Vaibhav Kala of AquaTerra Adventures is one of the most experienced river and mountain guides in India, and he has lead many trips on some of the toughest challenges in the Indian Himalayas. He has also run all of the major Himalayan rivers and is responsible for opening up new areas to adventure travelers.
In addition to his love for river expeditions, Vaibhav is also an accomplished climber and often incorporates climbing into the expeditions he leads in the Himalayas.
ATM: Welcome to Adventure Travel Mentor, Vaibhav. Let’s get right to it. In which part of India do you spend most of your time for your adventures?
Vaibhav: I would say that I spend most of my time throughout the entire northern stretch of the Indian Himalaya from Ladakh in the northwest to Arunachal Pradesh in the far eastern corner.
If you had to name the three most popular adventure travel activities that clients ask you about, what would they be?
If I had to limit it to three I would have to go with trekking, rock climbing and white water rafting.
What are some of the cultural highlights that your clients tell you they like most in India?
My clients really enjoy the variety and diversity in the Indian culture. It seems like the culture changes every couple of hundred kilometers, or so, if not less.
There is an interesting range of traditions to explore, the colors people like to use vary from place to place, the foods are different and there are many different Indian lifestyles that fascinate the people we guide through the countryside.
Which river is your favorite for white water rafting?
It’s hard to choose just one, but I would say my favorite would be the Upper Brahmaputra / Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh. You would have to experience it for yourself to truly understand why I make it my top choice.
When is the best time of the year to go white water rafting in India?
It all depends on the specific area you want to go, so you should check with your guide, but generally speaking you should look at a time between October and December or between February and August to plan your river adventures in India.
Tell us a little about the most popular kayaking trip. What do people talk about when they sit around the camp fire at the end of the day?
The most popular and accessible kayak trip is the Ganga River. Not only is the Ganga one of the major rivers in India, it’s also the national river. It runs from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal and we see some of the most beautiful parts of it on our river runs. It’s really something special.
Generally, the campfire talks focus on the excitement of the day from the rapids and how we navigated them to the size of the waves. Then the people are excited about what to expect for the next day. It’s fun to listen to people as their passion for the river adventures grows after each and every day.
What else can your adventure travel clients look forward to besides white water rafting and kayaking when you take them on an adventure?
As we discussed a little earlier, our guests really enjoy getting to know the local people and their cultures. They interact with local communities, see the way they live, experience their customs and traditions, and they really get to know the locals and their way of life. It’s an incredibly unique cultural adventure.
Tell us a little about your most exciting adventure of all time. Where did you go, and what did you do?
I guess it was in 2002. I opened up the Siang river (Upper Brahmaputra) to commercial river running, and it was one of the most remote trips we had done at the time. And it was exciting for a few reasons: There was the thrill of opening a new area, the water level was very, very high and it was a fun group of journalists, clients and TV crews.
How did you get into adventure travel? Share a little about your background.
I was doing a lot of hiking and climbing through school and college. I always wanted to get a job in the outdoors, but adventure travel in India was still very much in the nascent stage. River running was getting established in the late 80′s and I saw my chance, and was hooked, ever since.
If you could do just one adventure travel activity what would it be?
I would have to say that river running is my favorite thing to do. There’s just so much excitement around every bend in the river complete with a fresh rush of adrenaline. And then you get a peaceful stretch where you can process all of the fun you just had. There’s also a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Tell us a little about your business, AquaTerra Adventures.
Aquaterra Adventures run trips throughout the Indian Himalaya, and we have arguably the largest range of hiking, climbing and rafting trips in the Himalaya.
We started in 1995, and the company has opened up many new trips over the years. We are very serious about running responsible, eco-friendly tours, and we offer many adventure options throughout the year. We also have very high standards for safety, the equipment and the hygiene requirements for our clients.
We are also the only Indian company to be rated as ‘Best Adventure travel Outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic in a survey conducted by National Geographic Society in 2008 and 2009.
If you would like to contact Vaibhav Kala, or get more information about his guided tours through Aquaterra Adventures, you can visit his Web site at www.aquaterra.in.
You can also read his article entitled White Water Rafting Adventures In Arunachal Pradesh India.