Born and bred in Australia and after travelling and living extensively in the UK and Europe, in 1993 Debbie made her first trip to India and Nepal. Several more trips followed over the next 6 years, then, from 2000 until 2005 she worked as a tour leader for an Australian Travel Company, taking clients throughout India and Nepal as well as South East Asia and Europe.
Although the world has many amazing and fascinating places, it was India that kept luring Debbie back time and time again. Having developed a deep love and spiritual connection with India, as well as having made many wonderful friends and acquaintances during her years there, it was only natural that she would want to continue her association with the people of India by returning each year to bring more people to experience the indescribable journey that India takes each and every one of us on.
Since August 2014 Debbie has been based in India, with her home in Udaipur, the beautiful city of lakes.
Kim Thelander – Tour Leader/Escort
Kim Thelander is an Australian who now calls the Indian Himalayas home. A qualified masseuse, acupuncturist, aroma therapist and Reiki Master, Kim has been travelling to India since 1989.
An adventurous soul, Kim loves to get back to nature and go trekking, paragliding & cycling. During the Himalayan winters, Kim works with Heli Skiers doing Massage and Acupuncture.
Having studied Shamanism, Kim is also an Egyptian dance teacher and loves all things mythological, magic and to do with traditional medicine.
Kim loves the mountains, but also connects with Rajasthan because she loves the wild folk of these places – their music, dance and all things gypsy.
Work and travel often takes Kim to southern India to Karnataka and Goa. She loves spending time in the big cities too where Mumbai is a great stop off for galleries, and Delhi is a favourite for shopping and checking out music.
Mike was born in South Africa and grew up in and around the Kruger Park. Despite having a successful Law practice at the Cape of Good Hope Bar Mike had always been in the bush as often as he could, eventually selling his law practice and buying land on the boundary of the Kruger and guiding privately from the mid `90s.
Whilst being an avid naturalist of “all things great and small”, from the time he was a young lad Mike had developed a passion for the big cats, especially leopards, which he has spent countless hours tracking.
Following the death of Mike’s wife Lilian from breast cancer he sold up their farm in the Kruger and fulfilled a lifelong ambition of extended safaris in India in the land of Kipling from his childhood.
Naturally Tigers were new and he targeted these magnificent cats throughout Madhya Pradesh, as well as Asiatic Lion in the Gujarat. Mikes biggest thrill, however was tracking (and finding) wild leopard living outside of the national park system in the stunning Aravali Mountains of his adopted Rajasthan!
Mike now lives in the gorgeous Rajasthani city of Udaipur surrounded by happy cows!
Here are some of our local guides and people on the ground who help make Incredible Indian Tours trips special.
Abhimanya is our host in Ravla Bhenswara. He looks after the palatial family residence-turned Heritage hotel where he enjoys time with guests, particularly when it comes to the afternoon village safaris. Driving one of the vintage jeeps Bhenswara is famous for, he takes us to visit nearby tribal and shepherd villages, and on to enjoy tea and chai during sunset at a scenic spot where leopards are often spotted.
Akshay Singh Rao
Akshay is our local guide in Udaipur. Akshay has been guiding our groups around the beautiful city of lakes for several years now and is always ready with a dashing smile and quick wit whilst sharing his amazing knowledge and love of his hometown Udaipur.
Thushara is our local tour guide in Sri Lanka. A Sinhalese with a vast knowledge of this beautiful island nation, Thushara will introduce you to all manner of sights, customs, food and amazing experiences, whether it is out on the water whale watching, hiking Hortons Plains or uncovering the secrets of the timeless Buddhist culture in the Ancient cities.
Bhim is one of our regular guides in Nepal. A hit with our Nepalese tour members, Bhim loves guiding our groups through the lowlands of Nepal – on jungle safaris, visiting scenic villages and the temples, stupas and palaces in the Kathmandu Valley, but the mountains are his real love. He comes into his own when we are up in the mountains with his very obvious passion for the Himalayas. When you’re not hiking along the scenic tracks, you might just find Bhim entertaining you over a cup of spicy hot Nepalese tea with some card tricks.
Charles in our local expert in Mt Abu, Rajasthan’s only hill station. From a young boy, Charles discovered his passion for all things wild and wonderful and for around 17 years, he has been taking us on hikes around the hills, searching for rare birds and amazing flora. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot the occasional bear in the hills.
Chhottu is our local guide on the Bishnoi safaris out of Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Chhottus family are dhurrie rug weavers and they also run a small guesthouse in a village in the heart of the Thar Desert, near Jodhpur. Chhottu will introduce you to all manner of local experiences, from the history of the Bishnois (the worlds original ecologists), and the resulting abundance of wildlife in the area, to the different tribal groups with their various handicrafts such as pottery and blockprinting. His mother and wife usually cook up a delicious local lunch and you’ll even get to witness his skill with the weaving loom.
If you opt for a guided tour around Mumbai before or after your tour, you will most likely spend time with Felix. Passionate about all things ‘Bombay’ Felix runs fascinating, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable tours of Mumbai, from the markets and the British heritage sites to the slums and other lesser-known secrets of this complex and amazing city he calls home.
Basava is our expert in and around the UNESCO world heritage site of Hampi. He was born and bred in the village surrounding the main temple and runs his own local tour company – Hampi Smile. When we are in Hampi, Basava delights us with his passion for his hometown and every visit takes us to new secret locations for amazing experiences. He is also a decent photographer so make sure to pass him your camera when we’re on tour with him and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty cool portrait amongst the scenic ruins.
A friend for nearly a quarter of a century, Iftikhar is our local guide in Agra. Iftikhar loves to bring the Moghul heritage to life as he describes customs and history during his tours of the remarkable sights of Agra – the Agra Fort, the ‘Baby’ Taj and of course the ultimate monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
Indu is a full-time tour guide, but if we’re lucky enough to catch him off-duty when he’s home in Orchha, he will take us on a tour of his fascinating home-town, location of some remarkable Hindu palaces and temples in a picturesque setting on the banks of the beautiful Betwa River.
Mahin is our man on the ground in Fort Cochin, Kerala. With his ‘lamborghini’ – his luxurious Auto-rickshaw, he coordinates our sightseeing of Cochin and Jew-town. A passionate art-lover, Mahin is often found wandering the galleries of Fort Cochin when the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is on.
Munnar, in the hills of Kerala is home to some of the most stunningly beautiful tea plantations in India. Mohan is our guide here and leads our treks through the national park and tea plantations, through the rolling verdant hills on the lookout for the rare Neelakuringi flower and Nilgiri Thar (wild goat).
The charming Mr Bhattacharya has been a guide at Amber Palace, Jaipur for well over 50 years. We are lucky enough to enjoy his knowledge and stories when we visit Amber, the ancient seat of the Jaipur Maharajah.
If you take our Incredible Burma tour, Myint Swe will probably be your local tour guide. Originating from a village near Bagan, the remarkable town of Pagodas, Myint Swe lives in the hip town of Nyuang Shwe on Inle Lake when he’s not leading tours around this fascinating country.
Born into a priestly family, Nandu is our guide in Pushkar. Not only will he show us around this holy town, explaining the importance of the lake and various temples in what is a major Hindu pilgrimage destination, but he might also give you a Hindu blessing, the traditional way, with flowers, coconuts and love whilst sitting on the steps (ghats) of the beautiful Pushkar lake.
Growing up in the shadow of the Buland Dharwaza (the largest gateway in Asia), the gate into the great mosque at Fatepur Sikri, Peter learnt the history and secrets of this deserted Moghul city from his father, a local guide and photographer. Now Peter (Ansar) is our regular guide through this vast complex of deserted palaces, meeting halls, and religious buildings.
Some years ago, Ram – a jeweller by trade – began a clothing manufacture and export business with a foreign friend. Now he has a large factory making wonderful clothing for sale in Europe. When you visit Pushkar, Ram will show you around his factory, explain the process from ordering of the fabrics to the cutting, sewing, finishing and preparing for export. You’ve probably seen and purchased cloths before with the label ‘Made in India’. Now you can see for yourself the origin of some of these goods. Ram also does a great ‘turban’ and will show you exactly how it’s wrapped.
Sanju comes from a family of miniature artists in the Lake City of Udaipur. His grandfather was in fact one of the painters for the Maharana and some of his works are now featured in the City Palace Museum. Sanju runs an art co-op which is a direct outlet for over 20 local artists, both men and women. He will give you a demo on how the artworks are created, covering the materials and origin of colours used. He can also give you a lesson on miniature painting if you feel a little creative. Sanju also accompanies our groups on walks through the Udaipur Old City, through the streets he grew up in.
Starting his early career as a chef, Shakti was a pioneer in Rajasthan selling spices to tourists. He then saw an opportunity to take that a step further and he started the first cooking classes for tourists in Udaipur. When you are on one of our tours in Udaipur, Shakti will teach you how to make that chai (spicy masala tea) you’ve been drinking on every street corner, and he’ll also teach you the secrets of making a great curry. After the cooking demonstration, head to his shop ‘The Spice Box’ and purchase some wonderful freshly ground spices so you can recreate the magic when you get home.
Subash is our man on the ground in the holy city of Varanasi. A part-time tour escort, when he is at home, he has a shop selling silks, cottons and beautiful fabrics in the old city, but he may also join us on a walk along the ghats or through the narrow winding streets of the old city. If you’re lucky, he may even invite you home for lunch with his family.
Thomas and his family run our homestay in the Keralan Backwaters. Passionate about life and traditions in the region, Thomas is your tour guide around the area and will introduce to you customs and the lifestyle of the farmers on their vehicle-free island where the only way to get around is on bicycle, foot or by canoe.
The lovely Vandana is our guide in Orchha. She also runs cooking demonstrations and traditional home-style dinners from her home. Vandana often invites us home to experience her amazing wholesome vegetarian cuisine (so different to restaurant food) and we get to spend time with her three gorgeous children and charming husband Raju.