Saturday, May 22, 2010

Miss You Malawi

May is a popular month for the Indian diaspora to initiate long haul trips or freeze future travel plans. U.S and U.K maintain their dominance as top overseas destinations for the season. For domestic travel, Ladakh wins hands down. Since the last couple of months, I've been courteously helping my folks design their holidays. Some have returned from their trips and I've been enviously listening to their travel flaunts.

So where am I going this summer ? I will confess that some other time. Right now, I will share with you my utterly remorseful story - a holiday that was called off.  This summer I was adamant on spending a few weeks in two landlocked countries in East Africa - Zambia and it's erotic neighbour Malawi. Africa's profound beauty and striking landscapes have always enthralled me.   Apart from the fact that these countries met my preferred prerequisites, I also fantasized an enlightening Another time, Another world feeling - the crux of my wanderlust. I've never been to these nations and the urge was ballooning inside me. I had finally decided to take the plunge this July.

(Images via &

This was going to be an epic holiday - full of adventure and almost like a dream come true. After landing in Africa, I planned to ditch my comfort zone by avoiding taxis/flights and restrict myself to public transport. (dont compare African public transport to London underground). Even though distances are long, slow travel is an ideal way to enjoy the vistas and watch the people of remote Africa. Transport is a mix of public buses (these buses don't follow a fixed schedule and depart only when they are fully stuffed), "matolas" (an informal African pickup truck where people and cows together are piled at the back) and some hitchhiking (a legendary sport).

Zambia has a lot more offer and deserves a dedicated post, so I will only focus on Malawi here. Malawi's biggest attraction is "Lake Malawi"- a stupendous freshwater lake stretching for over 300 miles and occupying more than 20% of the country. Lake Malawi is contained between tall rift valley mountains and has the similarities of a sea - except the fact that it's surrounded by landmass and contains fresh water instead of sea water. The lake could be confused with a tropical island with its turquoise water and sandy beaches under clear blue skies. It's especially famous for the brightly coloured little fish called “Cichlids”. Malawi is also called the "heart of Africa" and Lonely Planet ranks it as the friendliest nation in the world.

There is plenty of accommodation for all budgets available everywhere around the lake which stretches through the country like an inland tropical sea. However the hot spot for most people on the lake is the vibey "Cape Maclear". It's a stunning beach on the turquoise shores of the lake, encircled by granite boulders. Many activities are available: you can kayak out to one of the nearby islands, scuba dive-snorkel, or just laze around on the beach.

The best way to get there is to fly to Lilongwe - the capital city (Kenya Airways, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines connect there). After reaching Lilongwe you could either take to taxi ($200 each way to Cape Maclear in around three-four hours) or if you are patient enough use public transport (it could take up to one full day). A beach holiday in Malawi coupled with a Zambian safari is a terrific mix. It's advisable to plan well in advance since tourist infrastructure is limited and prices are sky high.

 Kayak Africa is an adventure-safari operator specialising in sea kayak and small boat safaris on Lake Malawi. They also operate two luxury camps on Mumbo Island and Domwe Island. For a romantic getaway, it's definetly the Kaya Mawa Lodge. Most of these pictures are courtesy to the Kayak Africa and Kaya Mawa website. Another option is to stay at the Gecko Lounge. It's laidback with fantastic food and a well stocked bar & they host the biggest parties on the lake.

(Images via &


Sometimes life demands us to suppress our passions in order to fulfill other objectives. It was my turn this time and the trip was called off. Miss you Malawi....We have unfinished business !

"It's the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. "

Greg Anderson

Friday, May 7, 2010

L'affaire Goa....

Goa is the premier spot on every Indian’s holiday list. My first trip was with family and a bunch of cousins during school vacations. I vividly remember my first lessons in swimming and making sandcastles on cavessolim beach. Then came the college years, when the sole purpose of Goa was to drink, dance and celebrate in North Goa till wee hours of the morning.  
After I started dating, Goa turned into a girlfriend getaway. I shifted my loyalties to the serene beaches of south Goa where evenings were spent watching sunsets and sipping chardonnays. Post-wedding, a Goa holiday was about cocktails at the pool bar and getting immersed in a good book on the sun loungers.
We all love Goa and it’s an integral part our lives. But for some reason in the past couple of years, I haven’t been intrigued by Goa. After a decade, I feel perplexed by the thought of getting intoxicated and aimlessly club hopping all night (forgetting that I have been been there done that many-a-times!!).Surprisingly, I have been behaving absurd lately and trying to restrain myself from alcohol. As I continue to be spoiled at an exponential rate, I now find Goa resorts monotonous.

What the hell is wrong with me ? Why can't I enjoy like everybody else ? So has my initmate affair with this beach laden  state come to an end ? Fortunately, there is a missing piece of the puzzle and it will bring me back! I recently realized that the popular hippie central is an excellent spiritual getaway. A host of yoga retreats in Goa have sprung up if you seek a holistic experience or if you are looking for an unusual holiday. I have been trying to gain information on a yoga holiday in Goa, and here is my summary.

Yogamagic Eco-retreat

Every resort boasts about its eco-friendliness and I vouch that most claims are frivolous. Yoga Magic accommodation is in luxurious Rajasthani style eco-tents with thatched roofs. It's an excellent example of glamping. Yoga Magic is impressively eco-friendly with solar panels, eco-composting toilets, paths made with pressed cow dung and buildings made from stone and bamboo.

Residents bathe with fresh well water from clay urns. Yoga Magic has specially designed smell free eco-composting toilets. These toilets use mango woodchips and effective micro-organisms to return everything back to nature. There’s a naturally filtered swimming pool centered around a small island with waterfalls and streams.

Yoga classes are held in the yoga temple every morning and evening along with  meditation, chanting and satsang. The food at Yogamagic is organic and Indian fusion vegetarian. Yoga magic is not a dedicated yoga center, but an eco-friendly resort offering yoga and wellness activities. However with its environmental initiatives, it’s the most authentic eco-retreat I have ever come across. Tent tariffs start at Rs.2750 and yoga classes are Rs.300 per session.

Lotus Yoga Retreat

Lotus Yoga Retreat is a beachfront yoga retreat with onsite accommodation in quaint South Goa. Their eco-friendly beach huts made out of bamboo, palm leaves and straw. They offer daily morning-evening yoga and meditation classes which are free for all residents.

There also conduct special yoga retreats where yoga masters from around the world focus on particular forms of Yoga. The retreat dates are declared well in advance giving you ample time to make arrangements. Yoga classes are held on a large yoga shala overlooking the ocean or alternatively a smaller mountain deck. Resort prices start 40 Euros per person and include accommodation, one meal and daily yoga classes. The retreats are individually priced depending on the duration and the teacher.

The Bhramani Yoga Center

The Brahmani Yoga Centre offers daily classes in Ashtanga,Vinyasa Flow,Hatha,Pranayama,Meditation, Kundalini, and Restorative Yoga and offers teacher training programmes. A precise schedule is printed on their website so you can choose in advance the form of yoga you wish to practice. Each class focuses on one form so its an excellent choice if you want to focus on a specific form.

They center has no accomodation onsite, but several resorts in Anjuna are easily accessible. Yoga classes are walk-in and no reservations are necessary. The classes are Rs. 500 for each session or you can buy a book of 10 class tickets for Rs. 3,500.

Harmonic Healing

Harmonic offers a distinctive range of healing and treatments in India on Patnem beach. Yoga shalas and massage cabanas give you an amazing view of blue sea Apart from yoga, they offer other unique workshops in classical Indian singing, Bollywood dancing, Pilates, Byron Katie, Louise Hay, Conscious Breath, Bowen, Tarot and also have an onsite Chiropractor! Frankly, I have never heard some of these names and had to google to get insight on them. But its wonderful that learning on such unique subjects is now accessible in India.

They host yoga retreats as well and details are available on their website. Each activity is priced seperately and yoga classes start at Rs. 200. One observation was that the healing therapies seemed excellent value for money.  They don't offer accommodation onsite but give you options to stay in the vicinity.

Satsanga Retreat

Satsanga Retreat is situated in the village of Verla Canca, located near Mapusa. They offer an array of yoga retreats and training programs taught by teachers from around the world. Satsanga Retreat is family-run and has onsite rooms with en-suite facilities. Every teacher prices retreats individually and the center can be contacted for room pricing.

P.S. - I am a novice at yoga and have never visited any of the above yoga centers. Incase you decide to go, please do further research on the center and teachers. As most of the retreats attract westerners, they are open only during the busy season in Goa (November-April) .

"All travel is spiritual practice. Every destination we travel toward is a sacred place - because everywhere we stand is holy ground. " - Paul Jenkins