciding whether it was supposed to feel air or seasickness!

Know Before You Go
• Pick a sunny day for the ride. The sight of the rivers glistening in the sun is enchanting.
• Do carry your passport along. It serves as photo ID.
• The co-pilot’s seat is mostly available for passengers, but most tourists don’t know about it, as it isn’t particularly mentioned anywhere. So do march right ahead to the cockpit and think of Travel Secrets when other passengers look at you in awe.
• Most popular regions in British Columbia, connected by floatplanes are Vancouver, Whistler, Victoria, San Juan Islands and Horseshoe Bay.
• On an average, a return journey costs CAD 100. Get a CAD 8 discount by booking tickets online on


Where should I go for adventure in the Philippines?

Try Puerto Princesa, says TS writer Aarohi Roy. Find out why…

Puerto Princesa – They call it ‘the city in a forest’. And true it is. If you take a plane from Manila, in less than an hour, you will see this tiny piece of inhabited land in the middle of wilderness. You can reach via waterways too, but the sight from the top is breathtaking.


When you land, the smell, the sight and the sound invite you to an irresistible journey amidst nature. This underrated town actually has a lot of decent places to stay, eat and hang out. You can find them in here.

Talk to a local about the places you can visit here, and you will be stunned. The city has it all—from hills and cliffs to hundreds of miles of white sanded beaches to underground caves and rivers to the wildest possible animals. You can island-hop from Honda Bay for lunch picnics, snorkeling and non-stop swimming. Pssst.. Some beaches and islands are so virgin that no one will notice if you skinny dip!

But the star of the “Puerto Princesa show” is the Underground River. A few hours drive will take you to this completely God-made wonder. It has actually been awarded as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Nature’. The entrance itself will paralyze you to gawk at it. The complete boat ride through the dim-naturally-lit caves under unbelievable rock formations is definitely worth the trip.


This is probably one of the few places in the world, where we will recommend a tour guide. Not because you’ll get lost, or won’t do without one—but just because the guides here are famous for being witty, amusing and very knowledgeable.

Then there is “Firefly watching” at Iwahig River. It’s like a natural light show. You go on a boat ride to this perfect spot to first witness the sunset and then the nature’s way of lighting the world at night.

At the end of the day you can visit the City Baywalk—a street dedicated to mellowed night life and great eating joints. Take a walk, feel the night breeze and enjoy your dinner.

What better way to spend a week like this in Puerto Princesa. Snorkel, jump off cliffs, visit Baker’s Park—the amusement park, try your first delicious crocodile and their special shipworm delicacy ‘tamilok’ and live like pampered royalty.

Read more: Visit Puerto Princesa


What are Some of the Best Camping Sites in India?

We took the question to Aloke Bajpai, Founder and Partner of The Explorers. A certified mountaineer and skier, Bajpai has also trained in river rafting. His advice:

Being a city dweller with not enough time for extended vacations, I find camping by a lake or in the woods with friends to be a perfect getaway. Fortunately, one is never too far from a great camping spot in India.


Maharashtra, according to me, provides abundant camping opportunities that lie only kilometers away from the bounds of its capital city Mumbai. I have fond memories of a weekend in Tikona Fort that sits on a scenic hill and is accessible through an easy 45-minute trek. Once there, we had uninterrupted views of Pawana Dam and Tung Fort in the day and a clear sky for star gazing at night. Peth Fort in Karjat also makes for a great site owing to the presence of Peth village at the base and the ample open space available to pitch a tent at the top. Tandulwadi is another camping site located very close to Mumbai.

Tandulwadi Image:
Tandulwadi Image:

Those in Bangalore can drive to Madikeri in Coorg for a weekend of camping amidst coffee plantations or to Chikmagalur if you are looking for some adventure and great sunset views. The best experience, however, can be had in a camp site in Bheemeshwari where you can go for fishing, birding and wildlife spotting by the majestic Cauvery River.

Bheemeshwari Image:
Bheemeshwari Image:

From Delhi, you could drive to the hill station of Dhanaulti in Uttarakhand. There, you will find established camp sites on the meadows with a backdrop of the beautiful snow-capped Himalayas. If you are looking for some place even quainter, the valley of Rajgarh that lies 40 kilometres from Solan in Himachal Pradesh is the best option. Longer Himalayan expeditions like Parvati Valley trek and Chandratal trek also provide excellent camping opportunities.

Dhanaulti Image:
Dhanaulti Image:

• Study the map carefully to have an idea of where the motorable roads will lead you.
• When looking for a secluded spot, remember to ensure that there is a water body in the vicinity.
• If possible, camp close to a village that can provide you food as well as safety in case of any emergency.
• Check if your camping spot requires permission of the Forest Department.
• Reach the camping site at least 3 hours before sun down. Once there, get a clear perspective of the surroundings to be able to navigate later in the dark.
• Practise how to pitch a tent well in advance; remember to mark a snake pit around it and light a fire only at an adequate distance.
• Carry essentials like sleeping bag, a good torch, first-aid kit, adequate water, Swiss knife, as well as a stove and food supply if you plan to cook.

 Visit to pick your adventure  trip!

Input: Sarita Santoshini

How can I stay clean while trekking in a forest?

“Dude! You stink.” You don’t want to hear that when you’re trekking, right? Travel Secrets writer Aarohi Roy shows you how to have a spotless trek.

Trekking cleaniness

Amateur bag-packer that I am, it’s hard to adhere to or even know the rules of cleanliness in a forest. I researched, and there are quite a few of them. So next time I plan on camping out, I’m going to be well prepared.

For starters, have you ever heard of Isopropyl alcohol? This alcohol-based compound is a life saver that lets you clean without water. Carry a small bottle of this and a few cotton balls; you’re all set for a grime-free trek. If you’ve seen—‘Eat. Pray. Love’—the movie, there is a scene when Julia Robert’s Italian housekeeper pours a kettle of hot water in her bath and says that it’ll clean all parts that NEED to be cleaned. Well, the alcohol is similar.

When water is available, bathe as many times you can but don’t use soaps in rivers—Nature has issues with soaps. Also, if you come across multiple rivers and creeks in a day, don’t lose the chance to at least dip your feet in them. Yes, yes, just your feet. Did you know there are at least 20 common diseases caused by unkempt feet? Also, every time you soak and dry your feet, you can rotate your socks.

Did you know that cosmetics and perfumes attract wild animals? So does toothpaste. So brush your teeth far from your tents and stomp when you spit. The soil is the best cover up. And always, always be safe while drinking or eating fruits because the juice—if spilled—will attract mosquitoes. Mosquitoes will make you fall sick quicker than anything else in the forest.

If odour is a problem, switch to light-weight wool or silver-embedded clothing. Change your clothes while sleeping, and hang the day’s clothes—helps the odour. If you still stink, that’s what the isopropyl alcohol is for!

There have been times when I’ve wondered how in Jurassic Park and Lord of The Rings, people stay clean and healthy—seems it’s pretty easy, isn’t it?


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Q: Where can I find adventure in Turkey?

If you have ever been to Turkey, you will agree that it could easily be mistaken for a small continent owing to its rich diversity- both culturally and geographically. Blessed with majestic mountains and valleys, lakes, rivers, waterfalls and grottoes, Turkey is slowly realising its potential and turning into an adrenalin junkies’ paradise.


No matter what time of the year you are planning a visit or which part of the country you want to discover, make sure to let loose and let adventure guide you through its diversity.


The azure waters of the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and the Black Sea, as well as the Sea of Marmara, surround Turkey to the south, west and north. With over 8,333 kilometers of coastline along the four seas, it is a treasure chest of coves, inlets, bays and beaches at which yachtsmen can choose a different and private anchorage each night.


For lovers of the active life, sailing in clear waters provides great opportunities for swimming, fishing, skiing, surfing and diving. It also allows you to experience a truly enriching cultural exchange with the hospitable and gracious people of the coastal villages and towns. During the warmer months from April to November, underwater diving is a popular sport where you can see underwater caverns and sunken ships. There are scuba diving schools throughout the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Choose from amongst  the diving centers of Kas, Kemer, Bodrum, and Saro. Although, Marmaris, Fethiye, Kas and Antalya – all of which provide great facilities.


If water isn’t your territory, Turkey has many mountain s that offer winter sport activities like skiing, mountain climbing and hiking. It presents to mountain lovers an incredible variety of climbing opportunities that are
sure to satisfy the most demanding hikers and climbers. Mountains come in all sizes, geo-morphological and tectonic structures and boast abundant wildlife and forests teeming with diverse flora and fauna. Some of the best winter sports are offered at climbing sites such as Agri-Mount Ararat, Kayseri-Mount-Erciyes, and Rize Kacker Mountain Range.


For those looking to try something different, Turkey has approximately 40,000 caves and caverns to explore from the Caverns of Antayla to the Caves of Zongulduk through a unique sport known as spelunking.


Finally, if you are tired of life on land, try the many air sports that Turkey has to offer. Hang gliding, parachuting, plane gliding, and Para gliding are popular and can be safely carried out in the stable summer weather of Turkey from well-known flight zones of Ölüdeniz (Babadağ) and Denizli (Pamukkale) and falling zones of Ankara, İnönü and Efes.


Excited already? Wait till you get there, only to come back soaked in adventure and with countless interesting stories.

Q: I am planning a Skiing trip to Auli. What should I know before I go?


We caught up with Auli Ski expert Bhaskar and here are his tips for first time Skiers.

  • Skiing is not a difficult sport; however you cannot rush into it. Depending on fitness levels, training could extend up to a month.
  • There would be a lot of stress on your lower body. Work on your stamina before your first skiing experience.
  • There are no age limits. Temperament is what matters. Kids can get easily distracted.
  • For families, Fun skiing packages are available. You can practice skiing for a whole day.
  • Water proof clothing, thermals and good shoes are essential.
  • Goggles should be used at all times on the slope, even when you are not skiing.
  • Skiing season in India is from January to March.

Q: I have finally decided to take my first Bungee jump. What should I know before I go?

bungee jumping

We asked Jupiter Huidrom, who took the plunge not-so-long back and here’s his advice for first time jumpers.

  • It is important to sign up with a reputable bungee jumping company. Choose a company that has been in business for awhile and check on their safety record.
  • Before you decide to sign up for a jump, read up about the sport or talk to someone who has bungee experience.
  • Always wear comfortable shoes when you jump. Avoid flip-flops or slippers.
  • Avoid the bungee if you have a heart condition or high BP.
  • Do not try to maneuver the bungee cord during the jump. This could result in the cord getting strapped around your body or neck.
  • Put your arms out as you free-fall and cross your arms over the shoulders when you recoil. This way you can ensure that there is no obstruction to the recoiling cord.
  • It is okay to back-out at the last moment!  – Most important, says Jupiter!

You can read about Jupiter’s experience here: What Does Bungee Jumping feel like?

Q: I am heading to Rishikesh and have planned to try out White water rafting. What should I know before I go?

White water rafting in Rishikesh

We asked adventure expert Siddhant Dhingra from Great Wide Open and here’s the answer.

  • Always choose a reputed rafting camp/operator. It is essential to have at least two guides on your raft. In dangerous rapids, a guide on a kayak should check for safety before the raft is allowed to pass.
  • The Life-jacket, helmet and paddle are equally important on a rafting trip. The paddle not only acts as a floatation device, but can also be used to steer clear of rocks if you go of-board.
  • Balance is maintained on the raft with the help of your legs. Balance and not paddling, is the most important part of rafting.
  • Non-swimmers can do rafting.
  • There is no age limit, but you should be a minimum of 4.5 feet tall and should weigh at least 45 kgs.
  • Make sure that your raft is not too light or heavy. The right number of people helps to balance the raft.
  • Prior experience in rafting is required for rapid grade 3 and upwards.
  • Floaters/strap-on-sandals are ideal for rafting. You can go barefoot too.
  • Do not attempt Body-surfing in the absence of certified guides.
  • Cliff-jumping is allowed in calmer waters.
  • Most importantly, do not panic!

Find out more about Great Wide open adventures here:

I want to bungee jump. Some heart-in-the-mouth ideas, please?

Extreme Bungee jumps

Pleased to oblige. Try these out – they’re guaranteed to leave you dizzy and screaming out for dear life!

Volcano Bungee – Chile


Jumping off a skyscraper is going to sound like cakewalk after you hear about the Volcano bungee. It is exactly what the name says it is! You fly over the beautiful country of Chile, perched on a helicopter’s skid and just as you see molten lava – you jump in! No kidding – this is the real deal! And we are not done here yet – once you are safely dangling by your ankles, 700 ft above a red hot pool of liquid earth, the helicopter will whisk you away at around 130 km/hr while you stay suspended at 350 plus feet below its skids!

Don’t believe us? Check it out for yourself at

The Last resort – Nepal


Ah! The Himalayas – those majestic mountains that never cease to render us awestruck! Don’t start thinking that this is about jumping off a mountain – c’mon, that is impossible! But imagine this – the picturesque Bhoti Kosi gorge 160 meters below you and you are on a bridge right above one of Nepal’s wildest rivers. Now jump! If the raging rapids are bringing on an involuntary scream feast from within you, try looking sideways instead – the untouched Himalayan jungle could calm down your nerves.

Find out more about this highly respected jump at

Victoria Falls bridge – Zambia/Zimbabwe


Hey, wanna click a pic with a waterfall backdrop? How about posing upside down, free falling from a bridge 111m above the raging Zambezi River? The giddy adrenaline rush from plummeting at a heart stopping speed is toned down with some help from the spraying falls. If you have already had a fair share of head-first freefalls and want to take it up a notch – talk to the jumpmaster and do a back-flip or whatever you fancy.

Read about the rates and more adventure at the Victoria Falls at


Verzasca Dam Bungee – Switzerland


If 007 did it, you can do it too – minus the background music and tux though! If you sat there wide-eyed, watching Mr. Bond set a bungee record in the opening sequence of Goldeneye, you might want to know where exactly he did that. Well, it’s Switzerland and instead of the usual backdrop of the Alps, we have a massive dam in Ticino. 220 m is how high you need to be to make this jump and if you manage to convince your jump master, you could give some competition to cinema’s legendary spy with some flips and twists spicing up the jump.

Ready? Find out how you can get started from

A J Hackett Bungee – New Zealand


If you are a bungee junkie, A J Hackett should be your god and New Zealand your Mecca. Queenstown is the bungee capital of the world and jumping from anywhere around here is going to earn you instant respect. Kawarau Bridge and the Ledge are just two of Hackett’s pets. The opportunities here are ultimate thrillers – start with a run and fashion a flip or two before you soar down to the city lights below or get drenched as you head straight into ‘hard’ water!

Find out about all the other options at

Read about avid traveler Jupiter Huidrom’s first time bungee adventure at

What does bungee jumping feel like?

Jupiter photo 1

Avid adventurist Jupiter Huidrom says it was his life’s most frightening and freeing experience.

Over to him:


The Bote Khosi River

“The moment had arrived. My friend who fears heights was the first to go, surprising me with his alacrity. Hearing his screams echo down the gorge, I felt the goosebumps rise along my arms.  The Bungee Master tied the harness on me, and I stood there, unable even to quake…I was so numb. I took three steps  toward the edge of the bridge. It was  the longest walk of my life.

The 160 m high suspended Steel bridge

And when I heard his voice “Ready…On a count of 3, 2, 1… and jump,” there was a sudden rush of emotions in my heart. Countless moments of my life flashed in my mind. My mom. Home. My office desk back in Delhi. And then I jumped.

Everything inside me froze as I plummeted toward the river, though I could feel each and every part of each and every bone. I so wanted to scream, but I was frightened as hell. At the same time, I felt so free that I closed my eyes and lived every second of the fall.

And when I was finally suspended, I thought it was over; only to realise I was upside down, spinning continuously. Below me, the monstrous river gushed in full flow. I reached desperately  for the bamboo that would pull me back up to the river bank.

The moment I felt solid earth beneath my back, I let out the pent up air from inside my lungs, and cried—bawled—like a baby!  My friend who had jumped first hugged me. We cried, and then we jumped  around crazily, as we didn’t know how to deal with the sudden rush of emotions.

If you asked whether I conquered my fear by jumping once, the answer is No! Because when we stepped on that bridge again, it shook as before, and I felt the same fear. ”

This is part of our May-June 2013 Cover Story, focusing on the Himalayas. Buy your copy of the issue here.

Quick secrets from a biker, please?

What’s it like to be a biker? Rake Chauhan is one of the founders of Born2Ride, a club for motorcycle enthusiasts. We caught up with him (puff, pant!) at Delhi’s Revv Cafe.

Snippets from the chat:


Adrenaline rush on a Harley?

When the speed-o-meter touches maximum: 220 kmph.

Define your Harley.

Never ending customisation. Everything can be changed on a Harley.

Leather jacket, tattoos, Death Metal, boots, Ray-Ban, rugged define a typical biker. What defines you?

A good heart is what most bikers have.

Are you a Back Door rider?

We have different rankings. Lead – lead keeps an eye out on the road like a pot hole or traffic on the opposite / wrong side / technical problems in bikes, Sweep – biker who is the last man in the group to ensure that no man is left behind and Marshall– biker between the lead and sweep and takes care of the traffic which passes through and to organize the group in single or  double lane. Me and another person are the lead.

A route you are waiting to cruise on and why?

Leh in India, Route 66 in USA and Trail of the Dragon (318 curves in 11 miles, North Carolina, US)

 Do you ride solo?

Sometimes; or when I am in a certain mood.

Sex, money, power, hunger, clothes OR fuel, CC, tyres, kick start, accelerator, roads and you?

It’s a no-contest: the second option, of course.

Rake Chauhan spoke to  Subhashish Bharuka. This article was published in Travel Secrets magazine Sept-Oct 2012. 

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