|Girl gangs can explore exotic locales like The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa with Women on Wanderlust travel club; (below) Sumitra Senapaty ; Photograph courtesy Wow club|
Why should men have all the fun? It’s time for the fairer sex to ditch the men in their lives and head out for an all-girl, carefree vacation. Imagine throwing your inhibitions to the winds, feeling like a footloose teenager and having a blast on vacation — with some 20 or 30 women fellow-travellers who you may never have met before.
You could be holidaying anywhere — hurling tomatoes at each other at The La Tomatina festival in Spain, learning about wine-making in a remote home-grown vineyard in Nasik, staying deep in a jungle in a tree-house in Wayanad and trying adventure activities with a reckless abandon in the freezing waters of Leh.
Now hear this: women bitten by the travel bug have found their tickets to stress-free vacations, courtesy women travel groups which have a finger on the pulse of what they really want.
A number of travel and adventure clubs are offering all-women travel excursions. Most of these travel clubs are headed and owned by women who are ardent travellers themselves and understand other women’s need to unwind on a vacation. “The objective is to gather a group of diverse, yet like-minded women, who will travel together to interesting places,” says Deepa Varma of Women Explorers club (WE).
“What’s attracting an increasing number of women to such tours is that their families and friends are perhaps too busy to be banked upon as travelling companions,” says Shireen Mehra of Delhi-based Women on Clouds travel club.
|Women can take their pick from Women on Clouds’ wine and temple tours or visit the Thikse Monastry in Leh Ladakh (in picture); (below) Shireen Mehra|
Mehra organises specialised tours like wine tours, apple-picking trips in Thanedar (Himachal Pradesh) and temple tours along with many other domestic and international excursions.
A number of destinations are being covered by these travel clubs. For women who love scenic locations and trekking, there’s the Valley of Flowers treks, overland treks to Lhasa and Everest Base Camp apart from religious trips to Amarnath and Chardham (time of year permitting).
“You could even cruise in the Mediterranean region or visit Alaska apart from exploring South America and Egypt,” says Piya Bose, owner of Mumbai-based women’s travel club Girls on the Go (GOTG).
Sumitra Senapaty was perhaps the earliest bird in this game. In India she realised that there were many women who were passionate about travelling, but were unable to do so due to security and social reasons. That’s when she came up with Women on Wanderlust (WOW).
“I realised that there was a vacuum for this specialised travel in India and decided to give women a platform with the WOW club,” says Senapaty.
Similarly, Mumbai-based Bose realised that women felt more secure when they travelled in groups. Bose gave up her job as a corporate lawyer and started GOTG in 2008.
Kochi’s Rani Bachani, vice president of Viceregal Travels and Resorts, too wanted to give women a chance to travel with other women. So, she appointed Deepa Varma to start and run Women Explorers club (WE), as a wing of the company.
|Watersport enthusiasts have a blast during a Women Explorers club’s excursion on the Zanskar river in Leh, Ladakh; (below) Deepa Varma|
Today WE does about six trips a year and the group size is generally between 16 to 20. This club, like most of the other travel clubs, has a tour escort for all groups.
Bose’s GOTG does an average of one to two trips a month which usually has a group of 10 women each.
The clubs spread the word about upcoming trips on their websites and also send emails to members while some rely on word-of-mouth publicity.
Similarly, Bangalore-based Prema Lakshmi noticed that while travelling with the family that women seldom get a chance to relax or engage in activities of their choice. So, she set up Femmes En Voyage (FEV).
FEV has grown from offering a few trips a year to more than 20 package tours in a year to domestic and international destinations.
Apart from adventure and activity trips, clubs like GOTG also offer tours to specific festivals and cultural events like Nagaland’s Hornbill Festival, the Leh Festival, La Tomatina in Spain and events like the Jaipur Literature Festival.
|The ladies at a Girls on the Go trip unleash their culinary skills during a cooking session in Bali; (below) Piya Bose|
The trips can come with hefty price tags though. WOW’s packages begin at a reasonable Rs 15,000 for a three-day trip per head and go upto over Rs 5 lakh depending on the number of days and destinations covered.
Femmes En Voyage’s domestic packages cost between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 for a week while international tours cost Rs 1 lakh and above for the same period.
WE club trips cost between Rs 43,000 per person (all inclusive) and Rs 1.5 lakh depending on the destination and the number of days while Women on Clouds’ average cost of a weekend trip is about Rs 15,000 for three days while a six-day trip to Ladakh costs Rs 30,000 including airfare and meals.
So, it’s time to give in to wanderlust and some serious female bonding.