With the phenomenal success of The Life of Pi film last year, we couldn’t resist thinking up a holiday itinerary to allow you to tread Pi’s footsteps through India and into the blue depths of the ocean and it’s enchanting islands. Over the course of 10 days, we will first take you South West, to meet the animals which so captivated Pi; then we will take you South East, to show you the beauty of Pondicherry, where Pi grew up. Finally, we will send you across the ocean to the Andaman Islands, for your very own shipwrecked paradise experience…
Fly to Bangalore to begin your adventure. We want you to get a chance to gather your senses and come to grips with India’s unique brand of charm and chaos, so we recommend the luxurious Taj West End as the ideal place to stay. Founded in 1887, the West End is now a hotel which marries it’s colonial heritage with the most up to date comforts, styles and tastes.
After the one night recovery stop in Bangalore, it’s time to head West by car to Orange County Kabini, a luxury resort located on the banks of the Kabini River, and nestled between Nagarhole National Park and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Not only is Orange County Kabini located amidst stunning scenery, but the fauna is some of the best that can be found in India. Nagarhole National Park supports the highest density of herbivores in Asia (108 animals per sq km), including the largest congregation of Asian elephants on earth. Carnivores are also in great supply: one might be lucky enough to see wild dogs, leopards and perhaps even a Royal Bengal Tiger – your very own Richard Parker! Orange County Kabini is flush with options for viewing the amazing scenery and wildlife; take a boat safari or a sunset coracle ride on the river, a vehicle safari through the National Park, or a guided nature walk along the banks of the Kabini. For the more adventurous, the option of a night trail would surely be an added thrill for your encounter with nature. For romantic couples, we recommend a bullock cart ride in the late afternoon followed by a sunset dinner overlooking the Kabini’s waters.
After two nights to enjoy India’s natural charms and unforgettable animals, it’s time to head East, to the lands where Pi is raised. Drive to Mysore and fly from there to Chennai; from there it’s only an hour’s drive to end up near Mahabalipuram, an ancient costal port famous for its shore temple. Stay north of the town in Fisherman’s Cove, a Vivanta by Taj property built on the ramparts of an old Dutch fort. Fisherman’s Cove has recently been invigorated with new cottages, villas, restaurant, bar and spa, so you can enjoy the most up to date facilities with a sea view that is sure to stimulate thoughts about Pi’s trials and tribulations at sea with his tiger.
After a relaxing night at Fisherman’s Cove, begin heading South towards Pondicherry, where Pi is raised in Yann Martel’s novel. En route, it’s worth stopping off at Mahabalipuram, only a short distance from the hotel. The whole of Mahabalipuram is a fabulous open-air museum of sculptures in living rock; monolithic shrines, scooped out caverns with magnificently sculpted interiors, and the world’s biggest Bas relief in rock are all truly wondrous examples of the sculptors’ art. After a short stop here proceed South until Pondicherry and stay at the Hotel de l’Orient, an 18th Century heritage hotel built in a style fitting to a mansion in a one time French colony. We think three nights in Pondicherry is enough to take in life here, and to build up first hand experiences to invigorate your imaginings of Pi’s life as a child. Hire mopeds or bicycles for your stay, and embrace the relaxed pace of life in this quirky time capsule of a city.
There are a number of sights in Pondicherry which are mentioned in The Life of Pi, which any fan of the book or film will undoubtedly be intrigued to see with their own eyes. The garish green India Coffee House is very much a part of the city, as is the Jamia Mosque, surrounded by palm trees, and the botanical gardens. Sadly, the zoo within the botanical gardens which is the livelihood of the Patel family is a product of Martel’s imagination (though there has been talk of the Indian Tourism Board funding the creation of one in the future). Additionally, Pondicherry also sports a fascinating mesh of Hindu and Catholic religions, bringing the underlying spiritual journey of Pi’s adventure to life. One of the spiritual highlights of Pondicherry is Auroville, a small town just north of the main city which was founded in the 1960s, upholds the principle of human unity as its central creed, and uses its a currency system independent from the rest of India. Aside from the literary sightseeing in the city, one may be interested to visit the beach, near which old men can still be seen on the sand playing the French ball game petanque. We think it would be fitting to hire a catamaran and go on a small fishing trip, recalling Pi’s experiences with hunting for food when adrift at sea.
After your stay in Pondicherry, it is time for one final treat. Make an early return drive to Chennai Airport to catch a connecting flight to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands, a collection of islands located to the East of India, across the Bay of Bengal. From Port Blair, a public ferry or private charter game fishing boat can take you to Havelock Island, barely touched by any modern development; this is the location of ‘barefoot at havelock‘, an exclusive boutique eco-resort with a private beach (TIME Magazine named it the best beach in Asia in 2004). Thick rainforest opens directly onto the beach, and hidden within this is the stunning but unobtrusive resort, with its huts and villas, modelled on the traditional habitations of the inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. We recommend staying in the resort for at least three nights, in order to get a chance to fully appreciate how unique this paradise really is. It would be unforgivable not to take advantage of the unspoiled underwater scenery around the Islands with a spot of snorkelling; the sea-life in the area is very impressive, and includes sharks, rays (including manta rays), turtles, giant grouper, napoleon wrasse, dolphin, barracuda, sweetlips and snapper. Diving trips can be arranged through Barefoot Scuba, and overnight trips are said to be especially rewarding. There is another underwater experience on Havelock which we feel is unmissable: the chance to dive or snorkel with Rajan, the resort’s 59-yr old retired Asian elephant, and the last of the famous swimming elephants of the Andaman Islands! It might not be a Bengal Tiger, but surely this is an experience that almost matches Pi’s own aquatic animal encounters.
That takes us to the end of Natural Mystic’s luxury Life of Pi tour itinerary. After you leave ‘barefoot at havelock’, return to Port Blair and catch connecting flight back to mainland India before the journey home (for those with more time, it might be interesting to take the ferry to Chennai, however the journey will take three days and is not for those who are easily seasick!). We are sure that this trip will leave you with wonderful and unforgettable memories, as well as a chance to relive the experiences and events in The Life of Pi.