From numerous natural endowments to rich biodiversity to integrated and diversified cultural components, Sindh coast possesses every reason to become a popular tourist destination. Comprising the Indus Delta and Karachi Coast, the coastal region of Sindh covers an extensive area of approximately 350 kilometres.
The topography of the region is characterised by a network of tidal creeks, dense mangroves, which are dominated by dolphins, turtles and other fisheries, and various habitats for migratory birds. With such marvels of nature, which in turn holds a great potential for the tourism industry, it is crucial to promote “ecotourism” for exploring this untouched and pristine area.
Basically, ecotourism is a tourism channeled towards an ethical and responsible travel to exotic natural environments. It encompasses the exploration of nature’s ecological, historical and cultural treasures, while giving precedence to conservation efforts, minimal impact behaviour and travellers’ responsibility towards nature and local communities.
The main components of ecotourism are: to minimise the negative impacts on nature, stress upon the importance of environmental conservation and protection, channel revenues to management of natural resources and develop the infrastructure in harmony with the environment and local communities. Such features ensure that tourism does not compromise on the social and environmental limits of the residents.
The coastal area of Sindh holds great prospects for the ecotourism industry. With a number of creeks, accompanied with its unique and indigenous dominance of wildlife species and fisheries, Sindh coast is a major area of interest for many tourists and nature lovers. Ecotourism opportunities along the coast can be identified as either nature-based, adventure-based and culture-based attractions.
Nature-based ecotourism or geo-tourism involves tourists to experience the natural and wildlife features of coastal areas. For instance, it includes pristine lagoons, thick mangrove forests, dolphins and bird watching. Adventure-based ecotourism involves greater physical participation. It includes elements of danger, but usually safe. Examples of such adventures include boat riding and scuba diving. Culture-based ecotourism, or heritage tourism, is based on experiencing the material culture of art, traditional handicrafts, native dancing and exquisite cuisine.
Such is the immense potential of ecotourism in this coastal belt starting from Badin to Thatta and Karachi coast. I would like to briefly mention some of the key features of some selected sites lying on this coast.
Located in the delta of River Indus, Keti Bunder in Thatta district stretches over an area of 60,969ha. This small fishing settlement is known for its characteristic green and lush mangrove forests at Hajamro creek. These forests not only provide breeding grounds for fish and shrimps, but also are also a beautiful sight.
Being a habitat for various residents and migratory birds, presence of mangroves in the coastal waters provides a serene beauty of bird-sighting. Keti Bunder also gives an opportunity for adventure-based activities. Its exclusive boating and sailing trips offer attraction for many adventurous tourists. Its location is also ideal for boating competitions for thrill aspirants.
Various gatherings are held in the evening, where natives share their folklores and traditions. The view of different creeks and small settlements makes Keti Bunder a spectacular spot of camping. Sunrise and sunset along the coastal waters, accompanied with its distinct wildlife, provide an aesthetic location for photo enthusiasts.
Sandspit (Hawkes Bay) at Karachi also provides one of the greatest spots for nature lovers. It is an open seafront located 18 km south-west of Karachi and is a popular public beach. It offers a unique sight of the shores of Karachi coast where turtles of different species, like Green Turtle and Olive Ridley, are found.
Visitors can avail the opportunity of watching hundreds of turtles gathering ashore during their nesting season. Their movements in the sea unravel the beauty and serenity of the beach. Its accessibility from Karachi, through proper roads, makes it a feasible spot. It is because of this proximity with the city and a wide diversity of habitats that Sandspit is the second most visited beach along the coast.
Additionally, this place offers exhilarating services like camel and horse riding. The beach is also prominent for its mudflats, which birds of various species use as their breeding and feeding ground. Sandspit beach is also famous for providing a spectacular sighting of species like flamingos, pelicans, terns and gulls. Amid the refreshing landscape of saltpans and seashore, accompanied with indigenous wildlife, camel/horse riding, and even just strolling, become a rejuvenating experience.
Another attractive settlement of the Sindh coast, Rehri, is located in the Bin Qasim area on the west of Krongai creek. Dominated by fringes of thick and dense mangroves, the creek system offers an ideal place for crab fishing. One may capture a bucket full of crabs and enjoy the riveting experience of cooking and eating with family and friends.
These mangroves are also nesting and feeding grounds for various Siberian birds. Watching snowy white birds flying overhead and marine dolphins jumping in narrow waters make the traditional boat riding a mesmerising experience for tourists. Rehri is also rich in cultural feasts and is known for its unique folk music and exquisite cuisine.
Natives gather under the moonlight and share their history and heritage with people. With cool breeze, accompanied with moonlight, the cultural gatherings of Rehri make it a delightful experience for visitors, thereby providing a glimpse of the vivid culture of the sub-continent to the tourists.
Despite the Sindh coast having an immense ecotourism potential in the area, these activities are not organised and conducted on a large scale. The investment and development of ecotourism industry at the Sindh coast will not only provide employment opportunities to many, but will also ensure that these developments and constructions are not being held at the expense of the natural environment.
It is crucial to realise the fact that where exploration and promotion of the unique and distinct topography, biodiversity, cultural components and artistry is needed, the conservation and restoration of such aspects hold equal importance. With such ecological and cultural diversity, the coastal area of Sindh manifests a great opportunity for sustainable development of the ecotourism industry.