Eco-tourism is much more than just traveling deep into the nature for recreation. It entertains and accommodates tourists without disturbing or destroying the natural surroundings and at the same time, supporting native cultures existing at the location. Eco-tourism is the responsibility of both the traveler and the service provider.
India is a country that has a wide range of flora and fauna, diverse cultures and a rich ecosystem. From snow-capped Himalayas in the north to beautiful golden beaches in the south, India has a lot to offer to its visitors. Furthermore, India is also home to several extraordinary and endangered species.
The announcement of various wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the country has definitely encouraged an increase in the development of wildlife resources. Presently, there are 441 wildlife sanctuaries and 80 national parks in the country that collectively work in the preservation and conservation of animals in India. Even the several Botanical and Zoological gardens in the country help in the improvement of the ecosystem.
Some important national parks in India for eco-tourism include Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand), Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh), Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh), Gir National Park and Sanctuary (Gujarat) and Ranthambore National Park (Rajasthan).
The concept of Eco-tourism is a relatively new one in India. However, it has grown rapidly in the recent years and more and more people are now aware of this notion. To spread awareness, the India Government has even set up a special department – Ministry of Tourism and Culture in the country.
Many conscious efforts have been made to preserve the delicate Himalayan ecosystem and the culture and heritage of the native people. Moreover, holiday camping (instead of an hotel accommodation) has been gaining a lot of momentum nowadays among travelers. Houseboats in Kerala, tree houses in Vythiri and resorts nestled deep in the jungles of Karnataka are becoming very popular among tourists for accommodations. Moreover, many ‘green tours’ have also been introduced by travel companies for those who want to experience nature at its best.
Eco Tours in India
Here are some great places to travel in India that are a big part of Eco-tourism in the country:
Thenmala in Kerala
Located around 72 kilometers from Thiruvananthapuram, Thenmala is India’s first planned eco-tourism location. Surrounded by the beautiful Western Ghats and the lush forests of Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary, Thenmala is known for its one-of-a-kind functioning and bio-diversity.
Literally meaning ‘Honey Hills’, Thenmala has become a popular eco-tourism destination in India. From well-trained staff and incredible information facilities to amazing entertainment attractions including an adventure park, this place has it all. It is divided into three major zones – Leisure Zone, Adventure Zone and Culture Zone; each designed according to a particular theme. There are also many resorts located over here where visitors can stay peacefully.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Maharashtra
One of the most popular tourist attractions, Ajanta and Ellora Caves are must visit, especially if you are an architecture lover. Rich in cultural beauty and religious history, these caves are home to some beautiful and exquisite wall paintings and art that are based on the life of Buddha and Hindu faith.
The religious paintings, sculptures and the natural beauty of the caves give the eco-friendly visitors a deep insight into the cultures present during that time. Untouched by commercialization, Ajanta and Ellora Caves are a great place to visit as a part of your eco-tour.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Located far from the Indian mainland, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of 572 small islands that are known for its unspoiled forests, clear waters and evergreen trees. Since they are located close to other countries, the islands are home to a wide range of diverse flora and fauna.
The islands have a lot to offer to the eco-tourists. With an unpolluted environment, clean air, lush forests and a rich avifauna, Andaman and Nicobar Islands have become one of the most preferred locations for eco-tourism. Visitors can enjoy a varied range of activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving and trekking and hiking through the thick rainforests.
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks are both exceptionally beautiful parks nestled high in the Himalayas with an incredible biodiversity. Dominated by Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain, Nanda Devi National Park is known for its secluded mountain wilderness and is sided by beautiful glaciers and alpine meadows.
On the other hand, Valley of Flowers National Park has a more gentle landscape and is known for being home to some rare species including snow leopard, blue sheep, brown bear and Asiatic black bear, along with a spectacular field of flowers. Both national parks beautifully compliment each other and are considered important for long-standing ecological observation in the Himalayas. Tourists are now even allowed under regulated standards to help keep the parks in top condition.
Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan
Located in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, Keoladeo National Park is man-made wetland and one of the most famous avifauna sanctuaries in India that is home to over thousand species of birds. This national park houses more than 379 floral species, 366 bird species, 50 species of fish, 5 species of lizards, 13 snake species, 7 turtle species and 7 amphibian species.
Keoladeo National Park is one of the richest birds areas in the country, especially during the winter months. There are many economical accommodation options available in the park and the best way to thoroughly explore it is on foot, bike or rickshaw. It is a must-visit place for all eco-tourists and bird lovers.
Dandeli in Karnataka
Dandeli in North Karnataka is an idea place for vacation for those who love eco-tours and nature. It is known for its daring water sports and has also been declared as an eco-friendly tourist spot with numerous activities that help in preserving the natural beauty and wildlife existing in the area.
Surrounded by deciduous forests and a diverse wildlife, Dandeli offers the tourists an unparalleled scenic beauty. This small modern town offers numerous attractions to its tourists including exciting wildlife sanctuaries, nature walks, relaxing kayak rides, white water rafting, boating, bird watching, night camping, trekking, peaceful picnics, crocodile and tiger spotting and thrilling trips to nearby caves. Do not forget to go for a moonlight boat ride with your loved ones; it is a must do any every eco-friendly tourist.
Lakshadweep Islands are among the most impressive tropical island systems in the world. Spread over 4200 square kilometers, they are a small group of 36 islands, each highly rich in marine life. Since the culture and ecology of these islands are supported by an extremely fragile ecosystem, the Union Territory of Lakshadweep Islands are committed to the cause of eco-tourism and has carefully followed a path where it promotes tourism while protecting the surrounding environment.
Even though each Island over here is well-endowed with beauty, rich marine wealth, colorful coral reefs, golden beaches, clear waters, unpolluted atmosphere and hospital staff, they each differ in terms of amenities and facilities offered. While some are known for its water sports, others are more popular among leisure vacationers.
To keep this natural beauty intact, the administration over here has taken conscious steps to promote tourism of the islands. For more social effect and less environmental damage, the administration follows a policy that focuses more on water based tourism. With such abundant beauty and greenery, Lakshadweep Islands are a must-visit for any eco-tourist.
Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan
Situated about 37 kilometers from Alwar in Rajasthan, Sariska Tiger Reserve is one of the major wildlife sanctuaries in India. Even though it is bigger than Ranthambore, it is less commercialized and has a wide range of diverse wildlife, making it a perfect example of ecological tolerance.
With a distinct ecological system, Sariska Tiger Reserve is home to several species of unique flora and fauna. It is also known for its healthy population of avifauna. Located on the narrow valleys and sharp cliffs of the Aravalli Hills, the lush landscape of Sariska Tiger Reserve is filled with deciduous trees and excellent grasslands.
The best way to thoroughly explore this beautiful wildlife sanctuary is via your own vehicle. However, to go to the jungle areas, you will have to hire an authorized guide, which can be easily booked at your hotel, park office or at the entrance of the sanctuary. One can also hire a jeep from the hotel or through local jeep service providers.
Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand
It is India’s first national park and sanctuary that became a part of Project Tiger. Known for its wide variety of vegetation and large number of tigers, Corbett National Park is home to over 110 tree species, 580 bird species, 25 species of reptiles and 50 mammal species.
The best way to explore the sanctuary is via jeep safaris that can be easily hired at the tourist center. One can even take an exciting elephant rife at dawn with a certified mahout guide. Even though the jeeps go deeper in the forest than the elephants, they cannot get as close to animals as elephants.
Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra
Situated close to Mumbai, Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra are known for their rock-cut sculptures that are dedicated to the revered Hindu god – Lord Shiva. Some of these caves are massive in size, including the temples, which cover around 60,000 square feet.
Declared as a heritage site by UNESCO, the sculptures at Elephanta Caves are a haven for an architecture lover. Each cave has been carefully sculptured by the process of rock removal. The most interesting feature of the caves is the 40 meter square hall with 2 columnades. Do not forget to visit the exotic sculpture – Maheshmurti, which depicts Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
Eco-tourism is still developing in India and has increased significantly in the last few years. However, to ensure that India comes at pace with other eco-tourism destinations in the world, the Government of India has to make concrete efforts so that ecotourism becomes a priority in the country.