Maasai Mara

Call of the wild

A safari in Africa is an unforgettable affair. If you are fortunate to witness the wildebeest migration, the experience will forever stir your soul. The migration is one of the most phenomenal natural spectacle, termed as ‘the greatest show on earth’ by wild-lifers and nature enthusiasts. The Great Migration is the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet where more than a million animals follow the rains and the growth of new grass across the Serengeti Mara ecosystem. 


Watching the wildebeest migration was a dream come true. Interestingly, this trip also included many firsts for us: our first safari in Africa, first real-time witnessing wildebeest migration, first hot air balloon ride, first time touching and feeding giraffes and (presumably) our first private flight. We had plenty of reasons to be super excited.

Hunter and the prey

The migration season, from July to October, is considered the best time of the year to visit Maasai Mara when game viewing is optimal as there is plenty of predator and prey interactions.

Once in a lifetime trip has to be planned meticulously to chose the right game park, time of visit and mode of local transport to best utilize the time spent in the game reserve. Our itinerary was tailor-made to include at least eight hours of safari every day, super comfort stays and a vehicle at our disposal. Also, we preferred domestic flights over land travel to save on travel time. For ease it is best to get all your stays, domestic travel, transportation and activities arranged through one single agent. We were completely taken care of from the moment we landed in Nairobi till our departure.

Pre-travel advisory: a) Invest in a good SLR camera if you want to treasure your sighting memories. Both of us carried our own DSLR cameras and shared a tripod and binoculars. b) Yellow fever shot is mandatory to visit Kenya and is available only in specific government facilities where appointment can take weeks. c) Small soft luggage is recommended on domestic flights due to lack of space.

We landed in Nairobi and had a day at our disposal. Our driver welcomed us with safari hats and iconic red blankets called shuka. We had only two items on our agenda in Nairobi. Feeding Rothschild giraffes and a meal at the world famous Carnivore.

Feeding giraffe at

Giraffe Center houses orphan giraffes in natural surroundings. This is your chance to get very very close to this tall animal. You can feed them on your hand and if you really have the nerve, hold a pellet in your mouth and the hungry giraffe will lick it away and reward you with a kiss!!

Carnivore feast

Even though we are not so much into the meats but the Carnivore experience is not to be missed. Known as the ultimate ‘Beast of a Feast’ it’s a meat lovers paradise where a vast selection of meats, including crocodile, camel and ostrich, are roasted on swords in the open kitchen. The feast continues until you conceit defeat by lowering a flag on the table. Incidentally, the house cocktail is called ‘Dawa’ – medicine or magic potion in swahili.

Flight from Nairobi to Maasai Mara

We arrived in Maasai Mara on a small Cessna aircraft from Nairobi. One hour flight in the 10 seater aircraft flying at low altitude was quite a different experience. There are 14 airstrips in Maasai Mara and the tiny aircrafts are like taxis making stops on need basis. We chose to stay in a luxurious campsite, Governors’ Camp, which had its own airstrip, or so it seemed, almost outside the camp. Our little aircraft landed just for two of us to alight.

Our camp

The setting was magical. Governors’ Camp was nestled in the forest along the winding banks of the Mara River, it’s waters teeming with bird-life, hippopotamus and crocodiles. Campsite was fairly large with no fence. Our tent was above the riverbank, tucked into the forest with uninterrupted views of the Mara River. With a four poster bed, a study, a sofa, a large bathroom with a tub and a private verandah, this was some luxury in the wild. Pity though, we were never around in the day time to indulge.

Mara River from our camp

Guests were assigned a butler, a server and a guide-cum-driver. The same set of people served us throughout our stay. They were trained to bond well with the guests and understood our tastes and requirements to give us a memorable experience.

The deck

Buffet lunch was served under the trees. Dinning tent had sweeping views of the plains. A bar tent with a deck overlooked the Mara River. Local beer was aptly named, Tusker. On our request, our table was set under a bushy tree right above the river on all days. All guests had a common interest .. wildlife. Daily itineraries revolved around safaris and conversations were about day’s sightings. It is common for elephants and other animals to wander inside the campsites, so guests had to be escorted by guards after dark. We often spotted hippos at night near the camp.  They are most active at night when they forage for food. They are herbivores and eat mostly grass and tons of grass. Their loud roar can frighten anyone, at least on the first night.

Giraffes and Zebras

With full excitement we embarked on our first safari with beer and lunch in our bellies. The landscape is characterized by the dotted trees, savannah plains, scrubs, acacia trees and rolling hills. In Africa, the “Big Five” game animals are lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and cape buffaloes. The terrain and the sheer number makes it easy to spot all except rhino and leopard.

Cape buffaloes and elephants

Maasai Mara national reserve is home to a wide range of wildlife. Zebra, giraffe, hyenas, impalas, antelopes, gazelles, elands, warthogs are in abundance. Hippos, elephants and buffaloes are easy to spot on most trips. You are sure to see large prides of lions. High concentration of wildlife makes game drives enjoyable.

Animals too have emotions

First game drive is always special as you don’t know what to expect. We were super happy to see a large pride of lions taking afternoon siesta in tall grass. Our guide, Musa, was well familiar with their routine and assured to bring us back in time for the action. Afternoon safaris are shorter and last 2.5 to 3 hours. We saw plenty of giraffes, zebras, hyenas, waterbucks, dik-dik, topi and a few lions from close quarters. We returned back in time for the pride to be awake and active. Interestingly, a BBC van mounted with antennas and cameras remained stationed all this while. The professional photographers monitored and recorded movements of lions from different angles on their laptops. Roaring lions came too close to the vehicles giving us adrenaline rush.


It may all sound very exciting but let me tell you that it is a hard working and back breaking trip. The day begins at 5.30 am and tea/coffee is served in your tent with the wake up call. Morning safari begins before dawn at 6 am. Best wildlife sightings are usually early mornings when the animals are fresh and weather is cool. Open air jeeps take upto four people seated in two rows, designed in such a way that each person gets unhindered view of the expanse. Not all roads are tarred but no one complaints about the bumpy ride when the driver goes fast over the uneven terrain and wants to position the vehicle for you to get the best sighting. We gave up lavish breakfast on all days to combine early morning and post breakfast safaris so that we could spend longer time (6 – 6.5 hours) in the game park as it increased the chances of seeing more wildlife significantly. This also meant that our guide cum driver carried packed breakfast and served it (rather cold) on the bonnet at a safe place of his finding. All other times we were strictly prohibited from getting off the vehicle.

Mobile network was available throughout the park and very handy for the guides to share sighting locations. We were extremely fortunate to witness migration at length on two consecutive days.

Wildebeest crossing Mara River

Maasai Mara is the most noted location of the Great Wildebeest Migration due to its famed Mara River crossings. All the jeeps in the vicinity gather in a jiffy as the activity starts building up on the river. Our driver ensured we remained ahead of others and watched the spectacle in the front row, right above the river. At one moment the wildebeest and zebras were grazing the grass on one side of the river and the next moment, as if triggered by some collective switch, thousands made a mad dash to the other side. Twenty minutes later it just stopped suddenly. All jeeps dispersed as if everyone had gathered to watch the almighty’s nature show.

Hot air balloon ready for flight

We had to get up at 4 am to reach the launch site and watch the pilots ignite the burners of two balloons and fly over the Mara savannah. After a brief orientation we climbed into the baskets, each with 10-12 people, and took off before the dawn.

In the air

It was the first hot air balloon ride for most of us and the entire group was euphoric. Although we had been enjoying the beauty of Mara from ground level, there is something even more wonderful about taking in landscapes and wildlife as you serenely pass them by in a hot air balloon. Watching the beautiful natural splendor in the rising sun over the verdant grasslands was stunning. We spent an hour drifting over the savannah, meandering river and grazing wildlife. After landing, we were treated to an elaborate bush breakfast with a customary champagne toast to celebrate the experience.

Bush breakfast

The balloon ride had taken us to the other side of the river. Our jeep safari resumed post breakfast. We were closer to the hills and the terrain was different. We spotted three rhinoceros, very hard to spot animal. Rhinos can weigh in at 5,000 pounds making it the world’s second largest land mammal behind elephants.


It was our lucky day as we witnessed the migration for the second time. knowing our interest, our driver was quick to reach the river and parked the jeep at a strategic spot.

Wildebeests and zebras crossing the river

We were well positioned to watch the second river crossing of humongous number of wildebeests. They had assembled at the river where someone had to take a lead and jump. But the confusion prevailed and they kept turning back for a very long time. Once the first one jumped, the mass of animals moved without break for almost an hour. Some fell prey to the hungry crocodiles waiting in the river. The chaos turned into a pure spectacle to watch. It was hard to even blink and miss a second of the extravaganza, so I placed the camera on the jeep and kept the shutter pressed for continuous clicks!


It was an exceptionally beautiful morning. Musa got a tip and drove hurriedly over the dirt road on the hillock. And we were treated by the sight of an agile cheetah coming out of the bush. Not paying heed to the vehicles coming close or the camera shutters clicking, he walked gracefully to a mound of mud and gave us most elegant poses. From a distance of mere ten meters we continued to watch and shoot for an hour and he didn’t mind the attention at all. Cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal, capable of reaching speed more than 110 kilometers per hour in just over three seconds, but he can’t roam freely in lions territory. When he sensed a lioness coming his way, he quietly disappeared in the bushes.

Leopard with it’s prey

By now we had seen four out of big fives. The leopard was still eluding us. Our guide was determined to show us all big fives and earn his gratuity. Following a tip, we arrived on the scene after a hunt, entirely encircled by some 15 vehicles. Every time the leopard moved, the gaggle of jeeps moved along with it. Even though we were ecstatic to spot a leopard and watched him take the prey up the tree, we felt as if we were invading it’s privacy. Often regarded as a shy, nocturnal animal, leopards prefer wooded savannahs and rocky outcrops and are often found on a tree.


Maasai Mara is also habitat for a wide variety of birds. The world’s largest living bird, the ostrich, is found in the African savannah, while species such as the kori bustard, grey crowned crane, greater flamingo, marabou stork, and spoonbill can all be spotted in the rolling plains of Africa.

We had many interesting sightings of lions. The most adorable was a lioness with two little cubs. Oops .. the second one just went out of the frame!

A large pride of lions with four cubs … too big to fit in a single frame

After thoroughly enjoying four days and nights in Maasai Mara, we took a flight to Amboseli.


The landscape of Amboseli is dominated by the snow cap of Mount Kilimanjaro, open plains, acacia woodland and swamps. The picture of elephants with the backdrop of Kilimanjaro is so imposing. We had chosen a luxury camp on the periphery of the reserve, so our safari began as soon as we were picked up from the airstrip with our luggage.

The park is famous for being the best place to get close to free-ranging elephants. The birding is excellent especially near the lakes and swamps.

If I say Amboseli roads were terrible, that would be an understatement. If you come back without breaking your back then you have a jolly strong back!

Water hole

Our camp was plush and the food amazing. Drinks were on the house all day long. The back breaking ride of an hour and the long days at Maasai Mara, made us opt out of the night safari included in our package. The camp had a watering hole to entice animals and we were quite contended watching them from the comfort of bar while sipping our drinks. The spot lights in the area made viewing easy at night too.

Tornado in Amboseli

It’s common to spot eddies of sand and dust generated by air currents in the driest part of the park. You are bound to see plenty of small tornadoes, so peculiar to Amboseli.

Maasai village

Most itineraries include a visit to Maasai village in the savannah. A peek into their lifestyle is a way to preserve their culture and support the tribes financially. They exhibit their survival skills. They sing and dance for you. At the end of the visit, they display their handicrafts for sale.

For Maasai, life revolves around amassing and grazing large herds of cows. A man’s wealth is measured by the number of cows he owns. The Maasai accept polygamy as a way of life. We were astonished to find a circular mark engraved on their faces branding them as a part of the clan.

Don’t be surprised if you find a Maasai in his traditional dress sitting next to you in the aircraft. This picture was taken at one of the airstrips. Maasais are privileged to travel by jeeps and flights. Living a traditional life must be a choice, it seems.

Milky Way

Amboseli is a fine place for star gazing. The Milky Way shines in all its glory. Unspoiled areas with clear night sky offers views of some of the most incredible constellations visible to the naked eye.

Elephants enjoying mud bath

On our last day, we left the camp after breakfast and our safari continued with packed lunch. The Observation Hill is the only high point of the Amboseli National Park. The view spans 360 degrees throughout the Amboseli National Park with its arid areas, its marshes and its lakes. If the day is clear, the view of the Kilimanjaro can be spectacular.  Alas! we were not so lucky ?

Our private flight!

We were in for a pleasant surprise on our return flight from Amboseli to Nairobi. Our jeep driver saw a plane land well before the departure time and drove us to the airstrip. Both pilots stood by the little aircraft and gestured us to come aboard. With only two of us as the passengers, it seemed like our private plane!!!

African beauties

African safari is unique. Landscapes are teeming with animals and seeing these creatures in their natural habitat is an experience that is beyond compare. Each day brings new perspective. We enjoyed every game drive, got excited on each sighting. There were moments when we realized what the thrill of discovery feels like. Though our trip lasted just a week but we returned home with loads of memories to treasure for a lifetime!

PS: Maasai Mara is the best park for wildlife in Kenya. If I were go back, I would spend all my days in Mara, may be split and stay in different parts of the park. Visiting Amboseli after Maasai Mara was not exciting and we saw nothing new.

Hot air balloon ride was way too expensive. I would have rather spent few extra days in a plush camp for that cost.

Photo Gallery

Goa Calling

February 2021

One month in Goa?

Wow… sounds exciting.

Are you mad? What will you do there? You will get bored?

Is it even safe to stay in a hotel .. you know, so many touch points.

Are you renting a villa? You can’t eat out everyday.

Well … no, we are not insane. We have been thinking of extended stays for a long time. We are pretty much done with short vacays. And we felt that Goa was the perfect choice (for this experiment). There are staycations, workations and we call this ‘temp relocation’.

Why Goa? It’s a beach town with good sunny weather and no pollution, great ambiance, super food, easy liquor, casual atmosphere, no hassle of dressing up, loads of shacks to chill out. And above all, it is a safe place.

We thought of hiring a villa but for two/three people it is not a practical option. Moreover, Goa isn’t Goa unless you get sea view from the window and walk up to the beach in a couple of minutes. Frankly, such villas, if available, would be way too expensive. So we decided to stay in a resort in South Goa where beaches are clean and relatively empty.

Mobor Beach

I was keen to get on to the beach as soon as we checked in. It was my first time in South Goa and the sight of wide, clean beach was very welcoming. I could literally count the handful number of people on Mobor beach. Walking on the sand with feet dipped in sea water was a refreshing change from Delhi winters.

Fresh martinis

We watched the sun set into the Arabian sea and then settled down at Beach Grill; the beach restaurant of our resort was an instant hit with us. Cool sea breeze, good music, fresh pineapple martinis (I spent sometime with the bartender to get my customized versions) and seafood made our first evening very enjoyable.

After dinner we strolled out on the main road. There were just a couple of small shops selling clothes, jewelry, and most importantly, liquor. In Goa you can buy all kind of liquor from the grocery stores. Cool, isn’t it? This part of Goa was pretty secluded with just two big resorts. Lucky for us, two highly recommended restaurants, Fisherman Wharf and Riverside, were at walking distance. We booked a table at Fisherman Wharf for the next evening.

Morning walks

Long walks on the beach every morning and evening are customary and the best way to enjoy Goa. Walking without mask was a new found luxury. Sand color changes from golden to grey to silver and the texture gets softer as the color gets lighter. Sea shells are washed ashore by the waves. Some are left behind while some are taken back by the water. Broken shells make it uncomfortable to walk on sand at times. It is intriguing to watch a fish come up to the beach with waves and grapple to get back quickly with receding water.


It was mainly ‘work from anywhere’ for the boys and they found their respective work spots with amazing views. I would head for the sun loungers on the beach or by the pool with my phone, kindle, sun glasses and sunscreen. My days were well spent reading a book or writing (this blog). In other words, chilling out!

Sundowners at Beach Grill

Our evening walks would invariably end with sundowners at our favorite Beach Grill. Comfortable seating, laidback atmosphere, vast expanse of silver sand and aquamarine Arabian sea, without having to step out … it didn’t take us long to figure out that this was the best place to enjoy sunsets.

Fisherman Wharf

We walked to Fisherman Wharf, highly recommended by friends and blogs. Rustic, shack style restaurant is set by the Sal river. Calm flowing river is quite a contrast to the noisy sea just a few meters away. Live music certainly adds charm to the atmosphere and brings guests to the dance floor. Specializing in Goan dishes and fresh seafood, it is very popular with the locals so fills up every evening. We ended up going back there a few times. For seafood lovers, Sea Devil (bacon wrapped prawns) is a must try!

It was a weekend and we had hired a car for three days. Though we had plans to go out for a drive, we were too comfortably settled on the cushy sofas on the beach. We unanimously decided to continue enjoying the moment and ditched the drive. It was a well spent lazy day on the beach with beers and pina coladas. Personally I liked the idea of staying put but the boys giving up an opportunity to drive came as a surprise!

Riverside @Leela

We had our evening reservation at the Italian restaurant, Riverside at Leela. Dressing up smartly in Goa is an effort but Riverside has a dress code. We had chosen this beautiful and romantic fine dining restaurant for a special occasion. Our table was set up by the river Sal. Everything was perfect .. beautiful ambiance, great food, hospitality, live music and personalized attention. Braised New Zealand Lamb Shank deserves a special mention here. We couldn’t have chosen a better place to celebrate a birthday!

We had already wasted one day of car rental so couldn’t find any excuse next day. We decided to explore some other beaches. We spent some time in a shack on Benaulim beach. Another tick off from our list was Martin’s Corner, much talked about and highly recommended eatery. (May be we are the only ones but) we found the food pretty mediocre. Goa weather and beer makes you lazy. We had no appetite or energy left for the evening in beachside Lobster Village. At the end, we were happy to get back to our own resort for the sunset.

The Cape Goa

Next day was spent exploring South of South goa. The drive to Palolem Beach was good but the beach too crowded for our liking. Nearby, Agonda beach was much better and quieter. We found an interesting machan, Agonda by the Bay, for a relaxed lunch. On our way back, we decided to watch the sunset from a viewpoint in Cabo de Rama fort. We were surprised to find so many people and cars lined up to watch the sunset. Just by chance we found The Cape Goa resort and a restaurant perched above a secluded cove. It was a perfect place to escape the crowds and enjoy the incredible view. Reminded me of Thalassa in north goa .. wonder why this was not as popular?

Valentine’s day

Romance in the air! This was the view from our balcony on Valentine’s day. We were pleasantly surprised to see the poolside and restaurant decked up for the occasion. In the evening, more than 20 cabanas were set up on the beach for private romantic dinner ❤️

Feeling pretty much settled in our ‘temp abode’ we got used to our new routine. The thing about an extended stay is that it starts as a regular holiday with excitement of a new place, new environment, drinks and food and photos and selfies. And as you settle down, the days are more relaxed and routine, but with a difference .. there is no running around, no answering door bells, no meal planning or grocery shopping, no watering of plants. It feels good to be away from the daily chores. Life is good and am loving it ? ?


My days were mainly spent sitting underneath a fluttering umbrella to give just enough shade to sun lounger, reading at leisure, snoozing in between, glancing up every now and then at the silver pristine beach and shimmery blue water, feeling cool sea breeze, hearing the seagulls squawk, sipping a cocktail, watching the occasional jet skis and parasails ….

Confluence of river Sal with Arabian sea

Our favorite spot was where river Sal meets the ocean. The spot where sea beach merges into the river beach. A lighthouse stood tall on a small hill behind the river. Little road and a temple on the rocks on the other side of the river invariably had locals flocking at the sunset time. The view of lone palm tree hanging over the rock, jutting out of the sea, and the setting sun into the ocean was picture perfect. The entire landscape taking on a surreal saffron hues at twilight was mesmerizing. You can’t help but marvel at nature’s beauty.

Turtle on the beach

And surely this was the prize catch! Not literally though. While returning from our evening walk we spotted a big turtle on the beach. We couldn’t contain our excitement as we had never seen a turtle in Goa.

We would often walk back to the beach after dinner. It seemed safe with just enough light from our hotel and the two beach shacks. We would sit on the sand looking at the silver waves in dark. Sometimes we carried towels to lie down quietly on the beach and look at the clear night sky while listening to the sound of waves. Faint lights from the fishing boats and trawlers anchored distantly pronounced their presence.

Fishing boats

Sometimes we saw fishing boats on the beach in the morning. Fishermen would bring their catch in the wee hours and take away what could be sold, leaving behind jelly fish and enumerable tiny fish of no value. It would turn into a feasting spot for the birds.

Our last evening in Goa was extremely rewarding as it was a full moon night. While we saw a breathtaking sunset, early next morning we were awestruck by the silver shimmer of the setting moon in the sea. It was like witnessing the celestial delight. Interestingly, both the sun and moon set at the same place in the ocean.

Sunset is magical .. moonset is ethereal

Sunset is romantic .. moonset is divine

Sunset is vivid .. moonset is subtle

Life in Goa

Like all good things come to an end, so did our stay in Goa. We enjoyed every single day, each walk on the beach, every sunset, every sundowner. Staying in a resort is like getting pampered where everything is available on a call, be it housekeeping or dining. Was coming back difficult? Hmm .. not really. I think we had our fair share of Goa. And we felt that we were moving from one resort to another .. that’s what we feel Nirvana is!

P.S. Though February is a great time to visit Goa, it also happens to be the wedding season. ‘Big Fat Indian Weddings’ may be all paid fun for the ‘baratis’ but it can play a spoilsport for holiday makers. It was disheartening, to say the least, to see huge stages set up on the beach for private wedding functions, with total disregard to the environment. So, do check with the hotel for such events before making bookings.

Note: Writing this blog was daunting. It was like a home away from home where we mostly followed the same routine every day, ate at the same place, possibly the same food with no variations. There was no novelty. I have tried to put together my diary with pictures to make it look more interesting ?


soulful journey …

I may not be religious but I love ganga aarti in Rishikesh

I may not be spiritual but I love the sound of temple bells in Rishikesh

I may not be the ‘kirtan’ type but I love bhajan sandhya in Rishikesh

I may not be an adventure junkie but I love river rafting in Rishikesh

From religion to rafting, from spirituality to sand beaches, from temples to tranquility, from aarti to adrenaline. Rishikesh has it all.


I can divide Rishikesh into two parts. First, the main town, for religious and spiritual visits. Second, beyond town, for adventure, serenity and to be ‘one’ with nature.

Ram Jhula, Rishikesh town

Located at the foothills of lower Himalayas, Rishikesh is a gateway to Char Dham yatra. As an important pilgrimage centre, life in Rishikesh revolves around temples and quaint ashrams. Most people come here for religious reasons and the entire town caters to their needs. Pujaris, flowers, incense, idols of gods and goddesses, books on religious and spiritual topics, bhajan CDs, bottles and containers for ganga jal, are all readily available. The city is also home to many low budget foreign tourists, so don’t be surprised to find some of the beggers talk in english.

Puja samagri

If you haven’t attended an aarti, you haven’t been to Rishikesh. It is that simple.

Flowers for aarti

My favorite is ganga aarti at Triveni ghat performed by a group of priests, every single day, at sunset time. The spectacular ceremony creates an ambience of divine bliss with hundreds of diyas, aroma of incense, flowers, shlokas and mantra chants.

Ganga aarti at Triveni Ghat

The most popular aarti is in Parmarth Niketan comprising mainly of bhajans and kirtan.

Parmarth Niketan aarti

The whole environment is charged with positive energy. One has to see it to feel it. Sight of floating diyas and flowers is, nothing but, surreal.

Floating diyas

Rishikesh is the spiritual tourism destination. A stay in Ashrams, at a nominal cost, may provide a holistic experience of this holy city. Ashrams and hotels provide free yoga and meditation sessions every morning on their premises. Spa & wellness is an add-on trend in most hotels.  Some hotels also provide private ghats for bathing to their in-house guests.

Ashrams in Rishikesh town

Sacred river and mountains set the perfect environment for yoga. Different kinds of yoga (like hatha yoga and ashtanga yoga) and meditation offered in the city has given Rishikesh the tag of ‘the Yoga Capital of the World’. While the city takes pride in holding International Yoga festival every year, it also prepares the local residents to become yoga instructors of tomorrow.

Yoga festival (image source unknown)

For those who don’t know, Rishikesh has a Marine drive, also called Aastha Path. It is a wonderful 2 km walk along the Ganges which ends at Triveni Ghat. Forest on the other bank makes this walk even more beautiful. There are a few temples and ghats on this stretch. Find a quiet spot and admire the meandering river.

Marine Drive or Aastha Path

Die-hard fans of Beatles can visit Beatles ashram. Even though it is in ruins, it may hold interest for many. I found graffiti somewhat interesting. Meditation huts are peculiar. Drive to the ashram, thru Rajaji national park, is pretty good.

Beatles Ashram

Serenity begins after leaving the main town of Rishikesh and moving up north. The drive through the forested hills along the river Ganges is simply exquisite. Each bend offers a breathtaking view of the river and colorful rafts.

Beyond the town

Rishikesh is as much known for spirituality as it is for white-water rafting. Whether you stay in a camp or a hotel, you must experience at least one stretch of rafting. Hotel pick-up/drop is usually included in the cost of rafting trip. It’s a team sport, age no bar, that brings thrill and excitement to the entire group. Rafts normally move in groups, so the tempo and energy levels are extremely high.

Rafting (image source unknown)

Would you dare to jump off a cliff? It is one of the most exciting activities at the end of river rafting. The cliff is about 30-40 ft high. You don’t have to know swimming as it is done wearing a life jacket. You get an adrenaline rush as people in the rafts cheer and clap for each jump. I was a little hesitant to begin with but am so glad that I finally took the plunge. The experience of cliff jumping is definitely going to stay with me forever.

Cliff jumping

We have stayed in this area countless times. Each trip is memorable with different experience. The stay in the camps, though not comfortable, is worth the experience at least once. The organizers work enthusiastically to bring the entire group together by engaging them in activities like rappelling, river crossing, canoeing, hiking etc. The best part of the camps is that you are away from the city’s crowd in a completely serene environment, by the river side, with your feet on the sand. Accommodation is basic. Toilets are shared with limited water. No electricity. No fridge. Chill your drinks and beers in the river. Food is prepared fresh and everyone eats in the same tent. Evenings are mostly spent singing around a bonfire. As the camps are off city limits, drinks and non-veg food are allowed.

Camping in Rishikesh

We have now moved from the camps to the comfort of hotels by the river side. There is wide variety to choose from depending on the budget. You can experience all the camp activities plus the facilities of proper room with attached toilet, ala-carte restaurants, swimming pool, and more.

Luxury hotels

Listen to the sound of river. Sound of silence. Be with nature. Listen to the chirping of birds. Listen to your own breath. Connect with your innerself. Close your eyes. Snooze. Let your mind drift away. Relax, Read, Rejuvenate in the serene environment. Find solace in Rishikesh and you will yearn to come back again and again.

It is the place to lose and then to discover yourself!

Let go …

Note: A trip to Rishikesh is typically one or two nights. I have stayed in the town only once. When I started writing about Rishikesh I thought I had very little to say about the main town. My focus was primarily on the serenity and calmness beyond town. How little did I realize that there was so much about this town in my subconscious mind and I may still not have covered it enough!


Lake Como, Italy

Come … fall in Love!

First time I saw Lake Como was in the movie Ocean’s Twelve. Stunning, captivating, spectacular, fascinating, and the list can go on. I was completely smitten by the opulence and grandeur of the lakeside villas, surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and mountains. Sure enough, it was added to my bucket list!

Lake Como is a part of the northern Italian Lakes District. The huge lake spans more than 100 square kilometre and is dotted with several beautiful hamlets. If you are planning a trip to Como, look over the map. Don’t just book your hotel in Como town.

We arrived in Como from Lugano, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. We had hired a taxi to Menaggio for Euro 90. One hour of beautiful ride was mostly by the Lake Lugano and we reached Menaggio ferry terminal even before we realized. With a ten minute ferry ride we reached Bellagio, a dream destination and our home for next five days.

In my opinion, spending a little extra money on private transport can save you tremendous time, specially if you are on a short holiday (or don’t want to wheel around your luggage). And it comes bundled with super comfort.

Bellagio the pearl of the Lake Como


We had booked a lakefront hotel on the promenade. Just a few steps from the ferry and we were in our room with a balcony almost at the edge of the lake. Voila … what a spectacular view! The lake, the mountains and the expanse, worth every penny paid for that room. At a little distance we could also see the towns of Mennagio and Tremezza. We could have sat there endlessly admiring the beautiful vista from our little balcony but there was much more to enjoy in Bellagio.

We went for a walk on the waterfront. The promenade was beckoning with beautifully manicured gardens and abundance of flowers on the sidewalks. Cobbled path leading to the lake, people sitting on the steps/swimming in the lake, local musicians grooving to their beat … it looked incredibly romantic!

Bellagio waterfront

If you have seen pictures of Lake Como with a staircase, then it has to be Salita Serbelloni. One of the most popular and photographed passageways lined with boutiques, restaurants, shops and everything touristy allures everyone. Wander through the narrow lanes offering riveting views of the town and lake. No matter what, this staircase is sure to find a place in your photo collection. Make sure you wear a pair of comfortable shoes as you will certainly go up and down a few times.

Salita Serbelloni

Bellagio is the only town on Lake Como that is surrounded by water on two sides. It’s a small town with a few hotels and is relatively more expensive. Due to its popularity, tourists from other towns arrive here throughout the day. So it gets pretty crowded during the day time. It’s common to sight a celebrity here as many of them own their villas in the vicinity. Just sit around enjoying a glass of wine and look at chic crowd and expensive cars. Though the best time to enjoy Bellagio is late evenings when the day tourists have left. Some cafes have live band and people are not afraid to dance on the streets while holding up the occasional traffic. We enjoyed our evenings savouring Italian food and amazing wines in the lakeside cafes.

Bellagio view from a boat

Lake Como is even more beautiful when seen from the water. Most towns have boat rental service where you can hire a boat by the hour. We hired a small boat for half a day. After a brief set of instructions, we were the proud Skipper of our own boat. We grabbed some beers and sandwiches and set out for the best part of our holiday. Needless to say, the camera and sunscreen are the must-have accessories. Once you set sailing, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the stunning shoreline, quaint villages and beautiful expansive villas.

Captain of our boat!

Advantages of your own boat .. move at our own pace, stop wherever you like, swim in the lake, laze around, enjoy your beer and click some of the best pictures of your trip. How could we not stop in front of Villa del Balbianello for a photo shoot. After all, it’s one of the most instagrammed site. Made famous by Hollywood, this villa has featured in films like Casino Royale and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Another beautiful Villa la Cassinella, right next is available for mere Euro 130,000 per week rental. Anyone interested?

Villa la Cassinella

Bellagio, Mennagio and Varenna are three beautiful towns and must be seen. With a convenient 10-15 minutes ferry ride its easily possible.

Varennastraight out of a postcard


Pastel coloured houses on mountain slopes make Varenna the most stunning backdrop for a picture. It’s narrow alleys, steep stairs and stone buildings are intriguing. Varenna is laid back and relaxed. It’s a much smaller and quieter town with just a few cafes. Unlike Bellagio, Varenna is connected via train as well. Since it was just ten minutes by ferry, we visited it twice, once in the day time and then for a dinner in the evening.



This beautiful town shares its border with Switzerland. We went to Menaggio for an evening. It has a lovely lakeside promenade and a lively Piazza Garibaldi, a fantastic place to enjoy a coffee or a drink while enjoying an awe-anspiring view of the lake. There is a church at the end of the piazza and upper part of the town has a medieval look. Menaggio is connected with Bellagio and Varenna thru ferry and with Tremezza and Leno via road.

Como Town

Como Town

You can’t go to Lake Como and not visit Como town. We took a fast ferry from Bellagio and reached Como in an hour. Since you can’t visit every town on the lake, this is a good orientation. The scenery is beautiful all the way. Como town gives a city feeling with lively squares, nice cafes and lot of shopping in the charming lanes. It also has a marina and a little hydroplane airport for those who want to splurge. Large number of the tourists make Como town as the base as it’s conveniently connected to other cities.

Villa Carlotta, Tremezza

On our way back from Como, we stopped at Tremezza, just across the lake from Bellagio. Villa Carlotta is open to public, for a charge albeit. Villa del Balbianello, in the village of Leno, is also pretty close.

At the end of the day, we were happy to be back in Bellagio. Bellagio wins hands down. No wonder it’s called the crown jewel of Lake Como.

On way to Milan

At the end of our fabulous holiday, we took a taxi to Milan for Euro 120. In one hour we were in our hotel in Duomo area. If we had opted for public transport, it would have meant a bus or ferry from Bellagio to Como town, then a train from Como to Milan, and then a metro from Milan to hotel, spending at least five hours.

Duomo di Milano

We spent our day around Duomo di Milano. The impressive structure is worth admiring. The Galleria has impressive Labels for shopping as Milan is the fashion capital of the world!

Just for fun!

Lugano, Switzerland

My Greek Trip

The land of White and Blue

Mykonos, Santorini and Athens

Greece had been on my bucket list for a long time. As we don’t like to rush thru our holidays, we decided to cover only two islands in 9 days – Santorini is simply unmissable and Mykonos looks so charming. I was thrilled to find a flight landing directly in Mykonos as I thought Athens may not be very interesting. But I couldn’t have been more wrong ?

3 days in Mykonos

We held our breath as our flight started to descend in Mykonos. From the sky the terrain looked dry, parched and barren. We wondered if we had made a mistake by choosing this as our first destination.

Little Venice, Mykonos

All our doubts vanished the moment we stepped into Mykonos town, Chora. It’s one of the most charming town with narrow winding alleys, bougainvillea draped courtyards, painted stone paths where fashion stores and boutiques line the streets. You just want to wander around all day long. We had chosen our hotel so that we could walk everywhere. We loved spending our evenings in the sea front cafes in Little Venice admiring the iconic windmills (of bollywood fame). Probably the best place to watch the sunset and relax with a drink.

Sunset Mykonos

Mykonos is known for crazy nightlife. There are endless trendy bars and beach clubs. Many of them come alive late in the evenings and don’t close until dawn. Interestingly, you cannot spot some of these bars and night clubs in the day time and they spring up in the middle of streets, buzzing with life, at night.

Most popular day trip is to island of Delos. Even if you have only a passing interest in Greek history this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must visit. The small rocky island is used exclusively as an archaeological site. Several boats leave in the morning hours and give you enough time to explore the historic site at your own pace or with a guide. Just buy the ferry ticket and hop on to one of the boats.

Delos island, Mykonos

We also took a day trip to Paradise Beach. Usually quiet during the day, it could be more fun for youngsters with all night long beach parties.

Bougainvillea draped courtyard

Wandering around the town we came across an open-air cinema set within a garden. For obvious reasons the shows are held only late in the evening when it gets dark. We stepped inside to get a feel but couldn’t stay to watch the movie.

Tips: Taxis are few and expensive so it’s a good idea to book in advance. A short drive from the airport to the town costs Euro 30 and to the ferry station Euro 25.

It is rather strange that Mykonos sells only the wines produced on its own island.

Most shops remain open till midnight.

5 days in Santorini

We took Golden Star Ferry from Mykonos to Santorini. It has lounge type seating and you are free to choose wherever you want to be. You can be on the upper deck and enjoy the view throughout the journey. There are a couple of restaurants on board.

We decided to split our stay between Fira (2 days) and Oia (3 days). We chose our hotels with caldera views as that is the highlight of Santorini.

2 days in Fira

Fira is more happening town of the two. It is perched on the edge of a cliff offering panoramic views of the volcano and the sunset. The streets are always crowded with tourists and filled with shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs. Sunset viewing is the main attraction so tourist line up on the central street in the evenings. Restaurants and bars with sunset views are sold out quickly so it’s a good idea to pre-book your table. Best thing about Fira – you can enjoy the sunset sitting comfortably in one of the many bars, restaurants and hotels on the main street.

Sunset, Fira Santorini

Night view from a high position is mesmerising as you watch the lights of buildings on the slopes and shimmering blue colour lights in swimming pools. Cruise ships anchored in the water add to the superb view.

Night view

Much of the island of Santorini is located on the rim of the volcano but there are some beaches as well. On second day in Fira, we took a local bus to a popular black sand beach, Perissa. The beach has more of pebbles than sand though.

Perissa beach, Santorini

There is a port in Fira for local boat cruises. It can be accessed by a cable car or the more adventurous can experience a donkey ride. There are a couple of restaurants and a duty-free shop. If you are going down otherwise, it is a waste of time and money both.

Save the best for last … 3 days in Oia

No trip to Santorini is complete without visiting Oia. Built on the slopes of caldera, Oia is the most famous and picturesque village of Santorini. It’s unlike any other village you may have seen. It’s whitewashed buildings with blue doors and windows, traditional cave houses carved into the rocks and blue-domed churches are awestruck. Even the main street path is made of marble. The narrow passageways going up and down may be tiring but also add to the beauty of this place. Crowded all the way along the picturesque paths, it’s difficult to find a spot without getting others in the frame.


You can see three different and vibrant colors of blue in one single frame. The sea, the sky and blue domes. It’s not hard to imagine why it is one of the most Instagrammed places in the world.


Oia is quieter than Fira. Most hotels with caldera views are not accessible by vehicular traffic. So the hotel staff has to meet and escort their guests.


One of the most popular attractions in Oia is sunset watching when the white houses and the caldera catch all the colours of the setting sun for a few seconds. Unlike Fira, sunset here can be watched from the Sunset Seranade point or from the boats. Narrow pathways are extremely crowded with everyone rushing and trying to capture the spectacle. Very few restaurants offer the sunset view where you can relax as you watch the sun go down. Even though we had a table reservation on all days at sunset time, we decided to give it a miss. Frankly, so much crowd takes the fun away.

Oia as seen from the boat

A sunset cruise/boat cruise is highly recommended by locals. It’s interesting to see the white and blue Santorini from the water. All boats stop at the volcano where you can swim/snorkel in the hot springs. We chose to remain on the boat as there were no life jackets and no one watching over. We enjoyed relaxing on the catamaran net looking at the sea. Though we always prefer to hire a private boat, the catamaran was good fun with a small group of people and Greek food and drinks. It’s incredible that Santorini has white sand beach, red sand beach and black sand beach, all on one single island.


I had read that the most interesting bookstore in the world is perched atop a Santorini cliff-top. Atlantis Books in Oia tops National Geographic’s List of Bookshops. The upper floor section is open to sky and offers incredible views. Worth a stop!

Atlantis Books, Oia

Interestingly, you can hire a photographer for a professional photo shoot in the breathtaking locales of Oia. They know exactly where to take pictures with stunning background and also have access to areas where tourists are otherwise not allowed.

Oia is a small place and you end up walking up and down the same path many times over. You stop and admire the breathtaking vista every time. Some places catch your eye and you want to keep looking at it. I found one such restaurant with exceptionally dreamy settings. The caption read “The most beautiful balcony to dine in the world”. I agreed wholeheartedly!


There are stray cats everywhere. In the hotels, restaurants, roads and even in the shops. It’s normal to find one under your table or even sitting next to you if you have enough space on your seat. Even though I am not a pet lover but couldn’t resist taking their pictures. They are very friendly.

Wine tours are promoted in Santorini. Frankly, the vineyards looked so disappointing that we decided to stay away from them. Moreover, we found Greek wines quite pathetic. Disappointed that no other wine is available anywhere in the bars, restaurants and supermarkets in Greece.

We took Sea Jets ferry from Santorini to Athens. These are closed-type ferries with airplane type seats. That means you cannot sit outside like you do in the bigger Golden Star Ferries. Seat numbers are pre-assigned.

A word of caution: Ferry timings may actually be different from what’s printed on the ticket. And all your seats may not be together.


We arrived in Athens in the evening and had no idea how we were going to spend next 24 hours. The travel agent had warned us to be prudent and stay safe in Athens. So we had chosen a hotel on the high street near Syntagma Square. View of Acropolis from our hotel’s rooftop restaurant was another deciding factor. Unlike the two islands, I had not explored the best eating options here. So I gladly accepted the offer of the hotel staff who was too willing to help. My only condition was a place with excellent views of Acropolis. We were too happy to find our table reservation at such a place. View was so amazing that we didn’t mind the worst wine of the trip served in ‘chai wala glass’.

Athens, night view

Later we walked to Monastiraki Square. Street performances are a way of life here. Countless cafes and bars make this place vibrant any time of the day or night.


Our last day in Athens – Acropolis is a must visit if you are in Athens. (Another tick off from the bucket list). It’s a UNESCO world heritage site. Our hotel was close enough so we walked up. All travel sites offer ‘avoid the queues, buy tickets online’. But we had no problem getting tickets over the counter without any wait. We had to rush through but if you are a history buff then you can spend days in this complex.

Acropolis, Athens

We definitely needed one more day in Athens.

September 2019

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