2 hour away from Goa, Gokarna is situated in the state of Karnataka. What once used to be quaint and peaceful beach destination surrounded by the green hills of Western Ghats is now filled with hotels, resorts and homestays. Being close to Goa has made it very popular among the tourists who wish to find something ‘offbeat’ and end up in Gokarna.
Overtourism in Gokarna is a recent phenomena. Since 2017, this small town has seen emergence of hostels, cruises, full moon parties and music festivals. New establishments have been coming and they are building their establishments over the greenery that once existed here.
My recent trip to Gokarna made me realize a couple of things and why we should be concerned about the rising issue of overtourism.
Safe haven for marine life
Overtourism ruined Goa’s marine ecosystem. But the beaches that were away from Goa had plenty of marine life thanks to fewer tourists and a balanced man – animal food chain. Gokarna in particular was known for its dolphins that lived so close to beaches that you could see them playing from the resorts that were present around the cliffs.
Now, multiple resorts, restaurants and cafes have come up in this region. This has directly affected marine life and the dolphins are slowly going away.
Full moon parties ruining late night activities of wildlife
Gokarna has seen a rise in full moon parties in last three years. Full moon parties are organized in the night and continue till morning. Gokarna, apart from being a beach destination is also surrounded by the Western Ghats that are home to many species of birds, animals and reptiles.
Late night parties affect the activities of the birds while lighting messes with the nocturnal predators. These late night parties are one of the biggest culprits behind ruining Gokarna’s natural setting.
Increased fishing affecting natural ecosystem
Gokarna is primarily the home to indigenous tribal people for whom fishing has been a way of life. But in past, it was in a very small number that never harmed the ecosystem. But now, as tourists come to this region, the activity has gone up and if locals are to be believed, there is at-least one fishery operating close to this region. The hotels are ready to serve anything from the generic fishes to exotic crabs and lobsters.
Increasing plastic pollution
Like every beach destination that goes popular, Gokarna too suffers from the epidemic of plastic pollution. More hotels, resorts and cafes mean that garbage disposal will increase and since there is not proper management, it will either end up around the beach side or at some dumpsite. Bottles of empty mineral water can be seen thrown recklessly around forest trail. There are shops that sell juices in tetrapacks which are thrown once the packet is empty. Western Ghats is a protected area and the ecosystem is affected greatly due to pollutants.
Why you should be concerned about overtourism in Gokarna
Overtourism in Gokarna will kill the natural setting of this pristine destination of Karnataka. The tourists who are heading to this destination will soon find themselves in another Goa which is much smaller in size. The issues of unplanned garbage disposal, fishing and constructing has just started so there is still time to make sure that you travel responsibly.
While it is tough to boycott the resorts that have come up recently but you can always choose the ones that are more than 5 years old and close to beach. Avoid full moon parties, ordering any exotic food and throwing trash on the trail. Since Gokarna solo travel is very popular, it is also the responsibility of backpackers to be responsible.
Travel in Gokarna needs more awareness. The depleting ecosystem will revive itself once more travellers are aware about how precious this little beach town of Karnataka is.