Responsible Tourism is making inroads into the remote villages of Wayanad. The new tourism concept is opening up the unique and unexplored attractions in the district. The RT packages which ensure an additional income for the villages are eliciting a good response from the local people.
Wayanad, the land where the goodness of tribal life and agricultural traditions are still reigning strong, welcomes each traveller with warmth and love. No wonder it won the national award in 2016-17 in the Responsible Tourism (RT) category.
The implementation of RT is opening up the unique diversity of the district before the tourists and the verdant villages of Wayanad are responding to the tourism concept with enthusiasm as the villagers are reaping the benefits more than ever. Buoyed by the public response, the tourism department is planning more packages to bring more hamlets and destinations into the tourism map.
The call of Nellarachal
Surrounded by water on three sides, Nellarachal is a village on the banks of Karappuzha dam reservoir. The fame of this motley village has gone places now, courtesy to the main package in the Responsible Tourism programme the district is offering. There, the tourists are invited to stroll through the spice groves and tribal hamlets, savouring the fresh air and greenery.
The beauty of Karappuzha dam is a bonus. And, if you want to try archery in the traditional way, Govindan's house is the place to be. Govindan, a tribal archer belonging to the Kuruma community, will be there to introduce you to the art, tradition, and the several arms and weapons of the tribes. A visit to the centre where they distill the oil of eucalyptus is also on the itinerary. Earlier, the balmy smell of the wood oil was synonymous with these villages when there were large swathes of the plantations. Traditional pottery making and Uravu, a centre where bamboo handicrafts are made are among the other attractions.
The sights of Cheruvayal
The second package takes you to Cheruvayal village near Mananthavadi. The tour which includes the house and farm of Cheruvayal Raman, the renowned conservationist of ethnic rice varieties, is another main attraction. Besides enjoying the village life, the travellers get an intimate knowledge of the umbilical relation between paddy and Wayanad. Many people visit Raman's farm to learn about traditional farming methods.
Now, RT is giving another chance for the villagers to reap more profit by showcasing their village life and farming techniques. The other centres of interest in the package are the famed Valliyoorkavu temple, traditional bamboo units, ethnic pottery units, and Jain temple at Punchavayal.
Let's go to Thekkumthara
Thekkumthara Village Tour is the latest addition to the RT package of the district. The village tour starts at Kalpetta in the morning and ends by evening. The itinerary has Bhavam, a mural art centre, where artists paint on bamboo using natural colours, farms and traditional pottery workshops. Jain temples and temples carved out of stones are also on the menu.
The package, mainly targetting foreign tourists, has also the Maniyankode Tile Factory on the list of stop-overs. The farmhouse of Saseendran, an aquaculturist in the village, and farm walking would attract visitors from overseas, the authorities hope.
Village paths get busy
The RT packages of Wayanad are focusing on village routes and spots, away from the routine tourist destinations. The packages are an opportunity to get close to the diversities of the village life and culture. The villager, on their part, will be benefitted by selling their produce and handicrafts. From the traditional workshops to handicrafts units, any centres of interest could be showcased in RT packages, not to mention ethnic food and culinary delicacies. Nearly 40 villages across the globe are making a good fortune through RT.
Kerala woke up to the new concept in tourism in 2008 and realised that it would work for the state. In the first phase, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Kovalam, and Vythiri entered into the Responsible Tourism map and later, Kumbalangi, Bekal, and Ambalavayal in Wayanad joined the league. The first RT ventures in Wayanad were well received by the tourists, said Sijo Manuel, the RT coordinator. Now, jungle village of Chokadi is also entering the RT destinations and soon figure in packages.
This concept aims at establishing tourism initiatives that fully adhere to eco-friendly norms and principles while ensuring that the local people are benefitted from increased job opportunities. Women empowerment and economic growth are other aspects of the RT concept. More than 1,300 households in Kumarakom and nearly 1,000 families in Thekkady reap the goodness of RT. By popularising the RT packages, the Tourism Department hopes that the people and villages of Wayanad will immensely benefit--directly and indirectly--by RT. The district is blessed with locations that keep the simplicity and goodness of villages and tribal hamlets that preserve ethnic traditions. Once all these villages can be connected through various RT packages, the officials hope, Wayanad will witness a boom in tourist footfalls.
After recovering from the shock of the devastating floods, tourism in Wayanad is waking up slowly; the village roads are getting busy. In its tireless spirit for survival, people from across the world are joining hands with Wayanad, to stand up and retrieve whatever it had lost. Pristine beauty is the USP of Wayanad and it strives to preserve it.
Wayanad can be proud of the growth in tourism it achieved in the past decade. It registered a growth in the number of both domestic and foreign tourists. And the revenue from tourism helped it to offset the crisis in the agriculture sector. Wayanad treats you to a unique feast for the eyes and soul, an offering that connects the forest and agrarian life in a single thread. Past the memories of the rain havoc, the district is waiting for a seamless flow of tourists.
Interested to experience the Wayanad village tour packages of Tourism Department, feel free to call RT coordinator Sijo Manuel at 9544313351.
Translated by Madhuvan Geeth