Delve into a bunch of daredevil activities that also double up as stressbuster
Bitten by the adventure bug, an increasing number of well-heeled Indians are gliding through the air, strung on parachutes, fighting river rapids on flimsy rafts, diving deep into the seas or plunging dizzying heights connected to nothing but an elastic cord. Sports enthusiasts say it is the excitement, thrill and sometimes even the fear associated with these activities that make them attractive.
Like Pune-based project manager Subhabrata Chattopadhyay, who has drawn up a bucket list of adventurous activities.
"These sports take you out of your comfort zone and are great stress busters. Though these activities are done in the supervision of experts, still there is a certain amount of risk involved and I quite enjoy the thrill," 31-year-old Chattopadhyay.
He has already checked paragliding, parasailing, waterfall rappelling, kayaking and bungee jumping off his list.
"Next up are scuba diving and sky diving," he added.
Chattopadhyay is among the thousands who are making India a booming adventure sports destination.
Adventure activities in India grew by 178 per cent from 2015 to 2018, according to a 2018 survey by online travel portal Thrillophilia.
The survey found that activities like parasailing, paragliding, trekking, hot air ballooning, heli-skiing, river rafting, scuba diving and snorkeling are gaining traction in the country.
Industry players said safety is paramount and they spare no costs.
Their clients are in safe hands, assured Ganesh Gurjar, manager at the Rishikesh-based Red Chilli adventure.
All clients are briefed on dos and don'ts for 20 minutes and also trained in paddling in case of the raft overturning or someone falling.
"Our guards are CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) certified, and ambulances are also available on call," Gurjar added.
Rishikesh's popularity as a river rafting location can be attributed to its 10-month-long rafting season that starts in mid-September and continues till June. Gurjar's company offers four rafting routes - starting from Brahmapuri (9km), Shivpuri (16 km), Marine Drive (26 km), and Kaudiyala (35 km), which cost between Rs800 and Rs2,500.
Bungee jumping is another hot favourite. After offering an "international experience in terms of safety standards" at Rishikesh for nine years, Jumpin Heights is opening a new bungee jumping segment in north Goa later this month.
The project, supported by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), will involve a 55-metre-high bungee jump from cliffs over Mayem Lake. The activity will set an individual back by Rs3,550.
To keep accidental risks at bay, people above 40 years of age will not be allowed to undertake the jump.
Other provisions include Red Cross certified staff in first aid, a permanent doctor on call, and regularly checked equipment.
The final call, after all the security checks are done, lies with the company's experienced jump masters trained in New Zealand (the birthplace of bungee jumping).
"They have the final discretion," he added.
Despite the adrenaline rush he craves for, Delhi-based Waled Aadnan refuses to compromise on safety.
The 28-year-old risk analyst, who has done a bungee jump from Macau Tower, one of the highest in the world at 233 metres, said it was imperative for companies organising such activities to take safety measures but also important for individuals to do their own research.
Aadnan, also a regular high-altitude trekker, stressed on the need for regular health check-ups to ensure high altitude acclimatisation.
Hot air ballooning is another activity that is gaining popularity in India, albeit gradually.
Abhishek Agarwal of Tiger Balloon Safaris, which has been organising hot air balloon rides in Goa for four years, said the sport was yet to become mainstream because of exorbitant prices.
A ride that lasts an hour and a half costs anything between Rs11,000 - 15,000, depending on the size of the balloon.
Licensed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, it is in the company's mandate to employ only licensed pilots.
"To ensure optimum safety levels, we brief riders about dos and don'ts while in air, and during hard landings. The nuts and bolts in the balloon are also checked before every ride. Risks are not taken in case the weather turns unsuitable," Agarwal said.
Clearly, the sky is the limit for adventure junkies, and entrepreneurs.
- Press Trust of India