INDIALINE
Complete India Travel Guide

"Rajasthan is a land of glorious historical traditions and culture. It is replete with the annals of patriotism, valor and self-sacrifice. Besides these Rajasthan has a lot to offer to adventure lovers and has some of the best locations for adventure sports."
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Rajasthan Adventure Sports Cultural & Welfare Society

Desert Safari  Rajasthan
Desert Safari - Rajasthan

Scope of Adventure sports in Rajasthan includes both the traditional games enjoyed by the Maharajas and newer sports loved by todays youths. Tourists coming down to Rajasthan, as such, do not just have the royal forts and palaces to see but also royal games to enjoy. Other games too have an endearing charm and enthusiasm that leaves the tourists asking for more.

Aerosports

Ballooning - The undulating sand dunes are ideal for ballooning buffs. People can even travel short distances between towns or historic resorts in these hot air balloons. The best, of course, is to coast over fairs such as Pushkar, or Beneshwar or Nagaur in a hot-air balloon.

Para-sailing - A sport that is begging to be tried out in Rajasthan, with its open, sandy countryside, it is considerably complex to organise and expensive to operate. However, should your operator be able to put all the machinery in place, it could provide another facet of excitement to your visit to Rajasthan.

Gliding - The open countryside offers gliding opportunities that can prove remarkable, and with permission from civil aviation authorities, these may be organised in several cities where, even though there are no scheduled services, there are runways and strips. These include, besides Jaipur, cities such as Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Kota.

Trekking

If you thought the Himalayas or the Ghats are the only places where trekking is possible, you obviously need to re-think your options, for the hilly areas of Rajasthan provide several days of ideal trekking opportunities. The Mewar belt with the Udaipur-Kumbhalgarh-Chittaur combine, or the area around Mount Abu, or the Sariska-Alwar-Amber belt is best for trekking.

Winter is the best time for trekking, though the monsoon months provide romantic, green getaways. It is best to trek in a small group, and carry only basic necessities, since provisions can be bought along the way, but do ensure a supply of bottled water. Trekkers can choose to camp in the open countryside, though there are likely to be quaint, personalised hotels available in most areas. Trekking can be along established routes, though a more exciting option may simply be to chart one’s own trails, moving practically as one likes.

Camping

Camping is a fine art in Rajasthan, with established camps in set locations that would be fit for royalty. Especially created tents include those with bedrooms, a small hallway or leisure area, and attached bath. These tents use hand-block printed fabrics within the interiors, to create a rich ambience. Such tented camps can be found at places like Samode Bagh, an hour’s journey outside Jaipur, or at Pushkar for the duration of the fair in November. However, such tents can also be hired, and agents use them to create cities wherever required; or for moving visitors to different places, where these tents are pegged each night. Such camping expeditions are fine for they bring the outdoors alive, albeit in style. From the food to the entertainment, everything takes on a more exciting edge while at camp. And if you are able to strike up the right camaraderie over the bonfire, you could end up making friends for life, or taking back with you nostalgic memories of among the best times you have had in your life.

For those of you who would like to stay in a tented camp, such opportunities are on offer in different parts of the state. A makeshift camp, of course, can be set up almost anywhere, but fully functional camps are located, sometimes only in season, with camp cots, attached baths and showers, and a regular kitchen staff to look after your meals.

Some of these include:

Chetoli - Located off the Delhi-Jaipur highway, near Kotputli, from December 15-Janaury 15. Offers opportunities for angling, camel safaris and jeep safaris.

Dausa - From October till April. Camel rides are an extra option.

Kheechan - From October to March, for those who want to see damoiselle cranes and observe their peculiar behaviour as they are fed by the local villagers.

Manvar - Jodhpur-Jaisalmer highway, with camel and jeep safaris.

Ranthambhor - Located close to a river bed, it offers alternate accommodation for those visiting the wildlife park.

Sam - An economy, shared baths camp near Jaisalmer for those who would like to spend a night on the dunes.

Samode - A permanent camp has been set at Samode Bagh, with a huge garden, the historic pavilions of the family retreat, and a swimming pool. Closed between June-September.

Water Sports

Watersports may appear an alien concept in Rajasthan but the presence of large lakes has actually made the development of such sports possible. Even though they are not very popular yet, the opportunities exist for them, a fact that was brought home when the water games during the prestigious Asian Games in 1982 were held in at Jamua Ramgarh on the outskirts of Jaipur. Unfortunately, the kick-start provided for watersports then failed to take off because, following some years of drought, the water level at the lake fell. Though the level was restored a few years later, it may require more incentive to focus on them on a more permanent basis.

Boating - Regular boating, of course, has been offered at several places in Rajasthan, whether on the lakes in Udaipur, or at places such as Siliserh lake near Alwar. Such activities are possible in most lakes in Rajasthan. However, should you wish to introduce boating in other lakes, whether paddle, motor, row or sail, you will have to cart your own boats.

Angling - For the angler, Rajasthan’s lakes and streams teem with game fish. Which is why even the most rudimentary rod, line and bait can fetch you rich rewards. Expensive angling equipment is difficult to hire locally, and should you be a keen angler, it may be worth your while to carry your own rod and line along, and be guided by the kind of bait used locally to net your day’s catch. These fishing expeditions can be undertaken with appropriate licenses in most of the lakes in Rajasthan, and can be combined with a historical and cultural tour of the state.

Cycling

The most popular mode of transport in Rajasthan could also provide the ideal leisure, since travelling on a bicycle is almost therapeutic, provides exercise without being exhausting, and is certainly inexpensive. Bicycles can be hired almost anywhere in Rajasthan, and literally for a song. Though the bikes tend to be basic, they are foolproof and unlikely to develop major snags. The period of hire can range from a few hours to a few days. However, those looking forward to doing some serious biking in the state should opt to buy racy, gear bicycles that are available in all major towns, and are not expensive. At the end of a trip, such bikes can either be sold or simply gifted away. Obviously, bikes are ideal when exploring the countryside where towns are in close proximity, (Shekhawati, for example) or for getting around the hilly idylls of places such as Mount Abu.

Golf

The desert is an unlikely place to have golf courses, and of course the lack of water makes it difficult to green even the smallest of gardens, an 18-hole course being a virtual impossibility. The aristocracy, however, remained enamoured of the gentlemen’s game that was so popular in British India. Unfortunately, the weather did not permit them the indulgence of creating golf courses in this arid wilderness, and it was only in Jaipur, as a part of the large scale palace renovations undertaken by Maharaja Man Singh that a course was added to the city. That 9-hole course is still the only one in Jaipur and, in fact, in Rajasthan, and though it is not a professional course, it is good for a round of golf in what are picturesque surroundings: a palace next door, and peacocks on the hazards… A golf course in Bikaner is unconventional in that the course exists exactly in the nature of the desert terrain, and even the ‘greens’ have been replaced here by ‘browns’ which, if nothing else, are at least unconventional.

Rallies

When the first motorcars started coming to India, Rajasthan’s princes and aristocracy were among the earliest to order them. No wonder the state has such an extensive network of roads that connects even small towns and villages. These, in turn, have become the venue for various rallies.

Vintage Car Rally - An annual event, the Jaipur Vintage Car Rally, though a recent addition, has become an important one on the Indian social calendar. Held in January, and keenly contested, it invites prestigious entries. Since some of the aristocratic families have still kept their vintages in their garages, the turnout too is impressive, with some cars dating back to the very early years of the turn of the century.

However, if you are a vintage car buff, and are likely to miss the rally, you will find it heartening to note that many of these beauties are still in peak running condition, and are, in fact, also hired out for special occasions, rides, incentive parties, or marriages. So if you’d like to take a ride back to the past, you know just where to do it!

Desert Safari

The Desert Safari has become a popular circuit with rallyists, but there are several other rallies where, along with the Himalayas, the desert too is included in the rally itinerary for a change in the terrain. Since Rajasthan’s roads, with the exception of the Delhi-Jaipur-Udaipur-Mumbai artery, are fairly isolated, with little traffic load, they are ideal for such sporting events.

Those who may want to create a rally may wish to write to the rally organisations in India to help them create events specially for them, as part of an Indian or a larger, world circuit. And the desert really is an ideal venue.

Polo

The sport of polo had its beginnings in India, in the state of Manipur. Played in a very basic manner using brisk ponies, the game eventually evolved under British patronage, and a complex set of rules was created, and the game divided into chukkers or rounds. Rajasthan’s princely kingdoms adopted the sport and made it their own, with their natural proclivity for riding. Kingdoms kept special stables for polo ponies, and their teams included among the very best in the world. Very often, the players were the rulers and members of their families, though their armies also encouraged the sport. In the zenanas, even the women of the royal family were encouraged to play polo, and proved themselves adept at it. In fact, if the sport has a presence in the country today, it is because the former royal families have continued to provide encouragement for it, and the Indian Army has been able to contribute its mite to it. In recent years, corporate sponsorship too has been able to make a contribution to the sport.

Horse Polo - The Jaipurs were a formidable polo playing family, and the last maharaja of the state literally died with his spurs on, on a polo field. With the glamour of the game, they drew international publicity for India, and the sport has remained one of the most prominent in the elite social circuit. Along with Jaipur, there are also formidable polo teams in Jodhpur and Udaipur, while the 61st Cavalry, also based in Jaipur, has kept it alive in the army.

It is not possible to simply arrive and start playing polo, since the sport needs especially bred horses in large numbers. These are largely maintained by the players themselves, or with the help of their sponsors. You will therefore have to seek out an invitation to play, something you are best advised to do in advance. However, it is possible to send in a special request while planning your trip to Rajasthan, especially if you are a group with polo-playing members. This is important because, in season, when the game is played (September-March), the polo teams are often out (in Delhi, Calcutta or Mumbai) on the circuit, or may even be playing overseas. Of course, there is also the chance of having visiting teams in Rajasthan coinciding with the time of your visit. Even if you do not get the chance to play, there is every chance of being able to watch the sport as an observer – which is almost as good as playing. There is something extremely satisfying about watching men on their horses as they pursue the ball with their sticks with skill and adroitness.

Camel Polo - At various tourist festivals in the state, camel polo has been introduced as a friendly, competitive sport. Perhaps the only place in the world where it is played, the game provides a great deal of amusement and mirth, but is not yet a serious pursuit. If you would like to have a game especially organised, request your tour operator to have it arranged.

Elephant Polo - Nepal and Rajasthan are the only two places where polo is played on elephant-back. Though not a serious sport, it attracts the international media because of the oddity of a fast game played from the backs of pachyderms who can hardly move as fast in the confined space of a stadium. It is, however, amusing to watch. Though elephant polo too can be specially organised on request, competitions are arranged annually at Jaipur’s Chaugan during Holi (February-March).

Bicycle Polo - For those who like the fast pace of horse polo, bicycle polo provides an option that is at least as exciting. During the sixties and seventies, a lot of impetus was provided to the sport, particularly in Bikaner, though in recent years it has become somewhat dissipated. However, for those who may like to participate in a friendly match, or to observe one, special arrangements can be made on request. In more recent years, the sport has developed a following in the Shekhawati region.

Safari

Rajasthan's topography is such that it allows for various safaris - jeep, camel, horse and elephant. The major share of limelight is without doubt hogged by camel and elephant safari, nonetheless jeep safari is equally interesting and widely enjoyed. Each safari has its own charm and caters to the varying prefrences of tourists. Sitting on a jeep, elephant or camel, tourists explore every nook and corner of Rajasthan while enjoying the journey itself.

 


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