Global Family Travels spent our December holidays in South India, a beautiful part of the country which offers similarly colorful cultural experiences that North India does, but at a more relaxed pace which we found more ideal for traveling with children. We were impressed with the natural beauty of South India’s forests, backwaters, spice plantations, and wild life sanctuaries! Here are our favorite travel experiences from visiting two of South India’s states, Kerala and Karnataka:
Mumbai Community Sports Program – We had a fun first day playing soccer with local youth and meeting Mr. Rafique, the Founder of the Rahee Foundation, who is a local tailor from the slums of Mumbai. Mr. Rafique started the Foundation to provide life-skills and sports activities to underprivileged children, helping them become change makers in their own communities! We enjoyed meeting his star pupils, leaders in the sports program who shared how their participation has transformed their lives. As part of our Learn, Serve, Immerse mission, we’re hoping to put together a trip to South India to support the Foundation’s good work, so stay tuned for information about it!
Meeting with Founder of Rahee Foundation in Mumbai
2. Monastery Inauguration – We had the privilege and honor to attend the inauguration of the new prayer hall of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, which was blessed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. All over India, there are many Buddhist monasteries which allow visitors, however, this one is special to Tibetan Buddhist. In a recent blog post, we share the significance of this monastery in preserving Tibetan Buddhism.
Jennifer & Mark Spatz with Choedak, at Tashi Lhunpo Monk
3. Safari in Nagarhole National Park – We enjoyed several safaris at this heavily forested park. The park has the largest congregation of Asian Elephants in the world, which occur during the summer months, but we were lucky to see some on safari. The park also has 97 tigers and 130 leopards! We stayed at the Red Earth Kabini Lodge, at a serene location on the banks of the backside of the Kabini River Dam, which was where we celebrated Christmas.
Elephant bathing in Nagarhole National Park, South India
4. City of Kochi – We explored and learned about the history of Kochi (or Cochin as it was called in colonial times), a city influenced by Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch, and Portuguese that became a busy port during the height of the spice trading years. It still is one of the largest ports in India! We loved the peaceful blend of cultures here – Jewish synagogues, Portuguese homes, Chinese fishing nets, old Christian churches and Muslim people – if only the world could be more like Kochi!
Chinese fishing nets in Kochi, South India
5. Houseboat in the Back waters of Kerala – We had a relaxing cruise and overnight stay in Kerala’s backwaters, on a traditional houseboat, called a Kettuvallum. These boats are wooden hulled boats, made without nails but coir (woven coconut fibers), and they used to carry cargo of rice and spices from the fields in the backwaters to the Port of Kochi. As we meandered through Kerala’s canals (Kerala has 560 mile of canals!), we witnessed women doing their daily chores, children playing and going to school in a canoe, and fishermen casting their nets. After our time on the boat, we could relate to why the locals call Kerala is called “God’s Own Country.”
House boat in Kerala, South India
6. Mysore – the city of Palaces, home to Ashtanga-style yoga and one of the best zoos in India. We enjoyed all that Mysore had to offer, but one of our favorite experiences was a visit to our tour guide’s home, where we learned to wear saris and listened to his son sing classical music. We sang them a Christmas song in exchange!
A fun visit with a local Mysore family!
If you’re are interested in creating a similar trip for your family to explore South India, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.