In the lap of nature

In the lap of nature

With the hectic lives that we lead, travelling and taking a holiday is something most of us look forward to in order to rejuvenate. However, with the tourism industry growing, several concepts are evolving within the sector each day.

One of the buzzwords among travel enthusiasts these days is ‘eco -tourism’. The main idea here is to avoid the luxury of resorts and hotels and choose to be a more responsible traveller while experiencing a direct connect with exotic natural places.

Eco-tourism is a conscious effort for a socially responsible travel experience while making the most of the natural surroundings. With a purpose to support conservation, environment sustainability and the well-being of the local communities and wildlife, this concept is fast catching up among travellers.

Reejoy Leen, a communication professional and an avid traveller, says, “My travels are never about luxury, but about the experiences that I gain after being close to nature. I am from Thenmala, which is India’s first planned eco-tourism spot. I love travelling to the hills and exploring the refreshing environment. I have been to Masinagudi, Munnar and the Horton Plains National Park in Sri Lanka recently.”

Travelling has changed a lot over the years. While earlier it was more about luxurious holidays, now people talk of pocket-friendly, experiential vacations, he says. “There are a lot of solo travellers, both young and old, taking time out from their mundane work life, all set to explore different exotic and unexplored places. These encounters are a great way to relax and rejuvenate oneself,” he adds.

So what is making ‘eco-tourism’ click with people? “Eco-tourism is growing rapidly all over the world and also incorporates and crosses over into a number of other market segments. Wellness tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing travel segments and most often incorporates an eco-friendly aspect. This is especially true in India which attracts not only a large number of domestic travellers, but also draws a large number of international visitors for ayurveda, yoga and other forms of traditional wellbeing,” says Ashwin Jayasankar, country head of ‘Wego’.

He says that people are more keen on travelling to destinations like Rishikesh, Thenmala, Binsar and Gavi, which are well-known for their eco-tourism offerings. “We have seen an increasing number of eco-friendly hotels highlighting their environmental friendly aspects like solar powered energy or a fully eco-sustainable operation. In fact, there are also direct flights to such destinations, that are more fuel-efficient and reduce the carbon footprints further,” says Ashwin.

Anjana Kovoor, who often travels with a travel group, says that ‘ecotourism’ gives one the opportunity to enjoy nature at its best including the topography, wildlife and history unique to the place along with the culture of the inhabitants.

Experiencing the eco- activities local to the region like animal spotting and trekking without disturbing the environment is another attraction of this kind of tourism.

“I am a nature lover and enjoy the scenic beauty of the place I am travelling to. Ladakh, Bhutan and Kenya are a few places I have been to. Experiencing a different culture every time I am travelling is my priority,” she says adding, “During the Bhutan trip, I had the privilege of enjoying a meal with a local family in their home. It was a great experience and these holidays are very refreshing and relaxing. They help you gain a new perspective towards many things and return much more refreshed in body, mind and spirit.”

Highlighting the rich topographical and geographical diversity, Aurvind Lama, CEO and co-founder of ‘Travelyaari’ says that there are numerous destinations which have been trending of late. “Some of the most prominent eco-tourism destinations in and around the city are Bandipur, Munnar, Wayanad and Coorg while locations in North East India are also gaining popularity owing to their rich wealth of flora and fauna.”

Given that most travellers opt for home stays (managing to save a lot on unnecessary expenses) while choosing this tourism, Aurvind points out that it is not generally an expensive affair.

“There are several ecotourism activities that can be undertaken by travellers. Amongst the most popular are wildlife viewing, safaris, hiking, trekking, and attending local cultural events. The proximity to the local populace also allows them to immerse in rich cultural experiences,” he sums up.

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