Mumbai-based travel curators offering 'secret getaways'

A small but burgeoning tribe of city-based travel curators are offering secret road trips, camps and sailboat parties nearby to stoke your imagination and curiosity. Ready?

The first time that city-based entrepreneur Mulchand Dedhia heard of a secret getaway was in 2011, during a trip to Thailand. "It was a 10-day trip, of which an overnight stay was at a secret destination. We were only given instructions to carry swimwear, sunscreen, drinking water and food supplies," he recalls. The secret location happened to be Maya Bay, a beach near Hua Hin, outside Bangkok, where the Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer The Beach (2000) was filmed.

Green meadows, near Nalasopara, off the Western Express Highway, are the location for a secret picnic experience
Green meadows, near Nalasopara, off the Western Express Highway, are the location for a secret picnic experience

"There was so much excitement because we wanted to experience a slice of the movie," says Dedhia, founder of Photo Konnect, a platform for photographers, that tried a similar experiment in 2014 with a secret photography workshop in Panchgani. He informs, "I invited seven friends and a model. I didn’t reveal the location or the itinerary; participants were asked to carry two sets of clothes and photo-gear. They made great memories, which is what travellers return with. However, it was ahead of its time because Indian travellers are used to having trip details beforehand. The adventurous Indian is a five-year-old concept."

Moonstone Hammock's camping site in Pen
Moonstone Hammock’s camping site in Pen

Twenty-six-year-old Rohit Dube, one of the five founders of Moonstone Hammock, a city-based travel group, that’s organising The Dirty Little Secret, a trip to a campsite in Pen featuring secret activities this weekend, agrees, "In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in city travellers, who are looking something unique, so, secret experiences have a great potential to attract them. Case in point: This is our first secret camp, with maximum capacity of 40, and it’s almost sold out."

Moonstone Hammock's camping site in Pen
Moonstone Hammock’s camping site in Pen

Why it works
The term ‘secret’ adds suspense and stokes the imagination and curiosity. This is enough to get initial traction, feels Sanchit Gupta, founder of DrinksOnMe, an app-based nightlife platform that curates bar crawls, gigs and parties in Mumbai and Delhi. "We had organised a secret rooftop party in May. It went viral on Facebook, and over 350 guests attended it. Keeping an event secret helps create a sense of exclusivity and intrigue," says the 28-year-old entrepreneur. This weekend, the company will host its first secret road trip, where the destination will be disclosed only a day prior. "We were apprehensive about the idea but our early bird tickets were sold out immediately. Apart from young adults and working professionals, we’ve got enquiries from the 35-plus age group too," he adds.

Another popular pick is a secret picnic experience by Bluebulb. Here, guests drive down to a spot on the Western Express highway, from where they are taken to another spot that leads into a 20-minute forest trail, which opens into meadows. "When they see the spot, it blows their mind away," affirms founder Regan Rodricks, who has received 90-odd bookings since he began offering the experience, two years ago. "The spot offers privacy as it’s only you with your partner, friends or family."
What’s the risk?

Travelling on a secret adventure comes with apprehensions. "You might not like other people in the group. There’s no idea of what’s going to happen and importantly, Indian parents are concerned about their kids (especially girls)," observes Dedhia. Thrills apart, safety is a concern. Hence, familiarity with the organisers is key to participation. For instance, 23-year-old Natasha Pereira, a city-based media professional, plans to sign up with Moonstone Hammock’s secret camping trip because she has attended their previous rafting camp. "That experience was good. So, I don’t mind signing up again, even if I don’t know what’s in store," she admits. Similarly, organisers have also ensured that activities meet safety requirements. "These are ground activities requiring team work, brainstorming and stamina. However, they have been personally tested, and aren’t dangerous or threatening," reveals Dube.

While signing up for a secret international trip might seem far-fetched, a secret adventure closer home might be a good start.

For your next secret adventure

The Dirty Little Secret: Get an adrenaline kick with a high-octane camping experience at a beautiful site in Pen with a marathon of challenging activities. The itinerary also features a barbeque with a performance by vocalist Shagrieka Chakrabarty.
FROM July 2 to 3
AT Pen, Raigad.
COST Rs 2,890 (includes transportation, tent accommodation, meals, activities)

The Secret Road Trip: Enjoy the monsoons with a secret road trip, where the destination will be revealed to guests on a day prior. Not so secret?
ON July 2
CALL 9619416483
COST Rs 3,000 tickets on DrinksOnMe app (Android and iOS)

A Secret Photowalk: Organised by Photo Konnect, the street photo walk will take place at a secret place in the city with an interesting surprise at the end.
ON August 7, 10 am to 11.30 am
CALL 9833683379
COST Rs 900

The Secret Sail Boat Party: The promise of a good time awaits 20 guests (equal number of guys and girls), who will set sail for a secret port at a secret time to eat, play and party at a secret hideout.
ON October 16
COST Rs 10,000 per couple
LOG ON TO The Happywala Weekend (Facebook page)

A Secret Picnic: Monsoons are the best time to chill at a spot with meadows, streams and a pond, equipped with tents and hammocks, near Nalasopara, off the Western Express Highway.
ON All days of the week
COST Rs 7,199 (four people)

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