A Revolution for Backpacking in India – A Review of goMowgli, India’s first ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour
Who are goMowgli?
Since I first heard about goMowgli, a start up company who aim to offer India’s first backpacker ‘hop on hop off’ bus, I was excited and wanted to be part of this revolution for the travel industry in India!
goMowgli started in 2014 with off beat tours around their home state of Karnataka (The lovely Rachel from Hippie in Heels travelled with them for a month and you can see Hippie in Heels review her goMowgli experience in Karnataka here) From October 2015 goMowgli will be running tours in Kerala, Karnataka and Goa – and aim to cover the whole of India one day!
Why I traveled with goMowgli
When I heard about goMowgli I instantly got in touch with them and asked to experience some of their tours first hand. Why? – I’m passionate about traveling in India as I believe this vast and diverse country has so much to offer but I’m also the first to admit that while traveling independently and backpacking in India is hugely rewarding it can also be challenging and frustrating, especially for first time visitors and solo female travellers. Traveling with goMowgli offers a perfect solution for solo female travellers and first time visitors who want to explore India in a fun, immersive, adventurous but hassle free way and this is why I was so excited to be partnering with goMowgli as I believe these kind of fun, innovative, off beat and budget friendly tours are just what the Indian tourism industry needs.
My review of goMowgli
I’ve now taken 4 goMowgli tours! – a day tour of Hampi, a Mysore City Tour, a tour to Somanathapura and Talakad (just outside Mysore) I’ve also just participated in a week long launch trip for the new goMowgli Kerala tours! So it’s about time I reviewed my experience with goMowgli.
Firstly, I have to say that there is a big difference between the Karnataka tours and the Kerala tours. So I feel like I should review them separately.
Karnataka tours with goMowgli
Karnataka is a relatively under rated state – there is a lot of see here but apart from Hampi and Mysore most of the Karnataka state is still very off the beaten track. For me, the Karnataka tours are where goMowgli really shines – this is their home state and they know it so well. Each tour I took really enhanced my experience of the destination – from the places that I’d never heard of before that aren’t easily accessible to tourists and are not even in the Lonely Planet, to the innovative, informative and indepth take on the more popular destinations of Hampi and Mysore. By taking the goMowgli tour I learnt so much more about the history, myths and legends of these fascinating places, I was able to see and experience things that I would never have found of my own and the local and indepth knowledge and the passion from the guides really shone through and brought the destination alive for me.
The Vittala Temple in Magical Hampi
Kerala Tours with goMowgli
My amazing experience in Karnataka with goMowgli lead me to be one of the very first people to experience their new Kerala route in September 2015 along with Rachel from Hippie in Heels and 4 other great girls. The new Kerala Parotta Pass is goMowgli’s brand new ‘hop on hop off’ backpacker bus pass that visits all the highlights of Kerala. Laid back, luscious Kerala, also known as ‘God’s own country’ is one of India’s most beautiful states and I actually think that Kerala is the perfect introduction to India for a first time visitor.
The Kerala Parotta Pass
goMowgli’s Kerala tour aims to cover all the highlights of ‘God’s own country’ with one flexible pass, although, as I travelled on the special launch tour it was a fixed departure tour not ‘hop on hop off’ but I still got to see the best of Kerala is just 8 days.
The Kerala Parotta Pass tour started in Fort Cochin (Kochi) – once the centre of the spice trade. We soaked up the rich and multicultural history of this port city, enjoyed some off beat surprise trips to a nearby fishing and backwater village and also got a chance to try a Keralan cooking class (and the resulting delicious feast!) and a performance of the fascinating traditional Kerala dance – Kathakali.
Next we journeyed up to Munnar where we enjoyed a sunrise hike and views over the misty green hills and rode in open top jeeps through the stunning tea plantations and visited a working tea factory to see how the tea is made.
Next was Thekaddy where a hike through the forests and a bamboo raft on the river allowed us to spot monkeys, many types of birds and even some wild elephants casually having a snack and then swimming in the river just a few meters away! In Thekkady we also visited a spice plantation where we were amazed by the myriad of properties and uses of the plants and witnessed a display of the world’s oldest martial art – Kalaripayatu.
We winded down from the luscious hills of the Western Ghats to Alleppey (Alappuzha) to board a houseboat and spend a serene day relaxing on a houseboat – our floating hotel, being served delicious home cooked food and soaking up the sun, the glorious views, stunning sunsets and glimpses of laid back local life along the beautiful Kerala backwaters. A real highlight of any trip to Kerala!
From Alleppey we made our way to the chilled out, beachside town of Varkala where we enjoyed swimming, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, yoga, massage and just relaxing in the eateries with views over the ocean from the cliff!
I have so many amazing photos from this trip – have a scroll through my Instagram to get jealous/ inspired to visit Kerala!
Things to be aware with when touring Kerala with goMowgli
goMowgli offer free activities, enthusiastic guides and comfortable, air conditioned transport every day that your pass is valid but you will still have to budget for accommodation, (Kerala has a good network of backpacker hostels but you can also choose different accommodation) for meals and for some optional activities and the costs can add up and would work out costing quite a bit more than backpacking Kerala independently by using local buses. (See more on the typical costs to expect and budget tips for traveling in India here)
This means that goMowgli may be out of the budget range for those trying to backpack India as cheap as possible, however, traveling with goMowgli will take the stress out of travel in India – all your transportation is covered and you get an air conditioned vehicle that is much more comfortable than the public buses, knowledgeable guides who are not only great fun but will also go out of their way to help you out with any other travel queries or problems you might have, the opportunity to meet (hopefully!) a great bunch of people and of course, some of the activities like the jeep ride, the houseboat or just the off beat visits to the fishing village you couldn’t easily organise as a solo traveller.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Kerala with goMowgli, I did feel that the Kerala tour took quite a different approach from the Karnataka tours. I loved how indepth and off beat the Karnataka tours were and, although the Kerala tour did fit in some off beat surprises, I did feel that the tour focused more on the touristy places than the off beat gems. So if you have taken a tour in Karnataka with goMowgli expect the Kerala tour to be a bit different. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing – the tourism industry in Kerala is a lot more developed than that of Karnataka and of course, you would not want to visit Kerala and miss out on some of these things that make Kerala such a popular destination.
For the launch tour I also found things a little rushed at times and spent a lot of time on the bus – but this is because we tried to do the whole route and as many activities as possible in just 8 days as it was run as a fixed departure tour but I would recommend that you take at least 10 days (or even better 2 weeks) to enjoy exploring Kerala to avoid feeling rushed or just tired of being on the bus for too much time!
The great thing about goMowgli is that your pass is valid for 2 months so if you fall in love with somewhere and find it hard to leave then you can chill for a while and then pick up the tour where you left off. They will also probably make a detour to the airport or train station to drop you off there in Trivandrum or Kochi and help with your onward travel planning if you ask nicely.
Bear in mind that I went on the first ever tour for them around Kerala so I can only expect that things will improve as they start running tours on a regular basis from October 2015 and of course, once the hop on hop off buses start there will be more time to explore or just to relax at each destination and hopefully uncover some more off beat secrets.
Overall, despite the changing focus of the Kerala tour it still remains that goMowgli will make it so much easier for more people to explore and enjoy what I think is the ultimate travel destination – Incredible India! I love the flexibility of the hop on hop off concept, the friendly, super knowledgeable guides that can really bring the rich and fascinating culture of this country alive.
Touring with goMowgli is the perfect solution for solo female travellers or first time visitors to India who are worried about how to get around on their own and want to get immersed and off the beaten track experience of India in a hassle and stress free way whilst still have the freedom to explore India at their own pace.
By the way, I was a guest on this tour but all opinions are my own. For more information about the tours available check out goMowgli’s website.
Have you travelled with goMowgli? How was your experience?