This year, head to some of India’s best eco tourism spots that offer an unbridled view of nature, right from the front row.
Tourism in India has taken a leap towards eco-tourism, wherein both travellers and residents make conscious efforts towards promoting ecological conservation. With the spotlight on adventure and wildlife tourism, both central and respective state governments endeavour to protect and conserve flora & fauna, while fostering local culture and communities.
Chilika Lake, Odisha
A beautiful spot for eco-tourism in Odisha is Chilika Lake, a coastal lagoon that is teeming with marine diversity. Entry points to the region from Bhubaneswar are Barkul (97 km), Rambha (120 km) and Satpada (110 km).
Spread across the east coast, it is a biodiversity hot spot as rare and endangered species are often seen here, such as the Barakudia limbless skink. Be it coral reefs or wetlands, islands or mangroves, the landscape is as diverse as its denizens. Due to the confluence of salt and fresh water, as it receives water from 52 rivers and rivulets and the Bay of Bengal, different seasons support varying fauna.
Due to much silting, the lagoon is shallow, but is home to over 267 species of fish, 29 species of shrimps and prawns, 35 species of crabs, 225 species of birds, and one of the highest populations of Irrawaddy dolphins in India.
The lagoon supports the livelihood of nearby villages. Boat rides around the lagoon are offered, often stopping at an island where shops sell freshly cooked seafood dishes and drinks as refreshments. Water transport facilities are available at the state tourism department at Barkul and Rambha, and local country boats are aplenty.
Did you know? The lagoon covers an area of 1,100 sq km, differing from season to season, making it the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia.
Tips: When travelling to such biodiversity hot spots, do not tamper with the eco-system, such as littering. Rare and endangered species require a pristine environment.
GoAir Connect: GoAir operates direct flights to Bhubaneswar from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, and easy connections from Chandigarh, Goa, Jaipur, Jammu and Srinagar.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Rajasthan
A comfortable 3-hour drive from Delhi, or Jaipur, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary makes for a perfect weekend getaway. The massive park sprawls across 29 sq km, and has cleared tracks for visitors. Built on a natural depression that was later filled by flood waters, there are wetlands and grasslands of varying intensity. Witness a vast variety of species, both resident and migratory, as this is an important breeding and feeding ground for birds.
Birders can even set up their camera equipment atop the machans, that provide a scenic panoramic view. Painted storks, neelgai, pythons, ducks, cormorants, hornbills, sandpipers, etc., the flora and fauna are rich and vivid here. Boat rides are even on offer if the tide is high. Motorised vehicles are not allowed inside the premises, but cycle rickshaws can be rented near the gate, and the rickshaw pullers are trained as guides too.
Did you know? A UNESCO World Heritage site, the park is man-made, created as a royal hunting reserve for the British and Maharajas during the colonial period. It was declared a national park in 1982.
Tips: Being a bird sanctuary, it’s best to visit during sunrise or sunset when the birds come out in full glory. Avoid the harsh afternoon sun as the birds and animals stick to the cooler areas of the park.
GoAir Connect: Delhi is 184 km away from Bharatpur (approx). GoAir operates direct flights to Delhi from Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Mumbai among others.
Horsley Hills, Andhra Pradesh
A series of hills at an altitude of 1,265 mt above sea level, located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, is known as Horsleykonda. The hills are named after a British collector, WD Horsley, who built his house here in the 1870s to escape the heat of summer in the plains.
Vast undulating terrain of green hills as far as the eye can see, a cool refreshing breeze, and the perfect setting for a day out with family and friends; Horsley Hills is captivating. There are state tourist department resorts that can help with overnight stays, and sunrise and sunsets are a must on every visitor’s itinerary. Zorbing, hiking and rappelling are some of the activities offered to tourists here.
Another attraction nearby, at a distance of almost 50 km from the hills, is Gurramkonda Fort up on a hill 500 mt high, that was once part of the Vijayanagara kingdom. It literally translates to ‘horse hill’ as according to a local legend, the statue of a horse made the fort impregnable. But a Maratha chief managed to scale the walls and the fort was conquered by the Marathas.
Did you know? A local folklore tells of an old woman, Mallamma, who used to live on the hill and was fed by elephants (yengulu). Thus, many locals also refer to this hill as Yenugu Mallama Konda.
Tips: While driving in hilly regions, do not drive above the recommended speed limit, and keep an eye on the turns. When in Horsley Hills, give technology a break and spend time with your fellow travellers.
GoAir Connect: Bengaluru is 144 km from Horsley Hills. GoAir operates direct flights to Bengaluru from Delhi, Goa and Mumbai, and convenient connections from Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Ranchi, Srinagar, Patna, etc.
(Written by Ramya JS D’Rozario)