Any tourist or traveler worth his salt must have come across the terms of Eco-Tourism and Responsible Travel. It has almost become a buzz-word and about time. While most people have a vague idea, it is important to understand what it really means and entails!
It is important to understand that there is no particular destination for travelling responsibly. Responsible Travel is a habit and once learnt can never be forgotten. The need of the hour is to educate and be aware of what it takes to minimize our demands in whatever we do to save the only habitable planet from the harmful effects of global warming for a greener future. And travelling responsibly lets you do just that!
I would love to take you through a number of destinations that you can explore once you have decided to become responsible of our choices. India is a land with huge diversity of dry deserts, snow-clad mountains, rainforests and the grasslands which are prefect to promote ecotourism.
1. Valparai, Tamil Nadu
The endangered Nilgiri Tahr (A large mammal, close relative of sheep, shares common ancestors with cattle, horses etc) protected under section I of the Wildlife Protection Act in India can be witnessed grazing here. Valparai is located at 3,500 feet above the sea level on the Anamalai Hills in Tamil Nadu. While you trek down the Shola forests and the lush green tea gardens you might come across Wild Elephants and Great Hornbills. Homestays for tourists is the best option to live and explore the place.
2. Chatru and Chandratal lake, Himachal Pradesh
Eco-tourism in India is about visiting the clearest and most pristine lakes in India while at the same time ensuring that it stays like that! You should always reach these spots by foot because that will help keep the water pure. According to locals, this lake situated at a height of 4,300 meters, has immense spiritual significance. The water can be consumed without much purification. The temperature here reaches up to -20 degrees.
3. The Seven Sister States
The North-East of India (The states of Arunachal-Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland) is a must-visit on every eco-traveller’s bucket list. These rich tropical rainforests harbours rare and unique species like the Clouded Leopard, One-horned Rhino, Gayal- in the most simple words the wild ox and the only ape found in India-the Hoolock Gibbon. The Hornbill Festival in Nagaland is a once in a lifetime experience, celebrated every year in the first week of December.
4. Kokrebellur near Mysore
This village is a prime example of a harmonious relationship between humans and threatened birds- the Spot Billed Pelican and the Painted Storks. The villagers let these birds occupy trees and roofs of their houses, they say the bird droppings are an organic manure for their crops. The villagers here welcome the birds like their daughters. When you reach this place as a traveller you would love to hear incredible stories on sustainable living from kids here.
5. The Crocodile Park, Puducherry
Chennai to Puducherry is a beautiful long drive along the stunning coastline of the Bay of Bengal. Every year Olive-Ridley Turtles come to the shore of Puducherry and lay eggs. A lot of destruction have been caused by tourists visiting these beaches during December to February. Most of these turtles are caught by fishermen and the eggs are consumed by locals. Sometimes mere presence of tourists and touristic activities can unknowingly cause disturbances to this vulnerable species. Ecotourism in India can help in changing the general mindset of the people.
One of the most magnificent valleys in the Himalayas is a home for the near threatened Griffon Vulture. Vultures have suffered 99.9% population decline- most of it owing to habitat destruction and lack of food. The clear blue water of Spiti river is breathtaking and pollution free although at some places you will find traces of human waste disturbing the fragile ecosystem. At Spiti you may come across the elusive snow leopard- if you’re really lucky! There are only 400 odd left in India. The temperature here might go up to -20 degrees. It is advisable to go well prepared to enjoy this picturesque tranquil valley.
7. Bisle Rainforest, Western Ghats
The Western Ghats in India are a biodiversity hotspot. Bisle rainforest is a home for numerous snakes, frogs, birds and mammals. Although I must warn you before you head out on an exploration here -the forest here is dense vegetation with fog, cold breeze and rains adding to it. Leeches are among the least creepy creatures that you will come across. Be prepared for facing Wild-Elephants, Leopards or a group of Wild Dogs. If this doesn’t excite you enough the most dangerous sloth bear might just be waiting outside your tent. Be careful and recall the first point I had mentioned at the start of this post.