Wilderness tourism is all the rage in Karnataka with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Minister of State for Information Technology, Bio Technology & Tourism Priyank Kharge, recently announcing a series of initiatives to promote wildlife conservation in the state. By declaring 2017 the Year of the Wild, the Tourism Department has identified nine eco-trekking routes along the scenic Western Ghats as legally open to tourists and trekkers.
Trained nature guides have been appointed to accompany naturalists on treks and educate tourists on the importance of conserving the state’s flora and fauna.
Source: By Ms.Mulish [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Although this move does risk commercialisation of previously untouched tracts of jungle, the department has assured the public that the best efforts will be made to protect eco-sensitive zones. The minister’s promises seem to hold true as the Forest Department recently arrested 11 poachers of Sambhar deer in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve (BTR) in the Chikkamagaluru district. In what has been described as ‘the biggest haul’ in the history of the reserve, the government’s quick action to take the perpetrators to task is a positive sign that the upkeep of the designated area is a top priority.
Popular among existing eco trails is the Kurinjal peak trek in Kudremukh. Touted as one of the most exciting day treks in the state, it is set amidst a mosaic of evergreen forest, sholas and grasslands that boast of stunning biodiversity. It was also pointed out that Karnataka is home to some of the largest jungle tracts south of the Vindhyas and is consequentially fast emerging as a dream destination for adventure travellers.
The state boasts of five national parks — Anshi, Kudremukh, Rajiv Gandhi, Bannerghatta, and Bandipur; 18 wildlife sanctuaries including the famous Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary; and several reserve forests.
There are some sanctuaries dedicated to conserving specific species exist, such as Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary, Kokkrebellur Pelicanry, and Adichunchanagiri Peacock Sanctuary. Ornithologists from world over flock at the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, located just outside Srirangapatna where the Cauvery River meanders around a string of tiny islets, forming a popular nesting site for birds.
By declaring 2017 to be the Year of the Wild, the state government hopes to promote conservation of many animal species. Mammals as diverse as the Bengal tiger, Asiatic elephant and Golden jackal have long called this part of the world home, along with exotic bird species such as the Yellow Wattled Lapwing and the Great Indian Bustard. Local species local that have been declared endangered include the Lion Tailed Macau, the Sloth bear and the Leatherback Turtle and the move could help boost efforts for their conservation as well.
The Year of the Wild campaign isn’t restricted to eco-trails. An aero sports festival in Mysore and a surfing festival on the beaches of Udupi and Mangalore have also been announced.
In order to facilitate tourism, the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation has also launched a mobile application that currently available for download on Android devices and will soon be rolled out in an iOS version too. The app enables users to make hotel reservations, book tickets, and select tour packages. It will also provide general information about eateries, hotels, accessible ATMs and gas stations.