India is a beautiful country, rich in spiritual traditions and ancient landscapes that captivate the imagination. Despite its deeply entrenched roots in the past, India is a progressive country, full of ecotourism experiences that both reflect their inspiring past, and their promising future.
As the world's largest tea producer and exporter, India is home to some magnificent tea estates, especially in the state of Kerala, and ecotourism in India would not be complete without a visit to a tea estate. When visiting a tea estate, you can witness tea picking and processing, and some tea estates even have accommodation for you to stay and get close to nature and wildlife. In Kerala, the area in particular that is popular to visit is the Western Ghats, and Seethargundu on Poabs Organic Estates in the district of Nelliyampathy, is dedicated to biodynamic agriculture and has been certified organic for over ten years.
Backwaters and Beaches
All three of these natural elements are hugely popular with tourists.
Once Kerala's trade highways, the Backwaters in Kerala are integral to daily life in for locals, and serve as a major attraction for tourists. The palm-lined backwaters are a series of inland lakes connected by a network of canals, and are one of the most fascinating ecotourism experiences for visitors to Kerala. Not only are the Backwaters visually beautiful, they are historically intriguing, and lead to small villages and communities only accessible via the Backwaters.
India has a massive coastline, so naturally the country's beaches are a prime ecotourism attraction. One of the most popular set of beaches are the Laccadives (Lakshadweep) that make up the 36 coral islands 300 kms off the coast of Kerala. As the Laccadives are the only coral islands in India, they offer some unique ecotourism options not found elsewhere in India. Snorkelling and scuba diving is the best way to see the reefs and the incredibly diverse marine life, and windsurfing is another great way to play in the crystal clear water. For those who favour more relaxing experiences, boat cruises are lovely, especially at sunset.
In Himachal Pradesh, one of India's northern states, visitors can engage in all types of ecotourism activities. Himachal is popular with local and foreign tourists who want to hike in the foothills of the Himalayas, trek some of the over two hundred defined trails, and mountain bike their way through diverse terrains. Water sports are also quickly gaining popularity, particularly on the Sutlej and Ravi rivers, where adventurers can river-raft and white-water raft. For those seeking a tamer water adventure, Maharana Pratap Sagar resevoir is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and water-skiing.
Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks
India is home to the rapidly declining tiger population, among many other wildlife species, which are now finding homes in sanctuaries and national parks that are dedicated to conservation and preservation. Some of the most popular spots for ecotourism include: Nagarhole National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Periyar National Park, Kanha National Park, Kaziranga National Park, Corbett National Park, and Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary.
While visiting any of the parks, you can expect to encounter animals like tigers, leopards, wild boars, macaques, jackals, chital, Indian flying floxes and dholes, and birds such as steppe eagles, parakeets, paradise flycatchers, kingfishers, and peacocks. Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to a multitude of beautiful trees, including the ancient Banyan Trees. Some of these parks, like Corbett National Park, have accommodation, and many of these animal havens have their own safaris and jeep tours, something to take advantage of to fully experience one of the best instances of ecotourism in India.
For a developing nation, India has some of the most up-to-date, sustainable transportation in the world. Ahmedabad, India, was awarded the 2010 Sustainable Transport Award by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, for its eco-friendly transportation initiatives. Ahmedabad has implemented Janmarg, India's first full bus rapid transit system, which is not only a model of sustainable transportation for one of the world's fastest growing populations, but a key element of a successful ecotourism industry. With initiatives such as Janmarg, tourists are better able to engage in ecotourism and eco-friendly transportation options while traveling.
India is a wonderfully diverse country, with rich historical narratives and a sustainable vision for the future. Ecotourism in India is a fascinating experience, and allows visitors to experience traditions from the past, and initiatives for the future.
Photo Credit: Meg Cowan - thanks!