Friday, February 8, 2008

Eco Tourism in Assam

Tourism as an industry is the largest in terms of revenue generation as well as an employer in the world. Ecotourism is the latest trend among tourists today and although ecotourism accounts for a measly 2-4% of the entire tourism industry, it is the fastest growing sector. More and more people are willing to pay extra for tours that are “eco-friendly”. But how ‘responsible’ are we as tourists and how sustainable is the tourism that is being propagated?

Ecotourism originated in the latter half of the 20th century. By 1970s, the impact of growing mass tourism led to the degradation of wildlife habitats. A gradual awareness and concern for conservation of local species (such as the Rhinos in Assam, Tigers in Ranthambore, etc.) led to the introduction of specialist tours like bird safaris, camel treks and guided nature treks. Ecotourism was being envisaged as an amalgam of tourism, environment-sensitization and conservation. Unfortunately, ecotourism as it is practiced has boiled down to only “travel to natural areas” and the wildlife conservation and preservation of local cultures has been lost along the way.

However, it would be unfair to ignore the efforts of various organisations that are truly practicing conservation and sensitizing tourists to the local demands of the people and their habitat. Many plant trees to prevent deforestation/ discourage tourists from littering, and promote recycling of resources.

This new form of “responsible travel” focuses on flora, fauna and culture. It is based on the principles of sustainable development. It attempts to create a set of travellers who are aware and hopes to utilize the funds generated for conservation and raising the living standard of the local population. Ecotourism is a participatory venture in which all those who are involved are also the stakeholders of its benefits. The venture benefits the tour operators, the tourists and the locals. However, it must be remembered that the number of tourists should be limited to the capacity of each region to prevent shortage of resources for the locals after the tourist depart.

Efforts like these are complemented by UN action which has called for an NGO Tourism Advisory Group. Such attempts at bringing tourism and environment into a harmonious relationship need to be furthered throughout the world. Each one of us must accept responsibility for the ecosystem that one visits and the local people that inhabit those lands. It must be a two-way process in which tourists and the tour operators help to strengthen the environment while that very environment and the locals provide them with the resources and support for an enjoyable holiday.

Ecotourism is slowly but surely becoming a trend. Although having a deep passion for nature is nothing new to many people, yet the term "ecotourism" (having been coined in recent years) is becoming more of a fashion statement than anything else.

So, what is comprised within the term "ecotourism"? Images of lush tropical rainforest, vast mangrove forests, a rough-edge coastline dotted by white sandy beaches and of course, some of the world's most rare and unique flora and fauna.


Bamungaon eco-tourism spot bears a good natural beauty and have been using it for enjoying picnic in the season time. The spot is only 3 km distance from Abhayapuri town towards north. It is just beneath the Bamungaon Pahar and a small stream has come out from the heart of stone. Recently District Administration, Bongaigaon has developed the spot implementing some schemes in collaboration with Forest Department. The road from Abhayapuri to Picnic Spot has developed and graveled by Zila Parishad, Bongaigaon.

Bako National Park should be your first stop if you are planning a trip to one of the many national parks in the state. Bako has a unique set of geological and climatic conditions. In a tiny area of 10.6 sq miles (27.4 sq kilometers), you can find seven distinct ecosystems compressed within the relatively small space. Despite its size, the Bako National Park is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna and this is so thanks to the many distinctive ecosystems.

The park is a well-maintained location; therefore exploring it by foot is easy. There are good trail systems and great animals to watch. Having been a protected piece of land since 1957, Bako promises an array of fun and adventure.

Located just 24 miles (37 kilometers) from downtown Kuching (Sarawak's capital city), your starting point to the national park begins at Kampung Bako. To reach the park's headquarters at Telok Assam, you must first take a half hour boat ride. Along the way, you will see numerous wooden houses on stilts from the riverside villages and also fishermen tending to their fish traps. Once you reach the HQ, you will soon realize that you are headed towards the heart of wildlife. Even the few wooden chalets and rest houses are surrounded by virgin jungle.

Although you may be highly excited and can't wait to jump straight in and explore the park, I would advice that you take a trip to the park's information center first before doing anything else. This place can fill you in with all sorts of required information and it is also here that you will get to learn more about Bako's bio-diversity and some of the attractions that you will get to see along your route. The information center will also be a good spot to check out the numerous available routes and the time taken to complete each track. Please be aware that each route will offer you through different sceneries, some through the thick dense forest with all its unique wildlife, some through the white sandy beaches and of course, some that will allow you to view the interesting flora.

The best times for a trekking session are either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. At about 7 am, you will be greeted with troops of the long-tailed macaque monkeys. These monkeys will be around the area most of the day. Used to seeing humans, these monkeys are tame and enjoy loitering around the area. You will also get to see the silver-leaf monkey that usually congregate in big groups around the chalets and along the Telok Assam route. Not necessary to venture far, you will also get to see the plantain squirrels, bearded pigs, snakes, flying lemurs and a number of lizards. One of the country's largest lizards, the water monitors, are also spotted hanging around the jetty and near the rest houses.

Smaller creatures can be found at the mangrove forest at Telok Assam. Hidden within the complicated network of aerial roots of the mangrove trees are creatures such as hermit crabs, sky-blue fiddler crabs and mudskippers. If you are a lover of birds, the mangrove is a good place for viewing Bako's bird life. So far, there have been a recorded 150 species of birds found at Bako including the state bird of Sarawak - the hornbill. Here, you will also get to see the birds such as the velvet-fronted nuthatch, racket-tailed drongo or ruby-cheeked sunbird. Such birds are a rarity and definitely, they are not of your garden sparrows variety!

The highlight of this trip is when you get the opportunity to encounter the Proboscis Monkey, a rare and protected animal found only in Borneo. Out of 6,000 monkeys left in the wild, about 1,000 of them are found in Sarawak and about 150 of them lives in Bako. If you want to catch sight of this rare monkey, head on down the Teluk Paku or the Telok Delima trails. They can be seen either during the wee hours of the morning or the hours before dusk. Patience and silence are the virtues here. To seek out these Proboscis Monkeys, one must be quiet and still? and you might just catch sight of them.

One of the most popular trails at Bako is none other than the Lintang Trail. It is highly recommended for those who want a rainforest experience. The trek will take about 3 ½ hours and will show you the full glory of Bako's vegetation. Another popular trail is the Telok Pandan Kecil trek, which will lead you to Bako's best beach. A short walk of 1 ½ hours, you will be rewarded with a refreshing swim at the end of the walk. Scenery at Bako National Park is simply breathtaking and awesome where the jungle canopy can rise to 40 meters in height! Although some climbing may be tough and steep, yet the walk will prove to be enjoyable, nonetheless.

The Bako National Park emits a kind of Robinson Crusoe feel and you will feel yourself in the thick of nature and very much in tune with your surroundings. Each trail promises a difference. It all depends on what you really want. I will not dwell too much into each trail, as they are all great in their own aspects. To know more, you can either call up the Bako National Park at (6 011) 225049 or the Kuching Visitors Information Center at (082) 248088

One great eco- tourism package

Day 1 Visit to Moitry Ashram - an ashram with Gandhian philosophy maintained
by all women established by Binowa Bhabe in late sixty. Organsied South East Asia youth meet. Everyday bhajan in morning and evening by the ashram inmates. A self sustainable ashram.

Visit to tea gardens - tea factories set up by British during pre-independence and still running well. Tea plucking by tea garden workers and their culture.

Ornamental fish farm at Siajuli by Sri Bikul Goswami, an wild life activities
Padumoni than (temple) and Padumoni Park for medicinal plantation
Subansiri darshan , Subansiri Hydal project , Water ferry traveling to the Subansiri Upstream
Bird sanctuary at Boidoi pam , Dhakuakhana
Indigenous eri/ muga farm : muga harvesting, yarn production, handloom etc.
Mishing village at Kadam with their culture

Day 2 Gharmara satra ; the ancient vaisnabhi spiritual satra with sankari kala kristi , ancient manuscript
Spiritual darshan ' Sri Sri Brahmakuri Iswaria Viswavidyalay' .
Visit to Leteku phukhuri , the birth place of Sri Sri Madhab dev at Narayanpur.
Buddhist temple at Narayanpur.

Day 3
Visit to Majuli ; ferry crossing at Luit Khabalo, Migratory birds, ethnic tribes, ancient spiritual satras.

Day 4
Visit to Zero ; an hilly station of Arunachal Pradesh 120 kms away. Orchid farm, visit to the largest Shiv lingan in the world made by hill. Adi & Apatani tribes,

Day 5
Visit to Malini than in Arunachal Pradesh ; an ancient pre historic temple during Mahabharata era.
Day 6
Visit to Itanagar , the capital of Arunachal Pradesh ;

Satellite tours
Tawang 2ns largest Buddhist Monastery of World, Sella pass, Bomdila
Tezpur The cultural city of Assam 200 kms away
Kazironga The National Park ; famous of single horn rhinocross.


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