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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

South shines on tourist map in winters

Sneha Mahale  Mumbai, December 15, 2012
First Published: 18:55 IST(15/12/2012) | Last Updated: 19:23 IST(11/1/2013)
South India, with its scorching heat and high humidity levels, may not find many takers in the summer or rainy season. However, come winter, when the climate becomes milder, the states that make up the lower half of the country see tourists arrive by the hordes. Giving the usual hill stations a miss, we offer some rather unusual activities for you to try out in the region.

Lake Palace, Thekkady
You don’t need to spend a bomb for a few nights at this island palace in the middle of Periyar Lake. A 15-minute boat ride takes you to this heritage jungle resort run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation that lies in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary. If the lavish rooms and many modern amenities don’t entice, patrons can order items off a customised menu, have a ranger take you on a personal walk around the surrounding forests, go on a boat ride and have unrestricted views of the sanctuary around. The
highlight, waking up in the early hours of the morning to see otters playing around in the calm waters or elephant herds bathing.

Matrimandir, Auroville
This experimental township near Puducherry attracts souls looking to regain their lost trust in humanity. People of different nationalities come together to rise above caste, creed, politics and feel a sense of unity with the world. The highlight of the town is the Matrimandir, a structure whose dome’s surface is made up of gold. At its centre is a crystal ball which glows with a single ray of sunlight. Perfect spot for some peace and quiet.

Chinese fishing, Kochi
The Chinese fishing nets,  locally known as Cheena vala, are unique to Kochi. Legend tells us that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets to the fisherfolk in the area. And most travellers are astonished to find out that the nets used for fishing here can’t be found in China!  The whole stretch of the coast along Fort Kochi and Vypeen are dotted with these nets. And for those with a sense of adventure, they can even learn to fish using these nets by coaxing the fishermen to reveal the tricks of their trade.

Snorkelling, Andamans
There are some things in the world that just cannot be missed. And snorkelling with the elephant called Rajan at the Havelock Islands is one of them. The elephant, over 50 years old, who was born in captivity, spends every afternoon snorkelling in the area with his mahut on his back. And watching this magnificent animal paddle through the water without ever taking his eyes off his mahut is a sight to behold. And if that’s not enough in itself, there are several other water sports opportunities and coral formations to see.

Secluded beach, Tarkarli
With its blue waters, white sands, coral reefs and marine life, this beach is one of the Konkan’s best-kept secrets. On a clear day, you can see the sea bed to a depth of 20ft. Snorkelling and scuba diving allows divers to interact with the exotic marine life. Water sport options and the historic Sindhudurg fort are also on the average tourist’s radar. The best part is that it is just 546 km away from Mumbai. Get off at Kudal, if you go by Konkan Railways. For accommodation, do try MTDC’s unusual Konkani Huts.

Boat races, Kerala
The famous Snake Boat Races of Kerala go back 400 years and were started to test the strength and endurance of the local men. Each boat is about 90 to 100 feet long and can accommodate up to 110 people. A complete team is made up of about 100 rowers, five guides, a captain and a few people who set the beats for the rowers. Though the main races take place in August and September, the Tourism Boat Race takes place on January 11 annually and attracts visitors from all over the world, who participate in this mega event.
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