Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism. It means responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people. Its purpose may be to educate the traveller, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights.
Now that we have (thanks to Wikipedia), established what ecotourism is and what it aims at, let us have a look at some of the best Eco-tourism resorts you could travel to.
The good part is, that unlike what you might be thinking, these resorts aren’t some random resorts with basic facilities. On the other hand, these are well equipped to meet all your luxury needs. Some of them fall on the higher end of the room price spectrum while others are reasonable. What makes them eco-friendly, however, is not their soft mud floors or straw roofings or water stored in earthen pots. What makes them eco-friendly is the use of renewable energy and waste management systems which they put in place.
While we can keep going on in general about this, let us have a look at five such major resorts in India. For the resorts in other nations, we will dedicate another post to it.
This 30-acre coconut lagoon is situated in the picturesque settings of Kumarakom. It boasts of now just lush green coconut trees and backwaters but a butterfly garden and traditional forest area too. It has about eight acres of its area dedicated to rice cultivation. In addition, they have also created a near-natural habitat for the endangered bird species called Darter and the world’s smallest cow called Vechoor too! All of this is maintained by the local community which means a sustainable development for all. Plus, the resort practices strict waste management and manure creation methods and uses solar energy to power its houseboats.
As far as the facilities are concerned, Coconut Lagoon provides not just a scenic view from your room but also canoeing, coconut husking. Kalari wrestling views and ayurvedic massages!
Uttarakhand is known for its beauty and the strong drive of the locals to preserve nature. The Kalmatia Sangam resort, sprawled over 14 acres in the Kumaon region was born out of this attitude. Located on a hilltop, the resort hosts some really diverse indigenous flora and fauna. Given the usual shortage of water that happens in the mountains, the resort is known for its superior rainwater harvesting and water recycling methods. Thus, providing for water requirements, of not just the guests but of the nearby communities too. For its waste management initiatives, the resort believes in segregation, recycling and compost creation. Thus, you may partake in the multiple DIY recycling activities that the resort hosts.
The resort has cottages instead of rooms-more suited for the terrain. Each of the cottages gives a breathtaking view of the Himalayas. Treks, guided by English Speaking guides are organised too
Goa seems to be the dream destination for every group of bachelor friends or those looking at a budget but fun romantic getaway. With its serene beaches, it indeed is one! While the Goa government has been doing an immensely amazing job at keeping the city and its natural surroundings clean, yet the hotels have a huge role to play too. The kind of tourist influx Goa sees is perennial, and so, there are responsible resorts like the Alila Diwa which continue being its business while giving back to nature too! The Alila Diwa contributes immensely to the conservation and community building. In addition to its solar-powered systems, the resort is completely community managed and maintained.
It has some of the best Goan beaches at walking distance and provides shuttles for far off places. The resort hosts four restaurants, a bar, library, a spa, swimming pools as well as open-air jacuzzi.
Pretty close to Goa, Gokarna is a natural delight of an unbelievable charm. The SwaSwara excels in rainwater treatment and water recycling. It might sound surprising but its resorts, the farms, as well as the swimming pool, use only harvested rainwater. The villas and most of the furniture is made from laterite stone, clay and reclaimed wood. The resort has thatched roofs and open-air showers. This resort also contributes to community building as it hosts a bevy of activities such as kayaking, clay pottery learning etc all hosted by the local artisans.
Sprawling over 26 acres, the resort treats you to fresh fruits and veggie juices produced in its organic gardens. At SwaSwara, you can wake up to the beauty of the sunrise and rejuvenate yourself with Mandala meditation backed by the sound of the ocean.
One of the top destinations for not just Indian but international tourists who want to experience crystal clear beaches and a serene surrounding, Andaman has a lot to offer.
The Barefoot at Havelock islands is one of the best beach resorts which boasts of paddy fields, banana plantations and Mahua forests within its own campus. The good part is that all of this maintenance is community-led and is done without using chemical fertilizers. Even the air conditioning in the rooms is provided through fan-cooled thatch tents. The villas and cottages are built from indigenous materials as well. The resort runs an Environmental Education Centre that educates visitors and residents on the fragile and rich biodiversity of the Andamans. Guests can also enrol for a beach clean-up program every morning at Radhanagar Beach, in return for a certificate and a free t-shirt.
Barefoot is the only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Resort in the Andamans Islands and offers diving courses, along with snorkelling, fishing and Ayurveda. It’s home to colourful butterflies and numerous birds, as well as a rare swimming elephant.
The Parting Note!
The recent CoronaVirus impact which resulted in shutting down a lot of transport, as well as industries across the world, showed how nature started recuperating fast. Within a few weeks, the heat maps showed a significant reduction in the air toxicity and pollution levels. The water bodies started getting cleaner, the green life bloomed.
While, CoronaVirus pandemic isn’t something that should happen again, yet, we should understand the kind of negative impact we have on the environment. With the current surge in “wanderlust,” people have started travelling to the remotest of the locations around the globe. While this is bringing economic prosperity to those regions but at what cost. Even the most pristine of the surroundings get inundated by dump and plastic waste. For those who love trekking, it isn’t uncommon to find kilos of plastic cutlery waste lying scattered at 10,000ft above the ground.
While an eco-resort and the spread of ecotourism is one such positive step yet, none of it will be successful till you partake in it.
It is, probably the time when we will be touching the point of no return soon. The pandemics and calamities are a signal of how the Gaia is taking its steps towards resetting the balance. Probably we should help her with it instead of being the one at the receiving end of the natural reset that would eventually happen.