Catch a glimpse of fantastic birds in Nameri National Park, Assam
Out of Guwahati (214km)
Birders from all over head to Assam’s Nameri National Park to witness the fastest living creature – the peregrine falcon – move at speeds of up to 389kph. But they’re even more excited to spot the white-winged wood duck, a species officially considered endangered by the IUCN Red List. However, finding one could take days and might mean you miss out on hundreds of other species, estimated at around 380. And it’s not just the leafbirds, orioles, thrushes and flycatchers you go for, it’s the sheer joy of walking through this enchanting forest – a mix of dense moist-deciduous and semi-evergreen trees, interspersed with cane, bamboo and swathes of tora paat, a jute-like plant that’s a favourite with elephants. Your biggest challenge would be a strained neck as you peer through tall branches at hornbills, nuthatches, lorikeets, minivets, and woodpeckers. Nameri also offers a more leisurely option for birding, on a raft on the Kameng River; the bonus is the addition of a completely different set of species on the water. The most striking of the lot are the ibisbill and prized golden mahseer. Fish or fowl, Nameri is the spot for you.
Look beyond the glitz in Mumbai, Maharashtra
Mumbai is a place full of soulful narratives if you know where to look. The sea, for example, is an inextricable part of the city’s life, but also perhaps the least understood and explored of Mumbai’s attractions. Marine Life of Mumbai, a citizen-driven initiative, wants to fix this. Over the course of an hour, you discover a watery nation – live rock oysters giving your shoes grip on the sodden trail, Nerite snails leaving filigree-like trails of white eggs, cloudy bags of squid eggs you might mistake for polythene castaways, and corals of seemingly Mughal design. For design and architecture enthusiasts, South Mumbai’s Art Deco district might just be paradise – the city has the second highest density of Art Deco buildings after Miami. Atul Kumar, founder of Art Deco Mumbai, along with conservation architect Nityaa Lakshmi Iyer, leads a tour of 18 buildings that face the heritage Oval Maidan. You’ll see fluted columns, inverted chevron grooves and wave-shaped banisters. Take in the peaceful and calm side of the city amid all the bustle.
Stock up on memorabilia in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Out of Jaipur (336km)
Antiques, handicrafts, fabrics, footwear – you name it, and Jodhpur will have it, probably tucked away in a restored haveli. Unfortunately, nothing in the city opens before 11am; for all you early birds, the Museum Shop at Mehrangarh Fort opens at 9am. Another must-visit is Lalji Handicrafts, an emporium of antiques and furniture, where the staff is helpful and honest about pointing out differences between ‘antique’ and ‘reproduction’. Visit the MV Spices outlet at the fort where the friendly owners offer you a tea-tasting session, tell you about the sourcing and grinding processes of their organic teas and spices, as well as the history of this family-run firm. Just down the road is India Tailors, sellers of finely-crafted Jodhpuri polo breeches, jackets and more, who cater to customers such as the Jodhpur royals. Another shopping option you have is the Sambhali Boutique, where you’ll find clothes, bags and more, made by underprivileged women and girls, trained and supported by the Sambhali Trust.