“Are we there yet?”
Let’s admit it, travelling with kids is no walk in the park, but, with a little bit of planning (and lots of well-timed snacks), it is possible to take the brood out on vacation, and have a pretty good time, too. We’ve put together a list of places in India, where you can spend some quality time with the fam, and hopefully not strangle each other before the day is out.
WORDS: SHARMEEN HUSSAIN
Road-tripping through South India
Start your road trip through South India from Bangalore, from where you will drive 185km to Mysore. Spend the day here, perhaps exploring the city or, give your kids a tame introduction to wildlife with a visit to the famed Mysore Zoo, which is pleasantly well maintained with large enclosures.
If you think you’d rather get right to it, then drive another 52km to Nagarhole National Park. Check into The Bison Resort, your digs for the next couple of nights, and a place that’s bound to put an end to any lingering tantrums brought on by the road. Sited along the banks of the River Kabini, the resort is a good base from which to go on safaris in the park. Set out early in the morning and again in the evenings to give yourself the best shot at animal sightings. Play the waiting game for the big cats, but don’t forget to notice the smaller birds and animals. And, of course, make sure you soak in the forest – the sal, teak and rosewood trees forming the backdrop for your musings.
From Nagarhole National Park, drive 91km to Bandipur National Park. Station yourself at The Serai Bandipur, a property built on the lines of a game reserve lodge. From here, you can take daily safaris into the forest organised by the resort. Look out for the herds of elephants that the park is famous for. The kids will enjoy the thrill of seeing the huge mammals in the wild.
From Bandipur, drive approximately 20km to Masinagudi, where you can visit the IPAN (India Project for Animals and Nature) Animal Welfare Centre. This is an interesting place to wind up your trip at, being as it is a centre aimed at preventing cruelty towards and creating awareness about the welfare of domestic and wild animals. Children can get a hands-on experience with different kinds of animals, making it a great learning experience.
From Masinagudi, it’s a 250km drive back to Bangalore, one that you will find is great or recapping with the kids everything you’ve learnt on the trip.
Exploring with family in Jaipur, Rajasthan
The dusty city of Jaipur doesn’t instantly inspire much confidence among parents looking to keep their children sufficiently occupied and entertained on holiday. But delve a little deeper into the Pink City’s offerings and you’ll find that we haven’t quite given it the credit it deserves as a family-friendly holiday destination. For starters, there’s the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing. Set in a restored haveli, the museum traces the different eras and native areas of Rajasthan’s block-printing heritage. Kids can get their hands dirty and take part in the printing process themselves, making this perfect for tykes with an artistic inclination.
Next on the list is some downtime with elephants. At Dera Amer, tucked away in the hills behind the gorgeous Amer Fort, you can spend a night glamping with the beasts. The four hand-crafted tents that make up the campsite are pitched within the estate, with the Aravalli Mountains as their backdrop. The main draw, however, are your camping companions. Interact with the gentle elephants of Dera Amer, who have lived most of their lives on the estate, and are happy to make friends with the many human guests who visit. Have breakfast with them, go for a ride or simply spend quality time with them, getting to know their character. It’s something kids will love, especially since the elephants are friendly
Another great experience with pachyderms awaits at Elefantastic. An ‘elephant farm’, it gives visitors the chance to feed, bathe and paint the elephants, much to their delight (the elephants’ as well as the humans’). It’s a lovely way to build a bond with the gentle beasts and a nice way to teach children the importance of compassion towards animals.
A trip to Jaipur is incomplete without a visit to at least some of its splendid palaces. Although it may seem like a boring history lesson to a kid whose main aim on holiday is to not learn anything, with the right guide and a little bit of coaxing, it could turn out to be really fun. Start them off with a visit to Hawa Mahal, where they can take a quick peek from the outside without having to go in. Explain to them how the five storeys of intricate latticework windows were meant for royal ladies to watch commoners without being seen.
Visit the glorious Amer Fort by evening to catch the sound-and-light show. The fort itself is beautiful to look at, but the show adds that element of drama that kids love. And, finally, if they’re still showing signs of interest, take them to the City Palace for a glimpse into the lives of the royals that still survive today. The palace complex houses the Mukut Mahal, Maharani’s Palace, Shri Govind Dev Temple and the City Palace Museum, not something they’d be too chuffed about, but, if you’re keen to go have a look yourself, entice them with the prospect of perhaps chancing upon a real-life prince.