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Mid-Day Premium How Gen Zers are exploring religious tourism in India

Religious tourism has been contributing significantly to the travel industry. The industry is witnessing a Year-Over-Year (YOY) growth of 90 -100 per cent in the segment, say two of India’s reputed travel agencies. This travel trend has especially gained popularity among Gen Zers. Although a common notion prevails that they are busy partying, many are seeking calm and peace in life. Vaishnavi Merchant, a 26-year-old Mumbai resident says, “Visiting a spiritual or religious destination gives me a sense of satisfaction. When I visit such destinations, it gives me a positive energy. I feel at peace.” She developed a liking to travel to religious places in childhood. “My family is very devotional. As a child, I have been travelling to spiritual places and gradually developed a liking for these places.” This Mumbai resident recently visited the Mahakaleshwar temple and Omkareshwar temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. These two destinations are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Now, Merchant is busy planning her next trip to Shree Jagannatha Temple in Puri. “I am Krishna devotee. Jagannatha Puri is significant to Krishna. I cannot wait to visit the temple,” says an excited Vaishnavi. Vaishnavi Merchant visits Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. Photo courtesy: Vaishnavi Merchant If you too love visiting spiritual and religious destinations and are exploring options, we have experts from Thomas Cook and SOTC Travel share details. Mid-day Online conversed with them to dive deep into the trend of religious tourism. Spiritual tourism offers an opportunity to seek inner tranquillity, cultural immersion, and self-discovery through visits to sacred sites and engaging in spiritual practices. “Among Gen Zers, this trend is growing as they yearn for authentic experiences and meaningful connections with diverse cultures,” says Rajeev Kale, president, country head, holidays, MICE, Visa - Thomas Cook (India) Limited. Adding to this, Daniel D’Souza, President and Country Head - Holidays, SOTC Travel says,  “With the pandemic inspiring Indians to live in the moment, we are witnessing a remarkable shift in customer preferences. Gen Zers are increasingly drawn to spiritual tourism due to a desire for authenticity and self-discovery. This new generation seeks meaningful experiences, connecting with diverse cultures and ancient traditions.” Key reasons behind the rise in religious tourism Both Kale and D’Souza say the accessibility of digital platforms providing all the information has empowered Gen Zers to customise their spiritual journeys and thereby help in cultural enrichment. This surge in demand can also be attributed to several other factors, including a global trend towards wellness, mindfulness, and experiential tourism. Kale says, “Travellers are increasingly seeking authentic and immersive experiences that offer opportunities for personal growth and reflection. Spiritual destinations in India, with their rich cultural heritage and profound spiritual significance, cater perfectly to this growing demand. As travellers prioritise experiences that nourish the mind, body, and soul, spiritual tourism is poised to remain a significant contributor to India's tourism industry.” “Further, the construction of the Ram Mandir has fuelled a surge in religious tourism. The completion of this Hindu temple attracts pilgrims and spiritual seekers globally, eager to witness a significant religious landmark. Beyond serving as a pilgrimage destination, Ram Mandir's inauguration sparks curiosity, fostering a deeper appreciation for India's spiritual heritage,” adds D’Souza. Also Read: Weekend getaways: How Mumbaikars are taking quick trips to seek respite Top destinations in India for religious tourism Kale of Thomas Cook and D’Souza of SOTC Travel recommend visiting the following destinations if you are into religious tourism:  1. Rishikesh, Uttarakhand: People practising yoga on a terrace at the Anand Prakash yoga ashram in Rishikesh in India's Uttarakhand state. Photo Courtesy: AFP Nestled in the Himalayan region and known as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World,’ Rishikesh offers a serene environment, ideal for meditation, yoga, and spiritual retreats. The presence of ashrams, the sacred Ganges River, and the tranquillity of the surrounding nature make it a perfect destination for spiritual rejuvenation. 2. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: A priest performs evening prayers on the banks of the river Ganga at the Dashashwamedh Ghat, in Varanasi. Photos Courtesy: AFP Known as the ‘Spiritual Capital of India’, Varanasi, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, holds immense spiritual significance for Hindus. The ghats along the Ganges River, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, and the rituals performed daily attract pilgrims seeking spiritual cleansing and enlightenment. 3. Amritsar, Punjab: Tourists take pictures during their visit at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Photo Courtesy: AFP Home to the iconic Golden Temple, Amritsar is a spiritual hub for Sikhs and a symbol of equality, compassion, and service. Visitors can participate in the langar (community kitchen), experience the peaceful ambience of the Harmandir Sahib, and engage in spiritual reflection. 4. Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh:Buddhist monks are pictured at Namgyal Monastery in McLeod Ganj near Dharamshala. Photos Courtesy: AFP Dharamshala, the residence of the Dalai Lama, and McLeod Ganj, known as ‘Little Lhasa,’ are centres of Tibetan Buddhism. The serene monasteries, including the Namgyal Monastery, offer opportunities for meditation, teachings on Buddhist philosophy, and cultural immersion. 5. Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh:  Hindu devotees gather near the illuminated Ram temple following its consecration ceremony in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Photo Courtesy: AFP With the recent completion of the Ram Mandir, the city of Ayodhya has become an increasingly significant destination for spiritual seekers interested in exploring Hindu mythology and heritage. In the subcontinent, Bhutan offers travellers serene monasteries that emanate spiritual peace and tranquillity coupled with the thrill of white water rafting, trekking, archery and a host of other unique adventure activities that appeal to Gen Zers, making it an ideal destination for this segment. These destinations qualify for a spiritual vacation due to their rich spiritual heritage, serene natural surroundings, and abundance of opportunities for introspection and personal growth, aligning perfectly with the desires and interests of Gen Z travellers. Out of all the places recommended above, Varanasi and Rishikesh are budget-friendly destinations and an ideal option for travellers travelling on a tight budget. IN PHOTOS: Devotees throng to Ayodhya Ram Mandir after it opens door for public Top destinations in Maharashtra for religious tourism Kale and D’Souza recommend visiting the following religious destinations in Maharashtra: 1. Pandharpur: It is a sacred town in Maharashtra known for its Vitthal-Rukmini temple, dedicated to Lord Vitthal, an incarnation of Lord Krishna. The town hosts the famous Pandharpur Wari, an annual pilgrimage procession where devotees from across Maharashtra gather to worship and sing devotional songs.            2. Siddhatek: Siddhatek is home to the Siddhivinayak temple, dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. Situated on a hill, the temple offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and provides a serene environment for spiritual seekers.            3. Alandi: Alandi is renowned as the resting place of Sant Dnyaneshwar, a revered saint and poet of the Bhakti movement. The town is dotted with temples and ashrams dedicated to Sant Dnyaneshwar, attracting devotees who seek spiritual solace and enlightenment.            4. Bhimashankar: This is another significant pilgrimage site in Maharashtra, housing the Bhimashankar temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Surrounded by lush greenery and the Sahyadri mountain range, Bhimashankar offers a tranquil setting for spiritual reflection and devotion. 5. Nashik: Famed for its ancient temples and the holy Godavari River, this destination provides a peaceful setting for spiritual seekers to partake in rituals and prayers. 6. Shirdi: Home to the revered Sai Baba, Shirdi attracts millions of devotees seeking blessings and spiritual solace at the Sai Baba Temple. These Maharashtra destinations seamlessly blend spirituality, cultural heritage, and natural beauty, catering to diverse interests and spiritual quests of travellers in search of profound experiences. Religious tourism is popular not just among the Gen Zers Kale of Thomas Cook states, “From my observation, I have noticed a profound longing among travellers, regardless of age or background, to explore spirituality and find inner peace through travel experiences. Spiritual tourism in India offers travellers a deeply transformative journey. Travellers from around the world are drawn to India's rich spiritual heritage, seeking enlightenment and cultural immersion. This form of tourism fosters a sense of unity and understanding among travellers, transcending cultural and religious differences.”  Similarly, D’Souza concludes, “At SOTC, we've witnessed a notable rise in interest for spiritual tourism in India. Millennials and Gen Zers increasingly seek transformative experiences, prioritising inner peace and cultural immersion. Destinations like Varanasi, Rishikesh, and Dharamshala are gaining popularity for their spiritual heritage. Digital platforms amplify this trend, creating a community of like-minded travellers sharing spiritual experiences. This highlights the enduring significance of spiritual exploration in travel preferences, indicating potential growth and innovation in this tourism segment.”

17 April,2024 07:30 AM IST | Mumbai | Aakanksha Ahire
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Egypt, Dubai, Vietnam some of the top destinations among Indian travellers

As the summer season approaches, travellers can now embark on their summer adventures with confidence, knowing they're headed towards experiences that align with their preferences and desires. Atlys, an online platform for visa applications, unveils the top destinations and emerging travel trends based on its extensive data analysis. "We're excited to see such diverse travel interests among our users," says Mohak Nahta, Founder & CEO of Atlys. “While international travel keeps growing in India, and more and more Indians contribute to the global, these insights enable us to better tailor our services to meet the evolving needs of travellers worldwide." According to the report, Egypt, Singapore, Dubai, Vietnam, and Thailand emerge as the top countries for which Indian travellers have applied for visas for summer vacations, offering an enticing mix of culture, adventure, and relaxation for travellers of all interests. Conducting extensive research on gender-wise distribution, male travellers dominate the visa application scene, representing 77 per cent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 71 per cent in Singapore. Meanwhile, 30 per cent of women travellers applied for Singapore visas and 25 per cent of women applied for UAE visas. Data reveals a diverse age distribution among travellers. While younger demographics, particularly those in the age group of 20 to 35, are prominent, there's a notable representation across various age brackets, indicating the universal appeal of these destinations. The research also provided insights into city-wise travel. The City of Gold, Dubai turn out to be popular among Indian cities with Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad leading the pack. Cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi are among the top contributors to the Vietnamese travel surge. Indian cities, including Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi, display a strong interest in exploring Singapore, the Lion City's charms. Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi showcase a keen interest in Egyptian wonders, followed closely by cities like Chennai and Hyderabad. Overall, travellers from Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi are the top three cities, that people embark on to vacation. Solo travellers take the lead, representing approximately 65 per cent of visa applications in the UAE, 60 per cent in Egypt, 40 per cent in Singapore, and 45 per cent in Vietnam. Groups of two travellers make up around 20 per cent of visa applications in the UAE, 30 per cent in Egypt, 25 per cent in Singapore, and 20 per cent in Vietnam. Larger groups of three or more travellers also applied for visas, with varying proportions across destinations. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever.

09 April,2024 05:46 PM IST | New Delhi | IANS
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What to know before applying for US and Schengen visas from India

Preparing for international travel encompasses more than merely packing your bags and arranging flights, particularly for Indian travellers seeking visas for popular destinations such as the United States and the Schengen Area. Below are tips to keep in mind prior to initiating your visa application journey: Understand the application process: For Schengen Visa: Gather all the required documents listed in the checklist. Then, book a visa appointment online for the main Schengen country you're visiting. During the appointment, submit your documents and provide biometric data. You'll usually get a visa decision within 15 days. For US Visa: Fill out the DS-160 form online and create an account on the official US consular website. Pay the visa fees and schedule two appointments for biometrics and an interview. Attend both appointments, where your biometric data will be taken, and you'll have the interview. The visa decision will come soon after the interview. Essential documents needed: For Schengen: Make sure you have your passport, personal income tax returns for the last three years, bank statements for the last six months, salary slips or company registration certificates, a No Objection Certificate from your employer, flight and hotel bookings, itinerary, application form, a cover letter explaining your travel purpose, and travel insurance. For USA: Bring your passport, appointment confirmation letter, DS-160 confirmation page, itinerary, bank statements for the last six months, personal income tax returns for the last three years, and any proof of ties to your home country like rental agreements, No Objection Certificates (NOCs), or proof of asset ownership. Also Read: Why this 48 year old man decided to scale 16,000 ft on the steep Goecha La pass Know visa processing times: For Schengen: Visas are usually processed within 15 days from the appointment date. But getting appointments and gathering documents might take more time. Plan your trip at least two months ahead to make sure you have everything ready. For USA: The visa decision comes right after the consular interview. But getting appointments can be tough due to high demand. Plan your USA trip well in advance, as appointments might not be available for months. Allow at least a year for scheduling appointments and processing visas. Strengthen your application: For Schengen: Apart from meeting document requirements, make sure your application is accurate and genuine. Apply to the country where you'll stay the longest, maintain enough money in your bank account, and provide evidence of ties to your home country like property ownership or investments. For USA: Prepare for the visa interview by being punctual, dressing appropriately, and answering questions clearly. Highlight your connections to India, including your job, family ties, and any assets you own, to strengthen your application. Navigating the visa application process may seem challenging, but understanding these key points will make it easier. Whether you're planning a trip to Europe or the USA, careful planning and meeting requirements are essential for a smooth visa application experience. (Mohak Nahata, Founder & CEO of Atlys)

06 April,2024 01:29 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
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Mid-Day Premium It’s Abu Dhabi calling for Indian tourists seeking weekend getaways

As countries across the globe battle to become the next trending destination, discerning travellers are always seeking something that piques their myriad interests. As per digital travel platform Agoda, the United Arab Emirates is the second most popular outbound destination for Indians between September 2023 and February 2024.  What makes a place desirable to Indian tourists? Ease of access, affordability, and a diverse set of offerings that can keep the family engaged. One of the main reasons for the UAE’s growing popularity among Indians is its proximity. Thanks to modern infrastructure, and excellent hospitality, the UAE has seemed to tick off all of those boxes for the thousands of Indians who are increasingly choosing to fly down to the Gulf nation every year.  According to the annual report published by the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, the emirate received 18 million visitors in 2022. Post-covid, a shift towards greater recognition of the value of culture has been observed globally. While the UAE is famed for its luxury experiences and retail offerings, the capital Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as an emerging cultural, and culinary hotspot. To further evaluate its claim as the preferred weekend getaway, we asked Indian travellers to share their memorable experiences from recent travels to the buzzing capital.  Also Read: Weekend getaways: How Mumbaikars are taking quick trips to seek respite Tracing the history of a modern capital“Abu Dhabi can best be described as an ancient city meeting a modern cosmopolitan capital,” shares luxury lifestyle and travel influencer Shashank Sanghvi. While the new skyscrapers are glittering, the city has multiple sites to help you learn about human settlements stretching back 7,000 years. The 34-year-old elaborates, “It is not very common for tourists to visit the historical sites in UAE, but I found them to be fascinating. Be it Qasr Al Hosn, the city’s oldest structure dating to the late 18th century, or the Al Jahili Fort, both offer a peak into the rich history of the emirate.” The former is located in the heart of the city amidst the modern skyline, and the latter is a 90-minute drive away in the quaint town of Al Ain. The Mumbaikar concludes by saying, “Exploring the vast array of heritage sites and landmarks has been a journey through time, allowing me to witness the city's evolution while connecting with its rich past. The majestic Qasr Al Hosn served as a tangible link to the city's heritage, offering insights into its history and traditions that have shaped its identity”. Contextualising universal art“If you are an art enthusiast, a trip to the city cannot be complete without visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi,” marketing executive Aishwarya Kapoor excitedly tells us. She goes on to share how the building itself is famed for its architecture, and the museum aims to bring different cultures together through common stories of humanity. The permanent collection comprises over 700 groups of artworks from every period and civilisation, ranging from the Achaemenid Empire (510 BCE) to 17th- century Japanese folding screens. The vast collection also includes notable works from Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, Rene Magritte, and more. When asked what sets the Louvre apart, the 27-year-old poses, “I was surprised by the range of objects on display. I believe the collection puts the global timeline of human creativity into context which is rare in an art museum. How could two ancient civilisations practice similar rituals, or create similar art in times of no contact? The point of collective heritage is made and driven across well.”  Also Read: Go scuba diving like PM Modi, explore the marine life of India Sensory overload “It would not be a stretch to say that Abu Dhabi is home to two of the best modern Islamic architecture landmarks. When I entered the main hall of the Qasr Al Watan, I did not know where to look, or what to take a photo of. It was as if the opulence of the emirates had been distilled, and modelled into a tangible structure,” recalls Shraddha Singh. Built to showcase the region’s artistry and heritage, the working presidential palace houses multiple exhibitions.  The Chandigarh-based artist further speaks of one of the world’s largest mosques, “If you look closely, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque celebrates several design styles. From India to Iran, artisans have contributed to the beauty of this mosque. If you ask me, the gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers are surely the most glittering of them all.”  Culinary diversity and Ramadan spreads “Name the cuisine, and you shall find it. From authentic Japanese to mind-numbing Lebanese, Abu Dhabi offers the finest of dining options,” says Sana Khan who recently visited the city on a long weekend with her family. She also spotted plenty of vegetarian options across menus, a definite plus for Indian tourists. The New Delhi resident tells us that since a few family members were fasting for Ramadan, the iftar was a vital part of their day. “I was glad to see that during Ramadan, most restaurants offer elaborate iftar spreads.  From Indian to Italian, there was everything one could want. My family’s visit to Majlis by the Sea at the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental was a memory we will all cherish. Also, if you take pride in relishing local specialities, I would highly recommend trying the traditional Arabic coffee, known as ‘gahwa’. It is similar to how chai in India is much more than a beverage, but an intrinsic part of our hospitality.” For those who wish to indulge in local fare, Abu Dhabi is also home to the only Michelin-star recipient Emirati restaurant, Erth. The charming restaurant offers a take on modern Emirati cuisine.  Also Read: How Mumbai’s road queens blaze trails with biking adventures From beaches to the desert “One of the reasons I chose to fly to Abu Dhabi was the pristine waters. I spent many idyllic afternoons by the sea at the Mamsha Al Saadiyat beachfront promenade. Clear blue skies and the ideal temperature of the water were all I needed to unwind. The plethora of boutique stores and restaurants also made it a convenient spot for the family to enjoy themselves,” shares Gaurav Katheriya.  The 25-year-old also spent a night glamping at an eco-retreat in the desert. “It was a unique experience to be camping in the desert at the Jebel Hafit Desert Park. In the silence of the night, we could tap into the sounds of nature, which was restorative after being in the bustling city. I was able to explore the extensive rough terrain on a guided buggy ride which was definitely the highlight of my trip.”  Also Read: Connecting with nature: Exploring how Mumbaikars can go camping and tips for beginners

28 March,2024 10:32 AM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
One can go camping throughout the year, however, the time of camping largely depends on the choice of location. In Photo: Bhavali Dam campsite/Privilege Hospitality Events Private Limited

Mid-Day Premium Into the wild: How Mumbaikars can go camping

Vacations act as an antidote to the stress and burnout that come with our jobs. Taking breaks from time to time helps us to refresh and reset. While relaxing in hotels and resorts on the outskirts of Mumbai is a common way for many to take vacations, a larger population of young adults are choosing to go camping.  Lyka Pathan, one of the many camping enthusiasts from Mumbai calls herself a ‘free-spirited soul’. Lyka manages social media and operations for travel companies for a living, but her true passion lies in the mesmerising outdoors.  “Camping is like a second nature to me. I'm a bonafide travel and trekking enthusiast, constantly seeking out new adventures. Whether it's rugged trek camping, glamorous glamping, or just a weekend escape near Mumbai, you can find me camping at least twice a month, if not more frequently.”   She reminisces: I've slept under the stars at Prabalmachi, experienced eco-living at Igatpuri, and even indulged in the luxury of Swiss tent camping in Chopta. But my all-time favourite has to be the AMK trek camping where I ended my trek with a beautiful sunset and woke up surrounded by 360-degree mountain views, watching a golden sunrise.   Also Read:  Go scuba diving like PM Modi, explore the marine life of India When asked why she loves camping, this Mumbai resident says, “What fuels my love for camping is the raw, unadulterated connection it allows me to have with nature. There's something deeply satisfying about breathing in the fresh, earthy scent of the jungle, feeling the chill of the wilderness, and gazing up at a sky full of stars. For me, it's not just an experience; it's a way to quench my insatiable thirst for the wild.”  While she conversed with us, she was busy packing for her upcoming adventure. “I will soon be headed on a camping trip near a lake in Igatpuri. Not only will I be able to soak in the mountain vibes, but there's also the promise of some exciting water activities to add to the thrill.”   Like Lyka if you too love spending time amidst nature and wish to go camping, we have camping experts and organisers to help you get started.   Feeling alive with camping “Camping is an outdoor recreational activity where individuals or groups spend time in natural settings, typically staying overnight in tents, RVs, or other temporary shelters. It often involves activities such as hiking, fishing, campfires, and wildlife observation,” says Ghatkopar resident Manoj Kumar(37) of T-Trikon, a travel group in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore that has been organising camps for the past 11 years.    Further, Chembur resident Sunny Awasthi has 12 years of camping experience who is also the founder of Motojojo Pvt Ltd adds, “Just 100 kilometres outside the city you will find beautiful landscapes and the Sahyadris.”  He opines, “Villas, resorts, and hotels have become party places. Camping however is a culture that offers a thrill and a sense of adventure. Mumbai's camping market has beautifully evolved in the past years. Various outdoor communities like cyclists and bikers rent tents and camps next to lakes or in the fields for nights to save up on the cost of hotels and live a true adventure.”    Also Read: Insights into why spiritual tourism is on the rise and how youngsters are embracing the trend Priyanka Shelke (26), tour manager, Privilege Hospitality Events Private Limited, who has been organising camps for enthusiastic campers for the last five years, says, “More youngsters from the city today prefer camping as it is the perfect way to stay amidst nature enveloped in lush foliage, large water bodies, or picturesque hills. While pitching a tent in the wilderness, campers can engage themselves in immersive experiences from acoustic music, team games, barbecue grills, stargazing, fishing, movies outdoors, and bird watching or just relax with the sounds of nature.”   Adding to this, Borivali resident Nachiket Naik(24), founder of Amhi Trekkers has four years of experience in organising camps around Mumbai says, “Unlike regular vacations, camping involves connecting with strangers and doing activities like kayaking, boating, and team games.”   “Camping is a completely thrilling and raw experience. It is nothing like your normal vacation. Here, there is less luxury and more adventure. It involves living in tents devoid of city luxuries. It is thus perfect for those Mumbaikars who love wilderness and living amidst nature, under the sky,” says Manish Bisht (22), founder, Banjareyyyy Travels. Manish has been camping for the last six years.   Best places for Mumbaikars to go camping Shelke suggests the following places.   1. Bhavali Dam camping surrounded by hills makes an enthralling scenic landscape ideal for visitors to immerse in the eternal beauty of nature. Guests can take a plunge at the lake, relish multi-cuisine meals, nature camping, fishing at the dam, and music.(All seasons) Distance: 3 hours   2. The upper Vaitarna lake camping, a crystal clear lake surrounded by hillocks, lush green woods, and an enthralling scenic landscape makes it a delight for visiting tourists. Guests can rejuvenate by the lakeside, cherish sumptuous multi-cuisine meals, enjoy bird watching, music, boating, and barbecue, or take a stroll in the hilly terrain. (All seasons) Distance: 3 hours  3. Vasind camping has a picturesque setting surrounded by mountains which is an ideal escape for nature lovers. Visitors can engage in camping near the lake, water sports, river rafting, or exploring the nearby Mahuli Fort.(All seasons) Distance: 2.5 hours  4. Guest can set up their camp near Dudhni Lake, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. This place is a heavenly paradise for nature and adventure lovers to immerse in the extraordinary. One of the key attractions of boating in Shikaras, embraced with the spectacular view of neighbouring forests. Wildlife tours at Satmalia and Vasona present one of the most unique experiences of viewing Asian Lion, Spotted Deer, Sambhar, and Nilgai at the closest.(All seasons) Distance: 3.5 hours  Also Read: Weekend getaways: How Mumbaikars are taking quick trips to seek respite Other popular camping sites as recommended by other experts include: 1. Pawna lake2. Bhandardara3. Igatpuri4. Rajmachi|5. Prabalmachi6. Alibaug7. Matheran   All of these campsites offer fun outdoor activities like:  1. Boating2. Kayaking3. Star gazing4. River rafting5. Hiking6. Barbeque7. Outdoor games like football, archery, badminton, net-climbing, etc. 8. Rock climbing and rappelling  One can go camping throughout the year, however, the time of camping largely depends on the choice of location. It is advisable to avoid camping in extreme weather conditions, especially during heavy monsoons.   Tips for beginnersWith varied responses from experts, we collate a list of factors you must consider before stepping into the wild.   1. If you're new to camping, start with easy trips that are still exciting. It's safer to go with a group or a tour organizer who can give you tips and guidance about camping.  2. Start by researching different types of camps available, such as outdoor adventure camps, and specialised skill-building camps. Choose a camp that aligns with your interests, goals, and comfort level. Make sure you meet all requirements before enrolling. After registering for the camp, you may need to complete additional paperwork, such as health forms, waivers, emergency contact information, and payment processing.  3. Before enrolling check the credentials/expertise of the tour company or campsite. Check for amenities and costs.   4. Choose a destination that is easily accessible and relatively safe to travel.   5. Check the pick and drop points as many camping zones require long walks or treks that many need to be more accustomed to.  6. Plan the trip considering the engagement you wish to indulge in, sightseeing, and weather conditions.7. Check the amenities offered at the campsite including the tent size, sleeping bags, pillows, and food and beverage preferences.  8. Do not wait for a big group to form. Pick up a group online via Instagram and websites, verify how experienced are they, and go. 9. Adhere to the rules of the place you are travelling to and also the campsite. Follow proper guidelines which will be given by your event leader.  Safety measures and common mistakes to avoidHere are key factors first-timers should always consider to have a safe camping experience.   1. Most of the camping sites don’t have internet access and mobile connectivity is low. If guests are driving on their own then ensure to download Google Maps to use offline.   2. As for money and payments, most campsites don’t have card facilities. Due to remote location, even ATMs are not easily accessible. There is a limited network for digital payments as well. Hence, always carry sufficient cash.   3. Avoid carrying valuables to the campsite. The baggage and personal belongings are your responsibility as the tour company or campsite owners shall not be liable for the loss/damage.   4. Smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited on many campsites, so cross-check with campsites or tour operators.   5. Avoid littering to maintain the beauty of the unexplored destinations.   6. Cross-check if toilets are neat and clean as many campers can find discomfort with unhygienic toilets.   7. Camp in the wild outdoors but always with experts. You are still not there yet to simply pitch a tent anywhere. Experts in such outdoors are needed.   8. Also, reach the spot way before it becomes dark, never pitch your tents in the dark. You should know where you are, what is around, and how your spot is.  9. Follow safety measures and don’t venture deep inside the water or click pics at the cliff of the hills.        Right outfit and essentials to carryFor camping, it's important to wear clothing and footwear that are suitable for rough outdoor activities and weather conditions.  Campers should wear comfortable and warm clothes, a cap, and sturdy shoes for safety.  For summer, pack light, breathable and comfortable outfits mostly cottonwear. Footwear would include sandals or sports shoes. If it's extremely humid, carry a cap, and sunglasses.    For winter, bring along insulating layers like fleece jackets or down vests to stay warm in cooler temperatures.   For monsoon, pack a waterproof or water-resistant jacket to protect yourself from rain and wind.  Avoid short clothing as campsites are prone to insects   Here is a list of essentials campers must carry with them: Mosquito repellent creamsPower bankFlashlight/torchCommon medicines and first aid kitToiletriesWater bottlesFace towel, Wet tissuesSunscreenHoodies and sweatshirtLight munching snacksPersonal hygiene itemsMobile phone chargerFloatersSocksHand sanitizerTissue PapersBinocularsORSSwimming trunksWhistle (it is a life-saver) Camping might not be suitable for allAnyone with serious illness, heart disease, infection, or allergic to certain environments, should avoid camping. People with health problems like asthma, high blood pressure, or sinus issues should also avoid camping.  

28 March,2024 07:30 AM IST | Mumbai | Aakanksha Ahire
A still capturing PM Modi’s joyful mood after his dive in the sea. Sourced photo

Mid-Day Premium Go scuba diving like PM Modi, explore the marine life of India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, besides being in the headlines for other things, has been making news for his liking towards Indian tourism. From his visit to the Lakshadweep to the inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya which highlighted the rise in spiritual tourism in India, PM Modi has given an impetus to Indian tourism in the past year. Now, his recent dip into the Arabian Sea in Dwarka has stirred up curiosity about ocean life in India.  The prime minister went scuba diving in the submerged city to offer his prayers to Lord Krisha – a Hindu deity. He said, “This experience is going to be etched on my heart forever. I have always wanted to do this.”  The story behind the submerged city of Dwarka“Dwarka is renowned as the legendary city of Lord Krishna in Hindu mythology. As a part of sea heritage of India, Dwarka is a massive attraction representing scuba diving as a unique form of darshan and exploration of the submerged historical city,” says Rajeev Kale, president and country head, holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Limited.  “The Gomti Ghat, where the Gomti River meets the Arabian Sea is especially worth exploring. Bathing here is believed to bring spiritual purity, making it a sacred ritual for worshippers seeking inner peace and connection with the divine,” adds Daniel D’Souza, president and country head, holidays, SOTC Travel.  As per the legends, the ancient city of Dwarka was created by Lord Krishna. The city stood right where the Gomti River and Arabian Sea converge. It is believed that the sea engulfed the city after the demise of Lord Krishna.   Also Read: Insights into why spiritual tourism is on the rise and how youngsters are embracing the trend The city has been a place of attraction since its formation when visitors would come from far-off places to seek the blessings of Lord Krishna. This trend continues even long after the deity’s demise keeping Dwarka, or as India’s beloved ‘Kanha’ named it, Dwarkavati, relevant in India and its culture.  Destinations in India popular for underwater lifeWhile Dwarka has always been a place of tourist attraction for many reasons, it is not the only one popular in India for its underwater charm. Experts dive deep into top spots in India popular for their ocean life and water sports. Kale and D’Souza list down the top destinations in India popular for their ocean life.  1. Andaman Islands: Known for its pristine coral reefs, the Andaman Islands offer divers the chance to explore vibrant underwater ecosystems with diverse marine life. The islands are also home to historic shipwrecks, adding an element of intrigue to diving expeditions. The Andaman Islands offer an unparalleled playground for water sports. From surfing and snorkelling to sea kayaking, tourists can embark on exciting adventures while soaking in the stunning island landscapes.  Also Read: Weekend getaways: How Mumbaikars are taking quick trips to seek respite India's coral reefs, notably those found in the Gulf of Mannar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, play a vital role as ecosystems that sustain diverse marine creatures. Serving as homes and safe havens for various species, these reefs are also known for exhibiting bioluminescence, casting a mesmerising glow beneath the waves after dark. 2. Lakshadweep: With its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine biodiversity, Lakshadweep is a haven for underwater enthusiasts. Divers can marvel at colourful fish, encounter graceful turtles, and occasionally spot majestic sharks amidst the island's stunning underwater landscapes. 3. Goa: Renowned for its vibrant dive sites catering to beginners and advanced divers, Goa is a popular destination for underwater exploration. Divers can discover submerged shipwrecks, vibrant coral reefs, and an array of marine species, making each dive a memorable experience. Anjuna Beach is a hotspot for water sports enthusiasts. Tourists can partake in thrilling activities such as dolphin watching, kayaking, and paddleboarding amidst the scenic beauty of the Goan coastline. 4. Pondicherry: Offering unique dive experiences amidst natural rock formations and artificial reefs, Pondicherry's underwater world is a treasure trove of marine diversity. Divers can encounter many marine species while exploring the intricate underwater topography. 5. Netrani Island, Karnataka: Nestled in the Arabian Sea, Netrani Island is famed for its thriving underwater environment. Divers have the opportunity to encounter large pelagic fish, such as barracudas and sharks, making each dive an exhilarating adventure.These destinations stand out for their exceptional underwater landscapes, diverse marine ecosystems, and the unforgettable experiences they offer to diving enthusiasts. 6. Kerala: Known for its tranquil backwaters, Kerala offers a serene escape for water lovers. Tourists can enjoy leisurely houseboat cruises or more adventurous activities like kayaking, immersing themselves in the tranquil beauty of Kerala's waterways. Destinations in Maharashtra popular for their ocean lifeSindhudurg stands out for its historical significance, housing the submerged Sindhudurg Fort and diverse marine life. Nestled along the coast, Vijaydurg, a part of Sindhudurg, is a historical treasure and a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Visitors can explore vibrant coral reefs while immersing themselves in the remnants of its rich history. At Vijaydurg, besides delving into historical remnants, tourists have the opportunity to explore vibrant coral reefs.  Malvan, another down in Sindhudurg is another popular spot celebrated for its pristine beaches and vibrant underwater world, offering enthusiasts ample opportunities for snorkelling and diving adventures. Tarkarli, known for its picturesque beaches and thrilling water sports, also provides a glimpse into Maharashtra's marine biodiversity. As for hidden gems, Maharashtra holds treasures yet to be fully discovered. Exploring lesser-known coastal areas promises unique encounters with ocean life and unforgettable experiences off the beaten path. Each of these destinations promises a unique and thrilling water sports experience too, catering to a diverse range of interests and preferences.  The ideal time to visit these destinations varies by location. Generally, November to May offers favourable conditions for adventure experiences like diving and snorkelling in places like the Andamans, Lakshadweep, Goa, and Maharashtra. The cost of such vacations vary based on factors like duration and luxury level. Budget trips might start from ₹15,000-₹20,000, while luxury experiences could exceed Rs 50,000. Also Read: Under the weather? Try these recipes of comfort foods with unique twists Safety factors tourists must ensure When engaging in water activities, it's essential to prioritise safety measures to ensure a memorable and secure experience: D’Souza shares a few key safety tips to ensure a fun-filled vacation.  1. Select certified operators: Opt for certified operators who adhere to safety standards, ensuring a trustworthy and reliable experience. 2. Receive proper training: Before embarking on any water-based adventure, ensure you and your companions receive adequate training and guidance from qualified instructors. 3. Wear life jackets: Always wear appropriate safety gear, such as life jackets, to provide buoyancy and protection in case of emergencies. 4. Stay informed: Stay updated about current conditions and weather forecasts to make informed decisions about your activities, avoiding potential hazards and risks. 5. Share plans: Before heading out, inform someone trustworthy about your plans, including your intended route and expected return time, ensuring assistance can be provided if needed. Rise in the popularity of aqua tourismAccording to both, Kale and D’souza, water sports and marine destinations have garnered considerable popularity among Indian tourists in recent years.  Kale lists down key factors behind the rise in popularity of aqua tourism.  1. Growing awareness and affordability: There has been a notable increase in awareness about water sports and marine destinations among Indian travellers. Additionally, the growing affordability of such activities has made them more accessible to a broader demographic. 2. Significant growth in domestic tourism: Domestic tourism to water sports and marine destinations has witnessed high interest in recent years. Indian tourists increasingly opt for domestic travel experiences, with coastal regions and islands becoming preferred destinations. 3. Demographics: Water sports and marine destinations attract a diverse range of tourists, including families, adventure enthusiasts, and nature lovers. The appeal of these destinations transcends age and socioeconomic backgrounds, making them popular among millennials and older generations. The rising popularity of water sports and marine destinations among Indian tourists shows the country's evolving travel preferences and the increasing demand for immersive and adventurous experiences closer to home. Also Read: Shelf-Life with Mid-day: Despite internet impact on business, book lovers stay true to traditional reading experiences

27 March,2024 05:54 PM IST | Mumbai | Aakanksha Ahire
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Mid-Day Premium Experts share five travel trends that are set to dominate in 2024

According to data published by UNWTO (United Nations World Travel Organisation), international tourism has almost completely recovered from the unprecedented crisis of Covid-19. If 2023 was the year when travel recovered to pre-pandemic levels across the globe, those numbers are set to surpass in 2024. In times when a carefully designed social media campaign can boost a destination overnight, the preferences and appetites of travellers keep on evolving. Cultural exploration, minding the aesthetic, rebooting in nature, and much more will take centre stage this year as travel ceases to become an escape but reflective of our lives. Industry experts outline five trends that are gaining traction and are set to dominate the tourism landscape in 2024.   Culinary explorationAs per the ‘Travel Trends: Redefining value through experience in 2024’ report published by Skyscanner, 59 per cent of Indian travellers booked a destination purely based on a restaurant they wanted to visit. Osaka, renowned as ‘the kitchen of Japan’ and home to the fourth most Michelin stars, claims the top spot on Skyscanner’s global list for foodies on a budget in 2024 and is also one of the top trending destinations amongst Indian travellers.Mohit Joshi, travel and destination expert at Skyscanner, elaborates, “In 2024, travellers are expected to choose destinations based on specific restaurants, with 59 per cent admitting to booking a trip solely for this purpose. With Indians being inherent foodies, authentic culinary experiences are set to become a focal point of travel, with 38 per cent of Indian travellers wanting to try the local cuisine as a top priority while travelling abroad. Notably, the culinary landscape is also evolving with the rise of great-value eateries in various cities, making the foodie dream an attainable reality for Indian travellers.” Gig trippingAnother interesting insight the report offers is that one-third of Indians (37 per cent) travellers would fly short-haul to see their favourite performers. This interest is not limited to domestic as a whopping 79 per cent would also consider attending a concert overseas if it would be cheaper. This is indicative of the priority of Indian travellers which is seeking diverse cultural experiences, as travel behaviour is shifting towards 'being in the moment’. “Travellers have progressed from ‘revenge travel’ to ‘passion travel’, and we are seeing a further evolution of ‘passion travel’ to ‘pursuits travel’, where travellers have a checklist – or even a bucket list in mind. The value of experiences will fuel a range of travel trends for 2024, as travellers are letting culture drive their decision-making. We’re seeing a broad spectrum of cultural curiosity in travel, including gig trippers jetting off to see their favourite artists. We see travellers willing to go the distance to see live performances, with one-third (37 per cent) of Indian travellers expressing a strong inclination to fly short haul for musical gigs and a whopping 79 per cent considering travelling abroad if it would help them save money,” shares Joshi.  Mindful aesthetics Indian travellers (81 per cent) want to see sustainability in practice and wish to bring nature indoors in their vacation accommodations, as per the ‘Travel Predictions 2024’ research commissioned by Fuelled by the media, our inclination towards aesthetics and sustainability continues to grow, resulting in our holidays becoming even more curated. These two unique preferences are no longer reserved for the elite as accommodations across the globe strive to find creative ways to marry sustainability and design.  The research further reinstates the central role of mindful aesthetics in reshaping travel for the future as it mentions that Indian travellers embrace technology to curate sustainable itineraries that grant exclusive access to the very places they contribute to preserving. A great number of them are drawn to sustainable travel applications (83 per cent), where they can unlock rewards such as unique experiences with locals in off-the-beaten-path areas (58 per cent), and the opportunity to explore remote locations typically beyond the reach of tourists (55 per cent). Reboot retreatersIn times marked by global instability, 2024 heralds the rise of reboot retreaters. These travellers seek journeys dedicated to self-improvement, and a path leading them back to the life they truly desire. The ‘Travel Predictions 2024’ research suggests that over half of Indian travellers (68 per cent) are drawn to the agrarian and indigenous lifestyle, seeking self-sufficiency and harmony with nature. Surprisingly, 59 per cent of Indian travellers are inclined to carve out time for a matchmaking holiday, to find a spark with a new partner. In the opposite case too, 53 per cent of travellers opt for heartbreak holidays, providing the healing space needed to overcome past relationships. Santosh Kumar, country manager India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia at poses, “Travellers are becoming more discerning than ever and leaning towards decisions that will have a beneficial long-term impact. Accommodations and apps that are aligned with the goals of sustainability resonate better with them. Along with sustainability, off-beat immersive experiences are also gaining momentum due to the chance they offer to reset and rediscover oneself which is reflected inLocal spotlightRecently released ‘New Horizons List’ by Agoda lists the top five emerging destinations in India. The year-on-year search data has highlighted the destinations that have marked growth in traveller interest. A curious development is that while Ahmedabad has led the way, it is followed by Kodaikanal, Mahabaleshwar, Ooty, and Kochi. Although these cities have never been off-limits, they haven’t topped bucket lists in India. This reflects a growing interest among Indians to experience local culture and heritage. Krishna Rathi, country director India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives at Agoda shared, “In the recent past, metros and Tier 1 cities have dominated travel trends. While these continue to top the charts, our New Horizons list highlights increased interest in tourist spots like Ahmedabad, Kodaikanal, Mahabaleshwar, Ooty, and Kochi. This reveals a growing preference among travellers for destinations known for their cultural richness. It also goes to show that India's appetite for travel is ever-evolving and travellers today are focused on exploring the nature, rich heritage, and vibrant culture that destinations have to offer.” 

27 March,2024 09:24 AM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
Thailand is considered to be not very expensive

Mid-Day Premium Indian influence resonates in Thai clubs as Bollywood beats echo across Thailand

With warm hospitality, crowded streets and Indian music, many parts of Thailand make Indians not far away from their home. The country is considered to be not very expensive when it comes to vacations. But, not just the music, the Thai greeting known as the 'wai' is a short bow with hands clasped together in a prayer-like posture. It originates from the Indian Anjali Mudra, similar to the Indian greeting 'namaste'. The wai gesture originated in Buddhism and has similar origins as namaste in Hinduism. Multiple cities in Thailand have created a distinct Indian link, demonstrating Bollywood's global influence, as nightclubs around the country embrace the vivid Indian songs. These clubs, which are attracting an increasing number of Indian visitors and expatriates, have become cultural fusion hotspots, with Bollywood melodies resonating in the heart of Thai nightlife. A 32-year-old tourist from Mumbai who did not wish to be named said, "This is my fourth time here in Thailand. It has become one of my favourite vacation destinations since the first time I visited here in 2016. I have visited here with my many friends previously. The accommodations, food and parties are somewhat the same as the home country, not too expensive." Also Read: How is it like to navigate pet ownership with an exotic bird in Mumbai His friend, who also did not wish to be named said, "The nightlife in Thailand is excellent. There are so many options to party here. But, most of them have a similarity which is the taste of Indian music they choose for party-goers." He added, "The language barrier is not at all an issue when it comes to Thailand, you will find people who speak English, and Hindi and maybe sometimes use gestures to communicate with you." The incorporation of Bollywood music into Thai nightlife acts as a cultural bridge, establishing a common environment where residents and visitors may enjoy the wonder of Indian cinema. The catchy tunes and familiar beats have proven popular among a wide range of listeners, promoting a sense of community and celebration. Thai locals have also begun to like Indian music and many of them also have collections of Bollywood songs on their cell phones. Toff, a Pattaya-based woman said, "I like the Indian music, especially Bollywood songs. They play it in many clubs here and just like me other locals too grove on the tunes of Bollywood music. There are times when I listen to Bollywood songs on YouTube and I have a list of certain songs I like on my phone." Recognising the popularity of Bollywood music among Indian tourists, numerous nightclubs have curated playlists including a mix of classic and contemporary Hindi songs. This program not only improves visitors' entertainment experiences but also contributes to the cultural diversity that characterises Thailand's dynamic nightlife. The Indian connection has increased Thailand's appeal to Indian tourists and ever since there has been the introduction of Indian cuisine for both locals and tourists from across the World. In Pattaya's many streets, one can easily find south Indian snacks including Idli and Dosa, north Indian dishes and of course Biryani. Several foreign tourists including Europeans like the Indian chai and one can get Indian tea at multiple places in Thailand. A Surat-based snacks joint owner in Pattaya said, "I have been running the place here for the past seven years. Many Indians visit my outlet to have the Indian chai. There are multiple Europeans who also visit here for chai." Besides the magnificent scenery, beaches and cultural attractions, the inclusion of Bollywood music and Indian flavours creates a reassuring sense of home for many Indian visitors. The cultural resonance enhances travellers' favourable experiences and creates a welcoming atmosphere.

19 March,2024 11:45 AM IST | Mumbai | Asif Rizvi
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Why this 48 yr old man decided to scale 16,000 ft on the steep Goecha La pass

On the occasion of Women's History Month, Debjyoti Mukherjee, a 48-year-old entrepreneur is set to embark on the Goechala trek in Sikkim. In a bid to raise awareness about sexual health rights for adolescent girls in Odisha, he will trek on the steep terrain to support Bal Raksha Bharat’s [Save the Children] project on girls and women empowerment in Odisha.  Culminating at an altitude of 16,000+ feet, the Goechala trek is one of the most difficult treks to set one's foot on. As he treks along the steep slope, he aims to empower women who bear the brunt of a lack of resources, education and equality in Indian society.  An engineer and an avid trekker, he will commence the expedition today, spanning over 98 km for 11 days. Mukherjee is committed to securing resources in order to educate young women on sexual and reproductive health, empowering them to cultivate a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A non-profit organisation working for the marginalised children in India, Bal Raksha Bharat would build a capacity of 30 healthcare service providers to ensure accessibility towards ‘adolescent-friendly’ healthcare services. The project aims to empower young women through the sensitisation of 5,750 men and boys, parents and various community-based organizations.  Interventions in this project aspire to build self-esteem and knowledge in girls and boys about their health rights, while increasing active participation in advocating for services with the local government. Additionally, this enhanced knowledge is aimed at helping them navigate the challenges that occur during the transition from puberty to adulthood. The interventions with parents and the community will pave the way to enable adolescent girls to express themselves via dialogues. Mukherjee defines respect and dignity as the fountainhead of all relationships and believes that progress achieved by the previous generation serves as the foundation for successive generations. Speaking on the progressive path India is taking to be a developed nation, he says, “This trek is really special to me as it is being undertaken for a social purpose. Empowering these young women would not just enable them to lead a healthier life, but hopefully also change the next generation. We urge everyone to join us in this endeavour by contributing to our fundraising efforts so that we can make a significant difference in the lives of these women in Odisha.“

13 March,2024 04:15 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
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Discover 7 lesser known activities to do in Goa for your next vacation

While Calangute, Baga, Vagator, Benaulim, Palolem, and Varca have been the usual suspects on every traveler's checklist, the cool cats Dabolim and Panjim have stealthily crept into the spotlight. Tourists are now swarming Goa, not just for the beaches but also to explore the offbeat path. Picture this: a delightful blend of gastronomic wonders and sightseeing adventures, peppered with historic landmarks that tell tales of the past. And, when the day winds down, we've got some classic old-school bars to add a perfect touch to your evenings. From serene kayak trips and mouthwatering delicacies to centuries-old churches, these destinations have it all for every kind of explorer! Get set for an unforgettable adventure in Goa as we suggest 7 places which are a must-visit in Dabolim and Panjim: Pequeno Island (Bat Island): Just a short jaunt from Baina Beach lies the serene Pequeno Island, affectionately known as Bat Island. Picture-perfect vistas await, with rocky outcrops and powdery sands framing crystal-clear waters teeming with marine life. Dive in for thrilling water sports or simply soak in the tranquility with friends and family. Post a day of adventure, you all can gather 'round a beachside bonfire for some laid-back tunes and stories under the stars at this wonder. Rita's Gourmet Goa: All foodies can embark on a culinary journey with Rita's Gourmet Goa in Dabolim, where they learn the secrets of Goan and Indian regional cuisines through hands-on cooking classes set in a lush outdoor garden kitchen. From exploring vibrant farmer's markets to savoring authentic dishes, every experience during these immersive workshop sessions promises a flavorful adventure. Dolphin Spotting at Bogmalo Beach: You can also sink your toes into the soft sands of Bogmalo Beach, where azure waters meet pristine, white-sand shores. But keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins dancing in the surf as well, a sight best enjoyed during the tranquil early morning or at dusk. With plenty of cozy shacks offering local delicacies and convenient access from Dabolim airport, Bogmalo Beach is a must-visit for beach lovers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Kayaking: Immerse yourself in Goa's natural beauty with Goa Kayaking's daily expeditions. Glide along tranquil rivers, explore winding backwaters, and navigate lush mangroves, all while soaking in breathtaking views of Goa's coastal landscapes. Whether you're a seasoned paddler or a first-time kayaker, these guided tours offer a unique perspective of Goa's scenic wonders, punctuated by refreshing stops at fishing villages, secluded coves and sandy beaches. Explore the serene waters of Bambolim with guided kayak tours offered by Goa Kayaking, where you can paddle through mangrove forests, discover hidden coves, and marvel at the diverse marine life. The Caravela Cafe and Bistro: As you step into Caravela Cafe, you’ll be greeted with more than just a friendly smile. The warm and inviting atmosphere is as comforting as a hug, making you feel right at home. Caravela Cafe & Bistro is not just a cafe; it's a family affair. Nestled in the heart of Goa, Caravela is deeply rooted in the local ethos of Panjim. It's not just a cafe; it's a celebration of the vibrant Goan spirit. Embraced by locals and adored by visitors, Caravela Cafe has earned its reputation as one of the best coffee shops in Goa, serving some great caffeinated drinks as well as mouth-watering local and continental dishes. The blend of warm hospitality, diverse menu, and charming ambience ensures a memorable dining experience for everyone who walks through. Panjim River Cruise: Embark on a scenic journey along the Mandovi River by immersing yourself in the stunning Goa scenery with the Panjim River Cruise. Opt for the sunset cruise for a breath-taking horizon view and unforgettable memories. What’s more, it is filled with entertainment – from live music to captivating dance performances by talented artists and delectable food and of course, refreshing drinks. Embark on a nature walk: Explore the serene side of Panjim through enchanting nature walks that unveil the city's hidden gems. These walking tours guide you through lush green landscapes, historical neighborhoods, and tranquil riverfronts, providing a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. Discover the vibrant flora and fauna, witness the charming architecture, and immerse yourself in the soothing ambiance of this coastal paradise. Panjim's walking tours promise an immersive experience, allowing you to connect with the city at a leisurely pace while indulging in the refreshing beauty that surrounds you. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in Dabolim and Panjim, where every corner recites a new story waiting to be told. From whimsical museums to culinary delights and serene waterways, these unexplored gems of Goa beckon with its charm and allure, promising a vacation like no other! This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

24 February,2024 08:00 AM IST | New Delhi | IANS
The short film festival 'Lights! Canberra! Action!' on March 8, will showcase our talented local film makers interpretation of this year’s theme ‘A Sense of Purpose’. Photo Courtesy: Special Arrangement

Enlighten Festival is back in Canberra in Australia from March 1 - 11

The Enlighten Festival is back from March 1 - 11 lighting up the nights in Canberra once again this year. The programme is jam-packed with breath-taking illuminations, interactive activities, music, film, and family fun.  There are a number of illuminated installations around the festival precinct in the National Triangle each showcasing its own unique story and inviting visitors to stop, reflect and interact. As expected the iconic national institutions will be lit up with colourful and creative imagery. In celebration of the 35th Anniversary of Parliament House, its facade will transform into an animated creation inspired by the popular LEGO brick model of Parliament House designed by LEGO Certified Professional Ryan ‘Brickman’ McNaught. You can also join arts educator Naomi Zouwer on the forecourt of Parliament House at a creative hands-on print making workshop inspired by LEGO bricks and the iconic architecture. The National Portrait Gallery will feature Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander and legally blind artist Dylan Mooney. The display will see Mooney transform the façade of the National Portrait Gallery building into a giant digital canvas via a livestreamed drawing performance. Against an animated backdrop, Mooney will undertake a nightly portrait drawing session which will dynamically appear in real-time on the building. With no two nights the same, this commission encourages audiences to return during the festival.  Questacon's 2024 Enlighten Festival projections will highlight the connection between storytelling, curiosity, and the science that surrounds us, including Senior Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Violet's heartfelt acknowledgment of First Nations people as the original scientists, emphasising the importance of sharing knowledge between generations.  The main stage will be located at the centre of the Enlighten Festival Hub and will feature live music entertainment from local and interstate acts. Roving performers will also provide entertainment for visitors. More details on the performers will be available on the Enlighten Festival website soon. The Enlighten Festival Hub will celebrate the some of the best the region has to offer with a range of food and drinks from the BentSpoke Beer Garden and new wine and spirits bar Bar Berra. Enlighten Food Park, a playground for foodies, will feature a lineup of food trucks and innovative restaurateurs from across the east coast of Australia as well as local favourites. The short film festival 'Lights! Canberra! Action!' on March 8, will showcase our talented local film makers interpretation of this year’s theme ‘A Sense of Purpose’. On March 10, Symphony in the Park will see Australian rock legends the Hoodoo Gurus take centre stage with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra in a world premiere of their greatest hits reimagined by Alex Turley.  As the festival wraps up Monday, March 11, the community is invited to celebrate Canberra Day with the Canberra Day Appeal Fun Run, followed by a day of entertainment in Commonwealth Park from 10 am to 5 pm. Profits from the event will support local charities through Hands Across Canberra. From Enlighten’s last weekend on March 9 through to the 17, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular will feature around 40 hot air balloons launching at dawn each day and hot breakfast and coffee available from the food trucks and coffee carts

19 February,2024 02:36 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
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