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Tourists eager to retrace Shankar’s trail

Dev aka Shankar’s exploits in the jungles, mountains and wilderness of South Africa have left Calcuttans eager to explore the country.

If Shankar braved lions and black mambas, Calcuttans too are keen for a taste of adventure — be it bungee jumping, swimming with sharks or swinging from treetops.

The growing interest in the Rainbow Nation was evident from the unprecedented turnout at the South Africa Tourism Roadshow at a city hotel on Monday.

The event, which provided a platform for exchange between South African suppliers and local tour operators, drew over 150 travel agents from the city and more than 60 suppliers from South Africa. On offer was a wide range of packages from wildlife safaris and honeymoon trips to wine tasting and culinary tours.

“The turnout has been absolutely overwhelming. We were expecting around 100 participants but the numbers have far exceeded that,” said Haneli Slabber, the country manager for South African Tourism in India.

Travel agents admitted that the success of Chander Pahar, shot extensively in Kruger National Park, Kalahari Desert, Blyde River Canyon and the mountains of Drakensburg, has increased the number of queries for these destinations.

“Many people have called up to enquire about packages for South Africa and want to visit the places shown in the film. I came here today to find out where exactly the film was shot and what the opportunities are,” said Ravi Jaiswal, who runs Safari Travels at Chandni Chowk.

Tourism officials hope the curiosity will translate into bookings during the peak season from March to August. “The film is a great ambassador for us but the real impact should be felt in three months and we are quite optimistic,” said Evelyn Mahlaba, regional director (Asia and Australasia), South African Tourism.

Unconventional destinations and experiences —bungee jumping 700 feet into a gorge below Bloukrans Bridge or diving into the sea in a cage to be face to face with the great white shark or gliding through steel cables from treetops — have also found takers.

“There seems to be great enthusiasm for bungee jumping. I have got several enquiries,” said Thomas Ngomama, co-ordinator for Face Adrenalin, an adventure company.