(Mr. Sajad Kralyari, 29, was born in Kralyar, Srinagar. He had his early schooling at the General Public Mission (GPM) School, and his higher secondary education from the Government High School. He completed his B.Sc. from the Gandhi Memorial College, Rainawari, Srinagar, and Master's degree in journalism from the Media Educational Research Centre (MERC), University of Kashmir in 2008. He subsequently did a brief stint in New Delhi before returning as a correspondent for the Rising Kashmir, working on business and economy related stories.)
Srinagar Man Brings Adventure Attraction for Tourists
Tourists need better services and different recreational activities for their longer stays in the Valley.
This is exactly what Valley’s prominent adventurer from Sriangar-Mehjraj-ud-din, believes in to attract good number of tourists to Valley. Mehraj-ud-din, 55, has introduced new services for the tourists to extend their stays in the Valley besides guiding them for trekking, skiing, paragliding, ski-mountaineering and other adventure related activities.
Recently, the businessman introduced remote controlled aero-ballooning-a new service and attraction for the tourists- on the banks of Dal Lake. Aero-ballooning is a joint venture by the adventure companies-High Land Excursions and River and Raft. At an estimated projects cost of nearly Rs 2.70 crores, Mehraj-ud-din and his partner Mohammad Afzal launched a new company Kashmir Eye to introduce this new services and attraction at Zabarwan Park on the banks of Dal Lake.
Minister of state for Tourism Nasir Aslam Wani, Director Tourism Kashmir Talat Parveez inaugurated the aero-ballooning as a part of effort to boost tourism sector in the state. The tourism department has provided all the support to the company to introduce the services.
The 10-minutes flight of balloon to 350 feet high gives tourists a best aerial view of the Dal Lake, Zabarwan hill, Pir Panjal ranges and also Shankaracharya Temple. The ride costs Rs 500 for adults and Rs 300 for children and it has already attracted good number of tourists and locals.
Tourists don’t have much activity here in Srinagar except for water skiing, Shikara ride and also newly introduced jet skiing. However, the services like aero-ballooning will be an added attraction for tourists giving them reasons to prolong their stays in Srinagar.
“We have to attract tourists with more services. If we provide them new additional services and activities, they will prolong their stays in Kashmir which will create more livelihood opportunities for the locals,” believes Mehraj-ud-din. The giant balloon uses helium gas to hover in air which they import from Qatar. “We are investing huge amount in this services. Besides investing around Rs 2.70 croes, we have Rs 13 lakhs yearly expenses. But we know, this will attract good number of tourists and locals who will want to enjoy the ride and get aerial view of the Dal Lake,” says Mehraj-ud-din.
Kashmir Eye has employed at least 10 local youth who run the service from morning to evening at Zabarwan Park. The tourists can enjoy the rides from 8.30 am to 8.pm under normal weather conditions. Mehraj-ud-din has already introduced white water rafting in Pahalgam in 2004 which also has become a huge success.
Tourists and locals are enjoying the joy rides in the rafts now in Pahalgam and in Sonamarg which has also given opportunity to many unemployed youth to earn decent livelihood from this tourism sector.
Kashmir Eye future projects
Mega eco-adventure amusement park In order to provide world class adventure-cum-recreational facilities at one place to the tourists, Kashmir Eye plans to develop a mega eco-adventure amusement park in Kangan of Ganderbal District. The park will come at an estimated cost of Rs 25 crores on 100 kanals of land which Kashmir Eye expects would employ about 500 local youth.
The tourists will get to have a rollercoaster ride in the Valley at this park besides they can enjoy ice-skating, roller-skating, swimming and other aquatic recreational activities for children. The park will also have a big conference hall for MICE tourism. The park is expected to be ready by two years of time.
“We will invest heavily for adventure and tourism services. We have best natural environs and resources which we have not utilized for tourism activities. We can’t emerge as the best tourist destination unless we provide good recreational activities for the tourists. We will come up first ever and biggest eco-adventure amusement park in Kangan,” said Mehraj-ud-din.
Though Kashmir offers ample opportunity for parasailing, the activity has not been introduced at the commercial level. It was introduced in Kashmir on water in Dal Lake Aero Sports Association of J&K in 2006 to organize courses for youth.
Kashmir Eye also plans to introduce parasailing at commercial level in Srinagar. “We will also introduce winch-controlled parasailing in Srinagar. We have enormous potential in tourism sector which youth should use for their livelihood,” suggests Mehraj.
Mehraj-ud-din has invested his past 32 years in adventure tourism. From a local snow-ski instructor 32 years ago, Mehraj now claims to be a third highest foreign exchange earner from adventure tourism in Nepal.
At the age of 25, Mehraj-ud-din completed his first basic snow ski course in 1974. It was the first ever course organized in Gulmarg. Former Kashmir University adventure coach Mohammad Yusuf Mandoo and Mehraj-ud-din were the only two participants in this course from Srinagar. Later Mehraj completed ski-instructor course in 1979 before flying to Switzerland to do advanced ski-course. Besides, helping tourists in snow skiing in Gulmarg, Mehraj-ud-din earned his livelihood as a tourists guide. Mehraj-ud-din also introduced paragliding in Sonamarg. However, after the militancy hit tourism sector in Valley in late 80’s, Mehraj-ud-din shifted to Nepal for his services in adventure activities.
In Nepal, Mehraj-ud-din organized adventure trips in trekking, rock climbing, river rafting for foreigners. This time, the Kashmiri adventure guide, attracts 2500 foreigners from Australia, New Zeeland, UK, USA, Canada to Nepal for adventure activities. As the situation improved in Valley, Mehraj-ud-din resumed his adventure activities back home and launched white-water rafting in Pahalgam under Highland Excursion India Private Limited in 2004. The white water rafting has become an instant hit among visitors at this scenic spot which is bestowed with gushing streams and waterfall.
“Today, in Pahalgam, there are 18 rafting companies which provide livelihood to over hundred people,” said Mehraj-ud-din.
The river rafting has also become popular in Sonamarg where couple of companies also provides services to the tourists.