Journey of a Gypsy: From Personal Travel Adventures to founding Gypsy Shack

In this heart-felt anecdotal piece from Gypsy Shack Diaries, Gypsy Shack’s Founder, Jagpreet Pabla shares his story of how he discovered his passion, while revealing his reasons of bringing the joy of activity travel to everyone.


Jagpreet - 'the underwater Egyptian'


The water looked cold and forbidding. I stood on the edge of the boat, holding my snorkeling set in one hand, and holding on to a rope for dear life with the other. I was questioning the wisdom of my decision to hire a private motorboat for a day’s snorkeling in the South China Sea off Puerto Galera in the Philippines. The nearest land was more than a kilometer away. The boatman looked askance “Are you sure you can swim?” “Yes”, I replied.

Image Credit: This World Rocks

Yes, I had known how to swim since I was 13 years old,  but it was one thing to jump into a swimming pool, and quite another to jump off a perfectly good boat into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Having seen ‘Jaws’ one too many times didn’t help either. Ultimately, I decided it is better to risk being eaten alive by sharks and sea monsters than to lose face in the eyes of the boatman, so saying a prayer to all the sea-Gods in the universe, I jumped.

The Giant Clams, Image Credit: Mike Cullen

I put on the snorkeling mask while floating on my back and turned over to take a peek at what lay underneath. “Jian Kham!” cried the boatman, the sound half heard by my watery ears. I knew he meant Giant Clams. I looked down and saw several clams about 6 feet or more, spread across the bed of the ocean 30 feet deep. They were like little oysters grown outlandish and you could easily curl up and sleep in one.  I was directly over a circular depression in the sea floor, which looked like a cathedral turned upside down. I was looking down at the roof of a dome, adorned with beautiful murals crafted in coral.
I held on to one of the outriggers of the boat, and the boatman took me for a slow tour of the coral garden.  It was indeed a stupendous experience to see different types of coral, anemones,sea urchins and brittle stars for the first time. The boatman threw some bread  into the water near me, and the fish started converging around me. The ones that I remember most vividly are the Longfin Bannerfish.  There were of course trevally, butterflyfish, parrotfish and even a clownfish ventured out of its anemone home to grab a morsel and scoot back. But I did not know any of them; I only discovered the names later  in an online fish directory.  It was like an entirely new world down there, more beautiful and varied than any I had seen on sea. The fish were not afraid of me, and would come near to take a closer look.
Longfin Bannerfish, Image Credit: Thomas Quine


Reflecting back after the trip, I realized that I had been holidaying wrong all my life. Holidays earlier had meant reading a book while sipping cocktails on a beach. A day tour of the handicraft factories, a look at the temples and I had had a full cultural experience! It was nice and relaxing, but had started to feel mundane and superficial.
I decided to learn scuba diving, and the 5 days I spent in scuba school (in Koh Tao, Thailand) was the best holiday of my life. I, along with a team of 5 other students, spent most of our days out in a boat doing our mandatory practice dives. Along with the technical skills, you learnt to watch out for and depend upon your buddy, and to manage yourself underwater. Exploring the underwater seascape, seeing my first turtle and sea-snake and making friends with my fellow divers was a great holidaying experience. We cherished the one beer we were allowed each evening while at scuba school. Tired from the day in the water, I slept like a log at night.

Scuba diving, Image Credit: CFT Council

I have been on many holidays since, and indeed the best holidays have been where an activity is the central theme of the holiday. Be it hiking in the Indian jungles, wine-tasting in the Loire Valley or exploring Gaudi architecture in Barcelona. The pace and depth an activity gives to your holiday is intense. You learn more about yourself while learning more about your world. Friendships and relationships too blossom when you enjoy an adventure together.
GypsyShack is an effort to bring similar activity holidays to the Indian mainstream. Every day, we work hard to bring more wonderful activity experiences on to our platform that you will cherish and remember together with your friends and family for many years to come.


Yipeeeee.... I'm a trained Scuba diver! 

Author: Jagpreet Pabla


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