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Travel: Spot the tiger from a hot air balloon

From snow-capped Himalayas to Goa's beaches and the sturdy Raigad Fort, soak in heady vantage views from the skies with hot air balloon safaris, helicopter rides and ropeways


Indian tour operators are set to sweep you off the ground with novel ways to discover locales from up, up and above
An early morning hot air balloon ride over the lush green Pench Jungle Camp conducted by Tiger Balloon Safaris

Jaipur, Rajasthan
Height: 2,000 feet
Duration: 1 hour
Watch a hot air balloon being inflated right in front of you, and hop into an eight-seater basket for an adventurous ride. Drift with the wind, while the pilot controls the height and rotation of the balloon, and spot the beautiful Amer fort, hover over a lake or enjoy breathtaking rural landscapes. With three launch sites on the outskirts of the Pink City, DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation)-authorised Sky Waltz also offers pick-up and drop services.
Timings: 6.15 am and 4 pm (November-December)
Cost: : Rs 12,000 (adult), Rs 7,000 (child from 5 to 12 years)
Log on to: www.skywaltz.com
Call: 18001038839

Pench, Madhya Pradesh
Height: 100-150 feet
Duration: 15 to 20 minutes
Catch the early morning sun rays as they wash over 12 acres of lush green foliage at the Pench Jungle Camp as you float in a tethered balloon ride, conducted by Tiger Balloon Safaris. Here, the balloon is tied to a rope and steered to a height of 150 feet by a pilot. If lucky, you might be able to spot a tiger during the evening flights from this vantage point.
Timings: 6.30 am to 8.30 am; 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm
Cost: : Rs 2,000
Call: 32988460
Log on to: : www.penchjunglecamp.com

Pench, Madhya Pradesh

Lonavala, Maharashtra
Height: 1,500-2,000 feet
Duration: 1 hour
Have you seen all that there is in Lonavala from the ground? Rediscover the hill station from the skies as you peer down at the colourful mosaic of the lofty Sahyadri ranges, scenic lakes and spectacular valleys. The launch site for this safari, conducted
by Sky Waltz, is at Kamshet, 18 km from Lonavala.
Timings: 6.15 am (till May)
Cost: : Rs 12,000 (adult), Rs 7,000 (child from 5 to 12 years)
Log on to: www.skywaltz.com
Call: 9822988800

Lonavala, Maharashtra

Goa
Height: 1,500 to 3,000 feet (above sea level)
Duration: 40 minutes to 1 hour
Want to escape the madding beach crowds in Goa, especially during the holiday season? Sign up for Hot Air Ballooning, launched in October by Goa Tourism Development Corporation in partnership with Tiger Balloon Safaris. Accompanied by a pilot, plonk yourself in the cushy wicker basket (with a capacity of three to eight persons) and enjoy the coastline and hinterland views of the sunshine state.
Timings: 6.30 am to 8 am
Launch Site: Assolda Ground, Chandor, South Goa.
Cost: Rs 8,500
Call: 832-2438866
Log on to: www.goa-tourism.com

Ropeway drift
Raigad, Maharashtra
Get access to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s bastion, Raigad Fort, nestled in Maharashtra’s Konkan region via a ropeway service built in 1996. Starting from Hirkani Wadi, Pachad, the 760-metre long ropeway is maintained and operated throughout the year by Millennium Properties (P) Limited.
Cost: Rs 200 (inclusive of a short film screening on Raigad and a guided tour of Fort Raigad)
Call: 2025459730
Log on to: www.raigadropeway.com

Malampuzha, Kerala
A 20-minute ride at a height of 60 feet lets you soak in the lush green environs of Malampuzha garden, a picnic spot located in Malampuzha village of Kerala. It houses a rock garden, a snake park and a sculpture of the gigantic Yakshi (an enchantress).
Log on to: www.keralatourism.org

Udaipur, Rajasthan
Enjoy views of Lake Fateh Sagar, City Palace and Sajjangarh Fort via this four-minute ride, installed between two mountains on the banks of Lake Pichola in Udaipur.
Timings: 9 am to 9 pm Capacity 6 seater Gondolas
Log on to: www.udaipurropeway.com

Cool ride in a copter

Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune
Height: 1,000-1,500 feet
Duration: 30 minutes
Whether it’s Hyderabad’s Charminar, Chennai’s Marina Beach or Pune’s Shaniwar Wada, check out the spectacular skylines and tourist spots of the metropolitan cities via private plane and helicopter rides offered by Adventure Nation. In order to bag the best view, the maximum height for these rides does not exceed 1,500 feet in most cases.
Till May Cost: `8,430 (private plane ride, Hyderabad), Rs 12,500 (private plane ride, Chennai), Rs 11,666 (helicopter ride, Pune) Log on to: www.adventurenation.com
Call: 0124-3040506

Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Duration: 15 minutes
Fly over the snow-capped Himalayas and discover paradise from top via the Srinagar helicopter air safari, launched last month by Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation. The board has also launched Srinagar-Gulmarg and Sri-nagar-Pahalgam helicopter services.
Cost: Rs 6,000 per person (Srinagar helicopter air safari), Rs 11,000 per person (Srinagar-Gulmarg, one way), Rs 13,000 per person (Srinagar-Pahalgam, one way)
Log on to: www.jktdc.co.in

Safety tips

>> Stay clear of all equipment and balloon ropes.
>> Ensure young children are closely supervised at all time.
>> Do not smoke near the balloons.
>> Carry warm clothing for possibly chilly mornings.
>> Hot air balloon flights depend on weather and are regulated by the Indian Aircraft Rules and Civil Aviation Requirements.
>> A limited insurance cover is offered against the risk of any injury to passengers and their belongings during the course of the flights in accordance with international agreements covering such flights.

For more details, log on to www.hotairballooningingoa.com


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