Swimsuits, smart guides and safaris

Swimsuits, smart guides and safaris
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First Published: Fri, Jan 09 2009. 10 21 PM IST

Retreat: At Kanha, apart from tiger sightings enjoy birdwatching too.
Retreat: At Kanha, apart from tiger sightings enjoy birdwatching too.
Updated: Fri, Jan 09 2009. 10 21 PM IST
Through a lens, brightly
Six of the hottest bods on the planet. Umm...okay.
Swimwear from some of the biggest brands. Sounds good.
Thailand as the backdrop. Now you’re talking!
For ace photographer Atul Kasbekar, shooting his seventh Kingfisher Swimsuit Special calendar for 2009, the choice of locale was something of a no-brainer since “Thailand is one of my favourite destinations”. We asked him to tell us more…
The basics
Retreat: At Kanha, apart from tiger sightings enjoy birdwatching too.
The theme is easy-going. And that fitted in very well with the Six Senses Hideaway resorts at Koh Samui and Yao Noi. We’d shot earlier editions of the calendar in Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, south of France and in India. We’d worked out of Phuket too. But the minimalism theme that Dr (Vijay) Mallya had prescribed was peculiarly in sync with the eco-friendly Six Senses properties that we discovered on our recce tour.
Back to nature
Moving away from last year’s serious accent on the exotic—the India locations ranged from Goa and the Andamans to Ladakh and Udaipur—in 2009, the focus was very much on the soft and natural. We used wide-angle lenses and refrained from using the flash, as a result of which the feel of the photos is very different. The mood was enhanced by the location.
When you’re shooting with a large team of 16 people, as we were, we also need to look into factors like connectivity and accommodation. Thailand being a very well-connected, tourist-friendly country with some of the warmest people I know, these weren’t concerns at all.
The personal angle
On vacations, Thailand is always about the beach. From Pattaya to Phuket, my family and I’ve been up and down the coastline and I’ve always found it great value for money. I’m really into water sports, so I’ve tried jet-skiing and other adventure sports in the seas off Thailand. Unfortunately, Koh Samui seems to have gone a bit ballistic on the construction front—apart from Six Senses, where we shot, there’s a surfeit of building activity and I found the place has lost much of its natural charm.
Sumana Mukherjee
T he ideal time to sight a tiger are the winter months. So before the tigers retreat for their annual summer break, plan a trip to the two-month-old Mapple Bundela Tiger Retreats at Kanha and Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh. “Bandhavgarh is a sure-shot destination for tiger-spotting. In fact, we guarantee that you will not go back disappointed,” says Sanjay Wadhawan, joint managing director, Mapple group. The USP of the 8-acre Bandhavgarh resort are the private machans attached to each of the 10 cottages. Besides this, they have 10 rooms as well. The Bandhavgarh National Park (210km from Khajuraho) is a jungle of bamboo and sal trees and is home to at least 22 species of mammals, including leopards, Asiatic jackal, Bengal fox and sloth bear. Jeep and elephant safaris can be organized here. “We have a naturalist attached to both the retreats and that makes it easy for our guests to get more information about the area,” says Wadhawan.
The Kanha lodge is set in a 12-acre plot on the Banjar river, close to the Kisli gate of the Kanha National Park (160km from Jabalpur and 270km from Nagpur). Apart from big-cat spotting at Kanha, you can also indulge in birdwatching since the park has about 200 species of birds such as storks, teals, pintails and pond herons. “We are the only property at Kanha which is on the riverfront and many bird species come to the property itself. We encourage our guests to birdwatch and have an ornithologist on call who can help to get you started,” says Wadhawan.
This facility has four jungle tents, four private cottages and 12 rooms. The continental plan for a deluxe room (includes room tariff and breakfast) at Kanha for double occupancy is Rs4,000, while at Bandhavgarh it is Rs6,000. For reservations log on to www.mapplehotels.com or call 011-29552045.
Seema Chowdhry
W hat constitutes a good guide book? Great pictures? Targeted information? Maps? A good guide book is like opening a window to an unknown part of the world—it must have the ability to transport you, word by word, picture by picture, map by map to a space that you can visualize even before getting there. One such travel guide is the recently launched DK Eyewitness Travel series of guides to 12 historical monuments and places in India—Qutb Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Amber Fort, Khajuraho, Sanchi, Konark, Ajanta and Ellora, Hampi, and Mahabalipuram. For Rs200 a book, you get a quick take on the history of the monument,
an insight into its architecture and ground plan, what you can see around the monuments, how to get there, the best months to visit, and the entry fee. The guides contain a small map of the sites and there is also space to add your personal notes.
The good thing about the DK Eyewitness guides is that each dwells at length on the varied architectural antecedents of the monuments (the chhatris at the Taj Mahal are an offshoot of Hindu/Rajasthani architecture, the use of true or keystone arch in the Qutb Minar indicates its Central Asian lineage); describes the monuments in detail with images and sketches (the perforated screens or jaalis are on all sides except the front of the Taj Mahal, the use of 36 brackets in a circular arrangement in the Diwan-i-Khas at Fatehpur Sikri, reminiscent of Gujarati style of architecture); and points out their little facets that most would skip (painted ceiling of the Suhag Mandir in Amber Fort, materials used to build the Red Fort and where they were sourced from).
What this series does not give, however, is practical information on where to stay or eat while you are visiting the monument. Also, while they are strong on images and cultural and historical information, they don’t quite make up for the colour and drama that a local guide usually offers. So yes, go ahead and buy these informative guides, but remember, of course, that nothing beats visiting and seeing a monument for yourself.
Seema Chowdhry
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jan 09 2009. 10 21 PM IST