Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Make a venture out of adventure

Training people for adventure sports has picked up as an offbeat career. The cash registers are now ringing for professionals in the field who were earlier eking out a measly existence, writes Manish Kumar Singal

If you are sports minded and love to hit the road, a career in adventure tourism might just fit the bill. But adventure tourism is not something transient like trooping to a hill station, taking a sojourn in a hamlet and returning to the grind invigorated. Instead, it is a lifetime of fun in the lap of nature, punctuated with thrills and risks.

In the last decade, adventure tourism has picked up as nobody's business and the cash registers are ringing for the professionals in the field, who were earlier eking out a measly existence. Given that the foreign tourist keeps scouring the countryside for such activities and now even the domestic tourist is clamouring for adventure, the money involved is increasing day by day. A professional, who was earlier making Rs 4000 a month, is now taking home Rs 50,000 per month in the peak season.

In 2003, 2.75 million foreign tourists landed on our shores and, till May 2004, the number was 1.35 million, 24 per cent higher than that in the corresponding period last year.

Sanjay Saini, a professional in adventure tourism, who runs his own outfit, Escapade, in Delhi, says this field is for those subsisting on a diet of passion, risk and fun. Incidentally, Sanjay was a badminton buff and represented Haryana in the nationals. Drawing on personal experience, he says that persons with a sports background are best suited for this profession. Some of the activities in which youngsters can set their hearts on are:

  • White water rafting.

  • Trekking, rock climbing and skiing.

  • Camping in jungles and at high altitude.

  • Hang gliding, paragliding and para sailing

  • Bungee-jumping.

  • Scuba diving and snorkeling.

White water rafting: If you are keen to take the plunge, then the best place to be in is Rishikesh. There is no specialised institute for training in white water rafting. The professionals in the field are being sourced from Nepal. Companies engaged in organising rafting expeditions occasionally hire fresh candidates and give them six-month training under trained Nepali coaches

The remuneration in rafting is good. An expert draws a minimum of Rs 500 per round and gets to do at least four rounds per day. However, the job is only for ones with brawn: "It is unalloyed muscle power and only a person with sports background is equipped to take up the challenge," says Saini.

Trekking and rock climbing: The other most demanding activity in adventure tourism is trekking and rock climbing. There are 52 peaks in India, which can be scaled. Trekkers and rock climbers go in batches of 15-20 and hire professional guides. However, this is a high-risk venture. "It is important that the guide is not an amateur; he should know the area and the track like the back of his hand,'' says Sanjay. So, it is necessary to hire a professional with at least 10 years of experience and only those who have secured the 'Search and Rescue Certificate' from a reputed institute can take up the job. Since the assignment is risky, the remuneration is also commensurate. Trekking and rock-climbing experts earn Rs 500 to Rs 700 per day in addition to the travelling and daily allowance. They also extract a hefty tip that could touch $1,000 for a 25 to 30-day expedition. Government-run mountaineering institutes in Uttaranchal, Manali and Darjeeling, headed by defence personnel, offer training. These institutes offer three types of courses: Basic Course (25 Days), Advance Course (21 days) and Search and Rescue Course (two weeks). A candidate securing 'A' grade in the Basic Course alone qualifies for the advance course and so on. However, there is a long waiting list for this course, often running into two to three years.

Camping in jungles and at high altitude: Generally camping is associated with mountaineering or white water rafting. But these days it is the in-thing to camp outdoors at high altitudes and in jungles. Campers are increasingly opting for professionals in this field, especially with jeep safaris becoming popular. Most of the so-called professionals are untrained.

Hang gliding: More foreigners are into this sport than Indian tourists. Courses in paragliding are offered by private institutes in Manali and Pune; the parasailing course is offered by a number of flying clubs, including those in Delhi and Karnal. An expert in parasailing and paragliding charges Rs 3000 per flight and offers two flights per day. There are openings for professionals at these institutes.

Bungee-jumping: A virgin territory, the sport has been imported from New Zealand. The technology available for bungee jumping in the country is not advanced enough; nor are the sites conducive as bridges across rivers are out of bounds. Result: There are very few professionals in the field.

Scuba diving and snorkeling: These sports are popular in south India and Mumbai. Andaman and Lakshwadeep are the best sites for these sports. Mostly, these activities are run by retired Navy personnel, who charge Rs 1,000 to 1,500 per scuba dive and Rs 500 to Rs 700 for snorkeling. There are few trained youngsters in this field.

Besides the above-mentioned courses, graduates can opt for an MBA in Tourism. Short-term tourism courses are also on offer. The remuneration is equally attractive. MBAs in this field with five years' experience earn Rs 50,000 and more.