Community-based Eco-tourism is the need of the hour. Here is why:
It is sometimes difficult to realize that life is hard for communities living on the fringes of what we call a natural paradise. They have their crops destroyed by wild animals, and are harassed by forest officials who threaten to seize their lands. Tigers or leopards routinely take their toll on the livestock. The lack of alternative employment coupled with the above factors leads these village communities to look at protected forest as a bane. This can change when local communities are trained and empowered to benefit from eco-tourism. When the forest is a source of income, protecting it makes sense.
And it makes for a wholly rewarding experience for the traveler. When indigenous communities take part in protecting their green heritage, and help promote tourism as a part of that initiative, your experience becomes far more rewarding. Besides enjoying the bounty of the forests, you learn about the lives and culture of the locals, and get to taste their cuisine. Both sides are equally benefited.
Gypsy Shack partners with various community-based ecotourism initiatives to market their programs. You live with the locals in camps or cottages inside reserved forests, engage with nature and the village community and on the way help further the cause of sustainable tourism.
So without further ado, here are 6 eco-tourism destinations that have successfully implemented community-run initiatives towards a better future for our planet.
Tucked in the quiet corner of the Kumaon hills, Binsar is popular for its avi-fauna population.Established in 1988 for the conservation and protection of the shrinking broad leaf oak, the Binsar Sanctuary has over 200 species of birds, including endangered and endemic species. The entire area is a bird watcher’s heaven. Spend your days walking on footpaths in the forest, chasing bird calls and panther tracks. Your mornings, evenings and nights will be spent in strategically located guesthouses in villages where the villagers act as your hosts, cooks, guides and friends.
Located only 30 km away from Bhopal, the Kathotiya jungle camp is a community-run program. Individuals from the local tribe maintain campsites inside the forest, work as expert guides, and cook up delicious local food. Sambhars, wild boars, and jackals abound and you might even chance upon a tiger. A trek to see the 20,000 year old rock paintings is an icing on the cake. Adventure sports like bicycling, hiking, river crossing and rappelling are organised here.
Photo Courtesy: GypsyShack.com
High on adrenalin? Try sky zipping with South-east Asia’s longest twin zip line! Only 15 km from Bhopal, the Kerwa Jungle Camp is a slice of serenity. Complete with ridges, dark-green forests and a rich population of birds - Kerwa is the perfect weekend gateway. An afternoon of paddle boating on the Kerwa river sounds alluring too! You can even try your hand at archery and paintballing.
Madhya Pradesh’s first eco-tourism destination, the Samardha Jungle Camp includes adventure sports like mountain biking, river crossing and archery in its list of activities. Trek through kilometres of lush jungles, visit Samardha’s cave and temples, gorge on the tasty local cuisine and at night, sleep in camps in the open forest.
The Rukhad Camp is located in the buffer region of Pench Tiger Reserve. Community-run programmes here have lead to better conservation of the environment, and as such, travellers can enjoy the unspoilt beauty and have a greater chance of spotting wildlife and birds here. Go on jeep safaris, explore the drinking holes of the tigers and partake in camp activities like cycling and trekking.
Photo Courtesy: GypsyShack.com
Located in the Western Ghats, community-run initiatives here encourage travellers to spend their night in traditional spice plantations. Walk through spice gardens, watch the various processes of spice production and enjoy the generous hospitality of the locals. The Kannada cuisine is a must try! Hike through the lush forests to Sahastra-linga, a rapid of a thousand Shiva Lingams, that were established by a local king as a prayer to be granted an heir.
It is always a happy feeling when you know you have done your tuppence for the society and the environment, and what's better than clubbing this with a lovely trip? Choose from our 6 eco-tourism destinations and enjoy nature at her pristine best.
For more information on community-run initiatives in these or other destinations, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help.
And if you run a community based tourism organization, we can help you reach a wider audience. Just drop us a line.