The eco tourism activities were initiated in the PA during 2002-03. The programmes offered as part of eco – tourism include trekking programmes and night halt programmes. These programmes are operated by professional EDC groups which were formed from the tribal EDC’s exclusively for eco tourism operations. The programmes are designed and operated so as to reduce stake holder pressure on the Protected Area by providing alternate employment to dependent community members. It is also designed to provide for presence of protection personnel in sensitive areas as a deterrent to offences.
Presently three Professional EDC groups are functioning in the PA. They are Champakkad Tribal Trekkers EDC, Eachampetty TTEDC and Alampetty TTEDC. Eco tourism activities are operated from two points, at Chinnar which is the entry point to the sanctuary from the Tamilnadu side and at Alampetty about 8 Km from Marayoor Town. The
programmes offered at Chinnar includes visit to watch tower, river side trekking along Chinnar river, Trekking to Churulipetty and night halt at tree top machans and log houses. At Alampetty trekking to Thoovanam water falls and stay at log houses are offered as part of eco tourism activities.
Infrastructure for Eco – tourism activities:
- IB and dormitory at Chinnar.
- Amenity centre at Chinnar – functions as dormitory, refreshment centre, information centre etc.
- Log houses at Koottar, Churulipetty, Pambar, Thoovanam
- Tree top machan at Karakkad, Koottar
- Vasyapara camp shed.
The programme is functioning in a benefit sharing manner. The salaries to the guides are based on the income generated through the various activities. A part of the income is set aside for community development activities.
The tribes functioning as guides were given a basic training during the initial stages of the programme. Apart from that their only training is limited to exposure from visits to other eco tourism centers within the state. The knowledge and skill level of the guides need to be improved by providing suitable training so that they along with earning their livelihood can act as messengers of nature conservation and impart nature awareness to visitors.