Rishikesh, new hub for adventure sports
The city of Rishikesh in Uttarakhand whose major tourist attractions lie in its holy spots is now becoming a hub for adventure sports in the country.
After a long period in the 90`s when following the popularity of adventure sports numerous river rafting and mountaineering facilities more recently entrepreneurs are venturing into other territories and exploring the market in sports such as bungee jumping.
One such extreme adventure zone is located 13 kilometres from the town of Rishikesh at Mohanchatti village and offers a mix of adventure sports with its focus on bungee jumping.
Brainchild of an ex-army officer Rahul Nigam, the company `Jumpin Heights` has a team of ex-armymen overseeing its day- to-day operations. "Prior to this Bungee was not done professionally, it took more than 4 years for the idea to conceptualise. We started in October 2010," says Colonel Manoj Kumar (Retd), Executive Director, Jumpin Heights.
At 83 metres jump height, the Bungee jump is done by jumping from a cantilever platform built over a rocky cliff.
Rubber chords are tied to the ankle of the jumper for safety. "Safety standards offered by Jumpin Heights in India are comparable to safety standards and practices followed in Australia and New Zealand. Our trained staff looks at safety first with guidance from experienced jump masters from these countries," says Rahul Nigam, ex army officer and Director, Jumpin Heights.
A person has to be medically fit to perform the jump. Minimum required weight is 35 kilograms and minimum age is twelve. "People suffering from complications like heart and blood pressure are not fit to jump. Pregnant ladies are also not allowed. We are very careful about these things," says Kumar.
The set-up has been designed by experts from New Zealand. The support staff from New Zealand it not only manages the jumps but is also getting the country ready for its first Indian jump masters, according to Kumar. "Six youth from neighbouring areas of Rishikesh are currently receiving training to be jump masters from the New Zealand support staff," he says.
In more than 14,000 jumps taken so far the back out rate is a mere 10 per cent according to records. While 7 per cent males refused to take the plunge the female back out percentage comparatively at 3 per cent is very low.
Toby (40) current jump master in Jumping Heights from United states has more than 10 years of experience in Bungee Jumping across Switzerland and New Zealand. Toby feels that Indians are hesitant about adventure sports as compared to peoples in other countries. "Indians are cautious, Bungee is a perceived danger, although it is safe.
Since it is new to the country, people are understandably concerned," Toby said.
From his experience in India, Toby says, "Indian youth is hip and trendy, they have a desire and taste for adventure. Jumpin Heights bridges that gap. There is a lot of scope for adventure sports in this country."
And sure enough a large number of youth is lured by the thrill of the sport to this scenic site, a team of students from Kolkata among them. "I was afraid of heights, I came here to get that fear out. It was even better than rafting, it is quite affordable too," Prateek, one of the students said after the jump.
Each jump is priced at Rs 2,500, while there are combo packages for Bungee and flying fox at Rs 3000 and Rs 4000. "We have kept rates which are affordable and fits into the budget", says Kumar.
While some are excited about the sport like Pradeep there are others like Mahip who feel that extreme sports have a limited market. "Looking at the risk, age factor plays a crucial part in extreme adventure sports. It`s lovers are limited to the young populace," Mahip feels.
The landscape of surrounding hills and a scenic river flowing under the jump platform is a major attraction of the jump for the tourists. "I tried Bungee and flying fox in Santosa Island in Singapore in 2009, but I found it much better here because of the natural landscape. There it felt like a ride in an amusement park but here I got the feel of real adventure sports".
Visitors can also buy merchandise from the reception area which includes key chains, mugs etc. Many visitors sport tee shirts with `I`ve got guts` written on them, available here and a particular favorite among those who dared to jump.
Talking about the expansion plans of the company, Kumar says they have expansion plans in Maharashtra and are looking for suitable locations. "We were also approached by a representative of the government of Arunachal Pradesh for our technical know-how of adventure sports," says Kumar.
To please the palette of adventure lovers further, the company plans to explore the sport of skydiving in near future, in which a person exits an aircraft and lands on earth with the help of a parachute.