Being a soft-adventure sport, almost anyone in reasonable physical condition can go trekking. To get initiated into trekking begin with day hikes, returning to your starting point in the evening. Move on to a multi-day trek which is relatively easy, in order to get to know your ability and aptitude. You can venture into the mountains with an experienced trekker, join an adventure club, or go with a reputed adventure travel company. It is not a good idea to venture out into the mountains alone – unless you happen to be a distant relative of the mythical Himalayan yeti (or an aspiring Reinhold Messner, the first person in the world to have climbed all fourteen 8000m peaks, including the first oxygen-less ascent and later the first solo ascent of Everest). A basic knowledge of camp craft, map reading and first aid is essential before you go trekking. It’s a good idea to do an adventure course from one of the mountaineering/ adventure institutes in India. A basic course in mountaineering and a first-aid course are recommended if you decide to take it up more seriously and trek to remote/high-altitude areas. Get as much information about the trekking area as possible – the people, their culture, the geography, terrain, medical/rescue facilities and weather conditions – before you go.

Trekking in India

Trekking in India started when the land was inhabited in prehistoric times. There are perhaps as many trekking routes in India as there are Indians. It was in the 1970’s and 1980’s that trekking started gaining in popularity as a recreational/adventure sport. A number of religious sites and shrines across the country, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand – such as Badrinath, Amarnath, Gangotri, Hemkund, Joshimath, Kedarnath, Vaishno Devi and Yamunotri – entail trekking for a couple of days in the mountains. Trekking in India has grown in leaps and bounds and the current trekking scenario is very promising, with thousands of Indians and foreigners hitting trekking trails each year.

What India can boast of is some of the most stunning trekking routes in the world – many of the mountain passes in the Ladakh and Zanskar Himalayas are above 5000m. But there are plenty of gentler and smaller trails, at different altitudes, both in the mountains and in the forests. If you’re looking for less arduous hikes, you’ll find plenty in in the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Hills of south India (Munnar and Wayanad in Kerala, Coorg in Karnataka, and around Ooty in Tamil Nadu).


Rafting, the high-adrenaline sport of navigating a river in an inflatable raft, involves several levels of difficulty, depending on how choppy the river is. These ‘grades’ of difficulty are arrived at according to the presence of rapids, which evolve due to sudden plunges in the river’s height, and also because of rocks – small or large – that may be lurking in the waters. Rafting is a challenging but tremendously fun activity – just remember to keep the instructor’s safety tips in mind! White-water (rapids) does invoke fear but river-running done properly – under professional guidance, with the right training, using the appropriate equipment, taking all safety precautions, and by following a set of international safety and ecological norms – can be an extremely safe, enjoyable and exciting soft-adventure sport.

The sport’s popularity is probably due to the fact that almost anyone, including non- swimmers and those with no prior experience can, go rafting. All it takes is 15 minutes of instructions and you can have the time of your life – riding the waves, getting splashed and enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the river.

Rafting in India

Boasting world-class rafting potential, cultural and geographical diversity, easy access to most rivers, a host of international-standard river-running outfitters (with state-of- the-art equipment), an ethos steeped in hospitality, and – conveniently – no permit requirements for river running (except in the ‘inner line’, close to the border areas), India is emerging as ‘the river-running destination’ of the world. Rafting is certainly well on its way to becoming the most popular adventure sport in the country, and India a Shangri La for river-runners. With myriad rivers gushing through its heart, unspoilt environs, the riverine flora and fauna and the region’s rich and ancient culture, the Indian Himalayas make up an exciting destination for hard-core rafters. And while commercial rafting has come of age in the country, there are opportunities aplenty for first-timers, from juniors to septuagenarians, to learn and master the skills of ‘river-running’ – 9-year-old schoolchildren and 70-year-olds have rafted down rivers in India.Currently there are over 50 commercial outfitters in India organizing trips ranging from two-hour runs to multiple-day expeditions.


Angling, or sport fishing, is catching fish by using an ‘angle’, or a fish hook. The hook is fixed to a fishing line, which is attached to a fishing rod (this, typically, is fitted with a fishing reel). To lure fish, the hook is dressed with a bait (often, a ‘bite indicator’ like a float is used). Baits can be natural (fishes’ prey like worms, insects, earthworms and maggots – dead or alive) or artificial (a ‘lure’ can – but doesn’t have to – represent real prey).

There are three types of angling – spinning, fly fishing and bait fishing. Angling can be done with a rod – where the rod is attached to a reel – or by just a line. The classic ‘hook, line and sinker’ technique – the hook, attached to a line, weighed down by a sinker – is every angler’s go-to (and failsafe) fishing practice. Angling is pursued usually for pleasure (recreation) or for food. Anglers also take part in fishing tournaments, winning prizes for the weight or length of the fish caught (the species is determined beforehand) within a specified period of time.

Angling in India

Though probably not as popular a pastime as it is in the West, angling has its loyal followers in India, and also a growing tribe of converts. Once ‘hooked’, the ‘bait’ of angling (puns unintended) proves difficult to avoid. Which other sport offers you hours of tranquility and reflection, in the great outdoors (and, at the same time, presents you with the opportunity to catch fish)? If there’s one fish that India is renowned for, it is the Mahseer, a species of carp that inhabits many of the rivers in the Indian Subcontinent. However, the mighty Golden Mahseer (now, unfortunately, endangered) is only resident in the Himalayan region. To catch one of these big beauties is an angler’s dream. The Golden Mahseer is found in rivers fed by glaciers, snow and springs, while the red-finned and yellow-finned Mahseer is only found in spring-fed rivers.

Besides the Mahseer, among the species of fish that can be seen in abundance in Indian rivers are the gargantuan Goonch (catfish) and various species of trout (brown and rainbow – introduced by the homesick British). The Lower Himalayas is regarded as the best spot for sport fishing; the Ramganga and the Sarda (Uttarakhand) both offer fantastic Mahseer fishing (as well as Goonch and trout). Anglers on the lookout for the Mahseer can also try their luck in the rivers of the Indian peninsula – Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna and Mahanadi – almost throughout the year (except during the monsoons). In Karnataka, the lure of the Kaveri proves difficult to resist for anglers – it is probably the best river for sport-fishing (Mahseer) in India. The Indus, Jhelum and Lidder rivers in Jammu and Kashmir, and their tributaries (Bringhi, Aru, Sheshnag), are home to brown trout. Down south, you’ll come across trout in the rivers and streams of the Nilgiri Hills (Tamil Nadu), and also in neighbouring Kerala (especially in the streams around Munnar). In the north, the Ganges and the Yamuna (and their tributaries) are home to the Mahseer, trout and the Goonch. Trout can be found in Himachal Pradesh – brown trout in the many streams in the Larji Valley (Kullu-Manali) that converge in the River Beas, and trout in the Sangla Valley (also known as Baspa Valley). On India’s coasts, you’ll encounter saltwater fish such as mackerel, marlin, perch, sailfish, sea bass, snapper, snook, tripletail and tuna.


Birding (or, as it’s more commonly known, birdwatching) is the observation of birds as recreation. It is a pastime, as opposed to ornithology, the study of birds and their habitats which employs a more scientific approach. Birding is an inexpensive and delightful way to learn about nature’s winged wonders – and the perfect to while away the time outdoors.

Birding is usually done with the naked eye (or via binoculars) but also by ear. In fact, most species of birds are identified by listening out for their unique cheeps and tweets. Birds can be spotted from their habitat, behaviour, movement, colour and markings, plumage, silhouette (shape and size), beak shapes and calls (or songs). (As for the nomenclature, in ‘birdwatching’ the emphasis is more on the visual, while the term ‘birding’ carries both auditory and ocular associations, thus more accurately reflecting the activity.) Beyond spotting different species of birds (common and rare), many birders soon become interested in studying birds, and birdlife, in more detail – their habitats, and their patterns of migration, roosting and breeding, etc.

Birding in India

The work of Salim Ali (1896-1987), the legendary Indian ornithologist, went a long way towards sparking an interest in birding amongst Indians (though the number of birders in India still pales in comparison to the birding populations of the USA and the UK). The passionate endeavours of the ‘Birdman of India’ helped promote birding into a serious hobby where previously it was more a fun activity. Ali’s ‘Book of Indian Birds’ has become a bible for budding birders and ornithologists. India is home to a dazzling cornucopia of birdlife, in large part due to the diverse ecosystems that exist in the country. It has been estimated that there are 1250 species (approx.) in the country (around 13 percent of the total number of species in the world), both resident and migratory. Out of the 1250, more than 100 are endemic to India (77 are endangered). For the purposes of avifauna classification, India is divided into 13 bio-geographical zones: Trans Himalayan, Western Himalayas, Eastern Himalayas, Desert, Semi-arid, Gangetic Plain, Central India, Deccan Plateau, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, North East, Coasts, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


The term wildlife safari used to be associated with big-game hunts. Nowadays (thankfully), people no longer “hunt” for wildlife but for observing (and capturing on camera) all creatures great and small, in their natural habitats. This is sightseeing out in the Great Wide Open.

There are various types of safari experiences, ranging from guided safaris, walking safaris, jeep safaris and fly-in safaris to more specialized types, among them elephant safaris, camel safaris, horse safaris, river safaris, balloon safaris, photographic safaris and accessible safaris for the disabled.

Wildlife Safari in India

India boasts a range of habitats, and an amazing store of biodiversity. Although poaching is a serious issue, a safari here still offers one of the best chances on earth to get up close with wildlife in the natural habitat. In India, one is constantly surrounded by animals – the Hindu faith worships creatures like the elephant, the monkey, the bull and the peacock.

India ranks ninth in the world for the number of animal species (over 400), and also has 12 percent (approx.) of the planet’s birdlife. Altogether, the country has almost 450 wildlife sanctuaries, close to 100 national parks and 18 biosphere reserves.

Among some of the many highlights, one can visit the oldest tiger sanctuary in the country (Corbett National Park), see gharials (crocodiles) at the only reserve dedicated to these water mammals (in Chambal), admire the abundance of avian species in Bharatpur, set eyes on the Bengal Tiger (Sundarbans) and the magnificent one-horned rhino (Kaziranga) out east, and spot elephants and tigers down south (Nagarhole, Bandipur, Mudumalai, Wayanad, Eravikulam, Periyar).