In August 2017, a group of friends got together with an idea to explore some 4-5 waterfalls in Odisha out of boredom. Little did they know that in October 2017, this idea will grow into an epic adventure!!!
When this proposal of exploring the waterfall came to the discussion table (actually a roadside tea stall in Bhubaneswar), we had no idea about the total number of waterfalls in our state except for the prominent ones. There was no single source of information which could guide us and most sources we referred had an incomplete list of waterfalls in the state. Only a few of the hundred plus waterfalls of Odisha were documented in some tourism related web pages, Wikipedia and YouTube. Most of the waterfalls which were inside the wildlife reserves were not easily accessible to the general public. So we first sat down to collate the available data and started by approaching the known waterfalls district wise. Odisha has 30 districts and most of them have waterfalls in them. We soon realised that we can cover at least 28 waterfalls in 22 districts of Odisha if all goes well. Honestly we thought that covering 25 waterfalls would be a good enough achievement!!
Google Map was pressed into service and soon we connected the accessible waterfalls we had listed and planned a road trip around it. When this entire itinerary was shaping up, the required logistical challenges also started building up. We now needed sponsors to fund the whole exercise and above all a team which would support this expedition. As they say if you need something badly, things will fall into place automatically. We didn’t believe it till we saw this road trip taking a concrete shape in the coming days.
Me, Udayan, Aditya, Sumanta and Malay Dada decided to commit ourselves for the trip. While Aditya and Malay Dada did first and second half of the trip respectively, rest of us did the whole trip from beginning to end. Sadly, Abhishek who was part of the initial discussions could not make it on the trip due to personal reasons.
The vehicle requirement was solved by a kind gesture from Aditya Group based in Bhubaneswar who sponsored a Scorpio for the trip. It was a great blessing to have a perfect vehicle to cover the amount of distance we had planned for. Next challenge was to fund the expenses like accommodation, fuel and other incidentals we were going to need during the trip. This challenge was addressed through crowd funding. We received some amount to cover our expenses from kind donors from all over the world. Mostly good friends and well wishers we knew before came forward to help us. Big thanks again to our supporters.
Now that we had a list of waterfall to cover and we were going to drive across the whole state, we also thought to spread a message during our long journey.
Waterfalls in Odisha are highly accessed by public to organise winter outings popularly known as Banabhoji or Picnic during the winter months. Families, working professionals, school and college groups travel in large numbers to these locations and have a good time. Good times are ensured with elaborate meal preparations and drinks. What follows after this is an accumulation of garbage which no one remembers to collect. People travel back home leaving heaps of trash in these pristine places. These “trash heaps” then have to wait for the monsoons to wash them away downstream. We wanted to raise awareness against these wasteful and destructive practices. We wanted to make people aware about protecting these beautiful places and keep them as clean as possible. Especially, the locals living in the vicinity of these tourist places - the real stakeholders.
Luckily, Odisha Tourism got in touch with us after hearing about our plan from a sponsor we had approached earlier. The then Director of Odisha Tourism - Mr Nitin Jawale invited us to his office to discuss about our expedition. We impressed him with the details of our plan and showcased our previous work related to photo documentation of wildlife and landscapes of Odisha. After hearing, Mr Jawale promised to support the expedition and help us further with the logistics. In return we had to submit our findings to Odisha Tourism. After the successful completion of the trip they would be used to create tourist promotion material for the state. This was the next best development which helped us to make the campaign a better one and reach a wider audience.
Finally, with adequate resources and an enthusiastic team, we left Bhubaneswar on 6th October 2017 for the "Waterfalls of Odisha" expedition. During the 19 day road trip we drove 4200 km and covered 23 out of 30 districts in Odisha. In the end, we photo & video documented 35 waterfalls of Odisha!!
Our campaign was an overall success which was well covered by local media and we also got in touch with the local authorities and sensitised them regarding the waste disposal requirements. On our return we submitted our findings to the Tourism Dept of Odisha. Our trip video was featured in their social media handles. Sadly the planned coffee table book with Odisha Tourism never happened.
We then shared all the info & photographs on our Facebook page for public view. A detailed database can now be accessed regarding the waterfalls we had covered. We are yet to update any other web pages/ directory on the internet regarding the info we have collected. But now we can see people on social media exploring more waterfalls in the state and sharing the info which can be accessed easily by anyone interested. This is a big development in itself.
In the end, I still think of the three waterfalls we could not cover due to logistical issues and dream of that coffee table book which would have been published by Odisha Tourism but I am glad that we could discover a few more waterfalls which were not there originally on the list and travel to the hinterlands of Odisha and see my state really up close.
I believe that there is so much more to explore and document in Odisha and this was just the first step towards achieving that dream.
You can access the info regarding our journey from the links provided below:
Our Fundraiser page: https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/WFOdisha
Facebook page: fb.me/WFOdisha
Waterfall compilation video: https://youtu.be/trfn9SixUts
Trip Video shared by Udayan: https://youtu.be/ijv-ebcOZwE