Hindustan Times, 26 September 2017
This Diwali, take a wild ride with your family!
Here’s the transcript:
The oft-trodden paths of popular tourist destinations can often be too crowded and too cliche to become the kind of amazing and memorable vacation you wish to share with your family.
The festive season is a time for togetherness and to make memories that last forever – which is unlikely to be accomplished by waiting in long queues, straining to see some sights over the shoulders of strangers, or having to lift up your child so he or she can understand why thousands are straining to look at the same faraway object or sight.
How are you meant to make this time about your family when you have to share this time with so many other people? Haven’t you sometimes wished while on vacation that you were the only people there?
What you need is a change in destination. There are many wonderful places to see, especially in a country as vast and varied as India. Offbeat tourist destinations offer beautiful tourist experiences, while adding to it the feeling of adventure and thrill that comes when you take the road less travelled.
Exploring some beautiful places together and sharing the experience adds to the feeling of being part of a family. Children are also more enthused when they learn about and see things that they have never experienced or heard of before.
Here is a list of some natural parks and reserves in India by Jayanth Sharma, Co-founder & CEO at Toehold that are packed with fun for the whole family and will fulfill your desire for a great Diwali vacation.
Ranthambore: This vacation, instead of splurging on royal heritage hotels or opulent villas in Rajasthan, head to Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve. Well known for sightings of tigers, you can also spot sloth bears, leopards, and jackals in their natural habitats.
Spotting exotic species and engaging in wildlife photography in this vast natural reserve offers an unmatched travel experience. If spending a day chasing wildlife makes the children restless, you can spend the next day at the Wild Dragon Adventure Park. Overlooking the beautiful lakes and hills of this pristine reserve, it is a perfect spot for kids (and adults!) to enjoy activities such as bungee jumping, zorbing balls, riptide rides, and a haunted house, amongst many other exciting rides for the adrenaline junkies.
Bandhavgarh and Kanha: You don’t have to travel all the way to Africa to experience the pleasure of an elephant safari. The Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh offers a scintillating mist-laden journey through the heart of the tiger’s habitat, all centred around a haunting 2,000 year old fort, said to have been gifted by Lord Ram to his brother Lakshman.
The neighbouring Kanha natural reserve, the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, showcases no less than a 1,000 species of flowering plants, and is spotted by lush grassland meadows which are frequented by the pride of the jungle, the ‘barasingha’ or swamp deer. Children will find it exciting to be gamboling across paths traveled by Mowgli, and potentially spot a Royal Bengal Tiger.
Kaziranga: A UNESCO world heritage site, Kaziranga National Park in Assam hosts two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinoceros. While Assam is well-known for its sprawling lush tea gardens, this reserve showcases its rich natural heritage and gorgeous forestland.
The park is home to wild water buffalos, swampdeers, tigers, elephants, hog badgers, capped langurs, hoolock gibbons, wild boars, jackals, wild buffalos, pythons, and monitor lizards. Gift your child a rewarding experience by opting for an elephant safari to explore the sanctuary, and capture on film the rare sights of Indian rhinos and Asiatic elephants.
Gir: Gir is famous for being the only natural habitat still in existence for the Asiatic lion. On a safari at the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, you can also spot other elusive wild species such as blackbuck, chinkara, wild boar, and hyenas.
The forest houses a network of pristine rivers and rivulets that supply freshwater to this dry teak forest, and to the resident species which include the Indian cobra, the Ruddy mongoose, the striped hyena, and the honey badger. The beautiful flora, grasslands and rocky hills combined with a thriving wildlife population makes Gir a unique travel getaway with family and friends.
Jim Corbett: The Jim Corbett National Park is located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand and offers one of India’s greatest wildlife and eco-tourist retreats. From large elephant herds grazing on the sunny grasslands to tigers resting in the shade, Asia’s first natural reserve has something for all wildlife lovers.
Get set for a magical safari with kids and also enjoy fishing, angling, river rafting, rock climbing, river crossing and traversing. Don’t be so busy looking for the tiger that you miss out on the wide variety of bird species – Jim Corbett National Park is home to over 500 species of birds such as brown dipper, wall creepers, white-capped water redstarts, gray-headed fish-eagle, plumbous and many species of wagtails.