Mumbai tour boom reveals startling diversity

MUMBAI — India’s second-largest city and bustling financial capital. Mumbai attracts almost 6 million tourists a year, making it the 30th-most-visited location worldwide. It is also the second-most-visited city in India after Delhi. Thanks to its cosmopolitan outlook, frenetic energy, street food culture and Bollywood film industry.

India’s second city is home to much more than finance and Bollywood movies- Mumbai

But there is more to Mumbai than the stereotypical picture of skyscrapers and slums, Portuguese history and the indigenous Koli fishing community. Recently, heritage enthusiasts and amateur historians have started offering unusual and offbeat tours that weave unknown narratives and engage visitors at a deeper level than tourist spots and monuments.

Hollywood stars Tom Holland and Zendaya experienced one of these tours recently while in Mumbai for the launch of an “India in Fashion” exhibition. To get a deeper view of the city’s origins Holland and Zendaya went on the “Strange stories of Mumbai and Kolis, The Original Inhabitants” tour with a travel company called No Footprints.

“Our tours are designed to be a feast for the senses, immersing our clients in the sights, sounds and flavors of the city,”. Says Eesha Singh, co-founder of No Footprints. “From exploring hidden offbeat spots, to tasting the most delectable local street food. No Footprints is all about creating unforgettable experiences for our clients.”

Nigella Lawson, a British chef who also did the tour

He said afterward that the vada paav (deep-fried spiced potato inside local bread) was the best thing she had ever tasted. The company also offers visitors a day out with the iconic Mumbai dabbawallas. Who deliver “tiffin” lunchboxes around the city. And a tour called “Mumbai by dawn” that gives an insight into how the city works. From newspaper and milk delivery to fishing and fruit and vegetable distribution.

Khaki Tours, another travel company, offers 15 unusual tours, trails and open jeep rides that span more than 2.5 hours and cover different parts of the city such as Byculla, Bhuleshwar and Malabar Hill. Bharat Gothoskar, who set up these tours, says the name Khaki refers to his vision of showing visitors around the city in an army-style jeep.

“Our tours are not hosted by typical tour guides but by people who come from various professional backgrounds like doctors, architects, filmmakers and lawyers,” Gothoskar says. “They take out time from their busy schedule to host these walks and tours. They undergo a rigorous training of six months before they are allowed to host.”

One tour takes visitors to cafes staffed by Zoroastrian immigrants from Persia (present-day Iran). Who came to the city for a better life in the mid-19th century. Another popular tour by Jeep explores Bandra, a neighborhood that retains its Indo-Portuguese Catholic character despite large-scale development.

Grisly Girgaon, one of the funkier tours, takes place at night in Girgaon, in South Mumbai. Where numerous plots along the rocky seashore were acquired by various communities to bury or cremate their dead. From haunted stables to a haunted theater built on a graveyard. This two-hour tour is a spooky experience for those who like thrills.

Mumbai Magic

A pioneer of walking tours in India, offers more than 300 walks and guided trails in 27 cities. But Mumbai is its flagship, with more than 30. Mumbai Magic is also a social enterprise that upskills and trains young students from low-income neighborhoods.

Its most popular tour is called Mumbai Local — a look at the city highlights using local transport. These tours are run by students, and tourists ride in the city’s the black and white taxis, red buses and local trains.

Colorful sea sponges, snails, sea anemones, hermit crabs and corals can be seen in these areas

Sejal Mehta, a member of the collective, says that the resilience of the creatures found on Mumbai’s shores has constantly surprised guests. “Some creatures, like the gorgonian sea fan corals, which you expect to only see in crystal-clear pristine waters, are found here along the shores.”

Mumbai also boasts the world’s second-largest collection of art deco structures after Miami. Visitors interested in design and architecture should check out the South Bombay architecture tour by Art Deco Mumbai. That shows more than 30 Victorian Gothic and art deco buildings including the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Eros Cinema, the Bombay High Court and buildings along Marine Drive.

Hallu Hallu, which means Slowly Slowly, is a tour company that allows guests to soak up sights and sounds at an unhurried pace. Without too many facts or too much talking. It offers walks in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli, and a meeting with a Warli tribal artist. One of its tours takes guests on boat rides to Thane Creek, a wetland area. Where there is a flamingo sanctuary in which more than 250 migratory and resident species of birds have been recorded.

Manisha Doshi, a Mumbai doctor who has taken tours with Hallu Hallu. Says she learned a lot from the experience.

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