Tag Archives: travel news

A unique effort at Mangalajodi gets nominated for UNWTO award


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Fisherman in action at Mangalajodi

Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust of Manglajodi in Khurda district in Odisha has been nominated for United Nations World Tourism Award to be given early next year. It is only nominee from India in this year’s UNWTO awards. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announces the winners of the UNWTO Ulysses Prize and the UNWTO Ethics Award, as well as 14 finalists for the upcoming 14th Edition of the UNWTO Awards for Innovation in Tourism. The Awards Ceremony will be held next January 2018 in Madrid on the occasion of the International Tourism Fair, FITUR.

Campus of Mangalajodi Ecotourism resort

The UNWTO Awards recognize inspirational individuals and projects for their innovative achievement as well as their invaluable dedication to developing and advocating sustainable tourism in line with the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 14th Edition of the UNWTO Awards will take place in January 2018, co-hosted by FITUR, the International Tourism Fair in Spain/IFEMA in Madrid, Spain. The Awards Ceremony will be preceded by the UNWTO Awards Forum where finalists will present their respective projects. Fourteen innovative projects among 128 applicants from 55 countries have been selected as finalists of the 14th UNWTO Awards for Innovation in Tourism.

Boating at Mangalajodi

In the Innovation in Enterprises category Conservation and Livelihoods: Community managed Ecotourism at Mangalajodi,  Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust has been shortlisted. Other nominated enterprises in this category are from Kenya, Italy and Philippines. Mangalajodi is one of the oldest village coming under Tangi block of Khurda district in Odisha, 75 km from Bhubaneswar towards Berhampur with a huge marshland along the northern edge of Chilika Lake. The area (about 10 sq.km) is primarily a fresh water zone connected by channels cut through the reed beds with the brakish water of Chilika lagoon. The numerous channels that crisscross through the greenery, harbour thousands of water birds, migratory and resident. Part of Chilika, 1165 sq.kms.brakish water estuarine lagoon of international importance. The wetland hosts more than 3,00,000 of birds in the peak season. October to March is the best time to visit this place. This region has is a significant global waterfowl habitat and is declared as an “Important Bird Area (IBA)”.

Cottage at Mangalajodi campus

Manglajodi Ecotourism is community owned and managed wildlife conservation venture. AT the heart is the democratic notion that the fragile ecosystems like this belong to everyone. Protection and conservation of Manglajodi wetland is important to us. Mangalajodi epitomizes a sustainable lifestyle that is at brink of extinction. Mangalajodi village consists mainly of fishermen communities, who go fishing every evening to Chilika Lake and come back the next morning with fresh catch.

Boating at Mangalajodi wetland

Local communities still dwell on the indigenous methods of catching fish wherein country made fishing nets are made out of bamboo which do not pose a threat to aquatic life. Fish is an important part of their diet and can be cooked in many forms i.e. cooked; smoked or even sun dried – commonly called “Sukhua”. Dried fish is the staple food and eaten with fermented rice – another peculiarity of Odia Cuisine called “Pokhal Bhat.” Women are involved in collection of fuel wood which is actually dried leaves i.e. they don’t cut a tree for fuel wood – rather utilizes dried leaves.


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Advertisements

Millions of Amur Falcons return to Doyang

Two tagged falcons complete two rounds from Mongolia to South Africa

Amur Falcons at DoyangAs two of the three Amur falcons tagged with satellite tracking chips last year returned to the north-eastern Indian state of Nagaland, central government has now decided to develop Doyang Lake as an ecotourism spot for bird-watchers across the world to have a wonderful and rare sight of Amur Falcons. Doyang lake is famous as a roosting site for longest travelling raptors Amur Falcons. They come every year at Doyang lake during their flight from Mongolia to South Africa.

Pangti is now Amur Falcon capital of world

Snow-white Amur FalconThe two falcons – named Naga and Pangti – tagged in 2013 have already done two rounds from Mongolia to South Africa via Nagaland and have again returned to Nagaland this year. Amur falcons, weigh just 150 grams, cover 5,600 kms, flying non-stop in five days from Mongolia, to arrive in Nagaland.  Amur falcons come to Doyang every year in millions. Until recently, Naga tribesmen used to hunt thousands of Amur falcons for meat. But last year, after a vigorous campaign by wildlife activists, they pledged to protect the bird and since then, not a single bird has been hunted in the area. Today, the world has recognised Pangti village in Nagaland as the world’s Amur Falcon capital, as more than one million birds can be seen in just 30 minutes. It is a very rare and exciting sight.

Doyang to be developed as ecotourism spot

Amur FalconsMinister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar has become the first Union Minister to have a bountiful view of Amur Falcons that arrived in Doyang Lake area in Nagaland on Monday morning. Enthused by the sight of millions of Amur falcons in just half an hour, the Environment Minister declared that four or five other birds from other roosting in Nagaland will also be tagged, giving the name of the area to which the roosting relates. He added that the Centre and State Government would jointly take measures to promote infrastructure and eco-tourism in the entire Amur Falcon area.

Conservation helped at various levels

Amur FalconsThe conservation of Amur falcon is a great success story for India, as it has happened with peoples’ participation. People who were earlier killing the bird (Amur falcons) earlier, are now working for its conservation, thanks to proper motivation, training and mindset changes effected by various wildlife conservation bodies, activists and the Church. With proper conservation methods, the birds will be attracted in larger numbers.

 

Land of dreams on a digital mission

Crater Lake Cyclist_Whit Bazemore
Crater Lake Cyclist_Whit Bazemore

USA has always branded itself as a ‘land of dreams’ for travellers around the world. So much so that it even launched a music video ‘Land of Dreams’ by Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal to market itself in potential markets. Interestingly four years after the launch this song still continues to be best showcase for Discover America. But now the dreams are being disseminated digitally as well. At least, that’s what the fourth annual Brand USA mission to India promised.

Grand Teton
Grand Teton

Starting this year, Brand USA, the agency that looks into the marketing and promotion of destination USA in international markets, will commence direct consumer campaigns in the Indian market. These campaigns will be more “digital” in character, with focus on young travellers and undoubtedly many of these campaigns will run through the social media.

Riding upon the success of ‘Land of Dreams’, Brand USA has now also commissioned world famous travel and adventure film makers MacGillivray Freeman Films of ‘Everest’ (1998) fame to make a film on USA’s natural attractions with a special focus on 100th anniversary of National Parks.

Carroll Rheem, Vice President Research & Analytics Brand USA
Carroll Rheem, Vice President Research & Analytics Brand USA

Carroll Rheem, VP – Research & Analytics, Brand USA said in Delhi last week that the agency has created “video assets” for digital campaigns and these will be driven through online platforms, which are frequently visited by travellers for information on US destinations. Brand USA has been running direct consumer campaigns in 10 overseas markets so far, and from next year, these will be expanded to 2 more markets, and India is one of them.

Leading a roadshow of US suppliers in New Delhi, as part of Brand USA’s annual India trade mission, Rheem said that the country is an important source market for the US, and there has been consistent growth in the long-haul share of India to the US over the years. In the last 3 years, this share increased from 20% (2012) to 26% (2014), she added.

While the US is looking for a CAGR growth of 4.2% to achieve its target  inbound figure of 100 million by 2021, the growth in Indian inbound numbers to the US holds a lot of promise with a CAGR growth of 9.6%, and is expected to continue for the next 5 years. Around 9.62 lakh Indians visited the US in 2014, registering a growth of 12% over the previous year. USA expects the Indian inbound to cross the 1,000,000 mark in 2015.

Only concern for USA is extremely volatile currency market and its impact on long-haul travel, but that is still to be watched out for as this Indian currency devaluation has yet not started showing its impact. Generally a devaluation of 10% could be a cause for worry but USA hopes it not to affect outbound travel from India to US.

Brand USA 4th India Mission Delegation
Brand USA 4th India Mission Delegation

US delegation included destinations, attractions, hotels and receptive operators. The Brand USA annual India trade mission recorded participation of 35 suppliers, representing 21 companies from the US. These included tourism boards like Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, San Francisco Travel Association, NYC & Company; Visit Florida, Visit Orlando, Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau, and Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau;  DMCs like 7M Tours, Sans Incredible Vacations, and Maxim Tours; shopping attractions like Simon Shopping Destinations, and Sawgrass Mills; and hotels like Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and The New Tropicana Las Vegas.

The roadshow was held in Chennai and Mumbai, before concluding in New Delhi.

10 new destinations to cool-off

Sick of all those routine destinations in hills—seemingly same mall roads with hordes of tourists going up and down, same type of shops selling almost homogenous souvenirs, same crowd and what not. Get the change, go to a place which might not be in list of top-notchers in tourist arrivals, but are a notch above in their sheer beauty. We bring you the list of destinations, you can try this summer in India.

1. Kalpa – In the lap of Kailash

KalpaRarely will you find a view like this. You come out of room in the open and see the mighty Kinner Kailash peak standing right in front of you in full glory. Situated at the height of 2758 m above the sea level and 110 km from Sarahan, Kalpa is a beautiful and main village of Kinnaur, just above the Reckong Peo town which is headquarters of the Kinnaur district. The majestic mountains of the Kinner Kailash range are just across the Sutlej river. These are spectacular sights early in the morning as the rising sun touches the snowy peaks with crimson and golden light. The Shivling peaks rise up to 20,000 feet (6,000 m). Again this view is easily accessible. Nearest Airport (267 km) and Railhead (244 km) is at Shimla. The route is on NH – 22 (The Hindustan Tibet Road) which bifurcates to Kalpa from Powari. Buses and Taxis are available at Shimla and Rampur. One can also reach Kalpa via Manali – Rohtang Pass – Kunzam Pass – Kaza (400 km).

How to reach: There are daily buses from Shimla to Reckong Peo. You can also hire a taxi from Shimla. There are also multiple staying options at Kalpa and Reckong Peo.

2. Chakrata – The mythological beauty

ChakrataChakrata known for its serene environs and pollution-free atmosphere, is situated at a distance of 98 kms from Dehradun at an elevation of about 7000 ft (2118 mts). It is having a cantonement township and the northern part of Chakrata sub-division provides a fascinating landscape for trekkers and nature lovers. Virgin forests of conifers, rhododendrons and oaks are best suited for long walks. A vast dense forest, dotted with attractive villages of the Jaunsari tribe, the area has the 10,000 ft (3084 mts) high peak of Kharamba. On its northern slopes is situated Mundali 9000 ft (2776 mts) where in the months of November to April skiers can enjoy sking. From Devban and Chilmiri Neck, you can have magnificent view of Himalayas. Actually from Chakrata, there is a road going to Mussoorie. Being dubbed as Chakrata-Mussoorie highway this route was used by Britishers. On this road we pass through Viraatkhai and Lakhwad and cross Yamuna and climb to Mussorie. Especially from Viraatkhai we can have a glorious view of Garhwal Himalayas. What else, Chakrata and Viraatkhai are just six to seven hours drive from Delhi and you even don’t need to go to Dehradun. Viraatkhai area has some eco-camps while Chakrata has many stay options. This Jaunsar-Bawar area is also known for its distinct culture claimed to be inspired from Mahabharata. Situated between Yamuna and Tons Rivers, Chakrata in Uttarakhand is a small cantonment town. The northern slopes of Chakrata are popular for trekking and skiing. The trek to Kharamba Peak is a popular trekking trail. The tiny hamlet has several ancient caves and temples waiting to be explored. Chakrata offers a refreshing contrast from Mussoorie which is popular and crowded. Mussoorie is 73 km from Chakrata. Among places to see here Devban is most popular tourist destination in Chakrata. It is located at a height of above 2200 metres. Chakrata is a famous place for spotting birds like Himalayan woodpecker, white collared blackbirds, green backed tit, etc. Devban also provides amazing views of snow-clad mountains. Tiger falls: One of the biggest waterfalls in the country, Tiger Falls drop from a height of 312 feet. Ram Tal Horticulture Garden: The garden is famous for the variety of flora and fauna. Bird species like black headed jay, grey treepie, oriental turtle dove, etc. can be spotted in the garden. The garden also houses an apple orchard and a pond. Chilmiri Neck: Chilmiri Neck provides a scenic view of the snow-clad mountains. It is a popular place for bird spotting.

How to reach: Nearest railhead is Dehradun-92 kms. It is well-connected by a motorable road with Dehradun 92 kms; Mussoorie 73 kms; and Saharanpur 122 kms. Most suitable road is from Dehradun via Vikas Nagar. Tourists coming from Delhi can come directly to Chakrata via Yamuna Nagar-Vikas Nagar.

3. Yusmarg – A slice of heaven

yusmargYusmarg is approximately 47 km from the Srinagar and lies in the Badgam district of Jammu and Kashmir. The two-hour drive to the place is an enjoyment in itself. Grassy pastures stretching to acres of land, the dense forests full of pine trees, with the backdrop of splendid snow capped mountains leave you almost speechless. Within commutable distance from Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, Yusmarg is the perfect place to go for a picnic. It is possible that after reaching this place, you may want to even stay for a few days. Specially, for the lovers of long walks in picturesque locales, Yusmarg is the place to be. A short trek of 4km to

Nilnag a small lake amidst pine trees, near a hamlet gives an ultimate pleasure to visitors. A full day trek from Yousmarg to frozen lake in Sang e safed valley 10 km from Yousmarg is quite fascinating one. Most of the portion of the lake is covered under ice throughout the year. Trekkers are advised to carry tents along during the trip as the weather at high altitude changes frequently which can make further journey quite hard. Assistance of a guide is advisable.

How to reach: Local buses ply only upto Chrair e sharief, tourists are advised to hire a taxi from Srinagar or take the assistance of a travel agent. The road from Tsar e sharief to Yousmarg remains closed during the winters.

4. Chaukori – A jewel hidden so far

ChaukoriA tiny hill station in the Pithoragarh district set among the lofty peaks, of the western Himalayan Range in the Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand, India. To the north is Tibet and to the south is Terai. The Mahakali River, running along its eastern boundary, forms the Indo-Nepal international border. Chaukori’s elevation is 2010 m with spectacular panoramic views of the snowy peaks of Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and the Panchchuli group. It is approximately 10 km from Berinag, another little hill station. Chaukori is famous for its tea gardens established by the British. Considered as heaven in Kumaon by the travellers, the virgin beauty of Chaukori is unaffected by pollution and crowd. Chaukori is one of the hidden jewels and unexplored destination of Kumaon and you are free to discover new paths and places in the nearby region. Breathe in the salubrious mountain air, listen the chirping of birds and watch the crimson sun rays kissing snow laden Himalayas and you will forget going back from this place.

How to reach: The closest railhead is at Kathgodam, 214 km, from where buses and tourist taxis are available to take you to Chaukori. Chaukori is 480 km from Delhi and 183 km from Nainital. The most convenient way is to drive from Delhi via Nainital.

5. Pelling – Mighty Khangchendzonga

PellingAround 10 kms from Gyalshing (District Headquarter), Pelling is today emerging as the second biggest tourist destination in the state after Gangtok. Although in itself it is little more than a strip of road lined with hotels, its main USP is the breathtaking view it offers of the Khangchendzonga and surrounding ranges. Viewers claim that it is the best closest, easily accessible view of Kanchenjunga peak, the highest in India. Pelling is also popular for the easy access it provides to tourist spots in the area. Pemayangste monastery is less than a kilometre from Pelling, while a 40 minute walk on the hill opposite the monastery takes you to Sanga Choling monastery built in 1697, one of the first in the state. Pelling’s serene environment and picturesque setting is perfect for nice nature walks and small treks. A destination for all seasons, Pelling has hotels and resorts catering to all budgets. Named after the guardian deity of Sikkim, Khangchendzonga Festival is held at Pelling every year. It offers a host of fun activities like white-water rafting on the Rangit, kayaking, promotional trekking, mountain biking, sightseeing, traditional sports and bird- watching. The festival also includes Flower exhibitions, traditional crafts and ethnic food and costume stalls. Cultural folk dances and music add colour and sound to the festivities. The festival is aimed at balancing all diverse aspects of the area to produce a holistic package showcasing its potential for tourism.

How to reach: Reach Gangtok and hire a taxi. You can get shared taxis as well, which are more frequent than the bus services.

6. Tawang – The beauty far east

TawangIts popularity is ever increasing. Tawang is not only one of the 16 authoritative locales of Arunachal Pradesh, additionally a standout amongst the most delightful areas of Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang is popular for its collective magnificence, which pulls in and intrigues the tourist. Tawang is situated at an elevation of 3500 m above the ocean level in Arunachal Pradesh. It covers the range of 2085 sq km and is encompassed by Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the southwest, Kameng in the east and separates from the west by Sela ranges. The scene of Tawang accepts a thorough new look amid snowfall in the months of December and January. Tawang known for its Buddhist impacts and has one of the greatest cloisters of India.

Vacation spots in Tawang – Pankang Teng Tso Lake, Monpa Tribe, Tawang Library, Tawang Monastery,

7. Haflong – Assam’s only hill station

HaflongIn the womb of the Barail range at 3117 feet above sea level, Haflong – Assam’s only hill station – is a beautiful little town tucked away from the fast changing lanes of time. Surrounded by hills and mountains, meandering hairpin roads and little streams, Haflong adds up to a fairy tale land, making it the twin sister of the more popular Switzerland of the East- Shillong in Meghalaya. Home to the Dimasa tribe, they believe Haflong originated from their word for an anthill — “Ha- floong/ Hangkhlong”. But like the Barail ranges that cuddle this town, so does more folklore with the Zeme Naga’s attributing the town’s name as derivative of its once  Landlord Hamlong and town elders telling you that the name was given by the British which meant half way from Kamrup. The Haflong lake is the largest natural body of the whole Assam state.

Vacation spots in Haflong – The Haflong Lake, Boat House, Orchid Garden, Ethnic Village, Mulpong view point, Fiangpui Church, Borail Range, Jatinga

8. Mirik – In shadow of mighty

MirikMirik, the hills resort lies in the West Bengal. Excellent place if you want to escape the maddening crowd of Darjeeling. It is 52 km far from Siliguri and 55 km from the closest airport of Bagdogra. It remains at a height of 1,768m in the Eastern Himalayas. All the wild blossoms, charming lakes and prospering woodlands of Cryptomaria Japanica trees make Mirik a heaven on earth and the Kanchenjunga as a background adds tremendous magnificence to the entire landscape. Mirik-a nest in the hills is 49 km. from Darjeeling. A 1.25 km. long lake is fed by perennial streams. A floating fountain in the middle of the lake is a joy for ever and very often you may find the glory of Kanchenjungha reflected in the lake waters. A 3.5 km. zig-zag footwalk takes you along the lake – a sleek foot bridge connects the garden on the east with the woods on the west. Alone or in company, you are sure to enjoy a boat-ride in the lake.

Vacation destinations in Mirik – Sumendu Lake, Tea Estates, Rameetay Dara, Deosi Dara.

9. Harsil – Unspoiled charm

HarsilSituated at a height of 7,860 ft (2,620 metres) from sea level Harsil is a beautiful village and a cantonment area, on the banks of Bhagirathi River, on the way to Gangotri in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Harsil is famous for its unspoiled beauty. It is considered to be a hidden jewel in the lap of Himalayas. In recent years, it has become immensely popular among nature lovers and adventurers. It’s a trekker’s paradise, known to offer spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain peaks. Harsil is a cantonment area, perhaps because of its proximity to the Chinese border and the army is very cautious to whom it opens its doors to. Entry is denied to foreign nationals. There are numerous trekking routes in and around Harsil like Brahmi Tal, Nachiketa Tal, Kush Kalyan, etc. Approximately 4 kms from the Harsil , one can do a trek to Sat-tal. Best time to visit Harsil is between April to October. Town gets busy during annual Chardham pilgrimage, when there is huge influx of travelers. Very close is Mukhba village from where every year goddess Ganga travels to Gangotri before the Char Dham yatra starts. Harsil is also famous for its Apples and orchards. It has also distinction of being a major apple-growing zone in the entire state. Sighting here includes the Wilson Cottage, constructed by Frederic E Wilson who was supposedly a sepoy in East India Company. After mutiny of 1857 he deserted Company and settled in Harsil. He cashed on abundance of apples and deodar trees here (which he sold to Britishers to be turned into sleepers for expansion of railways in India). He even married a local girl from Mukhba. His cottage is now in ruins, burnt in a fire sometime back. A detachment of the Defence Agricultural Research Laboratory run by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was established here in May 1973. Harsil is also a base for army unit.

How to Reach: Harsil is just about 28 km before Gangotri, 15 km from Bhaironghati, 30 km from Gangnani and 73 km from Uttarkashi. 30 km away from Harsil, lies the Gangotri National Park, spread over 1,553 square km. For Harsil, nearest railhead is Rishikesh which is 218 kilometres away. On Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway from Uttarkashi is a diversion towards Gangotri. Harsil is 73 kms ahead on that route.

10. Chitkul – The Last beauty

ChitkulWell known as the last village before Tibet. Many travelers have taken that iconic photograph that depicts a sign board saying- Hindustan ka akhiri dhaba. Chitkul has a beauty that needs to be seen to believe. Not too many tourists go there because it is off the main Kaza road deep inside the Kinnaur valley. But good part is that it is drivable to the last point, though roads are narrow, hilly and serpentine. Chitkul is located in the Baspa valley, with river flowing below and the snow clad mountains spreading their wings just in front of you. There is no way ahead except for some trekking routes that take you to Har-ki-Doon valley and Yamunotri. View of snow-clad mountains is so refreshing that you just feel to run and climb over them. This is an amazing experience of watching Himalayan ranges so close to you as if inviting you. Chitkul has a few resorts nearby and a PWD rest house as well.

How to reach: Chitkul is the last road-head towards the border. Taxi will be the best option as one might not find regular bus services on this route. Although there are a few private bus services upto Sangla. While going from Shimla to Reckong Peo one need to take a right turn towards Sangla from Raksham Dam. Chitkul is another 20 kilometres from historical Sangla.

 

Seaplanes to take-off in Goa after monsoon

Landing trials conducted in Panaji

23-05-2015_Seaplane6The Goa government has gone ahead with its tourism proposal amid protests by fishermen community and conducted trial of sea plane landing on Mandovi river in the heart of the state. The traditional fishermen have threatened to end their lives if Goa government allows the sea planes to operate in the waters disturbing their livelihood. After the trial, the service is set to be launched post-monsoon

Govt nod despite fishermen protests

23-05-2015_Seaplane4However, despite agitations, Goa Tourism minister Dilip Parulekar decided to go ahead with this unique tourism proposal by giving a nod to fly the first ever plane, from Dabolim airport, to successfully land in River Mandovi at 11.45 AM on Saturday in the heart of the state. “We have been opposing this project. Government wants to get this activity at the cost of our livelihood,” said Goenchya Ramponkarancho Ekvott President, Agnelo Rodrigues, ahead of the trials in the capital city.

MEHAIR will be launching the service

23-05-2015_Seaplane3Rodrigues said fishermen will commit suicide as a protest act if government does not scrap the proposal. The nine-seater plane took sortie along the river front till Miramar beach and also took off to Chapora river situated around 20 kms away. Goa Tourism had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Maritime Energy Heli AIR Services Pvt. Ltd. (MEHAIR) to launch this service in Goa. The state will be the second after Maharashtra to have such services meant to boost tourism. Parulekar said fishermen are raising unwarranted issues.

Will attract a large number of tourists

23-05-2015_Seaplane2“Their livelihood will not be affected. Government is completely aware and concerned about the traditional fishermen. The sea plane service will attract large chunk of high end tourists who will give boost to our economy. If tourism sector has to grow we will have to be innovative,” the minister said. State Tourism Director Amey Abhyankar said that several routes will be identified for the plane in consultation with Fisheries Department, Captain of Ports and Goa Coastal Police to ensure that operations do not affect the marine eco-system, fishing activities, inland water transportation and water sport operations.

“The aircraft service would start post monsoon,” said Siddharth Verma, Co-founder, MEHAIR. He said the questions about the impact of this service on the flora and fauna are unwarranted. “It comes and goes very quickly so that there is no question of any impact,” he said, adding it is far environment-friendly compared to the boat.

Goa launches hot air balloon & amphibious vehicle

BalloonThe Goa Government has launched hot air balloon and amphibious vehicle services in the picturesque state of beaches.Tourists can now travel in the hot air balloon that will fly over picturesque landscape offering an aerial view of the popular tourist destinations.The new facilities were launched here in the presence of Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, State Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar and others.

Balloon1Delhi-based Camping Retreats of India Pvt Ltd will run the two services from Panaji initially, and will be later operated from other prominent tourist spots of the State. Amphibious vehicle, which can run on road and ply in waters, was also launched. “This new venture is all set to give tourists a thrilling experience in Goa’s inland waterways,” Parulekar told reporters after the launch. He said tourists can tour across backwaters and catch a glimpse of the flora and fauna in the surroundings.

Amphibious vehicle“The 33-seater passenger vessel can operate across seven routes in five talukas of Goa,” he added. Both adventure services will focus on highlighting Goa’s hinterlands and will give tourists an opportunity to explore the rich geography of the state via the sky and the waterways. The amphibious vehicles are the first-of-its-kind for use by civilians in the country.

Tourist arrivals to reach 10 million

AnjunaTourism Minister Dilip Parulekar also said that tourists arrival in the state may rise up to 10 million by 2017. After launching hot air balloon and amphibious vehicle service in the state, he said, ”we may have 10 million tourists arriving to Goa by 2017, the year we will go for fresh elections (state Assembly polls)”. He said the overall tourism has gone up by 12 per cent since the time BJP-led government took reigns of the state in 2012. “The tourist arrival has been on the rise. There was a rise of nine per cent during last year and 14 per cent in the previous year. The decline was recorded because of a slump in arrivals from Russia,” the minister said. Goa receives around five million tourists annually. Parulekar said though arrivals of chartered flight have dropped this year, overall tourism sector has been witnessing a gradual rise. “The visa-on-arrival facility introduced at the state-run Dabolim airport has aided in tourists arrival. Around 20,000 people came through the facility since its introduction four months back,” he said.

Larger plan to introduce new services for tourists

Amphibious vehicleIn January this year Goa Tourism had selected two agencies for providing hot air balloons and amphibious vessels in the state for offering a dedicated, safe and thrilling experience to the tourists, stated a release. Camping Retreats Pvt. Ltd., a Delhi-based agency, was selected to provide the hot air ballooning service, while US-based consortium with D’Souza Leisure Pvt. Ltd. Goa to offer amphibious vehicles. The idea of initiating these products came from the Goa Tourism Development Corporation Limited (GTDC) as part of the larger plan to introduce new services for tourists in Goa. Buoyed by the success of white water rafting and the women’s taxi service in 2014, GTDC had set April 2015 as the target to launch these new ventures.

To facilitate ‘hop on hop off’ tours

According to preliminary data, as many as six amphibious vehicles will be introduced utilising Goa’s wide network of ferry ramps. The vessels can operate on water and land and are equipped with all facilities required for effective and smooth conduct of operations. This venture will further facilitate ‘hop on hop off’ tours along Goa’s inland waterways and chain of jetties and ferry ramps, bird watching tours and Ecotourism tours. The initial plan is to introduce hot air balloon tours to Dudhsagar Water Falls.

Top 10 travel ideas for February

Its Spring time, although chill is still in the air. Time of romance and enjoyment. Carnival time at places around the world. Time for some of the best festivals for different tastes- whether it is dance, theatre, crafts, books or just fun. Presenting top 10 ideas to travel in India in February, might not be in that order as each one of them has its own speciality. Go ahead..

1. DESERT FESTIVAL

Desert-FestivalOnce a year in winter and in the middle of the continually rising and falling stark yellow sands of the great Thar Desert, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with the brilliant colour, music and laughter of the Desert Festival. The festival is organized by the Department of  Tourism around January-February. The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here for three days. Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their bright costumes dance and sing lingering ballads of valour, romance and tragedy. Traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other in their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are – puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo show, camel races, camel polo, traditional procession, camel mounted band , folk dances, etc.  Proud moustached villagers, dressed in their ethnic best come astride their picturesquely caparisoned camels to join in the camel dances and competitions of camel acrobatics. Tug of war and Panihari Matka race are the events where visitors to the fair can participate and enjoy the thrill and taste of traditions. The turban tying competitions are big draws and laughter. The Mr. Desert competitions, which are focused around the length and style of moustaches and rustic physique wrapped in traditional costumes, many visitors.

When: 1-3 February 2015

2. KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL

KhajurahoEvery ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho in central India. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people .It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. The Khajuraho Festival of Dances draws the best classical dancers in the country who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March. The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more.

When: 20-26 February 2015

3. SHEKHAWATI FESTIVAL

Shekhawati685The land of Havelis. The land of Frescoes. The land of Martyrs. The land of organic revolution in India. These are a few of Shekhawati’s many sobriquets. Joining the hallowed ranks of that list is yet another sobriquet-THE LAND OF THE SHEKHAWATI FESTIVAL. For the last 15 years, Shekhawati has played host to one of India’s unique cultural festivals. The Shekhawati Festival involves not only every villager of this large province but also people from all parts of India and the world. While the main activity is centred around the huge Surya Mandal Stadium in Navalgarh, Shekhawati Festival is truly a celebration of the various aspects and locales of Shekhawati. The locals get a chance to exhibit their prodigious skills. Famed artists and craftsmen from every corner of Rajasthan use this festival as an opportunity to display their talent to the world. There are organised tours to the famed portals of famous Havelis, forts and temples of the region. For those seeking in-depth knowledge of arts and crafts of the region there are seminars and workshops.One of the unique aspects of this festival is the emphasis laid by the Morarka Foundation on the organic way of life. This must the only festival in the world where every participant and spectator including scores of villages from near and far are served organic food for all the 4 days of the festival. The food court with more than 50 food stalls serve only organic delicacies for the entire duration of the festival. Visitors get a chance to savour a entire range of Indian cuisine with the knowledge that the fare is completely organic. Tourists also get a chance to be amidst pristine pastoral environs and enjoy organic farm food at eco-tourism organic lunches. Here tourists from all parts of the world get a first hand experience of the entire process of growing and cultivating organic food even as they get a taste of the end product on their plates. The Aravallis run through this region and the presence of this rocky barrier comes as a surprise in this flat and arid landscape, dotted here and there with picturesque dunes and colourful Havelis. A peep into the culture of Shekhawati gives us insight into the life of everyday India, seen through the lens of art and architecture. It helps us understand the vivid tapestry of Rajasthani and Indian life as it was lived in the glorious days of yore and continues to date!

When: 5-8 February, 2015

4. TAJ MAHOTSVA

Taj-MahotsavThis 10 days long carnival is actually a vibrant platform that gives you information of India where you can find India’s rich arts, crafts, cultures, cuisine, dance and music. Taj Mahal is the most beautiful historical place of India which tells about incredible India. Taj Mahotsav is organized by UP Tourism and it is a source to increase Indian Tourism. This cultural bonanza was started in year 1992 and since then its grandeur has reached to greater heights. This festival also figures in the calendar of events of the Department of Tourism, Government of India. A large number of Indian and foreign tourists coming to Agra joins this festivity in the month of February. One of the objectives of this craft mela is to provide encouragement to the Artisans. It also makes available the magnificent work of art and craft at the most reasonable and authentic prices that are not inflated by high maintenance cost. About 400 legendary artisans from different parts of the country get an opportunity to display their exquisite works of art. To name a few among them  are the wood/stone carvings from Tamil Nadu, Bamboo/cane work from North East India, Paper mash work from South India and Kashmir, the marble and zardozi work from Agra, wood carving from Saharanpur, brass wares from Moradabad, hand made carpets from Bhadohi, Pottery from Khurja, Chikan work from Lucknow, silk & zari work from Banaras, shawls & carpets from Kashmir/Gujarat and hand printing from Farrukhabad and Kantha stitch from west Bengal etc. Apart from the exquisite craft work you can experience the majestic and magnetic performances by artistes from every walks of life. The soul-stirring performances will engulf you to the extent of casting a spell. Throughout the Mahotsav, one can experience a profusion of folk & classical music & dances of various regions, especially the Brij Bhumi, performed the way they used to be centuries ago. The experience is so enthralling that you would not stop yourself from joining with the folk dancers. Besides the folk, the Mahotsav also exhibit the performance from the world renowned artistes from classical, semi-classical and popular art forms. Beside being the right destination for the arts & crafts, the Mahotsav is also a delight for the connoisseurs of good food as it is the ideal place to pamper the taste buds of the visitors with endless varieties of scrumptious dishes. Some of the oldest exponents of the cuisine-art prepare the lip-smacking dishes. One can also relish the typical preparations from the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. Funfair is the biggest attraction for children in the festival. It is a complete family entertainment which offers thrill and amusement for every one. Teenagers and adults enjoy various rides and roller coaster while children are happy with small ride such as merry-go-round, Train-rides and Ferris wheel.

When: 18-27 February, 2015

5. BHARAT RANG MAHOTSAV

BharatRangIndia’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama. With 12 participating countries, 82 productions in 23 languages and performances by 125 groups, the 17th edition of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav will begin from February 1 here.This year’s edition has been conceptualised and designed with the theme of ‘Breaking Borders’ and will organise World Theatre Forum on this topic where theatre luminaries from all over the world and across the country will come together to interact with the audience. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was established a decade ago by the National School of Drama to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across the country. Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, it has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre companies from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia. The 17th Mahotsav will include several national and international performances, and various associated events in a wrap-around program.

When: 1-18 February, 2015

6. DELHI BOOK FAIR

WorldBookFairClaimed to be Asia’s biggest book fair. New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) held for the past 41 years, is now a major calendar event in the publishing world. NDWBF 2015 is scheduled from 14 to 22 February 2015 at the centrally located Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The Fair is organized by National Book Trust, India, an apex body of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. This year Singapore has been chosen as Guest of honour country. Singapore has long been known as a melting pot, and a crossroads of Asia. Fifty years after independence, how has this nation-state’s literature developed? Featuring authors who write in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, illustrators of children’s picture books and graphic novels, as well as publishers of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and academic books, the Singapore Pavilion at the New Delhi World Book Fair will showcase how Singapore’s latest writing and illustration draws upon its multicultural roots to present a distinct Asian voice. Korea has been selected as the Focus Country in New Delhi World Book Fair. Korean Publishers Association would represent Korea as the Focus Country in New Delhi World Book Fair. The main slogan for Korea as the Focus Country in New Delhi World Book Fair 2015 is “Books opening the mind, Doors opening the Future.”  In the various cultural exchange based program, KPA will organize special exhibitions for Korean children’s books as well as traditional Korean culture, so that Indian publishers and visitors indirectly experience the development of Korean publishing industry, and also the lifestyle of Korean.

When: 14-22 February, 2015

7. SURAJKUND CRAFTS FAIR

SurajkundOne of the most awaited fairs of north India happens to be very close to Delhi. Comes right at the nick of spring. With dates fixed for every year, it makes easier for travellers to plan. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. This year visitors at the upcoming Surajkund Mela will be able to take a joy ride in a helicopter and enjoy an aerial view of the fair and surrounding areas. State-run helicopter operator Pawan Hans says it will be offering joy ride services to the visitors at the Surajkund International Crafts Fare which begins February 1 at Surajkund in Faridabad (Haryana). Every year, a country is chosen to be the Partner Nation that showcases the best of its art, culture, traditions and heritage during the Mela fortnight. Lebanon is the Partner Nation for the 29th Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2015. The craftspersons, cultural troupes and master chefs from Lebanon will present their talent and skills to enthrall the visitors at the forthcoming Mela. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Craftsmen from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states display their art. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. Chhattishgarh has been chosen as the Theme State for the 29th Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2015. The state will showcase its tribal heritage and culture, which is still found well-preserved in the forests of Bastar. A mobile app has been launched for the public, which can be downloaded for free on smartphones IOS (Apple) and Android operating systems.

When: 1-15 February, 2015

8. GOA CARNIVAL

Goa-CarnivalIndia’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colors of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travelers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-colored processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world. For this year Geovani Bosco Santimano has been selected as King Momo and is the chosen one to rule over the Carnival festivities scheduled in Goa between February 14 and 17. He will lead the Carnival float parades to be held in Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa.

When: 14-17 February, 2015

9. Sufi Sutra International Sufi Music Festival

SufiBack for the fifth year, this Sufi music festival is set to feature top Sufi and traditional folk musicians from Denmark, Iran, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Sufi music is qualified as “soul music” for Muslim mystics. It’s often used to transcend the physical realm into the spiritual one. There will be music workshops all day and free concerts all evening, as well as an exhibition. Sufi Sutra is an annual three day peace music festival held in Kolkata that brings about convergence of ideas on truth, harmony, peace and divinity. The cultural dialogues have developed mutual knowledge on world Sufi and traditional music and created scopes for performances to the visiting countries augmenting livelihood for the rural artists from India. Last year Sufi Sutra travelled to Patna and this year its travelling to Goa (hosted by Kala Academy). Dhaka is also hosting Sufi fest on Jan 27-29 (organized by Blues Communication) and Delhi is also hosting Sufi festival on Feb 10-11 (hosted by ICCR).

When: 6-8, 2015. Workshops 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Concerts: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

10. KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL

KalaGhoda685Mumbai’s favourite cultural festival, the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, is all set to kick-off on February 7. The KGAF calendar this year features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. This year’s festival also has a special section on urban design and architecture. Kala Ghoda this year has new elements in every section, and new venues and events. The opening ceremony will witness 70 dancers presenting a visual feast, based on the theme for the year — Sparsh [Hindi for Touch]. The venues this year include the historic Asiatic Library for literature workshops, while The Irish House will host stand-up comedy sessions. To reach out to more people, the literature and theatre sections will feature events in 20 different languages. The theatre fest is so grand and multi-lingual this year, we call it Rang Boli — a theatrical celebration of languages. This section will feature 51 performances. A new feature in the literature section is a long evening of prose that we have titled The Rampart Row Reading. It will be held at the Artists Centre gallery. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, the return of the festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it.

When: 7-16 February, 2015