Want a local, ethical, action-packed and lesser-seen view of the mountains and valleys of the Indian and Nepalese Himalayas?
In this much better 3-part feature we get under the skin of the northern Himalayas around Himachal Pradesh with Spiti Ecosphere, then trek through the North Eastern regions and the Neora Valley National Park with Help Tourism, and finally we go trekking and rafting in Nepal with Social tours.
Himalayan Adventures Part 2: North East India
Biologically, ethnically and religiously diverse, not to mention being the home of tea, North Eastern India is a stunning and fascinating region to explore. Trekking in the Himalayas, tiger, rhino and bird spotting in the National Parks and Reserves networks, elephant safaris, jungle lodges. Its all here, and Help Tourism have a wide variety of adventure and activity programs to help you take it on. Here is a taster of just some of the possibilities in the Sikkim area.
The Dzongri trek for example is undoubtedly the most spectacular trek in Sikkim. The 7 nday trail takes you through lush forest and breathtaking scenery, culminating at Dzongri, with panoramic views of the entire eastern Himalayas, including the eastern face of Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,534m), third highest in the world and one of the most magnificent majestic.
The 8 day Singhalia trek to Sandakphu meanwhile offers rare views of main Himalayan peaks – Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchandzonga. Staying at family run homestays and tea houses on the way, it also offers an excellent cultural encounter, and might appeal to those who dont fancy a week in a tent!
For nature and jungle lovers, the Neora Jungle Camp in Neora Valley National Park will appeal. This is one of the last remaining pristine ecosystems of the Eastern Himalayas, and is home to many rare and endangered plants, animals and birds. These include the Red Panda, a variety of Leopards, the Himalayan Black Bear, and Royal Bengal Tiger, 106 species of birds and a variety of colourful Wild Orchids.
The park is totally uninhabited, but easily explored from the community run jungle camp in Kolakham, which adjoins the national park, and has inspiring views overlooking Mount Kanchenjunga. From the camp, which blends local atmosphere and modern amenities, you can head out birding, on nature walks, jungle treks and to explore the local villages and traditions.
A similar project, Sunderbans Jungle Camp, will help you explore Sunderbans National Park, the UNESCO world heritage mangrove and tiger reserve of West Bengal.
Key facts:Best trekking seasons are March-May, Sept-November.
Bagdogra is the nearest international airport. Why ‘much better’?Help tourism have been at the vanguard of sustainable tourism initiatives in North East India for well over a decade, and all these programs are designed with specific sustainable development and conservation goals in mind. The organization has single-handedly implemented 26 Community Tourism projects in the remote forest and mountain villages of this region.
For example, the Neora Valley Jungle Camp was established with the aim of involving the fringe villagers in creating a community buffer for the Neora Valley National Park. The camp has since developed as a place where the unemployed youths of the village can learn the art of tourist handling and develop themselves as service providers.Find out more, and check out a growing range of their itineraries here.