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.
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.
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.
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.
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.