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Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.

Responsible ecotourism starts with this pioneer.

An adventure outfit now well known for its love of infusing ecotourism ideas and concepts into mountaineering expeditions and countryside exploration, Sunshine Himalayan Adventures (abbreviated SHA) made its debut in 1996 as a young gun trek and tour operator with a daring passion to explore untrodden trails, investing a considerable part of a decade building credibility in the adventure tourism sector living up to its claim by escorting die hard adventurers across isolated regions of Ladakh, Spiti, Kinnaur and on occasions even right up to the Everest and the Annapurna base camp.

Committing its soul to the development of the Great Himalayan National Park in 2000, a forest reserve then virtually unknown to the outside world for its untouched, unspoilt Himalayan biodiversity other than to environmentalists and conservationists who wandered within its borders, and an experience that simultaneously shaped its present day outlook, imbibing it with the know how of skillfully combining awareness programs and adventure activities, SHA not only worked alongside the forest division of the government of Himachal Pradesh India to turn the forest reserve into a trekkers’ paradise but was one of the chief contributors to campaign alongside the environmental group ‘Friends of the Great Himalayan National Park’ to bestow the park its rightful status of a UNESCO world heritage site – a voluntary effort that ultimately earned it the label of a responsible adventure unafraid to go beyond its call of duty for nature and community.

As of 2017, SHA is a seasoned trek and tour outfit with a solid 21 years of experience in its rucksack, recognized for its community based ecotourism approach that strives to benefit local denizens, the species and the environment in majority through numerous initiatives and projects. The outfit organize tours for both its own clientele and its long time network associate, the U.S. based adventure company, Way of Adventure, as well as embarks on developing ecotourism projects for state governments in India.

Portfolio of Services.
What you get with Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.

In the photos below: The year 2017 saw Sunshine Himalayan Adventures lead a team of climbers from the U.S. over snow covered trails of the Great Himalayan National Park, an unspoilt forest reserve declared a UNESCO World heritage site, two years prior, in 2014. The team summited a virgin peak on 20th June, 2017 and named it after Gavin Kilcullen – a 10 year old cancer patient battling acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia as a part of the Heroes Climb initiative by the Vincent Poscente International (founded by motivational speaker Vincent Poscente) that takes to honoring everyday heroes picked through an online voting system.

SHA’s portfolio of adventure activities is a reflection of its passion for nature, species and social welfare, and a product of its close association with conservationists and environmentalists many of whom shaped its thinking and approach to adventure tourism over campfires and group discussion since it first begun its roll as an adventure organizer, and continue to mentor its journey. Primed towards educating guests to the joy of living in nature, the activities range from strenuous and hard core expeditions across frozen mountains to simple adventure pursuits like relaxing trout fishing trips in the cold waters of the Tirthan, and from weighty educational tours to special outings for birding and snow leopard spotting as well as home stay living packages.

The outfit not only organizes and leads excursions within the Great Himalayan National Park and its buffer zone Tirthan valley that falls inside its home base – a region it is intimately familiar with. But also in Uttranchal, Sikkim, Nepal and other parts of Himachal with flexible itineraries that can be customized as per individual preference to suit school and college students, families and corporate groups, as well as seasoned trekkers from across India and foreign shores.

Preferring to operate with a core team of trained and experienced personnel reinforced with regional representatives, the outfit takes care of all necessary arrangements ranging from organizing airport pick-up and drop, transportation, accommodation, equipment, procurement of travel permits (where required) and provisions to make every tour and trip as safe as possible, educative, thoroughly enjoyable and one of its kind.

SHA’s ultimate goal is to make its treks meaningful to allow guests to not only relish the splendors of the natural habitat but gain an understanding of the people, species and locale so as to develop a deeper bond with the environment and the importance of preserving it.

An endeavor that over the years continue to see it team-up with mountaineers, motivational leaders and environmental groups to introduce tour packages that combine adventure and awareness to shed light on sustainability issues and social welfare. The outfit’s inclination of incorporating awareness oriented tours under its adventure offerings is tangible in its introduction of educational tours aimed at acquainting children and adults to the flora, fauna and lives of the indigenous populace. Organic farming trips that imparts awareness in the area of high altitude cultivation. And in the vicinity of 2016, its collaboration with the Vincent Poscente International foundation for the ‘by invite only’ Hero’s Climb challenge that takes to honoring every day heroes by summitting 5,000 to 6,000 meter virgin peaks and naming it after everyday people exhibiting uncommon resilience.

Treks and tours by Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.
Great Himalayan National Park and its buffer zone Tirthan Valley, Sikkim, Ladakh, Uttranchal, Nepal and other parts of Himachal Pradesh, India.

Since it’s founding in the mid 90s, SHA has successfully undertaken over 100 treks in diverse locales, different weather conditions and seasons making it a seasoned outfit with a thorough knowledge of routes and on trek experience to handle practically any situation that may arise. For more than a decade as it focused on building its credibility in the adventure tourism sector where a guiding team’s familiarity with the landscape and its ability to react instantly to altering situations is considered an important part of its reputation, SHA to its credit is cited to have organized and led trekkers across some of the harshest Himalayan terrains displaying en route a wonderful mix of determination to complete what was started and on the spot improvisations that on many occasions led to a smooth and hassle free experience.

Some of the noted treks that established the adventure outfit’s trust and skills in organizing and leading teams includes so far: Treks to the Nubra Valley, Markha Valley and an expedition to Stok Kangri (Ladkah, Himachal Pradesh, India). Treks to Spiti Valley, Hemis National Park, Pin Parvati, Kinnaur Kailash, Pangi and in the Kangra Valley (Himachal Pradesh, India). Trek to the Everest and Annapurna base camp (Nepal). Treks to Goechela and Kishong Lake (Sikkim, India) and through the Singalila National Park (Darjeeling, West Bengal, India). In Great Himalayan National Park, SHA not only assisted in developing the park into a natural trekkers’ heaven but begun organizing treks and tours within its borders much before the forest reserve was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Starting its now long relationship with the forest reserve sometime in the year 2000 with German author Ulrch Frebel on board who later produced the book titled: Trekking in Himachal Pradesh, India, the first of its kind to document the hidden beauty of the reserve, the outfit within the span of three years had found itself organizing regular excursions and treks for a bevy of adventurers including the park’s environmental partner W.W.F. and other noted names making up the roll call.

The frequent tours of the hitherto unexplored reserve was to prove instrumental in eventually endowing the outfit with an intimate understanding of the landscape, routes, and lives of local populace that well in present times makes it a preferred pick even with other adventure outfits now having begun their own operations. SHA’s bonding with the Great Himalayan National Park was not only beneficial in establishing it as a top adventure outfit in the region but its growing acquaintance with environmental and conservation groups, particularly from foreign shores, enlarged and sharpened its knowledge of ecotourism methods, their implementations and impacts, with later years witnessing it taking up projects with the Sikkim State Government to formulate the state’s ecotourism policies followed by activities in the state of Uttranchal where the adventure outfit once again involved itself in uplifting the hill state’s tourism industry with ecotourism base concepts that strived to keep in balance revenues and the region’s fragile ecosystem.

The founding of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.
How the adventure outfit came to be.

SHA’s association with the Great Himalayan National Park turned out to be its learning cum earning grounds bringing it in contact with a network of influential individuals who in many ways facilitated the fine tuning of its work methods. The environmental group Friends of the Great Himalayan Park, a collective of volunteers brought together by Payson R. Stevens (creative director, speaker and lead author of Embracing Earth: New views of our changing planet) and Sanjeeva Pandey (the national park’s former director) and in later years the B.T.C.A (Society for Biodiversity Tourism and Community Advancement) are two noted groups SHA continues to collaborate with.

Sunshine Himalayan Adventures was founded by the unlikely pair of Ankit Sood, a ‘fresh out of school’ lanky youth of Kullu Valley (Himachal Pradesh, India) and his geography teacher, Kailash Nath Zadu, an ex Indian navy captain. The duo was divided by the wide chasm of age but connected well over a shared love for exploration and trekking culminating to the set-up of the adventure outfit that from its cradle aimed at covering regions never advertised before – a pioneer’s mindset that led to the earliest recorded high altitude treks in the region of Ladakh in association with the Germany based nature group widely known as Nature De Freunde (or Friends of Nature).

An ardent admirer of the ecotourism philosophy that had made its way into the Himalayan hinterlands in those days, the outfit was quick to adopt its teachings and further streamlined it by incorporating a second philosophy of community based tourism, reflected in its present day company’s modus operandi that incorporates its prime offering of adventure outings under a larger umbrella of ecotourism to benefit local denizens living in remote locales as well as the flora and fauna that makes up the sensitive Himalayan ecosystem. SHA felt an immediate and deep connect with the Great Himalayan National Park for its ecotourism concepts that was in line with its own belief of responsible ecotourism beginning its long association with the forest reserve, initially as a voluntary trek and tour operator then additionally as marketing and public relations consultant.

A role that found it working alongside environmental groups such as Friends of G.H.N.P and the B.T.C.A., participating in numerous activities ranging from arranging volunteers, journalists and photo competitions to web site development and implementation of sub projects as well as grooming of guides through tourism courses for various roles such as mountaineering, birding, first aid procedures and the introduction of Himachal’s first wilderness emergency rescue program.

After the elderly Zadu acknowledged as the mentor of the group and instrumental in preparing his younger counterpart in adventure tourism retired as co-founder, Ankit was assisted in operations and management of the outfit by his sibling Pankaj Sood. In the same period the outfit gradually enlarged its sphere of activities by involving itself in opening up avenues for growth of tourism, product and human resource development – and one that constitutes an important and large part of its overall activities in present times.

Social welfare and conservation of the environment.

In the photos below: SHA’s proclivity to social welfare, preservation of species and development of rural lives specially within the Great Himalayan National Park and its buffer zone Tirthan valley was largely influenced by its association with environmental group Friends of the Great Himalayan National Park and later the non profit welfare organization the B.C.T.A. In 2017 SHA was a special partner in the World Heritage Site celebrations and organized a birding walk for the village children.

An active participant in activities related to social welfare and preservation of species and the environment since its initial years, SHA supported local and international environmental groups successfully campaign for the preservation of the endangered Western Tragopan, a species of pheasant endemic to Himachal Pradesh, India and found in abundance within the periphery of the forest reserve.

Working hand in hand, the outfit was part of a large scale awareness drive instrumental in hemming poaching to a considerable extent and further bringing under control its decline with the implementation of several initiatives including a program that focused on transforming past poachers into birding guides by providing them with an alternate source of income and the introduction of the first of its kind poaching complaint in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India that turned hunting of the pheasant into a crime punishable by law – one that incorporated the assistance of the state police and forest department into jointly working for the apprehension of poachers.

As the borders of the Great Himalayan National Park bestowed with the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site was restricted to the indigenous populace who had lived there for centuries in an attempt to preserve the park’s wildlife and natural splendor from 2014 onwards, SHA begun work with the local non profit welfare group B.T.C.A to help the local populace dependent on the reserve since ancestral times for sustenance cope with their new settings.

In 2015, the outfit lend its support to the Nari Shakti initiative targeted at empowering such women with skill sets and ways of earning by teaming up with documentary filmmaker Good Karma Projects, B.T.C.A and other local groups to produce a series of films to reveal the life of the rural dwellers and villages for educative purposes and better awareness. Brought to fruition by American filmmaker Ana Blue Grillo and created by students and volunteers of the Good Karma Projects Film making Boot camp, the film was shown to over 10,000 people including rural women as well as presented at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then SHA has further immersed itself in either supporting or developing other ecotourism based initiatives for the benefit of the local denizens.

The self help group U.M.E.E.D that imparts training to local youths for better prospects, home stay projects that grooms local dwellers to provide hospitality services and handicraft projects that strives to promote local art and craft are a few of the projects that has seen the involvement of the adventure service provider.

Owners of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.

Ankit Sood and Pankaj Sood.

The SHA team constitutes of core teammates, experienced in wildlife, trekking and mountaineering with many of its members trained by the Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, network partner the U.S based adventure company Way of Adventure and the National Outdoor Leadership School – an institution that acquaints students in wilderness and leadership skills. The outfit in turn trains and works with associates and regional representatives under its ecotourism banner with the aim of helping them earn a livelihood. Inside the Great Himalayan National Park, it is part of a seventy five member cooperative group working on a G.H.N.P. fair trade revenue sharing model.

Ankit Sood: The principal founder of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures, Ankit holds a Masters of Philosophy in Ecotourism and has served as a lecturer of tourism at Kullu College (Himachal Pradesh, India) for a period of twelve years. Aside leading treks, tours and looking after the general management of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures, Ankit works as a National Ecotourism Expert involved with the development of tourism in the states of Uttranchal, Sikkim (in association with the respective state governments) and continues to offer services as a marketing and public relation consultant in the Great Himalayan National Park – several of the park’s initiatives including the grooming of guides and birding tours were implemented by him.

Ankit also received positive reviews for leadership skills exhibited on treks from Eileen Macdarg, chief energy officer and motivational speaker in her blog titled ‘From the world’s highest mountains – a lesson for leaders, and co-founded Kullu Projects, a voluntary initiative that strives to assist disadvantaged children with learning and skill development, among his other largely conservation oriented activities. In 2014, Ankit shifted base to Tirthan valley, the buffer zone of the Great Himalayan National Park – to live in the lap of the forest reserve that helped put his outfit in the limelight as a responsible adventure organizer.

Pankaj Sood: The younger sibling of Ankit Sood and co-founder of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures, Pankaj is a qualified mountaineer trained in advance mountaineering and skiing by the Western Himalayan Mountaineering institute (India), a passionate photographer and shares his brother’s love for conservation, environment and outdoor thrills. A love that often takes him hiking across trails in search of brown bears or winter treks, when not leading mountaineering expeditions for Sunshine Himalayan Adventures or looking after its management.

Pankaj is also a member of the B.T.C.A. board (Society for Biodiversity Tourism & Community Advancement) and works with over 500 women in Tirthan valley, the buffer zone of the Great Himalayan National Park. In 2016 he was an invitee of the Indian Institute of Management in Rothak, Haryana, India called upon as a guest speaker for their TedX Event to inspire others with his ordeal of narcotic abuse and his successful renouncement of the substance – an addiction he had picked up in his youth like many youngsters in Kullu valley, prior to joining SHA.

Letter of apology to SHA.

Sunshine’s policy of outsourcing some of its treks to teams (trained by it) so as to provide livelihood opportunities put it in the midst of a customer grievance outrage erupting from a minor mishap in 2005.

As per the records, on a normal expedition to Pin Parvati, a porter is believed to have lost footing and accidentally dropped a can of kerosene into a gorge – making the retrieval of this vital supply impossible. To amend the loss, the guide in charge, reportedly left for fresh supplies but failed to catch up with the group on the way back by which time led by porters (familiar to the trail) the trek had been completed without any blunders on the part of the escorting team. The incident was later blown up on the India Mike Page by a Delhi based tour operator and one of the trekkers involved. Ankit inspite of not being on the trek himself accepted responsibility as he was the main person to organize the expedition but was later cleared of the blame with an official letter of apology from the tour operator and an informal ‘text message’ apology from the trekker.

What Ankit says: “Trekking in remote high altitude areas evokes a sense of adventure. Adventure by definition involves the element of risk – risk which is calculated by a responsible tourism operator as safety is paramount. The risk is also minimized by using good equipment and training the staff to a perfect “T”. However mishaps do happen and this was the only such incident that landed us on this India Mike page, accessed by adventures from across the globe. We learnt our lessons and have taken important measures to curb such incidents. Luckily out of this learning has come a smooth sailing of over 10 years of adventures in the Pin Parvati region. When traveling through the remote Himalayas we always request our guests to have some flexibility and a sense of humor as with these elements any adventure becomes memorable! Both the guide and porter involved in the incident (2005) are now very good mountaineers – I don’t give up on the villagers.”

Get in touch with Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.

Registered head office, Akahara Bazzar, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Photo sourced: Sunshine Himalayan Adventures .

Sunshine Himalayan Adventures is a certified company headquartered in Akhara Bazzar, Kullu town, Himachal Pradesh, India. Email: sunhimalaya@yahoo.com OR sunhimalaya@gmail.com. Landline: 01902-225182. Mobile: +91 9418102083. Website: Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.

Source: http://farbound.net/sunshine-himalayan-adventures/

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