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For The Love Of Water

Friday, April 24, 2015

From being enveloped by gentle waves to simply diving into a clear blue ocean as you explore underwater wildlife, there is something about water sports that gets us all excited. If you’ve always wanted to try a water sport, but didn’t know where to begin, Dev Goswami & Anindra Siqueira have the perfect guide for you. They’re telling you about the different water sport activities that you can find in India and also bring you insights from people who’ve been there, done that!

White-water rafting
If you enjoy the thrill of having your boat rocked by a force of nature beyond your control, you should try white-water rafting. It’s a great group activity and will provide you with the sort of experience you’ll remember for years to come. This water sport uses an inflatable raft that can seat anywhere between four to eight people. You’ll be guiding the boat against the force of the water using oars. All white-water rafting schools and companies provide life jackets, so you don’t need to be adept at swimming.

Best places to visit

  • Rishikesh and Ladakh,located in the Himalayas, are known to offer great water rapids that are perfect for white-water rafting.
  • The Alaknanda river, which is a six-hour drive away from Delhi, is a challenging river to take on.
  • So is the Tons river; a tributary of Yamuna. It is located on the Uttrakhand-Himachal Pradesh border and is not meant for amateurs rafters.
  • Chennab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas, all located in Himachal Pradesh, are other great, frothy (especially during spring) rivers to raft on.

When to visit: August to September is a good time for white-water rafting. April to July is also a good period, as most frozen rivers begin to melt around this time. 

Canoeing & Kayaking
A skill that’s different from white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking use tapered boats and can be done either on calm river and lake waters, or along gushing rapids. While both look similar, there are subtle, but important differences between the two. A canoe has an open top and so, allows you to sit comfortably in a kneeling position. A kayak on the other hand, is covered. When you’re sitting inside, you will feel like you’re wearing the boat! The types of paddles used are also different and a canoe can usually accommodate more than one person, while kayaking is usually a solo activity. Whichever on your choose, you can expect a long, relaxed ride on peaceful waters if you go out in the sea, or an adrenaline-filled one on water rapids.

Best places to visit

  • The beaches of Goa, Kerala and Karnataka have great facilities for canoeing and kayaking. Most resorts and hotels here will help you with experts who will guide you through the sport.
  • Uttrakhand, with its gushing rivers, is a great place for most water sports, so canoeing and kayaking are no different. Rishikesh is a good option and will make for a memorable holiday.
  • The Zanskar river, which flows through Jammu and Kashmir, is another great and well-known spot for kayaking.

When to visit: Any time of the year is considered is a good time to try your hand at canoeing or kayaking. However, remember to avoid the monsoon months, as the water at that time can be quite dangerous for this water sport.

Water skiing, wind surfing & sailing
When the weather’s peachy — that is, when it’s not raining or overcast — you can indulge in activities such as wind surfing and water skiing. Perfect for beginners and those who do not want to spend too much time learning a sport, water skiing involves standing on a pair of skis that are connected to a boat with cables. You will be skimming the surface of the water as you are pulled along by the boat. Wind surfing, on the other hand, is a sport where you stand on a broad board, which is connected to a sail. The sail uses wind to power you through a body of water. It’s not an easy sport to master, but it has an advantage over normal sailing, because it allows you to perform a variety of freestyle moves.

Best places to visit

  • The beaches of Goa, Kerala and Mumbai are perfect for water skiing, with several adventure companies and resorts offering facilities for this.
  • Wind surfing is a relatively tough activity to find in India. Mumbai offers a few options for and so do lakes in Pune. The beaches of Goa and Kerala are other places where you can try wind surfing.

When to visit: October to March is a good time to try these activities. But, remember that it also depends on the weather on a certain day.

Scuba diving & snorkelling
Scuba diving is an experience that cannot be put into words. The sense of calm and detachment from the world, which is just a few feet above you, along with the picturesque underwater life, is an experience of a lifetime! Snorkelling is the easier activity of the two, which, unlike scuba diving, doesn’t ask for you to be certified. It involves plastic goggles that allow you to see underwater and a short tube, which lets you breathe as you float on the surface with your face under water.

Best places to visit

  • In India, the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lakshadweep and Pondicherry are the most popular places to try your hands at scuba diving. The coral reefs and lagoons here make for a great experience.

When to visit: Dive season in India usually starts in October and ends in May.

Strangest water sports activities

  • The Aquaskipper: This is a very strange device. It looks like a large tricycle, but the user must jump up and down on it in order to keep it afloat and move forward.
     
  • Flyboard – Jetpack skateboard: This is one of those crazy inventions that men (Tim Taylor!) would love. It’s a Jetpack fused with a surfboard!
     
  • Snuba diving: This is basically snorkeling and scuba diving combined. Think snorkelling with a really long snorkel. And you don’t even have to spend hours learning how to surface!
     
  • Kiteboarding: Another one of those inventions that make you ask, “What the hell was the creator thinking?!” Jump on to a surf board and attach it to a kite. All we have to ask is, why?
     
  • Subwing: This isn’t a new sandwich introduced by Subway. It’s a wing-shaped device that the diver holds on to for dear life. It’s pulled by boat and allows the rider to glide under the surface of the sea.

In and around Mumbai
Don’t have the time to go on a long vacation, far away? We tell you about a few great places in and around Mumbai.

  • Kolad: One of the best spots for white-water rafting, the Kundalika river in Kolad is perfect for a long weekend break. There are several resorts and adventure companies that offer accommodation along with white-water rafting.
     
  • Pune: Panshet Dam in Pune has the Panshet Water Park, which offers kayaking and wind surfing. It’s perfect for a weekend getaway with your friends or family.
     
  • Mumbai: The H2O Waterfront Complex and Cafe by the Beach offer a good range of water activities that you can try your hand at. Located on Girgaum Chowpatty, you can expect activities such as water skiing, wake boarding, parasailing and kayaking.

Been There, Done That
White-water rafting at Kolad

Swapnaja Rasam-Heredia, a 29-year-old manager of international pricing at Writer Corporation, dipped her toes in the water at Kolad, a village on the banks of the Kundalika river, for a white-water rafting experience. She tells us, “From start to finish, we enjoyed a thrilling experience through the course. Being tossed around in the raft while the water splashed on to all of us was fun! The rafting in itself was a great experience and the guides were great. The weather was pleasant and the frequent drizzles made it even more worthwhile. The rapids were not extreme and were manageable for a novice like me — this is one of the best places to go rafting that’s close to Mumbai. Another thing I enjoyed was the view of the Kundalika river from the tent deck, which was very serene.” Asked about what other water sports she’d like to try, she says, “I would definitely love to try scuba diving, Skurfing (not surfing) — a sport that uses a surf board pulled by boat — and snorkelling.”

Thrilling adventures in Manali
25-year-old Desha Gehi loves food and travelling. She runs the blog, That Foodie Chick (www.thatfoodiechick.com) and has tried activities such as parasailing, kayaking, white-water rafting, jet skiing, catamaran sailing and dinghy sailing — yes, we were quite jealous as well! She tells us, “White Water-rafting at Manali and Darjeeling are a must-try for people who are up for a thrilling experience. It;s best suited for those who are willing to walk on the wild side. The rush you get when you’re riding the rough rapids while simultaneously being drenched with ice cold water is something one is sure to remember for the rest of their lives.” Just like Priyanka, Desha wants to try her hand at windsurfing, and she tells us that from the places she has been to, she would recommend Manali for white-water rafting and Goa for other water sport activities.

Scuba diving in the Andaman Islands
25-year-old Aditya Gonsalves, who is the assistant manager of digital marketing at Radio City 91.1FM, recently took a trip to the Andaman Islands, where he went scuba diving. He says, “I went scuba diving on my honeymoon and it was amazing! The waters were clear blue and you could actually touch the corals and swim amidst clown fish and the marine flora & fauna. We went about 15 meters deep and communicated with our diver through sign language! I loved the entire experience. The wet suit they make you wear and the 20 minutes of training you receive makes you feel like you are shooting an underwater documentary for the Discovery Channel or Nat Geo! Also, you feel weightless underwater and are constantly swaying because of the currents. Once you come back up to the surface and begin walking towards the beach, you can feel the weight you are carrying (20kg of scuba equipment)!” He tells us he would love to try rafting and negotiating the rapids of an angry river in the Himalayas.

Water sports in Tamil Nadu
Priyanka Jena, the 29-year-old co-founder of The Holiday Studio is an adventure buff who recently won the Ocean Kayan Womens Single in Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu) Beach Meet on April 19 this year. Speaking about her experiences, she tells us, “My experience in water sports is exhilarating. Being a complete adventure girl, I can vouch for the fact that the adrenaline rush experienced through a water sport activity is far more intense than any other adventure sport. You are exposed to a whole new world during a water sport activity — completely different to what you are used to seeing on land every day.  Also, India has a great coastline with stunning beaches and accessible crystal clear waters, and water sports in India are a lot more reasonable as well.” Windsurfing is something that she wants to master soon and she also tells us that Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu), Karnataka and Andaman & Nicobar Islands are her top destinations for water sports in India.

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