Connecting with nature: Exploring how Mumbaikars can go camping and tips for beginners

15 March,2024 07:30 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Aakanksha Ahire

Camping is the best kind of escape. Millennials and GenZ Mumbaikars will agree. If you are fresh out of college and have jumped straight into work life, you might soon need a getaway. Mid-day Online spoke to campers and camp organisers who told us how to embark on a remarkable camping expedition

One can go camping throughout the year, however, the time of camping largely depends on the choice of location. In Photo: Bhavali Dam campsite/Privilege Hospitality Events Private Limited

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Vacations act as an antidote to the stress and burnout that come with our jobs. Taking breaks from time to time helps us to refresh and reset. While relaxing in hotels and resorts on the outskirts of Mumbai is a common way for many to take vacations, a larger population of young adults are choosing to go camping.
Lyka Pathan, one of the many camping enthusiasts from Mumbai calls herself a ‘free-spirited soul'. Lyka manages social media and operations for travel companies for a living, but her true passion lies in the mesmerising outdoors.

"Camping is like a second nature to me. I'm a bonafide travel and trekking enthusiast, constantly seeking out new adventures. Whether it's rugged trek camping, glamorous glamping, or just a weekend escape near Mumbai, you can find me camping at least twice a month, if not more frequently."

She reminisces: I've slept under the stars at Prabalmachi, experienced eco-living at Igatpuri, and even indulged in the luxury of Swiss tent camping in Chopta. But my all-time favourite has to be the AMK trek camping where I ended my trek with a beautiful sunset and woke up surrounded by 360-degree mountain views, watching a golden sunrise.

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When asked why she loves camping, this Mumbai resident says, "What fuels my love for camping is the raw, unadulterated connection it allows me to have with nature. There's something deeply satisfying about breathing in the fresh, earthy scent of the jungle, feeling the chill of the wilderness, and gazing up at a sky full of stars. For me, it's not just an experience; it's a way to quench my insatiable thirst for the wild."

While she conversed with us, she was busy packing for her upcoming adventure. "I will soon be headed on a camping trip near a lake in Igatpuri. Not only will I be able to soak in the mountain vibes, but there's also the promise of some exciting water activities to add to the thrill."

Like Lyka if you too love spending time amidst nature and wish to go camping, we have camping experts and organisers to help you get started.
Feeling alive with camping

"Camping is an outdoor recreational activity where individuals or groups spend time in natural settings, typically staying overnight in tents, RVs, or other temporary shelters. It often involves activities such as hiking, fishing, campfires, and wildlife observation," says Ghatkopar resident Manoj Kumar(37) of T-Trikon, a travel group in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore that has been organising camps for the past 11 years.

Further, Chembur resident Sunny Awasthi has 12 years of camping experience who is also the founder of Motojojo Pvt Ltd adds, "Just 100 kilometres outside the city you will find beautiful landscapes and the Sahyadris." He opines, "Villas, resorts, and hotels have become party places. Camping however is a culture that offers a thrill and a sense of adventure. Mumbai's camping market has beautifully evolved in the past years. Various outdoor communities like cyclists and bikers rent tents and camps next to lakes or in the fields for nights to save up on the cost of hotels and live a true adventure."

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Priyanka Shelke (26), tour manager, Privilege Hospitality Events Private Limited, who has been organising camps for enthusiastic campers for the last five years, says, "More youngsters from the city today prefer camping as it is the perfect way to stay amidst nature enveloped in lush foliage, large water bodies, or picturesque hills. While pitching a tent in the wilderness, campers can engage themselves in immersive experiences from acoustic music, team games, barbecue grills, stargazing, fishing, movies outdoors, and bird watching or just relax with the sounds of nature."

Adding to this, Borivali resident Nachiket Naik(24), founder of Amhi Trekkers has four years of experience in organising camps around Mumbai says, "Unlike regular vacations, camping involves connecting with strangers and doing activities like kayaking, boating, and team games."

"Camping is a completely thrilling and raw experience. It is nothing like your normal vacation. Here, there is less luxury and more adventure. It involves living in tents devoid of city luxuries. It is thus perfect for those Mumbaikars who love wilderness and living amidst nature, under the sky," says Manish Bisht (22), founder, Banjareyyyy Travels. Manish has been camping for the last six years.

Best places for Mumbaikars to go camping

Shelke suggests the following places.
1. Bhavali Dam camping surrounded by hills makes an enthralling scenic landscape ideal for visitors to immerse in the eternal beauty of nature. Guests can take a plunge at the lake, relish multi-cuisine meals, nature camping, fishing at the dam, and music.
(All seasons) Distance: 3 hours

2. The upper Vaitarna lake camping, a crystal clear lake surrounded by hillocks, lush green woods, and an enthralling scenic landscape makes it a delight for visiting tourists. Guests can rejuvenate by the lakeside, cherish sumptuous multi-cuisine meals, enjoy bird watching, music, boating, and barbecue, or take a stroll in the hilly terrain.
(All seasons) Distance: 3 hours

3. Vasind camping has a picturesque setting surrounded by mountains which is an ideal escape for nature lovers. Visitors can engage in camping near the lake, water sports, river rafting, or exploring the nearby Mahuli Fort.
(All seasons) Distance: 2.5 hours

4. Guest can set up their camp near Dudhni Lake, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. This place is a heavenly paradise for nature and adventure lovers to immerse in the extraordinary. One of the key attractions of boating in Shikaras, embraced with the spectacular view of neighbouring forests. Wildlife tours at Satmalia and Vasona present one of the most unique experiences of viewing Asian Lion, Spotted Deer, Sambhar, and Nilgai at the closest.
(All seasons) Distance: 3.5 hours

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Other popular camping sites as recommended by other experts include:
1. Pawna lake
2. Bhandardara
3. Igatpuri
4. Rajmachi|
5. Prabalmachi
6. Alibaug
7. Matheran

All of these campsites offer fun outdoor activities like:
1. Boating
2. Kayaking
3. Star gazing
4. River rafting
5. Hiking
6. Barbeque
7. Outdoor games like football, archery, badminton, net-climbing, etc.
8. Rock climbing and rappelling

One can go camping throughout the year, however, the time of camping largely depends on the choice of location. It is advisable to avoid camping in extreme weather conditions, especially during heavy monsoons.

Tips for beginners
With varied responses from experts, we collate a list of factors you must consider before stepping into the wild.
1. If you're new to camping, start with easy trips that are still exciting. It's safer to go with a group or a tour organizer who can give you tips and guidance about camping.

2. Start by researching different types of camps available, such as outdoor adventure camps, and specialised skill-building camps. Choose a camp that aligns with your interests, goals, and comfort level. Make sure you meet all requirements before enrolling. After registering for the camp, you may need to complete additional paperwork, such as health forms, waivers, emergency contact information, and payment processing.

3. Before enrolling check the credentials/expertise of the tour company or campsite. Check for amenities and costs.

4. Choose a destination that is easily accessible and relatively safe to travel.

5. Check the pick and drop points as many camping zones require long walks or treks that many need to be more accustomed to.

6. Plan the trip considering the engagement you wish to indulge in, sightseeing, and weather conditions.

7. Check the amenities offered at the campsite including the tent size, sleeping bags, pillows, and food and beverage preferences.

8. Do not wait for a big group to form. Pick up a group online via Instagram and websites, verify how experienced are they, and go.

9. Adhere to the rules of the place you are travelling to and also the campsite. Follow proper guidelines which will be given by your event leader.

Safety measures and common mistakes to avoid
Here are key factors first-timers should always consider to have a safe camping experience.

1. Most of the camping sites don't have internet access and mobile connectivity is low. If guests are driving on their own then ensure to download Google Maps to use offline.

2. As for money and payments, most campsites don't have card facilities. Due to remote location, even ATMs are not easily accessible. There is a limited network for digital payments as well. Hence, always carry sufficient cash.

3. Avoid carrying valuables to the campsite. The baggage and personal belongings are your responsibility as the tour company or campsite owners shall not be liable for the loss/damage.

4. Smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited on many campsites, so cross-check with campsites or tour operators.

5. Avoid littering to maintain the beauty of the unexplored destinations.

6. Cross-check if toilets are neat and clean as many campers can find discomfort with unhygienic toilets.

7. Camp in the wild outdoors but always with experts. You are still not there yet to simply pitch a tent anywhere. Experts in such outdoors are needed.

8. Also, reach the spot way before it becomes dark, never pitch your tents in the dark. You should know where you are, what is around, and how your spot is.

9. Follow safety measures and don't venture deep inside the water or click pics at the cliff of the hills.

Right outfit and essentials to carry
For camping, it's important to wear clothing and footwear that are suitable for rough outdoor activities and weather conditions. Campers should wear comfortable and warm clothes, a cap, and sturdy shoes for safety.

For summer, pack light, breathable and comfortable outfits mostly cottonwear. Footwear would include sandals or sports shoes. If it's extremely humid, carry a cap, and sunglasses.

For winter, bring along insulating layers like fleece jackets or down vests to stay warm in cooler temperatures.

For monsoon, pack a waterproof or water-resistant jacket to protect yourself from rain and wind.

Avoid short clothing as campsites are prone to insects

Here is a list of essentials campers must carry with them:

Mosquito repellent creams
Power bank
Common medicines and first aid kit
Water bottles
Face towel, Wet tissues
Hoodies and sweatshirt
Light munching snacks
Personal hygiene items
Mobile phone charger
Hand sanitizer
Tissue Papers
Swimming trunks
Whistle (it is a life-saver)

Camping might not be suitable for all
Anyone with serious illness, heart disease, infection, or allergic to certain environments, should avoid camping. People with health problems like asthma, high blood pressure, or sinus issues should also avoid camping.

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