Bhutan boasts of having 26% of it’s total geographical land area under protected area networks which is the highest in Asia.
Amongst others, the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) is one of the oldest protected area in Bhutan and shares a porous border with India’s Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve. With an area of 1059 sq km, the ecosystem in Manas ranges from tropical to subtropical.
“Bhutan has been described as an ecological wonder of the eastern Himalayas. Even as the world mourns the loss of its ecology, this small Himalayan Kingdom is emerging as an example to the international community, with more than 72 % of its land still under forest cover and a great variety of rare plant and wildlife species,” an official from RMNP said.
For a long time, the park remained isolated due to security issues. In was only in the early 2000s that the park began to recover and focus on conservation. As a result, very little is known about the park to the outside world.
With the aim to enhance and build sustainable tourism opportunities in the park, the first ever ecotourism project was initiated in October 2010 with financial and technical assistance from WWF UK. Since this project was the first of its kind, basic infrastructure was required.
“The first five eco-camps are currently being constructed in Gomphu range office, Panthang Geog center, Panbang, Norbugang and Shilingtoe villages. Each campsite was chosen carefully, keeping in mind distance from other camps and their strategic location,” the RMNP official added.
While some campsites overlook the picturesque view of the Mangdechhu, others capture the scenic beauty of the surrounding villages and the luscious forests below.
The camps are being built either on government leased property or on secured community land. The construction of all the five campsites are in full swing and expected to be complete soon.
The project has also stressed on using mostly locally available materials like wood and bamboo to reduce cost and maintain the traditional and aesthetic look to the park.
Additional sources say each campsite will have 3-4 rooms, kitchen with dining and bathroom facilities. The visitors will also have the option of camping outdoors.
In addition to the con- struction of the campsites, several local school dropouts have been identified as guides and trained to follow professional guiding guidelines. Cooks have also been trained according to professional cooking and serving standards, the report states.
This ecotourism initiative will not only help communities earn additional income from various services but will also seek to gain their cooperation towards environmental conservation activities planned for Manas in the future.
Many villagers anticipate that the project will generate new income avenues thereby reducing their direct dependence on forest resources.
Several villagers have also committed to support the project by providing visitors diverse recreational options like water sports, fishing, birding, wildlife viewing.
The visitors may also gain cultural and everyday life experiences by participating in local festivals, bamboo weaving and harvesting oranges among others.
In terms of international cooperation, India’s Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve just had its World Heritage “in danger” status removed this past month and plans to carefully develop the wildlife sanctuary as an sustainable and an unique tourist destination.
Additional sources claimed that the two parks can now work together to provide and promote more ecotourism opportunities in the region.
Ecotourism in Bhutan plays a very important role in order to sustain our natural environment and keep the targeted forest areas that are.
The Manas park boasts of having around 58 species of mammals, 430 species
of birds, and 900 species of vascular plants.
This park is home to some rare and endangered species like the Royal Bengal Tiger, rhinos, the Asiatic elephants and the golden langur which is known to inhabit the park.