Bhubaneswar: The cool climes, surrounding green hills and the gurgle of the river at a distance, silence reigns here and so the feeling of oneness with nature. Lounging in one corner of the beautifully-crafted cottages on a lazy evening or walking down the unbeaten tracks of the Koraput valley in Odisha, Desia, the socially responsible tourism, promises an experience of the tribal heartland which will surely remain etched on your heart forever.
This community-centric ecotourism initiative by young entrepreneur Yugabrata Kar has been weaved around the life of the tribal community, their rituals, livelihood, festivals and crafts.
“Desia is a dream, a story and an experiment. Sometimes, it is also a challenge. It is an attempt to exploit the tourism potential of the place without spoiling its pristine beauty while providing alternative livelihood options to the local community. The experiment: Whether tourism could be a tool to empower and preserve tribal culture,” he said.
The challenges, he said, are lack of trained human resource available locally and remoteness of the place, besides making it sustainable.
It has been four years since this initiative took roots in a four acre area of the valley, having been conceived long back by Kar during his numerous trips to these sleepy hamlets.
“The experience cannot be put down in words. One has to come here and experience the scenic beauty and the lively tribal life,” Kar said.
The entire facility, which includes modern amenities and spacious rooms decorated with local handicrafts and traditional tribal motifs, is being managed by locals who were also engaged to design it.
He is planning to promote traditional handicrafts and jewellery, which could be sold to tourists. “We are running a pre-school and channelising youth volunteers to keep the villages clean. Awareness is being created in local markets against use of polythene bags,” he said.
Kar is also pitching Desia as a learning centre for sustainable tourism. “We will be hosting a few students from the US in January. They will be studying the local haats,” he said.
Most tourists visiting Desia are foreigners. “We are receiving 100 to 150 guests annually and 80% of them are foreigners. People from Bhawanipatna and Andhra Pradesh are slowly opting for Desia as holiday destination,” he said.
People visiting the place are served tribal cuisines such as mandia jau (ragi gruel), baunsa kardi sabji and desi chicken. They can also learn to play the tribal instruments, shake a leg with tribal women performing Dhemsa and try their hand at farming with Mali tribes, famous for their farming skills, besides trekking, camping, hiking and cycling on the tranquil terrain.
A trip down the local haat is equally appetizing. At Machkund, 6 km from Desia, is the beautiful Duduma waterfall and not very far away, the Kolab dam.
The beauty of the valley and the simple yet colourful life of tribals beckon you!