Our Product Teams – the guys who research and create our journeys – spend a significant amount of time each year researching their specialist destinations.
Our India Product Executive, Nadia, recently joined our 14 day small group tour to south India. Starting in Bangalore and ending in Cochin, here are her Top 5 southern India experiences.
I was excited about my second trip to India and didn’t know what to expect, as I would be visiting the south this time which is starkly different to Rajasthan and the north. Southern India’s lush tropical vegetation contrasts vividly with the Rajasthani deserts, gone are the grand forts and palaces and instead gorgeous plantation houses and bungalows await. The food – boy, did we try everything possible! – saw the rich curries of the north being replaced with light seafood dishes loaded with the most amazing combinations of spices.
Elephants at Nagarhole national park
1. Nargarhole National Park. Even though we didn't see a tiger, the scenery was beautiful and instead of the big cats we saw about 20 elephants. We were lucky to have an amazing guide who had worked with elephants for over 20 years and knew so much about the elephants and their habitat, even how to communicate with them. From a distance we got charged by the dominant elephant from 2 different family groups, at the time it was scary, but afterwards so exhilarating that we got to witness how a herd protects their baby, we watched the groups for long enough that they got used to us, and one brave elephant came to within about 5 metres of the Jeep. Also the property we stayed at, The Serai, was beautiful! Lovely bungalow style accommodation in the most beautiful setting overlooking the Kabini Reservoir. A must do in the South!
2. The drives we did through the Nilgiri Hills. The scenery on our first drive up into the Nilgiri Hills to Ooty and Coonoor was some of the most AMAZING scenery I have ever viewed. A steep windy drive took us up though stunning green tea plantations interspersed by plantations of the tallest eucalypts I’ve ever seen. The vistas from the bus were amazing as we climbed, eventually above some of the cloud and rain and into the cooler climate of the hillstations.
Backwater of Kerala cruise
3. Our Tour Leader Paula Harrigan. Paula was AMAZING! She had such a wealth of knowledge about India and her passion for India was contagious. She was friendly and fun and loved to laugh with us all, but in the background was making sure everything ran smoothly and without a hiccup. She was a wonderful “extra” to the tour and really made our experience go from good to excellent. Thanks Paula!
4. Lunch at a local plantation home. We were greeted by a jolly fellow named Jose at the gate of his rubber and pineapple plantation, we didn’t know what we were in store for but what an experience! Jose showed us around his lovely home and plantation, pointing out all the exotic things growing as we went, vanilla, pepper, cinnamon, guava, jackfruit, the list went on. Then he took us into his home where is wife had cooked up a South Indian feast for us all to enjoy. The best part of the lunch, was that it felt like we were having lunch with old friends, and we got to try food that they would normally eat at home (not quite as spicy as they ate it though).
5. Coconut Lagoon. We stayed two nights at the Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom it overlooks the Vembanad Lake and is the perfect setting for a few days relaxing towards the end of tour. The bungalows are based on traditional Keralan bungalows and have a great atmosphere, even an outside bathroom. From here we spent a morning cruising the Keralan Backwaters and enjoyed a cooking demonstration with another feast of delicious Keralan food for us to try. Then that afternoon we watched the sun go down over the lake, with every minute or two the scene getting better and better – a photographers paradise!