The Telegraph
Sunday , October 28 , 2012
 
IN TODAY'S PAPER
WEEKLY FEATURES
CITIES AND REGIONS
ARCHIVES
Since 1st March, 1999
 
THE TELEGRAPH
 
 
CIMA Gallary

EXTREME GETAWAYS

Low hillocks, ravines and rocky outcrop surround Botanix — a resort near Damdama Lake in Sohna, Gurgaon, a two-hour drive from Delhi. Here, the temperatures are high and the dust comes in mouthfuls. But as evening approaches and the sun begins to lose its sting, the resort comes to life.

At one end of the 40-acre property, a hot air balloon is being tested and flared for its tethered flight. At another, a trained driver revs his jeep for off-road parasailing, displacing mounds of earth in the process.

For this adventure resort, the day has just begun. In summer, it’s only between 5pm and 7pm that the serious business of adventure sports takes off. The 50-odd guests staying on-location have found that vacations like these are the perfect way to satiate their adventurous streak and experience an adrenaline rush.

Adventure resorts across the country are attracting an increasing number of thrill-seekers to get their fix of knife-edged adventure sports. While some are opting for day trips, others stay overnight to get their fill of kayaking, mountain biking and the rough and tumble of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). So, you can set off for resorts in Raigad or Sajan in Maharashtra, Manesar and Sohna in Gurgaon, or Karwar in Karnataka or Munnar in Kerala. Located a driving distance away from big cities, these destinations are becoming hotspots for adrenaline junkies.

The formula for resort owners is simple: offer something that takes you away from the bustle of city life but not too far from home either. Hans Resorts in Maharashtra’s Kolad village works on that premise. “People want something new and different,” says Hemant Khatu of Hans. Most of those who come here are professionals from Mumbai, Nashik and Pune looking for extreme sport as a stress-buster. And being just over 100km from the cities gives them that edge over hill resorts.

The underlying theme of these resorts is adventure and extreme sports. You could go snorkelling in Kolad’s Kundalika river or conquer towering rapids in Karwar, Karnataka. You could pilot a race car and fly along a zip line in the plains near Lonavala and in Sajan, Maharashtra. And at Botanix and Surjivan, Gurgaon, it’s the ATVs that get hearts pounding.

The resorts begin to receive adventure-seekers in droves around October. “A large number of bookings start when the weather improves,” says Khatu of Hans Adventure. The high-season at these resorts continues till February.

The concept is novel and all you need is an overnight bag and a pair of running shoes before setting off. The resorts do the rest. “We usually get people who want to let off some steam. They want to do something other than just eat and drink while on vacation,” says Atul Vashisht of Botanix, where room rates start at Rs 4,500 (plus taxes, per night for two).

“We warn our guests that they shouldn’t be afraid of getting their hands dirty as this is not a run-of-the-mill holiday,” he says. The best part is that most of the adventure activities on the menu are included in the room cost (hot air ballooning though costs an additional Rs 1,100 and an ATV ride Rs 500 per person at Botanix).

As adventure tourism picks up in popularity, resort owners say that it’s the culture of corporate retreats and influx of school students that helps keep business afloat year-round. Says Deven Srivastav of Surjivan Resort, a 50-acre property on the Delhi-Jaipur highway which has dedicated many acres to adventure sports: “To attract bookings through the year, we offer discounts in summer to schools and MNCs to host their off-site events. Families and college students start arriving when the weather improves around September.”

Thrill-seekers upwards of five years are welcome at these resorts. “We’ve had 70-plus women snorkelling and people older than that climbing rocks. As long as they are physically fit, we don’t mind,” says Joachim Pinto, owner of Paradise Resorts in Karnataka.

WHERE TO HEAD

Adventure companies like Nature Trails in Maharashtra have several resorts offering a variety of activities. Its Kundalika rafting camp lures guests with white water rafting and kayaking by day and barbecues by night. Its 30-acre campus at Sajan offers a back-to-nature experience while the Koyna camp is surrounded by 35km of Koyna backwaters where one can enjoy wind surfing.

The company’s other resorts are just as exciting — Durshet is situated in a huge teak forest while Dabhosa has a perennial 300ft waterfall at hand. All of these are just a one-to-three-hour drive from Mumbai, Pune and Surat. “Our most in-demand sports are rappelling, kayaking and white-water rafting,” says Chinmay Divekar, director of Nature Trails. The non air-conditioned cottages at the chain’s resorts start at Rs 5,000 (for a couple for a night). The cost includes the activities available at the resorts like rafting, kayaking and Flying Fox.

Paradise Resort in Karnataka offers tree-top cottages and camps in the wilderness for the more adventurous souls. The resort also has regular rooms for those who want service thrown in along with canoeing, kayaking, rafting, tubing and wind gliding (a package including all the activities costs Rs 1,000 extra per person). The room rates start at Rs 7,000 for a night for two.

The resort owners are convinced that the future of extreme tourism in India is zippy. The 36-acre Della Adventure resort in Lonavala in Maharashtra offers the longest Flying Fox escapade in the country (it covers some 1,250ft). Flying Fox will have you harnessed in place for an aerial adventure as you glide down cables between two poles. At Della, a day loaded with adventure sports costs Rs 2,000 but if you’d rather stay the night then a villa costs Rs 12,000 for two and includes all activities at the resort.

The resort has a mind-boggling 86 other adventure activities to select from like zorbing, trekking, aqua zorbing and artificial rock climbing. “Extreme tourism is a buzzword and Flying Fox the most popular sport with guests,” says Pearl Sangha of Della. She says the appetite for adventure tourism is on the upswing with the segment seeing an over 10 per cent year on year increase.

Most resorts offer a chance to explore a host of extreme sports on the ground as also aerial and water-based activities. At Kamath Residency in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, guests are taken to Kansai waterfall, which is 7km by car followed by a 30-minute jungle trek. Here, professionals conduct kayaking, jet skiing and rappelling.

Amateurs can also try their hands (and feet) at zorbing, roller zorbing or hop onto an ATV ride or do some dirt biking. While zorbing takes you on a spin down a natural turf decline for about 200ft giant plastic ball, in roller zorbing two or more people can roll, in a pool within a donut-shaped rubber ball. Adventure packages here start at Rs 750 per person for day visitors and if you choose to stay that will be between Rs 5,400 and Rs 7,500 a night for two.

Adventure-seekers near Delhi can have a blast at Surjivan. Srivastav of Surjivan Resort says that they also offer a mud pool to play in. A night’s stay for two at the resort starts at Rs 5,000 (plus taxes). The cost of activities is additional and starts at Rs 300 (depending on your pick).

Says Divekar of Nature Trails: “As hill holidays give way to adrenaline-pumping breaks, people come to our resorts for rappelling, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and valley crossing. The weekend crowd has almost doubled in the last year.”

Pinto, owner of Paradise Resorts, is an environmental consultant who lived in the US for 14 years before coming back and setting up his resort 6km from the Goa border. “I’ve always been an adventure fanatic. So, I wanted to set up a place where you could get your adrenaline fix and also appreciate nature,” he says.

But if you don’t want to sweat it out, you could hit the hills in Kerala for a retreat to Camp Noel. The trip to this resort is an adventure in itself. Set in Munnar, Camp Noel is 36km away from the city and another 10km into the forest areas. “To reach here, you have to go off the road,” says Craig D’Souza, manager, Camp Noel. Though the resort doesn’t organise any adventure activities, it offers tough, day-long treks within the forest area of Munnar. Camping, trekking, wildlife safaris and off-road adventures are included in the cost of the stay (starting at Rs 6,000 for two).

So, go ahead choose a heart-stopping adventure that you won’t forget in a hurry.