With the start of a walking safari by the forest dept, tourists can now explore the lush green forests of the region
Bhimashankar in Pune dis trict, famous for its Shiva temple, where hundreds of tourists throng to offer their prayers, also possesses lush green forests, which remain unexplored by visitors. In an attempt to attract people to this region, the forest department has for the first time started a walking safari the same way safaris on a jeep have gained popularity in many tiger reserves. Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests, Pune Wildlife Division, said, “So far, tourists have visited the temple or a few trekking enthusiasts have been interested in going for hikes but, others who don’t trek have not been exploring the forest that much. Therefore, this is an attempt to show them what this forest is like. We will have four trails spanning across two, four, six and 10 kilometres so that people have options. A guide will accompany them to show the tourists around and also watch over them.“The forest is known for its flagship species Indian Giant Squirrel, which is frequently seen in the area. Besides, the forest is also home to deer, hyenas and a few leopards. In addition, numerous interesting flora, including medicinal plants, can be found in this forest. These walking trails will also have information boards, which will be put up after the rainy season.
“In the initial stages, the locals who know Marathi will be able to dispense information in the language. For English, people will have to rely on the boards which will contain detailed facts. Later on, these guides can be trained to speak in English as well. We have set up tents in Ahupe village where tourists can stay for now but, they will have to register at our centre for going on the trails,“ Limaye added.
Environmentalists working in the field of ecotourism are of the opinion that this effort will not only help in monitoring the forest, but also engage locals in conservation since it can generate a livelihood for them. “It is very important to have such trails or else people illegally enter certain areas with malicious intentions. The only ferocious animals there are some Leopards, which have never attacked people in a group,“ said Anirudh Chaoji, director of Pugmarks, a wildlife and adventure company.
Echoing the same, Shekhar Nanajkar of Wild Outdoors, an organisation promoting adventure tourism, said, “At present, the area is frequented, not for nature but religious tourism. In such ventures, the forest management plays a major role through strict monitoring to ensure no laws are broken.“
Source : Mirror