TRAVEL PLANNING-BIRD PARADISE-Bharatpur-TAIL OF THE TIGER-Bandhavgarh-Exploring the Mystical HADOTI- Road To ADVENTURE-Hills, Mist,Orchids and theRains-SHILLONG-Kanyakumari-Vivekananda Rock-WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES during monsoon-
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Thinking of a break and don’t know where to start? Try the Internet.
The Internet has made planning a travel an cinch, if not the travel itself. Any respectable airline, hotel, or tour company must have a website loaded with information and package offers. And then there are blogs, where you get a peek into people’s personal travel experiences. Planning an itinerary has never been easier.
However, you may still need travel agencies to handle your international travel, as you need to show your passport and visa to book international tickets and rooms in foreign hotels.
You may also need some handholding to plan complex multi-modal, multi-location trips, espe—cially when traveling in a group. Also, airlines and hotels tend to offer best deals directly to customers or through the agencies with which they have had long association.
Even in the networked US, only half the travel bookings are done online, even though Americans can travel much of the world without visas. Moreover, points out Vikas Jawa, business head, Zoomtra.com, you may hesitate to offer you credit card details online for high-value foreign travel.
Still, travel portals are a tremendous help, particularly for booking local trips in far-off places. For example, ezeego.com has tried up with Euro rail for train trips across Europe and a few cruise liners for cruises. In any case, travel portals in India are new and will take time to generate referrals from satisfied users.
With growing demand from Indian travelers, travel portals are mushrooming – there are already about 30 of them around – making it quite in effort to scour the online travel market for the best deals. Most people end up surfing about 10 portals only to find similar information.
Help has come in the form of aggregator travel portals such as Zoomtra.com and ixigo.com, who scour travel portals to provide you a comparison of the deals being offered by them.
Though the anytime, anywhere convenience of the Net is useful, yet before you actually leave home, do and double-check with the airline and the hotel you booked, particularly when you are using the lesser brands.
Sometimes, hotels and airlines directly sell off the same quota of inventory that they allocate to travel portals.
Three hours' drive from Delhi,a bird watchers's heaven.The routine of sneaking up on colonies of nesting painted storks,feeding herons and dancing flamingoes in boats,and walking through kilometres of foiliage spotting hundreds of species of birds seems like a memory at Bharatpur.In the winter,the migratory birds,which fly in from China,Central Asia,and as far as Siberia to escape the harsh ice season flew past Bharatpur to a lake 50 kms away near Agra.Founded by the local ruler in the 1870s and a World Heritage Site since 1985,winter capital of the Asian birds.Surely,next winter u will see tens of thousands of colourful,chirpy,and even rare birds at Bharatpur.
One of the best places to catch sight of a tiger is Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh.The 437-sq.km.Bandhavgarh jungle is a shallow forested valley amidst 30-odd Vindhya hills.Besides tigers,there is also the 14th century Bandhavgarh fort and the caves in the nearby hills to see.March to May is the best period to see the tiger at Bandhavgarh when heat thins down the grass cover for the moving tigers.Getting to Bandhavgarh can be trying-the nearest airport at Khajuraho is 230 km away and it is an overnight train journey from most metros of India.But the hardship of travelling to the tiger's den makes the adventure even more exciting.
Towars the south-east of Rajasthan is one of its least explored regions,the Hadoti region.It is a region that is full of great historical towns with a proud heritage dating back several centuries.The region is a wildlife paradise and an oasis in the desert state.The jungle,the vast stretches of forests,the sprawling golden rocks,the graceful Chambal and ravines in the area have created some of the most spectacular wildlife sanctuaries of the region.The industrial town of Kota,located along the eastern bank of the Chambal river,is also a dreamland for wildlife enthusiasts with its blend of nature,rich wildlife and splendid outdoors.The well-known wildlife sanctuaries and parks in the area include the Mkundara National Park,the Shergarh Sanctuary(Baran),Jawahar Sagar Sanctuary (Bundi) and the National Chambal Ghariyal Sanctuar,Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary(Bundi),Sorsan in Baran is the Great Indian protected area.In fact,Rudyard Kipling,set much of the surroundings of the Hadoti belt into his novels and travelogues.
The Gavdi Talab,located 25km from the Ramganjmandi Railway Station on the the Indore-Kota Highway,is fast emerging as a major camping centre.With all modern-day comforts,Gavdi Talab gives travellers a unique opportunity to explore the hidden treasures of mystical Jhalawar and also to rejuvenate themselves.Similarly,the 7th Century Kolvi caves are being promoted as part of the Buddhist circuit.The region is also host to the impregnable Gagron Fort,which took several centuries to build.A beautiful mausoleum of Sufi saint Mitteheshah is situated outside the Fort,where a fair is held every year.The Chandrabhagha cattle fair,held every year in November,is a major draw for tourists.Close to the venue of the fair is the City of Bells orJhalarapatan.Famous for its 10th century Sun Temple and the 11th century Jain Temple,the town boasts a rich repertoire of sculpturesand preserved idols.
Relax with golf,go rallying or boating in the Chambal river through the gorges of the Vindhayan plateau of Hadoti,or go up in hot air balloons to catch a glimpse of the magnificence that is Rajasthan.The terrain in Rajasthan is tailor-made for most adventure sports,what with itsAravalli and Vindhayan hills,the open desert tracts,the vast lakes and rivers,the wildlife parks,and the rich countryside.The state today has become a favourite destination for car rallyists.
If u do not like the road,the state has just the right air for u.The undulating sand dunes are ideal for ballooing buffs.People can even travel short distances between towns or historic resorts in their hot air balloons.Another sport for aerial enthusiasts is parasailing-a sport that is just beginning to make its mark in the state.The hilly areas of Rajasthan provide several days of ideal trekking opportunities.The Mewar belt with theUdaipur-Kumbhalgarh-Chittor combine,or the area around MountAbu,or the Sariska-Alwar-Amber belt is best for trekking.The Bundi-Kota circuit with its vast stretches of forests and wildlife,sprawling rocks and ravines seems just right for adventure.
Shillong is at its best when it rains.The mist envelopes the lush hills and flows down verdant vales.....Truly a sight for sore eyes.
Shillong,the capital of Meghalaya,is absolutely stunning.It is perched at 1491 m above sea level and borrows its name from U Shyllong,a potent deity.Its roads are narrow,winding and undaunting,its houses very Anglican and laced with flowers-the geraniums,the poinsettias and the marigolds add that divine spash of colour to the whites,the green and the blues of the houses.
Ward's Lake-This century-old artificial lake sits in the heart of the city and the locals prefer to call it Nan Polok(Polok's Lake)It's a favourite with joggers and anglers.
Capt.Williamson Sangma State Museum-Bang opposite the State Central Library is this beautiful ancient church,its spires reaching out to the sky and its doors the colour of ebony.Within its premises are two monoliths,one commemorating the centenary of the church building and the other celebrating 125 years of the All Saints Congregation held in Shillong.
Golf Course-Set at an altitude of 5200 ft and often referred to as the 'Gleneagle of the East',this famed course was set up in 1898 as a nine-hole course.
Shillong Peak-Nearly 1965 m above sea level and 10 km away from the city of Shillong,Shillong Peak is the highest point in Meghalaya.On a foggy day,u are literally one with the clouds.On a sunny day,u can have a stunning bird's eye viewof the city.Every spring,people gather here to watch the priest of Mylliem state offer prayers to U Shulong.
Mawphlang Sacred Grove-Drive 20 km to the Mawphlang Sacred Grove,also called Law Lyngdoh.Home to rare orchids like the Blue Vanda and Lady's Slipper and also the carnivorous pitcher plant,the grove is a shining example of ecosystem preservation.The humus-covered ground is home to some of the rarest plants,unseen in any other part of the world.It is trully a naturalist's delight.
Pristine Shillong is often referred to as the 'Scotland of the East' due to its striking similarity with the lush Scottish highlands
The Vivekananda Rock
The panorama off the coast-the waters of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal mingling into the Indian Ocean-is a unique sight.Kanyakumari-officially spelt 'Kaaiyakumari'-is located at the southern tip of India.Though now a busy tourist spot,there are retreats away from the bustle of city life at Kanyakumari.U will be surprised to see the clean beaches and clear and frothy blue waters.In the early morning,u can visit the Devi Amman Temple at Kanyakumari; if fortunate enough to watch the idol being bathed with milk and dressed for the day by the priests.This small temple ,believed to have been built during the Vedic period and then expanded by Swami Vivekananda and his followers,is dedicated to the primeval energy,Shakti.The idol's diamond nose -ring is famous for its dazzling spendour,supposed to be visible from the sea.The chief attraction for u is the Vivekananda Rock.The memorial is situated on one of twin rocks out of the sea,nearly 200 metres from the shore.Adjacent to this is the 95-ft-tall statue of the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar.Astroll on Kanyakumari's unique beach is fun enough,with its manyhued sand.The sun set and the moon rise at the horizon almost simultaneously-a great gig in the sky!
WET AND WILD
There are some game sanctuaries open during the monsoon in Maharashtra and South India-
TADOBA NATIONAL PARK,CHANDRAPUR
The great attraction here is,of course,the tiger.Located in Chandrapur district in north-eastern Maharashtra,this is one of the places where u can still catch sight of one-there are said to be 25 tigers in the park.Though tigers and other animals congregate a the watering holes(Irai and Tadoba Lakes) in summer,u could just lucky and spot one in the rains.U can stay at the Tiger Trails lodge which offers machans and cottages for guests.
Hot Ticket- Tiger Trails inside the forest offers a year-round Jungle plan at Rs.4000/- based on double-occupancy for 4-nights and 5-days in cottages includes unlimited drives inside the park,accommodation,all transfers and meals,campfire and machan sit-outs at night.Ecludes park fees and air/rail fares.
SANJAY GANDHI NATIONAL PARK,MUMBAI
Taking a wildlife vacation in the middle of Mumbai might seem like an odd idea.But Sanjay Gandhi National Park is situated in Borivili,the northern suburbs of the metropolis.There is a Lion and a Tiger Safari Park there(closed on Mondays).Do visit the Buddhist Kanheri Caves within the park.Four rest-houses and two camp sheds are available for tourists to stay.
Hot Ticket-Safaris take place both in mornings (9am to 1pm)and in the afternoon (2.20pm to 5.20pm)Rates Rs.30/- per adult and children Rs.15/-.
BANDIPUR NATIONAL FOREST,KARNATAKA
It is one of the oldest reserves in Karnataka and u can also find Asiatic elephants here.This is also a Project Tiger Reserve,one of the 27 across India.The park lies at the heart of an extensive forest at the confluence of the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Hills and is on the Mysore-Ooty highway.
Hot Ticket-Cox & Kings has a year-round 3-nights and 4-days package to Bandipur National Park priced at Rs.13,053/- per person on twin-sharing basis,includes 3-star accommodation at the Tusker Trails Resort,all transfers in an AC vehicle,airfares and all meals.
MUDUMALAI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY,TAMIL NADU
This is actually a continuation of Bandipur Forest but the two sanctuaries are separated by the River Moyar which flows along the border of Tamilnadu and Karnataka.Afternoon safaris either on elephant-back or in jeeps at the park are available.The western side of the sanctuary under more rainfall than the eastern during the south-west monsoon(june to september).There is an elephant Feeding Camp where u can watch the animals being fed. U could get to see tigers, leopards, hyena, jackal, gaur, spotted deer,wildboars and other.
Prudent Networks offers a year-round 2-nights and 3-days package at Rs.16758/- per person on twin-sharing bass.It includes accommodation at Casa Deep Wood luxury hotel,all meals,trekking inside park,all transfers,morning and afternoon jeep safaris,all road taxes and elephant ride inside the park,ecludes airfares.
PERIYAR NATIONAL PARK,KERALA
If u are a wildlife enthusiast,visit the Periyar Tiger Reserve situated in the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats in Kerala's Idukki District.The forests reserve surrounds Periyar Lake,pugmarks can be seen throughout the reserve.Other animal include Malabar squirrels,deer,Nilgiri langur and several birds.Boat cruises on the Periyar Lake operate throughout the rainy season.There are also trekking programmes ,starting from Gavi and ending at the Meenar Camp.
Travelguru has a 5-nights and 6-days Kerala Wildlife package priced at Rs.13599 per person on twin-sharing basis,includes accommodation in deluxe hotels,all transfers and daily breakfast only.excludes air/rail fars.Valid till September 30th,2008.
TRAVEL AS ADVENTURES
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