Kalinje Ecotourism, a part of a community-based conservation initiative by the Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation of Maharashtra Forest Department, focuses on the upliftment of local communities and spreads awareness about marine biodiversity conservation among travellers.
Kalinje, a village in Shrivardhan taluka in Raigad district boasts its vibrant biodiversity, local beauty and the coastal creek amid the green mangroves.
The ecotourism group lead by four women offers "Mangrove" training programme with 25-30 other villages since March 2019. Something that the volunteers of this group saw as an escape from daily chores and turned it into a means of livelihood for many.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, one of the trainers from the foundation, Sandesh Ambhore, said, "The idea from the beginning was to make the locals aware of the biodiversity in the village and its importance. We now have a strong team of 10 which is getting other villagers involved in the cause."
This group dedicates two hours every day to revise what they know about the Mangroves in the area and introduces tourists to the importance of mangroves.
One of the women leading the eco-tourism group, Shruti Todankar, boasts that she knows the botanical names of 11 types of mangroves in English and knows how to spot them and explain their features and importance.
Out of 30 villagers who expressed their interest and decided to participate in the training, 10 have now become part of the tourism circuit. The first four women lead the mangrove trail, bird watching, traditional fishing. Two men received training from the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa for Mangrove kayaking and the other four lead tourists on a boat safari.
How This Group Is Providing Jobs
Several residents of Kalinje, particularly the younger generation, are migrating to cities in search of better job opportunities. To tackle this migration, Mangrove Foundation is also providing employment opportunities. For every activity, the tour cost is somewhere between Rs 100 and Rs 250, which directly goes to the team.
The organisation also came up with village home-stays for Rs 500 per night per person, with facilities of local food delicacies and unlimited veg and non-veg food for Rs 125 and Rs 175, respectively. Ambhore said, "Many villagers have big houses and extra rooms, which they want to rent out for home-stay."
The Foundation aims at training villagers for 12 activities which include a visit to a turtle hatchery and exploring sites of the white-bellied sea eagle. The team successfully carried 130 tourists from Mumbai on a Mangrove trail on December 6.
Expansion To Other Cities
The Mangrove Foundation also plans to expand this initiative to several other coastal cities in the state. The next sites on the list are Anjarle in Dapoli, Songaon in Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg district and Diveagar. These locations have been identified based on the spread of the mangrove patches and the proximity to the nearest tourist location.
"We will begin with the boat safari in Kalinje next. We will introduce all the activities based on the success of the current initiatives," Ambhore told The Logical Indian.
To promote this initiative, the state government is all set to develop an eco-tourism circuit connecting 350 locations to a common grid for the development of popular tourist destinations in the state.