A Delightfully Disturbing Evening in Hampi – by Arya Malayali

I was always fond of travelling. Who isn’t? But every journey told me different stories. Nothing was ever same.

Few years back, I happened to pack my bags to Hampi. Being an UNESCO heritage site, it does what it should. It depicts the story of Vijayanagara empire through many temple complexes. From the art to architecture to every single tiny element you see there fits there and only there, it’s unbelievably beautiful.

One evening there, I climbed up a relatably small rocky hill unsure of what was waiting for me behind a Stone temple. It wasn’t much, just another sunset but not like any other. I could see the entire stretch of Vijayanagara empire till my eyes could see. The ruins of an age bygone that still seemed charmingly rich. I wanted the years to go back and I pictured myself living as one of them. It left me with thoughts and imaginations that were unknown to myself till then.

Arya Malayali - AAO Travel Tribe Stories


But it wasn’t just the picturesque view, I tell you. I realized I was surrounded by so many people so the silence around me was as surprising. They were all waiting at peace for the sun to disappear. Maybe they were also thinking about how it would have been to be living there, like me.

Strangers, they were all yet I felt connected to every one of them. I am sure everyone around me felt that way too. So different we all were but tranquil we felt inside.

The place was delicate and dynamic at the same time. Giving all the answers and making me ask questions to myself. Confusing yet contenting. Delightfully disturbing.

This surreal evening is probably one of my most precious memory I cherish and hence an achievement.

– Travel Story submitted by Arya Malayali

Free Diving with the Manta Ray Sharks in Indonesia – Travel Story by Abhishek Dugar

Solo Adventure to Indonesia!
Location: Manta Point, Nusa Penida, Indonesia
Activity: Free Diving with the Manta Ray Sharks

Brief account of what transpired:

Hands down the highlight of my trip was swimming with the magnificent Manta Rays. Although these creatures can be quite intimidating because of their massive size, they are pretty much harmless. They apparently have the biggest biggest brain to body ratio found in any water species and are known to be very curious beings.

Before we took off in our boat, we were told that spotting a Manta had become a rare occurrence because of the large number of tourists who visit the spot. When we arrived at the point, we could already see about five boats packed with snorkelers and divers, waiting for the fish, ready to pounce in the water on first sight.

Abhishek Dugar - AAO Travel Tribe StoriesOur shrewd boat captain was able to spot a few baby Mantas away from the crowd and asked us to gently get in the water so that we don’t attract the attention of the other boats. I followed his instructions and quietly dived in…. right over the mother Manta! She was about 9ft wide! I won’t lie, it freaked me out a little.

I calmed my nerves quickly and stayed rooted to my spot. The next few minutes were some that I will never forget. The mother, along with babies, started closing in towards me and the other two divers from our boat. The curious giants got quite close, about a a couple of meters away, playfully circling around us. They would move in closer and move right back out, as though testing if we posed any danger. This carried on for about 3-5 minutes. They would get close enough for us to see the unique patterns on their bellies, their eyes and even the inside of their huge mouths.

Abhishek Dugar - AAO Travel Tribe Stories - Manta Indonesia

Just as we were getting accustomed to their movement patterns, we heard a series of small splashes all around us. The other boats had discovered our little secret and the tourists had all started diving in, creating chaos in the previously calm waters.

The Mantas, in the middle of all the confusion, darted away.

– Travel Story submitted by Abhishek Dugar