We have all heard the term ecotourism, but I am pretty sure that there are many amongst us who don’t know the exact definition of ecotourism. When you ask them ‘what is ecoutourism’, they will mostly give you vague definitions. Given this scenario, we need to have a well-defined definition for the term. Ecotourism is a type of tourism that seeks to align one with nature and teach human values while promoting familiarity with different cultures and traditions. It normally includes visits to places that have negligible human interventions and are less commercial in nature and consequently less exploited. Environmentalists regard ecotourism as an important endeavor that will pave the way for future generations to discover and experience destinations that sill retain their freshness. This is exactly how ecotourism is different from normal tourism, also known as mass tourism, which is simply travel to a popular place with no restrictions.
Ecotourism in India
The ecotourism landscape of India has undergone a sea change from what it was a few decades back when people were not very sure what it actually meant. Today, the concept has become mainstream with ecotourism tours becoming a norm. There are many locations that are being promoted as ecotourism hubs. Here we present you the best ecotourism destinations in India.
The Sundarbans delta is one of those unspoiled regions that take you on a spiritual drive. The overpowering greenery and clean air of the delta soothe the soul and make you feel a great peace of mind. The region has an abundance of wildlife and plant species -more than 334 plant species have been recorded in the delta. The Royal Bengal Tiger is perhaps the most famous animal species, but there are others like Jungle Cats, Flying Foxes, Pangolins and spotted deer that are no less important. The strategically located backwater and irregularly distributed marshes make it just the ideal place for wildlife to thrive.
Best time and season to visit the Sundarbans
• Winter (November to February) is the best time to visit the Sundarbans as the weather remains very pleasant with the temperature staying between 34°C and 10°C.
• The summers can be really hot as temperature soars to up to 42°C. If you come during the summer, come in March as you can then participate in jungle activities and visit the wildlife. By the time April and May arrives, the mercury levels reach uncomfortable levels, making it unsuitable for tourism.
• Heavy rainfall makes monsoon the most challenging time for visiting the wildlife sanctuary, but if you don’t mind this inconvenience you will be rewarded with breathtaking greenery and water soaked environs.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra are over 2000 years old caves dating back to the 2nd century BC, and are of great historical significance. A World Heritage Site, it has around 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves that are adorned with painting and sculptures, believed to be the finest examples of Indian art. These stunning creations of art, consisting mostly of figures of the Buddha, have a striking resemblance to the masterpieces that are found in the Sigiriya caves in Sri Lanka. These caves depicting Deccan architecture can be a great place to visit if you appreciate beauty and have a curiosity for history.
Best time or season to visit Ajanta and Ellora caves
You can visit the caves throughout the year, but still the time between June to March is considered to be the best as then the weather is pleasant
• The winters (November to February) are the best time as you will be welcomed by a pleasant weather; the minimum temperature hovers around 10°C which is easily manageable.
• During the summers (March to May), temperate can sometimes go up to 42°C, though the normal range is between 21°C and 37°C. Considering you have to do a lot of walking while exploring the caves, avoid the peak summer season, especially April and May.
• The monsoon (June to September) rains bring a pleasant change in the weather and is a good time to visit the caves.
Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
The first national park in India, the Corbett National Park is also the first to come up under the Project Tiger initiative. An abode of a wide variety of wildlife and wilderness, it is one the best and most popular sanctuaries that provide shelter to wildlife in India. A number of rare and threatened species like the Bengal tiger are inhabitants of the park which is overlooked by the mighty Himalayas. Lush greenery, dense forests and sparking meadows cover the park and you will also find a number of water sources passing through the park.
Best season or time to visit the park
A good thing about the park is that the temperate remains moderate all through the year to enjoy safari ride, which is one of the most popular activities in the park. If you also want to enjoy a safari ride in the park, make sure to check the safari timings in Corbett for prior booking as there may be chances of not getting the availability, especially in the peak season. The best time to visit the park starts from the 15th of November to the 15th of June.
• During the winter, the temperature fluctuates between 5°C and 30°C and you may find the morning weather too cold for comfort, but by the afternoon the weather warms up and suitable for safari.
• The average temperature in summer is 30°C, though occasionally it reaches 40°C. Summer is just perfect for animal sightseeing and you would love the warmth of the sun reaching you through the dense forests.
• Heavy rain lashes the park during the monsoon, causing the closure of certain zones of the park. Otherwise, the rain drenched look of the park glowing in its natural beauty is a sight to behold.
Gir National Park
The lion community is much threatened and today there are only a few pockets left where they can still be found. Gir is one such pocket, and is in fact the only abode of the Asiatic lion. The park has a very diverse ecosystem that supports a large species of flora and fauna. Apart from the Asiatic lion, other important mammal species found here include Indian Leopards, Sloth bears, Indian Cobras, Jungle cats, Striped Hyenas and Golden Jackals. In all Gir has 2,375 distinct species of fauna, while there are around 400 plant species that have been recorded so far.
Best time or season to visit the park
• Winter is the best time to visit the park as the weather remains pleasant with the temperature ranging from a minimum of 7°C to a maximum of 15°C.
• The summer season presents a lot of difficulty as temperature soars to over 40°C; taking safaris and participating in park activities in the searing heat tires one out fast and takes a toll on the body. March is slightly better, but April and May dreadful.
• For a major part of the monsoon season, the park remains closed from the second week of June to the end of October. So, if you are planning to come during monsoon, bear these things in mind.
Keoladeo National Park
There is no better place to head than to Keoladeo National Park if you are a bird lover. Home to over 230 species of birds, it is one of the most famous avifauna sanctuary in India. A number of migratory birds like the Siberian crane, Spanish Sparrow, Coot Snipes, Rosy Pelican, Flamingo, Red Crested Porhard and many other water birds start arriving at the park with the onset of winter making it a grand spectacle. A unique thing about this park is that it is a man-made and man-managed wetland, unlike other naturally occurring wetlands. Best time or season to visit the park
The best season for birding is from October to March
• At night, the temperature gets as low as 7 °C while during the night the temperature hovers around 29°C in winter which are ideal conditions for birding.
• During the summer the heat is merciless as temperature levels touch a high of 45°C. If you don’t want to get face the scorching heat, stay away during summers.
• The monsoon is a welcome break from the heat wave with temperature returning to reasonable levels, maximum of 27°C. It is a nice time to catch on some birding action.
Ecotourism is a relatively modern phenomenon, especially in the Indian context. There are still many things that need to be debated like how ecotourism contributes to sustainable development and how ecotourism benefits the environment. But one thing that is quite clear is that ecotourism is a positive way of looking at our nature and at tourism.