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A cascade of opportunity

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Think waterfalls and the first image that comes to mind is probably that of the Niagara Falls. For Canada its one of its strongest brand recalls and a tourism product that brings in the revenues. It’s a destination in itself, with hotels, entertainment, concerts and more are being developed around this extremely powerful tourism hub. From family to honeymooners, the tourism authorities have tapped on the potential of promoting the Niagara Falls brilliantly and have continued to invest in the region’s natural phenomenon and convert it into a business bonanza. Tina Singh, assistant vice president, Canadian Tourism Commission, India confirms that fact that, “The City of Niagara Falls has been synonymous with tourism in Canada for years- providing visitors with an array of attractions, fine accommodations and shopping venues that complement the keystone of country’s tourism industry – the magnificent Niagara Falls. The region continues to capitalise on global trends, including destination experiences, themed excursions, exploration, adventure and recreational sports. Notably, as per a government report, the Falls are visited by 90 per cent of all travellers to the region and are Canada’s largest attraction with up to 105,000 people per day. The Canadian Tourism Commission has been banking on the various attractions that tell Niagara’s story by showcasing its local history, heritage, culture, nature, produce, wine and cuisine. Interestingly, Niagara is not only well-known for the Horseshoe Falls, but is also visited for its arts and culture and food and wine and is also expanding its capacity for conventions.”

Venezuela too has its very own Angel Falls, while the Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil is also a tourism destination in itself. The Victoria Falls bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe too brings in tourism to the region. Apart from America and Africa, Asia too has its share of its picturesque waterfalls and India with its unique landscape and geographic diversity has its jar full with its scenic and naturally designed waterfalls. From the Dudhsagar waterfalls in Goa, Chitrakoot falls in Chattisgarh, Jog falls in Karnataka to Nohsngithiang waterfall in Meghalya, these are just a brief showcase of what India has to offer in terms of waterfall tourism. There are over 50 waterfalls in India that can be easily identified, while there are a host of scenic falls that are tucked away from public eye.

Monsoons add to the scenic beauty of most waterfalls and makes it attractive for tourists to explore the unique sights and sounds. Waterfall holidays are by and large seasonal, providing a fascinating experience during the monsoons. They offer an interesting ‘close to nature’ niche tourism experience. It proves to be an attractive site to explore by nature lovers, trekkers, educationalists, etc. Waterfalls getaways serve as interesting weekend getaways, or day picnics, etc, as well.

Hector D’souza

Hector D’souza, president, L’orient Travels, feels that Sahyadris in Maharashtra, the Western Ghats stretching from Maharashtra to Kerala and the lower Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Kashmir have spectacular waterfalls in scenic surroundings. Monsoons bring into fore interesting waterfall getaways from Mumbai. D’souza adds, “The Chinchoti waterfalls in Tungareshwar, outstanding falls on hilly slopes of Khandala, Lonavala, trekking route to Matheran and off the beaten spot in Kothaligarh and Karnala are worth exploring. Southern Karnataka and northern Kerala have their own share of amazing natural waterfalls. Jog Falls in Karnataka brings in visitors from different parts of India, though there are restrictions on days when they can be viewed by tourists. Other important falls that come to mind are Athirapally Falls in Kerala, Kempty Falls in Mussorie and Abby Falls in Coorg.”

Trekker Pravin Shinde’s picks in Maharahstra
Chinchoti – Vasai, Mumbai

Ashok Falls – Bhandardara

Malshej Ghat – close to Mumbai

Parasdhari – Karjat, close to Mumbai

Azobagad – Asangoan east, family picnic 60 km from Mumbai, potential for tourism explored, one can build a resort and some facility

Sagargad in Alibag

Randha Falls near Bandhardhara around 100 km from Mumbai,

Tamini Ghat on the way Pune Goa highway at Mangaon

Selling the Falls

Suman Billa

India is known to house some world class tourism products both natural and man made but positioning and highlighting these unique products can be sometimes rather questionable. There is only moderate amount of work being done to promote, project or position the waterfall attractions in Indian states. Most state tourism boards have agreed to the tourism potential of this natural resource and that it can work well as a successful tourism product for the destination. Sharing his view on the potential, Suman Billa, secretary, Kerala Tourism says, “Kerala has a number of small and big waterfalls scattered across the state. Some of them like Athirapally Vazhachal (Falls), Palaruvi and Tusharagiri are already very popular among tourists. What makes Kerala’s waterfalls fascinating is their scenic setting – which becomes even more beautiful in the monsoons. Some of the waterfalls, Athirapally in particular, have been used as locations for films and photo shoots. They have the potential to become successful tourism product.” The Meenmutty Falls, Kerala is also worth exploring in the state.

Nikhil Desai

Goa too has its share of waterfall splendours. According to Nikhil Desai, director – Goa Tourism, “The Dudhsagar waterfalls, Arvalem waterfalls and Bamanbudo waterfalls are safe to visit during the monsoons. However, the road route to Dudhsagar is closed till September but one can go by train. Goa has much more to offer than just the beaches. It’s especially beautiful during monsoon from June to September, when nature flourishes, the rain brings refreshment and romance, and Goa takes on a more traditional flavour. This is definitely the best time of year to visit the waterfalls.”

Chandana Khan

The tourism department of Andhra Pradesh has listed their top 10 falls namely Ethipothala falls; Akasha Ganga Falls; Talakona Falls; Kailasakona Falls; Mallelatheertham Falls; Kuntala Falls; Pochera Falls; Ubbalamadugu Falls (Tada Falls); Kaigal Falls and Rampachodavaram Falls. They have also confirmed that they are safe places to travel during the monsoons. Chandana Khan, IAS – special chief secretary to Government of Andhra Pradesh, Youth Advancement, Tourism & Culture Department and chairperson and managing director, Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) adds, “With more than 10 waterfalls, Andhra Pradesh is blessed with natural beauty thanks to the presence of Eastern Ghats, Sheshachalam Hills and Nallamali Hills in the state to have these wonderful sights. While promoting these waterfalls is definitely on our minds, what we consider our advantage is that these waterfalls are also located near some important tourist spots, like the waterfall in Arakku Valley, the Talakona and Kailasakona near Tirupati and Akasa Ganga Falls near Tirumala or even Ethipotla Falls near Nagarjuna Sagar and Mallelatheertham near Srisailam and Kuntala waterfalls near Nirma,l etc.”

Raghwendra Singh

Madhya Pradesh too aims to promote the waterfalls of the state. Chachai Falls, which is in Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh at the edge of the Chitrakoot Hills, a part of the Kaimur Range, the Keoti Falls on the Mahana River and the Purwa Falls are worth exploring in the state. There is a waterfall route map to reach these falls namely Rewa-Sirmour-Chachai Falls route and the Rewa-Sirmour-Bahuti Falls route. “Madhya Pradesh is embellished with many beautiful waterfalls like Dhuandhar in Jabalpur, Raneh near Khajuraho, Patalpani near Indore and Pachmari has a number of waterfalls,” says Raghwendra Singh, MD, Madhya Pradesh Tourism. He further adds that poets call the waterfalls ruphela dhuan (silver smoke).

Sandeep Dayal

Interestingly there are few private players that have identified this niche tourism product and are making efforts to promote waterfall holidays in India. Yusuf Poonawala, VP-Bharat Deko, Cox & Kings mentions that some of the popular places for waterfall holidays promoted by the company are Kerala, Goa, Ladakh, Leh, Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand, Konkan region, Ooty, Kodaikanal.” He further adds, “As summer comes to an end, the monsoons begin and with it comes a segment of travellers who take a holiday only to escape the stress of the city. This is after all the ideal time to see nature in its best shade of green. Takers for monsoon holidays include DINKs, couples with older kids, young executives, all of who can get leave now.” The north east of India too has its share of waterfall wealth which undoubtedly has remained untapped just like the region. Sandeep Dayal, director, Go India Journeys, feels that Shillong and the Khasi area have some fantastic waterfalls to be explored for the domestic clients. He also feels that it is time the state tourism boards woke up to yet another unique tourism potential which has been well tapped globally. He opines, “We surely need to learn to market our products better which are truly world class. There are waterfalls in India which are great for families to enjoy and explore. We can surely promote it in a better way, developing necessary infrastructure for tourists and tourism in general. Souvenirs can also be designed and promoted of the iconic falls in the state. The options are vast and one needs to tap it right.”

Nikhil Desai, Director – Goa Tourism, picks three major waterfalls in Goa
Dudhsagar waterfalls – 10 kms from Colem Railway Station, these majestic falls are accessible by train. Water plummets hundreds of feet in a milky foam in one of Goa’s most spectacular sights which is also a lifeline to the ecosystem of the Bhagwan Mahavir sanctuary. A popular destination for hikers and trekkers, the waterfall is also accessible by jeep through the sanctuary. However, one needs to obtain permission in advance from the Department of Forests at Junta House, Panaji.

Arvalem waterfalls – Descending from the temple of Rudreshwar, one catches sight of a majestic waterfall cascading from a height of about 70 ft to form a sizeable lake at the bottom—a tempting sight to seasoned swimmers. It is in its full glory during the monsoon season.

Bamanbudo waterfalls – One of the most beautiful waterfalls located in Canacona. Bamanbudo waterfall flows down along the rocks looking more like a waterslide than a waterfall before disappearing into the undergrowth. The Bamanbudo happens to flow by the roadside and is very easily accessible. Since the water mass does not fall but slides down the rocks, there is no well at the bottom and bathing is fun though due to the force of the water, however one needs to be little cautious. Besides this one other streams gurgling down the slopes, churning out white foam amidst the green canopy makes the landscape a rather charming one.

Developing infrastructure

Sudhir Patil

For tourism to be well organised and to further explore the waterfall potential to the fullest there has to be infrastructure facilities in place. Sudhir Patil, director, VeenaWorld agrees that waterfall tourism is definitely a unique experience and a perfect weekend getaway option especially during the monsoons but he feels this sector of tourism is highly unorganised. “It is crucial for the state along with the locals and the Panchayat in the area to provide tourists with basic facilities such as changing rooms, sanitation facilities, accommodation and food service. It is a revenue generating opportunity but it needs to be handled in a responsible and respectable fashion,” he says. Dayal adds that at important waterfall destinations namely the famous Jog Falls in Karnataka, just have a rest house type accommodation option.

Chinmay Divekar

Dabhosa Waterfalls in Maharashtra close to Mumbai is all the more attractive during the monsoons and has accommodation facilities provided by Nature Trails, a private resort company. Chinmay Divekar, director, Nature Trails says, “Dabhosa Waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Maharashtra. It is one of the very few waterfalls which is perennial. The crater shaped bowl into which the waterfall cascades and the lake at the bottom of the waterfall is truly a spectacular sight for the urbanites. Our camp consists of 10 rooms overlooking the waterfall and two large dormitories. There is a dining area and full service kitchen. It is crucial to provide basic infrastructure at tourism spots to ensure a safe and family oriented tourism experience.”

More To Explore
1) Umbrella Falls -Maharashtra
2) Kune Falls -Maharashtra
3) Bhimlat Falls -Rajasthan
4) Dasam Falls – Jharkhand
5) Lodh Falls – Jharkand
6) Khandadhar Falls – Orissa
7) Duduma Falls – Orissa
8) Papanasam Waterfall – Tamil Nadu
9) Courtallam Waterfall – Tamil Nadu
10) Thalaiyar Falls -TamilNadu
11) Hogenakkal Waterfall – Tamil Nadu
12) Dhuandhar Waterfall – MP
13) Barachukki Falls – Karnataka
14) Kunchikal Falls – Karnataka
15) Shivasamudram Falls – Karnataka
16) Cauvery Falls, Karnataka
17) Barkana Falls –Karnataka
18) Iruppu Falls –Karnataka
19) Meenmutty Falls – Kerala
20) Soochippara Falls – Kerala
21) Vantawng Falls – Mizoram
22) Bhagsu Waterfall – Mcleodganj
23) Chunnu Summer falls – West Bengal
24) Kempty Falls – Mussorie
25) Rajdari Waterfall – UP
26) Vantawng Khawhthla –Mizoram
27) Nohkalikai Falls – Meghalaya
28) Langshiang Falls – Meghalaya
29) Nohsngithiang Waterfall –Meghalaya
30) Elephant Falls – Meghalaya

Safety and security

Yusuf Poonawala

Since this sector is rather unorganised in India and yet not well defined in terms of infrastructure facilities, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make waterfalls tourism friendly. Seasonal waterfalls should provide temporary facilities for visitors to make it more family oriented in terms of a tourism experience. Sensitive and sensible tourism needs to be practised in these areas which are extremely close to nature. Singh adds, “Madhya Pradesh Tourism is trying to facilitate tourists coming to visit the waterfalls for weekend getaways and is aiming to construct railings to ensure safety of tourists.” It is vital to check all details of the waterfalls such as depth, currents, etc, irrespective whether the falls are perennial or seasonal. For example, as per sources, the Ghatarani Falls in Chhatisgarh is dangerous during the monsoons but is safe to visit during the other seasons. The government authorities also need to send out warning notices regarding safety and security at the falls. Chandana Khan shares her word of caution, “In case there are heavy floods then we (obviously) advise people to refrain from visiting these areas.” D’souza further emphasises, “While the better recognised waterfall locations have an element of safety in the form of written instructions pasted at prominent places, lesser known waterfalls have minimum level of safety standards, because of a number of reasons ranging from their temporary presence during the rains and unpredictability of the monsoons.

Pravin Shinde

Waterfalls are protected areas and nature havens that need to be respected and its sanctity maintained. Clear rules and regulations need to be put into action to avoid any anti-social activities such as eve teasing, misbehaviour at tourism spots. Pandavkada Falls close to Mumbai has been temporarily closed to the public due to such incidences. D’Souza adds, “The most important aspect that needs to be factored is monitoring crowd behaviour and discouraging visitors from consuming narcotic or intoxicating substances when visiting these falls. Besides eve teasing which tends to be visible, needs to be controlled in order to heighten memorable experiences at these truly magnificent sites.” Pravin Shinde, founder Swarajyawata Group in Mumbai, a trekking group in Maharashtra, strongly feels that these spots need to be clear about people who spoil the very essence of nature by littering and making it repulsive for family tourists. The presence of tourism police in these areas is the need of the hour. Fun should be in sync with responsibility.

(With inputs from Sudipta Dev and Steena Joy)