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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Why Munnar’s tea gardens are best explored by tuk tuk

As a photographer I gain access to some beautiful tea estates…

By Sebinster Francis
Photographic Tour Guide

Most of the time you see visitors sightseeing in an air-conditioned vehicle, but you can’t get to know a place like Munnar when you’re hemmed in like that. So I thought tuk tuks would be a unique way for guests to explore the area’s famous tea plantations. It’s a totally different experience for people who are able to travel like the locals. Not only are tuk tuks a fun mode of transport but they’re specifically used by the tea estates to traverse the narrow roads generally inaccessible to most other vehicles.

As a photographer as well as a guide, I have a really good relationship with the owners of the tea plantations here who always invite me to photograph their estates. I’m also an official photographer for the Kerala Department of Tourism which allows me to explore some wonderful places that regular guides are unable to. It’s this exclusive access that I try and include in all of my tours.

We start in Munnar town and head to one of the oldest and most beautiful tea estates in the area that doesn’t usually open its doors to regular tourists. Your guide, whether it’s me or one of my team, will show you how the workers harvest tea and introduce you to the local village.

You and your driver will receive a warm greeting. That’s just what the locals are like – so happy to offer you a cup of tea and welcome you into their homes. It’s like you’re meeting old friends rather than going on a tour. My favourite memory is seeing elephants passing through the tea bushes in the early morning. I was with a visitor and an elephant wandered across our path. He found it hilarious as you just don’t see that every day.

People are always amazed. In the cities they’ve probably been on petrol tuk tuks which are small and hardly make any noise. These ones run on the old diesel engines which make that tuk tuk tuk tuk noise and it’s a fun and bumpy ride. There’s no need for air-conditioning, no seatbelts. It’s just the sun on your face and the wind in your hair as you ride along the dazzling green tea bushes.

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Alfred & Sebinster Francis

Based in Munnar, Kerala, Sebinster is a photo tour guide in India and Sri Lanka. He is a successful wildlife and landscape photographer who is featured in books written by Kerala Tourism and also on Nat Geo’s social media platforms to name a few of his collaborations. His passion for photography has pushed his boundaries so much so that he’s even taken to the skies to do aerial photography.