Adventure tourism has always been defined as travelling outside a person’s regular environment. Adventure travel may involve various adventurous activities such as sky-diving, scuba diving, caving, climbing, cycling, hiking, hunting, rafting, others. Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in India, while adventure tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of it.

The global adventure tourism market was valued at $444,850 million in 2016 and is projected to reach $1,335,738 million in 2023, registering a CAGR of 17.4 % from 2017 to 2023. The substantial boom in the travel and tourism sector fosters the growth for the adventure tourism market. In context to that, how about, aim to set new standards of professionalism and safety for yourself in the adventure sports arena with the Special Forces veterans from the Indian Armed Forces? Yes, one heard me right. A group of five real veteran masters are all set to be at our civil disposal this time, with their endeavour, titled, ‘Special Forces Adventures’.

An initiative to be spearheaded by Major Vivek Jacob (Veteran) Special Forces, Indian Army, PO Rajarshi Paul (Veteran) MARCO, Special Forces, Indian Navy, Gaurav Sharma (Veteran), Chief Petty Officer, Indian Navy, Havildar Meen Bahadur (Veteran), Army Special Forces and Havildar Vikash Dhaka (Veteran), Indian Army, Parachute Regiment.

Each individual instructor holds decade long experience in Adventure, Survival and Combat. They are hand-picked for their specialized skills in Sky Diving, Scuba Diving, Combat Shooting, Paragliding, Mountaineering, Rock craft, Snow craft, White water rafting, Martial arts, Endurance, Survival in the wild and First Aid emergency response. In the recent past, I managed to have a tryst with two members of the five elite veterans from the Special Forces group, those who envisioned bringing in their respective skill sets into the realm of adventure sports and media production, after, serving the nation with their glorifying stint in the respective units and wings of the Indian Armed Forces.

SFA seems to be a unique blend of Adventure activities, Survival skills and Safety to further the ‘Adventure’ in adventure sports and to provide consultancy services to media houses for Military or Special Forces related productions. The core forte of the group would be to extend support for others to pursue actual Special Forces Survival camps, Adventure career scopes, Multi adventure expeditions, and bespoke corporate programmes and Media house productions.

In the sideline of my other discussions, with Maj Vivek Jacob (Veteran) Para SF, Indian Army one of the senior instructors with SFA, when asked, after 15 years into forces how does it feel for him to impart training for the civilians now. A true gentleman in all sense, subtly, replied, “Over 15 years in the Special Forces we have learnt and taught extremely specialized mental and physical skills which have ensured not only survival but success as well in extremely harsh environments and against a very determined enemy. These skill sets when adapted to the Civilian environment prove to be extremely formidable and a solid push to success in any endeavour that an individual makes whether in the corporate field, as a student or as an adventurer. To be in a position to impart these skills to young Indians and contribute directly to their growth as strong, skilled and responsible Indians is a very rewarding experience which we all are grateful for”

When many nations are currently gripped with an emotion of hate and a desire for vengeance, as a force veteran when asked, how much he feels that serving through the forces should be made a civil mandate for the Indian society, Maj. Jacob, further, added saying, “Yes, without doubt serving in the military in any form has far-reaching positive consequences for an individual and for the society as a whole. Israel as a nation is a classic example of it. What has to be kept in mind is to adapt the model to suit the Indian environment and our large population. Serving for a reasonable duration in the military will help remove class, caste and religious differences prevalent in the country. It will help improve overall attitudes towards fitness and imbibe core military values of discipline, honesty, loyalty, camaraderie and forthrightness. The most positive outcome would be to help unite the country in a way that no other cause can against any internal attitude or outside influence that may threaten to break the fabric of our nation. The NCC is a formidable tool which will go a long way towards achieving this goal as a Nation. One of the major aims of the SFA team is to work closely with the NCC to help expand and polish their profile and skills through Motivational interactions and specially designed Adventure Survival Training Programmes”

At present, SFA – Special Forces Adventures is gearing up for their Multi-adventure tour in Thailand. One may be able to easily browse through the programme details on their website and self-run social media handles ‘Special.Forces.Adventures on Facebook and Instagram. As an organic, self-driven initiative, SFA is keeping a positive eye for a powerful civil participation initially from the metro cities. Subsequently, as it grows in its ability and influence, the instructors feel that there it has a massive untapped potential with smaller towns and villages, as well.

It’s evident, that the internet has contributed tremendously in exposing even the remotest of towns and villages to the latest developments in every field including adventure and the great outdoors of our country. And, in a cusp, it is a rapidly expanding market which has immense potential to provide meaningful employment to the masses through such initiatives.

SFA hopes to tap into this potential and impart its skill to the elite and the common man alike with an objective to share the core military values, specialized skills and the spirit of adventure that burns within many but fails to get channelized in a right direction.

In context to it, when, asked the other instructor of SFA, Rajarshi Paul (Veteran) MARCO (SF-Indian Navy) about what he feels should be basic criteria of a civilian to participate in their programme, he said, “As of now we have not kept any such criteria in specific. But, that being said, as an instructor with the programme I would surely look forward to any candidate who’s physically and mentally fit enough to look ahead, with us in the programme through its activities. The inner urge and pursuit are very important. So to say, for instance, someone overweight with less stamina, but, is eager with his adventure pursuits we are there to support him break his dilemma and fear. I don’t mind being a step for that individual in building trust for himself in life through certain accomplishments, that he or she might always have dreamt of. Self-confidence, so to say is a strong parameter backed by a mutual trust for others”

One of the core visions of SFA stands to be, why should adventure and travel be limited to the urban population only? It is and forever will be for those who have the spirit to explore and see what lies beyond. Internally and externally; rich or poor alike. SFA, in altogether have a very specific model in place which they are yet to make live. It is a unique model yet is vast in its scope to unite and aggregate not only the Indian but the global Adventure – Travel market in a way that has never been executed before. The whole initiative claimed to be an outcome of long 3 years of thorough research. The ship is massive in its scale and needs fuel in terms of funding. We decided not to wait to get funded but to move ahead and build on our own steam, expressed by the SFA instructors.

The initial inception of SFA seems to be with a dual aim. To start where they stand, with what they have and build. We want to start teaching our skills immediately and grow organically. There is a certain adventure in setting sail, and they managed to do so, with a global vision. We feel blessed to start at our own grassroots here in India.

One of the key forth going aims of SFA is to aggregate the market not only monetarily but socially as well and channelize the resources so generated towards helping Paraplegics and Terminally ill patients to achieve their Adventure and Travel dreams.

Maj Vivek Jacob, the team leader of SFA lastly added, “Special Forces Adventure is about focus, grit, will, intelligence, balance, strength, endurance and a whole lot of heart, all focused on one point – Your dream. Our operations require an unparalleled level of leadership and teamwork to achieve the most intense of targets in the harshest of circumstances. We realize in their training that all humans possess these qualities and can deliver the same when guided properly. We endeavour to bring out and hone the very same qualities and thought processes in our patrons, which helped us achieve what we do.  In the end, we breathe adventure and live to explore.”

(The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications)