Diwali Special: Out of the gift box
Wondering whether to get a dinner set for your aunt and an “envelope” for the hard-to-please niece? Winning the best Diwali gift lottery can be hard. Change the game, and gift experiences that will leave them with lasting memories.
For the sporty type
Wimbledon experience in England
If your friends are fans of Roger Federer, make their Wimbledon experience next year extra special. As Federer gets ready to defend his championship, give your friends a grand tour of Wimbledon, complete with lunch, strawberries and champagne. They will get access to exclusive areas of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, the iconic grassy bank called Henman Hill, the Millennium Building, the Press Interview Room, and, of course, the hallowed Centre Court. After a three-course lunch, take a tour of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, which provides an immersive experience of the history of tennis and Wimbledon, not to mention a special “ghostly” (hologram) appearance by the legendary John McEnroe.
Ultimate Wimbledon Tour with Lunch and Champagne for Two with Mail Experiences, £180 (around Rs15,500) for two. Click here for details.
Sand yachting in France
Beaches and water sports go hand in hand; whether it’s surfing, parasailing or kite surfing, the “wind-in-your-hair” thrill of being on the water is unmatched. Now a fun new beach sport has been added to the mix. Land sailing or sand yachting is a cool way of enjoying the beach. Get “sailing” lessons at Le Touquet in northern France, then hop into a bright yellow canoe on three wheels as you learn to steer the “yacht” on the windy beach at the Bay of Somme. You’ll be in a wetsuit, wearing a crash helmet and gloves, so it’s a perfectly safe sport. Let the wind in your sails take you for a thrilling joyride!
Sand Yachting with Centre Nautique de la Manche Bertrand Lambert, €46 per person (small group of five-six persons necessary) for a single session of two-and-a-half hours. Click here for details.
For the food lover
Truffle hunting in Tuscany
We all have that friend who can’t get enough of exotic food. An active-learning holiday in search of truffle would be just perfect for her. Join an Italian family and their truffle-hunting dog for a day in the woodlands of Tuscany. Spend the morning looking for truffles. Learn about the history of truffle, its uses, and why it is so prized. Round it off with a cooking lesson in which you learn how to make pasta, risotto and even desserts with the truffles. Then, sit down to a hearty lunch with the host family.
Truffle and Lunch Experience with Tuscan Truffle Academy, €150 (around Rs11,500) per person (minimum two people), for a half-day experience. Click here for details.
Finding ‘pho’ in Vietnam
If your friends would rather explore South-East Asia, send them off on a culinary journey around Vietnam. Finding Pho in Vietnam is an immersive gastronomic experience that includes street food trails, market visits, cooking classes, even a night foodie Saigon trail on a Vespa! Go ingredient-shopping in Hanoi’s busy markets, learn how to make pho and other Vietnamese dishes, and eat with the locals in their homes. Go on a beer trail through Hanoi’s back streets, sampling local brews, and drop in at Habeco, the city’s oldest beer factory.
The trip includes a luxury boat cruise in Halong Bay as well as cave explorations, squid fishing and other fun activities.
Finding Pho in Vietnam with Black Swan Journeys, Rs1,03,500 per person on double sharing, plus 5% GST for a seven-night/eight-day tour. Click here for details.
For the water baby
Canoeing in Rameswaram
For your sailing enthusiast friends, an active-learning excursion on an outrigger canoe would be just perfect. Quest Expeditions arranges 2-hour excursions along the coastline of Rameswaram in the Gulf of Mannar. Learn to paddle and sail an outrigger canoe. Explore the islets, observe traditional fishing techniques and keep an eye out for the variety of marine fauna; the Gulf of Mannar is one of the richest areas in southern Asia in terms of marine biodiversity, so you may spot sea turtles and even a dolphin or two. You can go snorkelling in the shallow bays or stop for a quick dip.
Outrigger Canoe Tour with Quest Expeditions, Rs3,000 per person for a 2-hour excursion. Click here for details.
Floatation Therapy in Delhi
A float therapy session is the perfect gift for your always-on-the-go colleague. It involves floating in a pool of lukewarm water made highly dense by the addition of a thousand pounds of Epsom salts. The float chamber is a sensory deprivation tank with minimal light and sound, allowing you to relax and reach a state akin to deep meditation. The therapy is known to have a rejuvenating effect.
Floatation Therapy at Liquid Sanctuary, Rs5,000 for a single float session of 60 minutes. Click here for details.
For the culture enthusiast
Glamping in Nagaland
Every December, Naga tribes get together for a 10-day celebration of their heritage. The Hornbill Festival is an extravaganza of music, dance, food, games and customs. One of the best ways to experience it is to go “glamping” with The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC). The camp sets up base in Kohima for the duration of the festival and is the last word in luxury camping—think spacious suite tents, charming colonial-style furniture, en-suite bathrooms with running hot and cold water, and a personalized butler service. Bespoke itineraries let you soak in the revelry. TUTC can also arrange visits to the Naga villages of Angami and Jakhama.
Glamping in Kohima plus Hornbill Festival experience with The Ultimate Travelling Camp, Rs4,02,000 for a three-night/four-day stay, double occupancy. Click here for details.
Stone carving in Cambodia
If your friends have already tried their hand at crafts like pottery and block printing, it’s time to raise the bar. Take inspiration from the Angkor Wat to craft your very own creations in Siem Reap. With Artisans Angkor, you can practise ancestral Cambodian handicrafts such as woodcarving, sandstone carving, soapstone carving, silk painting and jewellery making. Learn sandstone carving from master craftsmen who will provide you with the tools and guide you in making your masterpiece.
Sandstone-carving workshop with Artisans Angkor, $75 (around Rs4,900) per person, minimum two people, for a 3-hour session. Click here for details.
For the daredevil
Freefalling in Uttarakhand
Your adventure-seeking cousin may have gone bungee jumping and paragliding around India and abroad. How about gifting him a unique experience on India’s highest giant swing? Feel the adrenalin rush in the serene environs of Rishikesh as you jump off a platform 83m above the riverbed and execute a neat pendulum swing. You can also do the giant swing in tandem with a partner—it’s twice the fun.
Giant Swing with Jumpin Heights, Rs3,550 per person for a single session, plus Rs100 entry charges. Click here for details.
Volcano boarding in Nicaragua
Imagine hiking up an active volcano and then sliding or surfing down it. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, which last erupted in 1999, is a 50-minute drive from Leon. You’ll be driven to the base of the volcano. An hour-long mildly challenging hike will take you up to the crater (you will have to carry your own board). Admire the views from the top and marvel at your close encounter with a slumbering volcano. Then, strap on your “surf board” and barrel down the steep volcano slopes at high speed, amid a shower of gravel and volcanic ash. The return journey will take you less than 5 minutes but it’s an exhilarating and memorable ride.
Volcano Boarding with Vapues Tours, $28 per person, minimum three people, plus $5 entry fee. Click here for details.