DISCOVERING ECO LODGES
Preservation of the environment and responsibility towards local communities has led to the rise of Eco-lodges, hotels and resorts. Before drawing out a plan for establishing a lodge, the pros and cons are worked out and analysis is done on their impact on the natural environment and the local population. The focus primarily is on the use of renewable energy sources, energy-efficient lighting system and water preservation.
What makes a great Eco-Resort?
- Recycling and reusing are adopted because of its positive impact on the environment. In its day-to-day functioning use of organic towels, non-toxic natural cleaning products, and food ingredients sourced locally are used.
- Water conservation, solar energy, maintaining landscapes, reuse of towels and bedsheets is encouraged. Since most are located in remote places amidst their natural surroundings, eco-lodges and resorts are mainly situated in jungles, beaches, mountains, and forested areas.
- For a traveller, these locations provide serene surroundings and an opportunity to be connected with nature. One can interact with the locals and learn about their culture, customs, food and traditions.
- The aim is to minimise the carbon footprint and take steps to do so.
- The effort is made that the region’s natural and cultural history is left untouched.
- They help boost the local economy by employing the community.
Jungle Lore Birding Lodge
If I can think of a property that has “Ecotourism” attached with it, it would be Jungle Lore Birding Lodge in Pangot. I visited the property first about two decades ago when hardly anyone had heard about it, let alone set foot on it. The bustling Nainital, just 15 km away attracted all the crowd and Pangot lay hidden from the map of Uttarakhand. Noone was interested in this tiny hamlet surrounded with thicket and the chirping of a zillion birds.
Ecotourism and Experiential Travel Specialist, Mr Mohit Agarwal had then built India’s first and foremost birding lodge in Pangot. I remember my apprehension when we had first booked ourselves there. No television, just a lodge in the middle of nowhere and hardly any people – my mind conjured up not very interesting images of the holiday. However, I fell in love with it the moment I stepped foot on it. The spacious wooden cottages with ample amenities like heaters and hot water, a well-stocked library, picturesque views of the snow-clad mountains and hospitable staff – all made the stay comfortable. With a plethora of activities like trekking, village experience, cooking classes, bird watching, I felt not a single minute of boredom. It was relaxing. A perfect holiday!
Jungle Lore has been key to birding success in the region. More than 250 birds have been recorded and the lodge is a bird watchers haven. Keen tourists travel from all parts of the world to watch colourful birds chirping and resting in their natural habitat at Pangot. Mohit includes well-designed itineraries in the package with expert local guides who know the birding hotspots. Guests enjoy farm-fresh Indian meals in tranquil surroundings of the lodge. The popularity of the lodge has seen many hotels and restaurants opening in Pangot in the last decade resulting in employment opportunities for the villagers. Its contribution to the local economy showcases that ecotourism, in the long run, is a better way to earn sustainable income vis-a-vis destroying or altering habitats for short term quick gains.
Kipling Camp, Kanha
‘Tis the month of April when the Kipling Camp sees a carpet of Mahua flowers. The villagers wake up in the wee hours of the morning to pick up these juicy flowers before the monkeys get them. Even the deer and cattle don’t spare them. All that is picked up by the locals in their baskets are dried and used to make “Mahua wine” after a process of fermentation and distillation. The Mahua trees have been worshipped by the tribals in the region for years and the barks, fruits and seeds are used for medicinal purposes. It is not just the Mahua trees but the Kanha is the only woodland in the country that brings so much vividness in nature. Trees such as Sal, Sacred tree, Flame of Forest, Bel, Indian Kino, Banyan, Jamun form a canopy under which the guests sit and soak in the surroundings. Living in Kipling Camp kindles the free spirit in you. One that connects with nature and calms you.
Set up by two wildlife conservationists, Anne and late Bob Wright, Kipling Camp is a unique and magical place set just outside Kanha National Park. Experienced staff picked from the neighbouring villages look after the property and organise nature walks. A host of other activities such riverside picnics, ayurvedic massages, dance shows, exhibitions displaying art done by the Baiga tribe, tours of local villages, forts and caves, and expert-led jeep safaris into Kanha National Park are arranged. Once the night falls, guests exchange the day’s notes and safari sightings over al-fresco group dinners in the warm glow of Moroccan-style lanterns or alongside an evening campfire. Kipling Camp is undoubtedly one of central India’s best eco-wildlife resort. Recently planting of 350 trees of 48 native species was organised at the camp.
The Glasshouse On The Ganges
The Glasshouse on the Ganges in Uttarakhand is a stunning property set in a lychee and mango orchard of the Maharajas of Tehri Garhwal. It is a landmark where the pristine River Ganges takes a U-turn to flow north towards its source. With a sand beach of its own, gardens with tropical plants and sightings of rare birds and butterflies, it is unlike the other Rishikesh hotels. The focus on preserving their surrounding environments, bringing awareness to nature, and helping to conserve wildlife makes “The GlassHouse on the Ganges” a delightfully serene and stunning eco-resort. Relax to the rhythm of the Ganges or partake in activities such as rock climbing, cliff jumping, white water rafting and trekking, this eco-resort hits the “experiential pulse” of the guests in the lap of nature.
Whether it is to escape the trappings of modern life, the care for the fragile ecosystems or an opportunity for personal growth in serene surroundings, or all three, the modern movement of Eco-tourism will continue to surge upwards.
Featured photo credit: Jungle Lore Birding Lodge