After beaches, backwaters and massages, Kerala is offering tourists a night deep in the forest with members of the local Kani tribe.

“Vanavasam” (forest stay), the latest tourism lure of Kerala, is becoming a hit, says M.A. Altaf, Head of new travel and tour company Vyomayan Holidays.

The scheme was launched in the forests of Thiruvananthapuram district and is now spreading to the forests in Wayanad and Idukki districts, said Altaf, former country manager of a leading international airline.

“This tourism product is the outcome of team work by the State-owned Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) and Pugmark, an organisation of retired senior forest department officials,” Altaf told IANS.

“We are the facilitators between the tourists and these two organisations. Our role is to get the tourists. Then the two organisations will take over the tourists to give a unique experience deep inside the forests, mingling with the tribes there.” Altaf added.

The first destinations in the package are the forests in Kottoor and Arippa, each about 50 km from this State capital.

“Tourists have an option of either staying in the rooms of the KFDC. Or they can stay in tents. Those who opt for a night package are treated to the cultural programmes of the local tribes. The local cuisine is served and the tourists can choose their food because we have a cook at our beck and call,” said Altaf.

There are various add-ons. Those interested in exploring the flora and fauna are free to do so. There is an expert accompanying the tourists who holds classes in bird watching and wildlife, besides the butterflies which are in profusion in the area.

“We are not looking into margins and our business model in this eco-tourism product is a win-win situation for all the players. Our prime concern is protection of the environment besides the upliftment of the tribal community and value for money for the tourists,” said Altaf.

The success of the first destination has prompted the firm to go into the forests near Munnar and Wayanad and similar packages are now ready there.

“This is a product for nature lovers only and not for every tourist who arrives in our state. And we want it to be that way because only the real nature lover will enjoy this,” added Altaf.

There are day-long packages and one-night-two-day packages that cost between Rs.1,700 and Rs.3,300 per head.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

Keywords: KeralatourismKFDCKani tribe