ADVENTURE TOURISM: Bikers to discover hill thrill – bringing in the world’s best ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY RAJEEV RAVIDAS
Kalimpong, Oct. 18: A 14-member team of cyclists from the US and Europe will embark on a mountain biking-cum-trekking through the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim that the organisers hope will eventually help in promoting adventure sport in the region.
The 10-day expedition will begin from Kurseong on Wednesday and end at Gangtok on October 29. The team will traverse about 450km on bicycles, taking a circuitous route through Darjeeling, Peling, Yuksam, Borang, Gangtok, Ravangla, Lachung and then again back to the Sikkim capital.
“The team members are all medically fit to make the trip. It will be an arduous journey. We are doing this in collaboration with Bob Thompson, who promotes cycling tours throughout the world,” said Norden Pempa Hishey, a founding member of Help Desk Tourism, a Kalimpong-based organisation, which is looking after the field operations of the expedition.
The Darjeeling hills and neighbouring Sikkim with its rugged terrain are well suited for mountain-biking, which is a popular adventure sport in the west.
“The idea of hosting the expedition is to promote the adventure sport of mountain-biking in the region. We believe the mountain-biking can form part of the adventure tourism in the region,” said Hishey.
Apart from trekking and climbing, not much is happening by way of adventure tourism in the region, even though many believe Darjeeling and Sikkim are suitable for river-rafting, paragliding and, of course, mountain-biking.
“There has been no serious attempt on the part of different government agencies to exploit the immense potential of the region vis-à-vis adventure tourism. Whatever little is happening is entirely because of initiatives by individuals,” said Prasanna Rai, a tourism stake-holder.
The DGHC did try to promote rafting on the Teesta, but not in an organised manner. In fact, rafting on the Teesta has remained suspended for close to five months after four persons drowned during a water ride earlier this year.
“The DGHC introduced the rafting on the Teesta, but did precious little to sustain it in a structured manner. As a result, many private operators with their eyes only on profit and without proper equipment and trained personnel came in, impeding the prospects of its growth,” said a rafting operator based in Teesta Bazar.
There has been a recent development with regard to paragliding. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation had, one month back, signed a memorandum of understanding to introduce paragliding in the hills.
Jungle ride boost for resorts – monopoly in place, now to reap its benefits at the costs of dwindling tourists ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, Oct. 18: Tourists staying in private resorts near Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary can now avail of elephant and car safaris for sight-seeing — the main attraction for the visitors to the Dooars.
Twelve lodges and three resorts have come up near the sanctuary in the past four years. But the boarders of these facilities could not avail themselves of the safaris as the forest department conducted the jungle rides only for tourists residing on government properties. As a result, the lodge owners’ business took a beating.
The forest department started taking a certain number of lodge boarders to the sanctuary on elephants and in cars from October 14.
“Tourists from different parts of the country as well as abroad visit the sanctuary for safaris. When they realise that we cannot offer them elephant and car rides, they go to some other places in the Dooars. Therefore, our business gets badly affected. We are really grateful to the divisional forest officer (of wildlife III division) for introducing a quota for our boarders,” said Biswajit Saha, the secretary of Jaldapara Lodge Owner’s Association.
He said a minimum of 16 boarders would be taken inside the forest on elephants and 72 persons in cars daily.
Omprakash, the DFO of wildlife III division, said: “The resort owners had been requesting me repeatedly to allow their boarders also to take the two safaris. We have added one more elephant and two cars for the rides. Both the safaris take place three times a day. Naturally, a large number of tourists will now start staying in private lodges and local people will be able to earn more money directly or indirectly.”