India as a travel destination cannot be underestimated in terms of offering a diverse range of geographical options. Many of them offer not just tranquility, but also provide us with opportunities to experience almost every adventure activity viz surfing, mountaineering, desert safari, rafting, skiing. Our rich culture, the green atmosphere, strong connection with ancient values and our artistic talent all combine to make India the first and the final stop for travelling. However, in the past century, we have exploited Mother Nature in our quest for material wealth and it has resulted in global warming and greenhouse gases. There has been massive destruction of forest habitats in the name of development and tourism. Ecotourism in India is emerging as one such responsible endeavor in order to undo some of this damage. Ecotourism or ‘ecological tourism’ appeals to socially-conscious individuals, which typically involves travelling to offbeat destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Eco travel is meant especially for tourists willing to venture into a vacation far away from the commotion of rest of the world and learn about the different cultural and geographical beauty of a place. Ecotourism, a nature-based travel, is relatively a new trend that aims to conserve the natural resources (environment) and improve the well-being of local people.‘Cultural Tourism’ and ‘Heritage Tourism’ are older terms in comparison to Ecotourism, as they are about offering tourists a glimpse of cultural nuances and exploration of historical destinations. On the other hand, Ecotourism in India is different; it has broader inferences since the place might be naturally as well as historically and culturally rich. Letting eco-conscious travelers enjoy the best possible joy of being in complete serenity and harmony with the nature, eco-travel is an ideal model created by nature-based modern sustainable tourism. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”. Thus, Ecotourism in India aims to integrate nature conservation, local communities and travelers. Hence, it is a good way to spend your holidays by getting closer to nature and indulging in all the activities, which ensure that. These include activities like camping, trekking, fishing, kayaking, rock climbing across the Ghats, glaciers, deserts, safaris, etc.
Although ecotourism is still at a nascent stage in India, there are many options in our country of contrasts. Here is a list of some of them:
|Eco parks||Karnala Bird Sanctuary|
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
Bheemeshwari Wildlife Sanctuary
Similipal Tiger Reserve
Neora Valley National Park
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
|Eco places||Sangla Valley|
The Floating Islands
|Eco trivia||Edakkal Caves|
Lokpal or Hemkund
Tami Tea Estate
|Eco treks||Wayanad Treks|
The Talathmane Circuit
Baba Budanagiri Hills
Mahabaleshwar to Pratapgarh
Rupi-Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary
|Eco Flora||Cortigao Wildlife Sanctuary|
Magical World of Ferns
In the past few years, the government has done its bit in promoting ecotourism. The Ecotourism Society of India (ESOI) was formed in 2008 by a group of eminent professionals from the tourism industry as well as environmentalists under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism to promote environmentally sustainable practices across the country. ESOI works closely with various central and state government bodies responsible for sustainable tourism, as well as networks with like-minded regional travel companies across the country. ESOI has created the Sustainable Tourism Criteria for India (STCI) as the minimum requirements for sustainably operating accommodation providers and tour operators. Now, it remains to be seen whether these ethical practices for sustainable tourism will be implemented properly in order to position India as a global eco-tourism destination or not! As tourists, let’s help in the process of conserving our planet and contributing our bit by opting for sustainable tourism. Guide on how to prepare for an eco-tour: An eco-tour requires better planning as it involves exploring not just nature but understanding the culture as well. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Before you for leave for the destination, get to know your tour operator better about its affiliation and policies. It shall heighten your joy of sightseeing.
- Proper disposal of the garbage and waste while you are on tour is a must. In wildlife sanctuaries, carry back all non-degradable litter such as empty bottles, tins, plastic bags etc. They must be disposed in municipal dustbins only.
- The golden rule is to try to support the local people. You can do it by buying the locally made eco-friendly products like handicrafts and organic farm products.
- Observe the sanctity of holy sites, temples and local cultures. By being interactive and respectful to local culture, you can gain a lot of information.
- Respect people’s privacy while taking photographs. Ask for prior permission before taking a photograph. Use flash-less camera in wildlife parks as it may disturb the animals.
- Cut noise pollution. Do not blare aloud radios, tape recorders or other electronic entertainment equipment in nature resorts, sanctuaries and wildlife parks.
- In case temporary toilets are set-up near campsites, after defecation, cover with mud or sand. Make sure that the spot is at least 30 meters away from the water source.