Eco-tourism in North-East India – 3 Responsible Destinations

Sunset over the vast Manas National Park

Northeast India is one of India’s secrets, a remote unexplored land rich in biodiversity and indigenous cultures. Filled with rain-forests, Himalayan mountains and hills, tourism in the region is a delicate affair which revolves around environment and cultures, creating a mutually benefiting relationship of sorts. Three delightful destinations where ecotourism has flourished are –

          1. Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

Tree house, Mawlynnong Village
Tree house, Mawlynnong Village

Mawlynnong is a village in the state of Meghalaya, located on foothills overlooking the plains of Bangladesh. It is only in recent years that the outside world has discovered this gem of a place, and has appropriately called it the cleanest village of Asia. Since then, tourism has brought about many positive changes to the village. The tribesmen of the village who belong to the Khasi Tribe, have become more passionate towards keeping their village clean and conserving the forests around. The money generated is thus utilized in positive endeavors. For travelers, there are many small and hidden delights that Mawlynnong offers. One can visit incredible living root bridges, which are remarkable examples of sustainable engineering. These manmade natural wonders became famous after BBC made a documentary on them. There are many known and hidden waterfalls around Mawlynnong where one can spend time hiking, lazing out or having a picnic. The most interesting aspect of the village is the Khasi people, who with their charm and graciousness have won the hearts of all travelers who visit here. The village itself is like a colony in Eden, where cozily built houses exist midst exotic colorful flowers. For staying in the village, there are a few tree houses run by the village council.

          2. Manas National Park, Assam

Sunset over the vast Manas National Park
Sunset over the vast Manas National Park

Manas National Park has many credits to its name. It is a national park, a tiger reserve, a bio reserve and as per UNESCO, it is a world heritage site.  The park saw its zenith during the eighties but the nineties was disastrous, where armed struggle between local extremists and the Indian government resulted in almost wiping out the biodiversity of this national park. But the last decade has seen much improvements and the park recently was officially recognized to be out of danger. This is all because of an increased sense of awareness. The poachers who wiped out the wildlife in the nineties have surrendered now, and today, play a part in the protection and conservation of the forests, with ecotourism providing them passion and a sustainable income. Luckily, the park is still very offbeat and mass tourism doesn’t exist. Visitors to the park can stay in jungle surrounded lodges, go for long jeep rides inside the forest to encounter various animals and birds, learn about tea production, visit tribal villages and relax in a peaceful ambiance created by Himalayan winds. Some mammals one may come across are leopards, rhinos, elephants, wild buffaloes  monkeys, deer  and on top of the food chain, the tiger. More than 400 species of birds make Manas a birder’s paradise.

          3. Kaziranga National Park, Assam

kaziranga national park forest guard
Forest rangers risk their life midst poachers and predators conserving Kaziranga’s biodiversity.

Kaziranga National Park is India’s pride; rich grasslands where decades of conservation efforts have led to a marvelous display of wildlife at its best. From a mere ten rhinos hundred years back, the park today is a thriving home to more than two thousand Asiatic rhinos. Though mass tourism exists in the park, appropriate capacity of infrastructure has been maintained to establish a balance between environment and tourism. From luxury Eco resorts to budget lodges, visitors have many options to stay in. There are many routes one can take inside the national park, though per day a maximum of two routes can be explored. A lot of the deserving credit for Kaziranga’s glory goes to the hundreds of wildlife rangers, who risk their lives against animals and poachers alike to ensure that wildlife thrives in the grasslands. Today, an improved source of livelihood exists for the village communities through tourism and the animals and birds of the park look happy while accommodating wildlife enthusiasts. In fauna, there are 35 mammalian species out of which fifteen are threatened, and hundreds of species of rare, migratory and common birds.

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