Supporting Local Communities Through Ecotourism
With its spectacular mountains and remote villages where time seems to stand still, Nepal is the perfect destination for ecotourism. Defined by the International Ecotourism Society as: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”, ecotourism offers visitors the opportunity of learning about the ancient history and culture of Nepal directly from local villagers, while at the same time contributing to the economy of areas that have few, if any, other opportunities for development.
There are a number of tour operators that offer ecotourism as an adventure option for visitors to Nepal, one of which is Dolma Ecotourism based in the landlocked country’s vibrant capital city – Kathmandu. Dolma Ecotourism was established in 2003 by Tsering Lama in partnership with the Dolma Development Fund to promote ecotourism which benefits both the visitors and villagers. Profits made by Dolma Ecotourism are shared with the Dolma Development Fund, which works with local communities to maintain and promote their culture while alleviating poverty through initiatives such as ecotourism and other local entrepreneurial projects. Education is high on the list of priorities for the Dolma Development Fund and visitors booking a Nepali adventure with Dolma Ecotourism will be sponsoring a child’s schooling for a year without any extra cost to themselves. Visitors can meet the child they are sponsoring and follow his or her progress in the months ahead.
Taking place over a fourteen day period, tour dates for 2014 run from February to June and September to December. While tours are structured to meet the needs and preferences of the group, a typical itinerary starts with a tour of Kathmandu and includes many of the top tourist attractions and landmarks, such as the Monkey Temple, Durbar Square and Kopan Monastery. Much of the following day is taken up with travelling to Syabru Bensi through the picturesque Himalayan foothills and villages. The villages along the way are home to ethnic groups such as Newar and Tamang, while Syabru Bensi and the other villages along the trekking route are home to Kerung Tibetans.
After trekking at a leisurely pace from Syabru Bensi, visitors will spend the night at Bridim with the following day being devoted to exploring the region, learning some basic phrases in the local dialogue and trying a hand at some local crafts, as well as practicing meditation with the resident lama. A six hour walk on the following day leads to the village of Sedang on the Tibetan border before heading back to Bridim where trekkers will meet the Shaman.
The Trail from Bridim to Godekang winds its way through dense forests along an ancient yak herder path to above the tree line where the view of some of the Himalaya’s highest peaks is breathtaking. Animals that may be spotted along the way include yaks, monkeys, bears and red pandas. From Godekang the route continues to Pansang at an altitude of 4500m before taking a steep downhill path back to Bridim. Before heading back to Kathmandu, trekkers will have a chance to explore the Bridim Bazaar and buy some beautifully crafted souvenirs to take back home as a reminder of their visit to Nepal and the remarkable work being done by the Dolma Development Fund.