SUBJECT : Okharey Eco-Tourism Festival 


Report written byPrabhakar Gurung - Information Officer ENVIS ‘RP’ on Ecotourism, Sikkim.

Okharey is an idyllic hamlet nestled inside the green landscape of the Eastern Himalayan foothills of West Sikkim, mainly inhabited by the well known Himalayan tribe the “Sherpas”. The diverse flora and fauna, symbiotic living of the local community and their traditions and rituals, trekking routes with the majestic view of Mt. Khangchendzonga and the delightful homestay makes it a most memorable visit for all eco-tourist visiting Sikkim.

Okharey is a tribal Village nestled in the West District of the Sikkim in Eastern Himalayas of India. The Okhrey takes pride in its natural beauty manifested by the Green landscape dotted with perennial streams and lush green forests, picturesque villages, natives in traditional dresses, indigenous architecture and the responsible and welcoming community added to the natural attractions of the village, making it one of the newly offbeat tourist destination in West Sikkim, India.

Inaugurated by - Shri.  T. W Lepcha, Minister, Forest and Wildlife

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

The Wildlife West Division of Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim is organised the 2nd Ecotourism Festival at Okhrey, West Sikkim from 23rd to 25th March 2018. The 2nd OKHREY ECO-TOURISM FESTIVAL organised by the Forest Department  was formally inaugurated by Shri.  T. W Lepcha, Minister, Forest and Wildlife. The eco-tourism festival was three days long event starting from 23rd March till 25th March.

Tribal people presenting Traditional Dance

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

The festival showcased all the traditional and cultural events along with various ethnic cuisines. Shri. T. W. Lepcha praised the wildlife division, West Sikkim for their commendable work in terms of conservation and Wildlife protection. He also encouraged traditional food stall owners to briefly explain how each cuisine is brought to the serving plate, so that guests/tourists can have a better understanding regarding the preparation process.

(TOP)Traditional handicrafts made by locals, (BOTTOM) Traditional Tamang food stall.

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

He also mentioned that Okhrey Ecotourism zone is a truly blessed area with abundance of flora and fauna waiting to be discovered. Suggestions for construction of eco huts for self-help groups were also mentioned during the function.

Hon’ble Minister also pointed out that from now on the local residents would be given full charge and responsibility to organise similar events in future as the first and second Okhrey Ecotourism festival was facilitated by Forest Department. He also mentioned in his speech that a sum of Rs. 50, 000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs. 4 lakh will be given for people bearing minor, major and death relating from wild animal attacks.

The festival was also attended by Shri. D. N. Sherpa, MLA Smt. Devika Subba, Adhakshya, C. S. Rao (CWLW/APCCF) and Udai Gurung (CF wildlife) along with other forest officials and local dignitaries.

Okharey ecotourism zone is located in the West District of Sikkim. SBFP had identified two EDC’s namely UPPER OKHAREY EDC and RIBDI EDC as focal points for all the ecotourism related development in the area. Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary acts as the core ecotourism feature of this zone with cultural features especially associated with communities belonging to diverse ethnic groups who are living in the adjoining villages in Okharey and Ribdi-Bareng GPU’s.

Mr. Prabhakar Gurung – Information Officer, enquiring about the activities that would take place during the Eco-Tourism Festival.

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

The festival was attended by ENVIS (RP) Eco-tourism staff so that they could gain firsthand knowledge and practical exposure to all that ecotourism has to offer. The main focus of the festival was on the ecotourism activities which are gaining popularity these days. The major activities that were available were Cycling, Horse Riding, Village Walk, Bird Watching and Trekking. 

Organic vegetables and Handicrafts presented by the Locals.

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

On the first day (23.03.2018) the festival kick started with an array of cultural dances and performances by various local artists who wanted to display their local culture to the visiting guests.

Traditional Food stall of Chettri-Bahun (Nepali Community) presented in Traditional Attire.

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

In addition to that there were various stalls that offered tourists with local drinks and food from various cultures of that region. One of the most popular drinks was locally made wine from ‘Guras’ or Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron (Guras)

Horse Riding around the village.

Photo by – Niraj Sharma 

On the second day (24.03.2018) all the activities were open to tourists who had pre registered for taking part in different activities like trekking, horse riding etc. 

Bicycles in stock for Cycling event.

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

There was a cycling competition on the second day that was very interesting as locals and tourists took part in it. The lush green forests of okharey ecotourism zone make it an ideal spot for bird watching and photography. Birds like blak bulbul (Local: Kake), Broad Billed Wabbler (Local: Fista), Blue Wistling Thrush (Local: Kalchura), Green Backed Tit (Local: Chiching Kotey) and some seasonal birds can be seen in these forests.

Bird Watching in the Village of Okharey.

Photo by – Niraj Sharma

Apart from bird watching the Okharey Ecotourism Zone is a good place for photography and nature walks. The festival had village walk as a part of its ecotourism activities. Many tourist took part in the activities like horse riding, bird watching and village walks. On the third day (25.03.2018) there was a closing ceremony for the festival and some local artists performed as the 2nd Okharey Ecotourism Festival 2018 came to its conclusion.

The event was covered by ENVIS ‘RP’ on Eco-Tourism Staffs.

Report written by - Prabhakar Gurung - Information Officer, ENVIS RP Eco-Tourism

Photography by – Niraj Sharma - IT officer, ENVIS RP Eco-Tourism

Source: ENVIS RP on Ecotourism