The state of Odisha with its rich natural and cultural heritage is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the country. The tourists, who know Odisha for its temples, crafts and dance, deserve greater exposure to its hinterland of hills, forest and wildlife. Well-endowed with vast forest areas, rivers, coast line, beaches, lakes and lagoon, the state provides unique opportunities for ecotourism in the state.

Odisha has about 31% of its land covered with forests, supporting around 86 species of Mammals, 473 species of birds, 110 species of Reptiles, more than 3000 species of Plants including 132 species of orchids, 60 species of Mangrove Plants and 350 species of Medicinal Plants. The rich biodiversity of the state is conserved mainly through a network of protected areas comprising 2 National Parks and 18 Sanctuaries. This network is complemented by wilderness areas, wetlands and other bio diverse sites along the coasts including mangroves and turtle rookeries. Elephants, tigers, leopards, blackbucks, crocodiles, Olive ridley turtles, Irrawaddy dolphins and migratory birds provide special attraction to the tourists.

Ecotourism, distinguished from other forms of tourism in terms of its minimal impact on the visited areas, is defined as: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people.” (TIES, 1991) Ecotourism offers an opportunity to showcase the state’s unique natural and associated cultural heritage to visitors while enhancing the livelihood options for the local people.

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