The north east part of India is a fascinating land shrouded in mystery and many intriguing stories of the area and its various tribes. It’s known as the Seven Sisters comprising of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya. Now with Sikkim joining the North East India consists of 8 states.
The North East India on the one hand has the mighty Brahmaputra River and on the other, the Khangchendzonga peak. This region represents the traditional zone between the Indian, Indo-Malayan and Indo-Chinese bio-geographic regions making it the geographical gateway for much of India’s flora and fauna.
Piran Elavia of Kipepeo organises repsonsible trips to North East India and enabling them to experience the unspoilt richness of the region.
His quest to explore the beauty and mystery of the North East part of India and his love for travel led him to take a sabbatical in 2008 from his well-paying and secure job in an IT company.
The software professional researched for a few days and found an NGO called ‘The Mountain Institute’ in Sikkim. The Mountain Institute seeks to preserve mountain environments and advance mountain cultures by promoting worldwide partnerships that create innovative and sustainable solutions to global mountain problems. He decided to volunteer for ‘The Mountain Institute’ and thus got an opportunity to know the people of North East and learn about its culture. It was not for too long though. Elavia volunteered for just 2 months, but the work got him totally involved with the project.
Thoroughly satisfied with his volunteering work, he came back to Mumbai to say a final goodbye to his job and to shift base to the North East. He went back to volunteer for the Mountain Institute for another two months.
Elavia discovered while volunteering for Mountain Institute he met some people working on various projects in North East India, but the one he found most interesting was a project with the Bodo community in Assam.
Elavia continued working in the North East for close to two years gaining exposure in the area and local contacts. Finally, in 2010 he launched his own responsible tourism company called Kipepeo.
Kipepeo’s first objective as a responsible tourism company is to strive to build bridges between resources and needs, leisure and livelihoods, visitors and hosts in ways that are sustainable and beneficial to all. It has been involving the local communities actively in the tourism process, to assist them economically and socially. Secondly, Kipepeo’s objective is to highlight to the world this beautiful albeit mysterious region of India.
Kipepeo believes tourism must be the happy face of conservation. Elavia has borrowed the name ‘Kipepeo’ from an enterprise by the same name in Kenya that successfully bridged the divide between conservation and livelihood of the local populace.
Kipepeo offers tours in the North East in places such as Assam, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland. One can explore these places via treks and wildlife tours, caves in Meghalaya and home stays in Sikkim and Arunachal.
Right from the Bailey’s Trail in Arunachal, or be in Nagaland for the Hornbill festival and get up close and personal with the local people and culture in these places, Kipepeo offers them all.
Kipepeo offers both fixed departure tours as well as customized tours. The company currently operates through word of mouth publicity and engagement on social media. In the last three years, the company has had around 150 people taking these tours to various places in North East India.
KIPEPEO’S MULTI FACETED APPROACH FOR DEVELOPING A SUSTAINABLE TOURISM MODEL:
• Primarily using home-stays or community run lodges for accommodating visitors.
• Using local staff as guides, cooks and porters on all their treks and adventure expeditions.
• Buying local produce and using locally available renewable resources.
• Provide training to local people for tourism-related activities like guides, cooks, etc. and assisting locals in setting up home-stays.
• Educating and sensitizing all visitors to the cultural practices of the region.
• Working in locations which are relatively remote and unknown, so as to provide alternative livelihoods to the local communities.