Gear up for the coming long breaks from among these trips out of Delhi
COMPILED BY: SHARMEEN HUSSAIN
The great thing about Delhi is that experiences of the wild kind aren’t as out of reach as you’d think. For starters, there’s Wildlife SOS in Agra. A four-hour drive out of the capital will have you amid rescued sloth bears and elephants cute enough that you’ll want to sneak them home in your backpack. Established by a group of individuals in 1995, Wildlife SOS aims to protect and preserve India’s wildlife and is well known for its efforts in rescuing India’s ‘dancing bears’. At the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, located within the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, you will have the chance to spend an entire day with the bears. You can even stay longer and volunteer at the centres, helping to look after the rescued animals.
Further north, close to Ladakh, venture out into the snowy reaches of the Hemis National Park to track down an elusive spotted cat. Although getting a glimpse of the shy grey ghost is a rare occurrence, if you visit in the winter when the bharal and other mountain goats descend into the valley to feed, you could get lucky. The snow leopards follow their favourite meal out of the safety of the forest, exposing themselves for a brief three-month window.
In the lower reaches of the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region, you’ll find a wholly different sort of wild experience in Bhimtal. This region is very popular with moths and butterflies, with over 240 species found here. The soft-spoken Peter Smetacek will introduce you to these winged beauties at the Butterfly Research Centre he runs out of his homestay.
The unassuming town of Bera in Rajasthan’s Pali District is home to yet another spotted beast. Known to animal enthusiasts as ‘leopard country’, Bera boasts a large population of the big cat, and sightings are common among the sparse forests here.
An added attraction are the thug-like crocodiles that can be spotted sunning themselves near the Jamwai Dam. Spend a night at Castle Bera and the good folk there will even organise a safari or two for you to go out and spot the spots
If looking to the sky is more your thing, the Banni wetlands in Gujarat’s Rann of Kutch will have you squawking with joy. The monsoon turns parts of the grassland into marshy wetlands, attracting a huge array of avifauna. From August to March, expect to see thousands of flamingoes, and millions of waders, cranes and waterfowls. CEDO Birding organises a range of trips to the Banni grasslands for birders.
EASY DOES IT
We’ve all had that feeling during the week when we simply cannot wait for the weekend to roll in so we can sit around and do absolutely nothing for a couple of days. No sightseeing humbug, no shopping till you’re dropping, no activity at all.
Perfect for doing nothing, about six hours out of Delhi, Amanbagh in Alwar, Rajasthan stands as a throwback to Mughal times, complete with palatial rooms, glittering swimming pools, swaying palm ahnd fruit trees set against the stark backdrop of the Aravalli mountains. As an added bonus, this luxury property is also a short drive away from the Sariska National Park, the 17th-century Ajabgarh Fort and temple, and the Somsagar Lake if your long-weekend stupor ever wears off.
East of Delhi in Uttarakhand, there’s a homely little home waiting to welcome you into its warm dining room. Himalaica unlike other hill-station vacation homes that remain boarded up for most of the year, is a fully-functioning home with a stocked larder and pets. Owners Uttam and Shalini Dave invite you to stay with them for a spell, luring you in with the aromas of traditional Kumaoni food. The forests around the estate are perfect for long walks, and, if the desire to ever venture out grips you, there are ashrams nearby as well as a temple and a tea estate.
Twirl your moustache and fire up the Bullet – Lakshman Sagar awaits you in Rajasthan. An ode to Rajput culture, this erstwhile hunting lodge on the edge of India’s badlands prides itself on its attention to detail. With activities like local-liquor tasting, goat herding and star-gazing on offer, you’re spoilt for choice. The cottages have local design influences reflecting village life, and each one opens onto its own plunge pool.
Ever dreamed of owning a lake house where glorious French windows open out onto craggy peaks and a glistening lake? At Déjà Vu in Naukuchiatal, Uttarakhand, this wallpaper vista is a reality. Afternoons at this cosy cottage are made for walking through meadows of wildflowers and orchards in bloom, while evenings are spent drinking cups of hot tea around a crackling bonfire as a chill sneaks into the air.
Continuing the Colonial-era theme, Te Aroha in Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand, is a house in the hills straight out of your dreams. With high ceilings, wide decks, and glass windows that look out over the landscape, you’ll fancy yourself a posh sahib or memsaab holidaying in the hills to escape Dilli’s clamour.