When one thinks of Goa, it is images of beaches, churches, the Carnival and so on that one conjures up. This is the usual advertising sold to tourists. However, in doing so, much of Goa’s natural and historical heritage is missed out on by those who travel to this tiny but vibrant state. Having rightly gauged the situation, a section of Goans are experimenting with hinterland eco-tourism in Dharbandora, South Goa.
The current trends in hinterland tourism together with the participation of locals are seeing rural tourism take root in Dharbandora. A group of farmers living here have begun to incorporate rural culture, nature trails, authentic Goan cuisine, homestays, etc as a part of rural tourism.
This new concept of rural tourism has experienced success in Tardem in Sakorda. A similar experiment is being carried out in the villages of Dabal and Kirlapal with the involvement of local farmers. Hinterland tourism is showing great potential here as well.
Along with Parag Rangnekar, who is a popular name in nature tourism, Dr Sachin Tendulkar has been actively implementing this model. The duo have received strong support from local farmers in Dharbandora.
Parag Rangnekar, a member of the Mineral Foundation Goa, said, ‘Tourists are being shown authentic rural Goa and along with the village groups – rivers, local trees, animals, birds, different customs of the villages, cultural festivals, etc.’
This tourism-related activity is being carried out by Bramhani Swayamseva Group organised and run by local farmers at Tardem, Sakorda. Besides this 21 farmers have come and formed an organisation called Dabal Farmers Self Help Group to carry forward the activities in Dabal.
Rangnekar said that this concept of rural tourism at Dabal is currently in its nascent stage. Both these projects have received the support of the Mineral Foundation.
When asked about the motive behind the experimentation in the villages, Rangnekar said that they want to sell the true Goan experience to tourists.
Stereotypical tourism in Goa is not drawing quality tourists. ‘But if we try to promote genuine rural Goa and its beauty, then surely good high-spending tourists will come to experience real Goa here,’ said Rangnekar.
Meanwhile, Dr Tendulkar said, ‘We have a dual intention to show the authentic rural Goa to the tourists who know nothing about Goa other than beaches and temples, and also to benefit the local farmers and increase their income through this initiative.’
He further said that 21 agriculturists on the banks of the River Uddh will be brought together, and their group will be used for the development of rural tourism.
Apart from being shown the different types of trees in kulagars (tree plantations), the tourists are informed about their use and importance. Then the tourists are taken on a kayaking trip on the River Uddh. Here they are informed about the fish, animals and birds on the banks of the river. These tourists will also be able to enjoy authentic Goan village food.
Earlier, Ranganekar and Tendulkar conducted a similar experiment in Verlem, a village in the Netravali Sanctuary, now known as Strawberry Village. Under this concept, some houses in the village were converted into homestays for tourists. Even at that time, the concept of rural participation was at the forefront. Now the same experiment has been started in Dharbandora.
As a part of this rural tourism, Dr Tendulkar's group organised the Kulagar (tree plantations) Festival at Dabal four months ago. On this occasion, products from the plantations were put up for sale. These were purchased quite quickly by tourists.