Southern India tour, temples & nature

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Departure information

This trip can be tailormade at a time to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
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Vacation type

Traveling with a local operator

This vacation is operated by a company based in the vacation destination and they will be able to provide expert local knowledge. They will be able to tailor make your vacation to suit your requirements not only concerning the dates of travel but also typically the standard of accommodation, and thus price. It is rare for local operators to be able to help with the booking of your flights.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Southern India tour, temples & nature

This operator was created with the vision to run and manage a business that would offer our guests traveling to India an extremely personal form of travel, shared with members of the family.

We are based in the Nilgiri Hills of TamilNadu situated in the forested Western Ghats. These forested hills used to be home to the Toda tribes of the Nilgiris whose art consists of traditional garments spun from fibers and natural fruit and berry dyes sourced from the surrounding forests. With development, the tribes were forced out of their forest dwellings and were ‘rehabilitated’ in villages outside. However this drastic change in their life, threatened the very art that defined their identity and the means to the only livelihood they knew. Being a part of the local community here in the Nilgiris, we took it up to make sure this art form doesn’t die out like the ancient Toda lifestyle sadly has. We further their art today by sourcing all their products from their Community Center and encourage all our guests visiting us here in the Nilgiris to buy some artifact as a gesture of support towards the Toda lifestyle.

We support of the local village ‘tea shops’ along our routes and the use of only local gasoline sourced from Indian Oil Wells and distributed by Indian Gas Stations. We use the local tribal guides on our teks. Their dedication and knowledge with regards to the forests is commendable and we make sure we give back with some monetary help after every trek and also in kind by supplying them with trekking shoes or clothes that we know they could use.

As long serving members of the Nilgiri Wildlife & Environmental Association (a local affiliate of the World Wildlife Fund), we had actively campaigned to halt the process of timber logging or for that matter clearing of natural forests for any reason whatsoever. As an organisation we represented our case in the Supreme Court, India's Highest Judicial Body, and received a decree that placed a blanket ban on any form of logging in natural forests in the Nilgiri Hills.

We have procured land on which, as a family we currently have planted 350-saplings with a 99% success rate. In addition, we sponsor the trees on lands owned by the forest department where over these years they have afforested with over 100,000 saplings, in this case with a 97% success rate. Today we have seen a rise in the bird species that thrived in these rain-forested areas. Within our property itself we have seen an addition of close to twenty-five bird species. we actively encourage our guests to plant and own a tree or tree saplings of their choice.

As of date, our guests have planted over 125 tree saplings of which all have survived. We keep our guests involved in this experience by emailing them progress photos of their sapling/saplings.

By contributing regularly to a Blind Orphan Childrens Home in a nearby town, we attempt to give these children back a life affected by blindness. At this orphanage, these children are taught skills like basket weaving, tailoring, etc. in the hope that they may become self-sufficient in the future.

Reviews of Southern India tour, temples & nature

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 18 Jan 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Orange county - feeling like a queen and wonderful safari.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to have a lot of hours in the car.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We made sure to give tips and to advertise India to all our friend to come visit.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


5 star.... the only thing i would not recommend is going to Hassan.

Reviewed on 12 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


All was pretty memorable- perhaps Nagarhole and the Toda tribal village

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Expect the unexpected!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Hopefully the first, less sure in what ways 2 and 3.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent

Reviewed on 04 Feb 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


It was all pretty unforgettable - Rajat did great job of combining all of our interests into a varied vacation that was fast-paced but never rushed. We especially enjoyed our time at Nagarhole national park - the safaris were fantastic! - and our hike through the Western Ghats during our stay in Wayanad. It struck a great balance between nature and culture. We say tons of birds, incredible views, learned about many proud traditions and met some amazing people as well.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


This vacation was customized to our budget and interests, so no two vacations through ExplorIndya would be the same. Be up front about your budget and wishes, and you will be very happy with the results. We could easily have spent more than a week traveling, so give yourself plenty of time. And be open to surprises!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We were clearly able to see how our vacation benefited local people, at all three places we stayed. The fanciest of the places we stayed - Orange County, Kabini - partners with local tribes to provide employment and conserve the local traditions and heritage. Our homestay was a delightful bed-and-breakfast style place where we got to get to know local farmers. Our hike through Muddy Boots, involved the expertise of several local guides. Eve our trip through Mysore clearly gave our business to a small company, Royal Mysore Walks. Everyone was so knowledgeable and we were delighted to see our money flowing back to the people of India.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Five stars! We had an incredible adventure for our honeymoon, and hope to go back. Southern India is breathtaking, and we had nothing but good experiences with all of the people and companies we traveled with.

Reviewed on 06 Jul 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


There were two very memorable parts of the vacation. First the wonderful home stay in the Nilgiri mountains with Rajat and his family. An unforgettable experience that gave me a deeper understanding of the culture of South India. The second was the overnight trip to Hampi, a truly magical place that I would love to visit again. But everything that Rajat Kumar organized for me was wonderful and he selected the best places to stay and visit.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


I would suggest being very clear about what kinds of experiences you like. Rajat picked lovely western style, modern hotels that were also focused on sustainability. I appreciated the focus on hotels and travel that benefited the local community.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes absolutely!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent, I can't say enough good things about the trip and the experience.

Reviewed on 04 Nov 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


I loved the Story Trails tours in Chennai. The short thematic excursions with our own guide made it feel like we were visiting friends iwho were showing us around the sights.
The Nilgiris are beautiful and the Kumar family was exceptionally welcoming with good conversation and an ease that makes you feel at home.
The food was terrific terrific terrific.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If you want to see the lost wax bronze process, make sure it is going to be open when you are in Swamimalai. Our day there was organised for a Sunday and it wasn't open. The boss came to show us around but it wasn't operating. It was something we had really wanted to see and were supposed to be able to be hands-on.

We expected it to be hot. But July was VERY hot... except in the Nilgiri hills where it was beautifully cool. No wonder the British spent the summer in the hills. It was manageable with the help of an air con car and accommodation but I have to admit, if you can, go in the cooler season.

The Nilgiri hills are also great for an easy introduction to India. Small, uncrowded towns and villages. Quite easy really.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It benefitted a number of small businesses that badge themselves as green.
We also appreciated the time and care of our driver who took us across southern India. Whilst he didn't speak enough English to have a conversation, we understood each other and he was courteous, reliable and always made sure we were ok. we were very happy to provide a good tip at the end of the week and we hope that helped his family.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I had a wonderful vacation. I have recommended it to many friends already. I think Akriti and explore India do a great job of making a trip across India easy. Great for people who want to go but feel overwhelmed or nervous.

Reviewed on 06 Feb 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


My days at the homestay, truly memorable. I did not know what to expect from an homestay in a village up in the Nilgiri hills. What I have found is one of the nicest, most caring and friendly families I have ever met.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If you are looking for a vacation which gives you an interesting perspective on the local community, this is for you.. Make sure you spend enough time at the homestay.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


A vacation which felt like visiting dear relatives, happily and responsibly living up in the hills.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent, an unforgettable experience. I could not recommend more this vacation operator.

Reviewed on 13 Jan 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Orange county resort, Kabina is an eco resort where you visit lake and park scenes and the naturalists are very good at communicating. We saw a lot of animals and observed elephants and deer at close quarters. The resort itself has a great infinity pool, a library and extra walks to see birds and elephants. Everything happened as advertised. I had 20 hours there and would have liked longer.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Get clear indications from the operator as to the key role of the driver. Ravi had limited English but he went well beyond what I expected in driving me around. The operator gave no details on his work nor the end of trip tip for him.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Not really though Orange County had a reverse osmosis system for water purification and the staff were well trained to give very good service and I hope get a decent wage. The level of efficiency was way beyond any other place I visited.

Read the operator's response here:

Ravi, is a professional driver and is paid to drive our guests as per the itinerary outlined for the guests, ensure their safety and be of assistance where and when necessary or called upon. As regards tipping, we pay our drivers very well and look after them not only in accordance with local laws but also based on our moral conscience. Tips are purely a guest's/ traveler's personal choice/ discretion and we do not dictate levels for tipping. It wouldn't be called a tip if we dictated this to our guests. However we always mention guidelines for tipping if any of our guests ask for help with this specifically. I would have gladly done so, if Celia had asked me.

Reviewed on 29 Aug 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Tea tasting, the cookery class and the Ooty train were the most memorable experiences, but we enjoyed the overall chatting and eating with the Kumar family very much indeed.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared for a 'total experience' - living and traveling with the hosts. It is very rewarding, but you must buy into the idea of a homestay experience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Certainly.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. A fantastic experience that highlighted the 'real India'. We learned a lot from our hosts and enjoyed being away from the tourist track. Highly recommended.

Reviewed on 14 Aug 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The beauty, colour & diversity of the places we visited (despite only having 11 days in India). Arriving in Mysore after flying into Bangalore gave us a wonderful introduction into the bustle and atmosphere of a relatively small Indian city; we loved the amazing market - brimming with flowers, spices, fruit and vegetables and the sumptuous Palace. Some of the journeys we took gave us a fascinating insight into village life and provided an opportunity to see the diversity of the countryside, people and crops in the 3 states we visited.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Go ahead and book with this operator and don't worry about asking for any specific requirements, places you want to visit etc. Rajat will do his best to oblige and be helpful.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


On the whole. We stayed in heritage hotels and the Homestay, all of which make efforts to be environmentally friendly, limiting electricity usage - for example Malabar House used solar panels for heating . We were struck by Orange County's policy of supporting the local tribespeople who were displaced from the forests, helping them preserve their traditional skills, providing them with employment and education and showcasing their traditions at the hotel. The shop there also sold only fairtrade crafts and products. Our itinerary also included transport by train where the journey was feasible and in the towns we utilised rickshaws and local transport rather than using a tour company car with driver.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


We received really excellent service from Rajat. This was our first visit to India and he gave us great advice on where to stay and proposed a realistic itinerary given our short stay there. He ensured that we were met at each point and driven by extremely careful and considerate drivers (with reasonable knowledge of English and the local area). Rajat also took great care over our personal requirements, ensuring these were relayed to the hotels and as a result we received excellent service throughout our trip.

Reviewed on 19 Apr 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


So many things about this South India trip were a sheer delight! So very many highlights its really hard to say which part of the skilfully planned trip to mention first. Certainly I can't recommend Rajat's homestay too highly - fantastic home cooking served in the family home. Fresh bread made by Rajat's dad and homemade jams made from fruit harvested from their own garden as well as mouthwatering classic South Indian vegetarian food. I felt very welcome and there was lots of chat, stories and easygoing banter. Real willingness to listen to what I most wanted to do and make flexible plans to accommodate my wishes. Discussion about local wildlife led to a spontaneous drive up to a nearby reservoir and a magical evening walk into the dense pine forest stillness to see Malabar squirrels with faces like Koala and glorious bushy tails. Other highlights: getting my hand decorated with henna by Rajat's sister, including a lush mango and peacocks.

Stunning trip down from the high tea growing hills of Ooty down into the foothills on a steam train with open windows and monkeys appearing like magic out the the trees at every stop. And I now know I have been over-boiling the water for my tea and after a fascinating visit to a local tea plantation and factory - I will never buy 'basic British rail tea again! (Life's too short). Although I found I really did not want to leave the homestay, the rest of the trip produced a number of delights - particularly India's wildlife. Somehow I hadn't taken on board how easy it would be to see wild elephant, mongoose, wild boar and exotic birds. Sipping a cool drink on the veranda at a resort near Nagoli Nature Reserve whilst watching the huge red globe of the sun dip into the lake whilst listening to a Minor bird calling from the thatched palm roof of my jacuzzi hut.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Do take the opportunity Rajat offers to really tailor your vacation to include your favourite things. He came up with a number of proposals and in the end I couldn't resist the birdwatching, the steam train trip and the visit to the fabulous carved temples in Hassan. The Bird Sanctuary just outside Mysore was pretty amazing too -masses of nesting Stork, night Heron, Pelican and little crocodile basking on the rocks. Worth it just to hear the sound! Don't worry so much as I did about mosquitoes medicine if traveling to the same area at the same time of year (early March)! I bought lots of sprays but didn't see any Mosquitoes at all in the 2 weeks I was in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Mumbai.

Do hand over any driving to an experienced Indian national!! If you have ever read the Harry Potter stories and encountered the 'Night Bus' which can shrink to "squeeze" through oncoming traffic - then you have some idea what you are in for. Unbelievable - but quite exhilarating if you can give into it and if your nerves can withstand the abrupt breaking upon approaching myriad unmarked speed bumps before creeping over and speeding away again. Coffee Day, a chain of what appears to be India's version of Starbucks or Costa is good for coffee but watch out for the innocuous looking wraps. I had the hottest wrap I've ever encountered in my life there.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The Homestay used solar heating to supply the hot water for showers. the food was homegrown or local and the family are keen environmentalists who have planted a series of local tree saplings in their garden as a step towards there being more indigenous trees in the local area. In all the accommodation booked for me attempts had been made to reduce the impact on the local environment and encourage guests to reduce laundry and production of rubbish etc.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I would certainly rate this vacation very highly and recommend it to anyone with an appetite for vivid colours, for anyone who likes life a la carte rather than standard table d'hote, and for anyone who likes to ask those 'why?' and 'how?' questions - rather than 'when?' or 'how much?' The homestay opportunity gives a refreshing opportunity to ask those sorts of questions which were fielded with gentle openness and humour by Rajat and his family and this adds so much to the adventure.

Reviewed on 09 Mar 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


By far our stay with the Kumar family who could not have offered us more hospitality. We all agreed that this was the highlight of our vacation and has ensured we will return, hopefully with more friends who can share our experiences.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Decide what you want to include and trust in your tour organiser to find suitable accommodation, transport, guides etc.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, we made a point of meeting with local people and sharing experiences with them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Ranks right at the top of memorable vacations - simply fantastic.

Reviewed on 03 Nov 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Difficult to decide but Chembakolli was a real highlight. The most memorable was the excellent meal cooked in the home of the tour operator, giving us a chance to meet all of his family and gain a first hand insight into Indian life.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


There was direct to local people, since the company was Indian.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


We had a very good introductory experience to Southern India; all the arrangements, accommodation, transport and subsistence was of a very high standard.

Reviewed on 20 Apr 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


It is just not possible to identify one part as the only superlative: all aspects were good and some were just brilliant. Lalith and Rajat understand how to create a tour for 'western' travelers without losing the essence of India.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Feel free to leave all the details to Lalith and Rajat but don't insist on doing too much in one day as they will oblige you... we should probably have gone at a slightly more leisurely pace - but would not have seen as much as we did. [We will know better for next time!]

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Definitely yes: the guides at the particular locations visited were local people selected for their competence but also their needs and other than the inevitable need to use fuel to get from A to B, strong efforts were made to minimise the EI.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very good and worth repeating.

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