Among the many activities netizens pick to rejuvenate and relax, travelling is a favourite of many, including me. The definition of travel and tourism, however, has evolved with time.
What once was an annual getaway during vacations to some specific destination, has now become an exploration of the environment and undiscovered places. With people becoming more environmentally aware, their explorations have also become more eco-sensitive.
Travellers and providers in Odisha have been following suit as well. On World Tourism Day, it can be said that the state has come up with many eco-friendly options to choose from when it comes to travelling.
Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) has ample nature camps across all major destinations in the state, the most popular being Bhitarkanika and Satkosia. A wide range of destinations and facilities at unique locations make it even more alluring. The state is also coming up with homestay policies very soon.
Satkosia Sands Resort is the perfect example of a successful government and community partnership to promote sustainable tourism, said Santwana Saganika, a professor in Bhubaneswar.
“We visited the place with a group of friends and had an amazing experience. The tents on the riverbed, the food cooked by locals, cultural shows, boating and trekking activities were all quite enjoyable and relaxing. The place was tranquil and peaceful, the staff hospitable, and facilities adequate without being wasteful. It was good to see the locals being employed and providing a flavour of indigenous hospitality,” she added.
However, the government is not the only one providing such experiences. Many individuals have come up with their own unique travel start-ups.
One of the oldest eco-camps in the state, Rangers, has been popular among youngsters, especially for surfing facilities. “It used to be the Headquarters of India Surf Festival as well,” said surfer Dibyush Jena, who is an artist from Bhubaneswar.
Very close to Rangers, there is ‘Beach Walks’, an eco-camp about 20 km from the main Puri town along the Konark Marine drive highway.
“The camp is right next to the highway, but there is a forest trail leading up to the beach which is usually the most favourite part of our experiences,” Dibyush added.
Look out for their seasonal lagoon, which adds to the charm of the camp.
In Konark, one can also find a one-of-a-kind hostel stay, Mutt Hostel Café.
“It is Odisha’s first backpacker hostel. We are soon creating more such hostels across Odisha to encourage budget travelling and promoting domestic tourism. The start-up is set up as a one-stop solution for all kinds of hospitality and tourism-related services,” said founder Ananta Prasad, who is a Bhubaneswar-based travel-preneur and tourism consultant.
The need to unwind in lesser-known unique destinations is catching up with all travel bloggers and influencers in the state. Traveller and blogger Tapas Mirdha, better known as Traveller Babu on Instagram, says he enjoys exploring by himself and goes around camping throughout the state. “I have understood that the state has immense potential and with all kinds of camping experiences coming up… We are definitely heading in the right direction.”
He shared that his experience at Camp Bichi Gundalba was unique. “The feeling of waking up to a sunrise is stunning. No words can ever describe that.”
The camp is facilitated by Gilehrio, a social start-up working towards community-led eco-tourism.
Bichitrananda Biswal, or Bichi bhai, who leads the community at Gilehrio’s beach camp, says we ought to keep the environment in mind when we are visiting any destination. Having won the state conservation award for his relentless work in protecting and saving Olive ridley turtles, he is trying his best to raise more awareness on the issue.
“I believe all travel experience has to be combined with conservation and community. Given the current circumstances when we are already facing a climate crisis, it is all the more important to use tourism as a tool to raise awareness for the environment. Eco-tourism, in its truest nature, is the way to go,” said Bichitrananda.