Though things have changed from a decade or so ago when the Northeast barely figured even in the itineraries offered by commercial travel operators, many are still not aware of responsible tourism initiatives in the region. But, like any part of India with a rich history and prominent culture, there are plenty here. A good way to experience them is to get in touch with Kipepeo, which is a social enterprise associated with a pool of five homestays and NGOs located in remote parts of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The name means butterfly in Swahili, and it was started a few years ago by Piran Elavia, who took a sabbatical to work for the development of the region. It is inspired by a community-based enterprise of the same name located in coastal Kenya. There, locals preserve the forest, which rewards them with an abundance of butterfly pupae. These are then exported, and the resulting profit is shared among the villagers.
Kipepeo offers fixed tours and custom trips, primarily to the places where it has collaborations. This way, these grassroots organisations can welcome evolved travellers who help further their cause. It is also a great gateway to this culturally diverse part of the country. Visitors explore varied local communities, each with its own definitive past and the abundant biodiversity that defines the region.
A highlight among the fixed departure trips is a rhododendron trek, which will take place in Sikkim from April 15—22, 2018. Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in the state is known for its 13 species of the flower and a lovely view of the Kanchenjunga range. Kipepeo’s custom trips include a 12-day Nagaland tribal tour. Travellers get to explore villages of the Konyak tribe, which was once known for its headhunters, and the Angami tribe of southern Nagaland. Other key highlights are cultural performances, village walks and interactions with local artisans. For more information, call 91-9930002412 or visit kipepeo.in.