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September 30, 2014

Lessons in Nurturing trees 2009-2014 - The First Year

I got an unique opportunity in 2009 when I was posted to the Kabini River Lodge, an unit of JLR. Besides, the obvious thrill of working at a great ecotourism hotspot, what got my immediate attention was the large area of the campus, all of 54 acres. I had just left my earlier job at Keystone Foundation where I did some work in nursery management and was keen to replicate and learn from these ideas.

Here, though, I was on my own. However, I had the support of my staff especially the gardening staff - specifically people like Shivannaji and Somannaji - two stalwarts in landscapes with more than 30 years of experience between the both of them.

And we started big. I remember now, the first 20 trees were planted opposite Cottages 7&8 in 2009, a few pongamias, a few cherries and a few other local species. Now, in 2014, they are all grown and big and thriving. Lessons learnt were vivid. Plant a tree, take care for a few months a work that can be discarded if it is planted in the right time, just before the onset of the monsoons. Take a little care during the first dry season, especially in the months of February and March and SEE THEM GROW like rockstars. All those 20 trees survived and they are thriving, though a few planted after another month did perish.


This were the first baby steps and a major shift from my earlier ideas on planting large numbers of trees and then hoping that a few survive. The ego involved in planting large number of trees had to be fought for a long time till we realised that even if we plant less trees and ensure that they survive - that is a bigger achievement than if we plant a large number of trees and can't see them through the next season. Thus the first monsoon passed in 2009....

I was itching to see more stuff done and around the same time, our resort in Bandipur wanted a lot of bamboos to be planted in the boundaries. We organised them from my old nursery at Sigur and the manager of Bandipur planted more than 200 of them. The pace was on and till this year i.e. 2014, I guess that individually at Kabini, we would have planted and ensured that more than 6000-8000 trees will grow big one day.

The turning point really came in 2010 when I went to Auroville and saw the magic of assisted gardening, you could call it non-interference with ecosystem functioning - whatever it is, Auroville proved without an element of doubt that whether you have an inch of soil to grow trees on or no water or regular tree cutters around - the duty of the tree grower is just that.... GROW TREES....

I remember going beserk after that August in 2010 and came back from Pondhicherry full of ideas on trees... All my old textbook nursery management ideas were thrown out of the window and came in fresh ideas of tree sustainability... Exciting years ahead in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013....

September 25, 2014

Friends... Nothing else on the records.... Have not spoken to most of them, yet know they are there.....

September 20, 2014

As an outsider, Bangalore looks like its baby steps towards refined urbanisation has just began.

The city, growing exponentially, is groaning under the weight of the daily rush of commuters. This rush as with most things human, is not ready to reduce soon, growing daily as it is like a monster globbing everything in its way. Woah, no city in the country is growing as fast as this one. And keeping in mind the fact that this piece of land is basically a hill station - we do get the attendant asthma type diseases jumping like kangaroos. Every one I know is suffering from some illness or the other and these are people who live a normal middle class life.

Walking in the city is another hazard. In the daily kilometres that I walk, I have already used most of my 9 lives quota. Seriously hazardous... And what about walkovers to help bypass the traffic, especially at important junctions.. Not easy... Well, I can write about Bangalore traffic daily. Every day is a unique experience surviving and not dying...

But what struck me was a resolve to escape the pollution yesterday and walk from Race Course to Sankey Tank without breathing in noxious gases. I managed to walk the entire 5 km without touching heavy traffic for more than 10 minutes. Fairly good enough, I thought...


September 13, 2014

Bangalore Traffic

Frigging Bangalore traffic man!!!

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine landing at the heart of the Bangalore traffic man....... As I heard someone saying what's wrong with Bangalore traffic - It bloody goes this way in the morning and frigging comes back the other way in the evening...The whole, entire goddamned traffic.. It is as if you either go towards majestic in the morning and return to Yelahanka in the evening.. Does the entire city live there or what....

The palace grounds are the stomping grounds for zillions of motorcyclists and activa-ists who with a practised ease jump into a dusty road and drive with consummate ease bypassing the rest of us sitting in buses, there are those who drive full speed into lanes meant for buses near Guttahalli and always escape being crushed into pulp.... every single time.

Where are the rules, where are pedestrian flyovers, where are we all going. Every single day of the past weeks that I have been here, the ambulance business seems to be thriving, with accidents galore. Driving so fast, I am scared for these drivers... for who will ferry an ambulance driver if he crashes into a negligent car... It is crazy, wherever speeds permit, people drive super-fast. Wherever speeds don't permit, scooterists still manage to drive fast.

And to top it all, I get stares from two-wheeler walas who just barely did not kill me while I was on the walker's pavement.... he who stares and usually abuses that I am in his way... Hell, he is not on my way, he is speeding on my path....

I have been getting advice while walking everyday that it is best to take a bus, I bought a pollution mask too, I don't take autos and I genuinely love buses for it feels like you are above the pollution, I love the whiffs of cold air that somehow permeates through the smog and hits those of us who feel it while standing in a cramped bus.

There are millions of single owner drivers who invariably take up a lot of space, they don't give one to the ambulances......... For those of us who like crossing streets as a thrill, the traffic comes close to that rollercoaster somewhere in Florida. It is crazy trying to cross streets..

Even if a policewala stops the traffic and imagine him standing in the centre of the street.......the moment he walks a steps to the right, the vehicles on the left try and speed up... Fuck the pedestrian trying to cross... who cares.... and if it is a matronly aunty....hell with her too....

We are manifesting our way of lives into the way we drive and I am sure to become one like them, when I get my own vehicle here... To hell with the blog post, I need to reach home fast.... Lets search for good drivers...

September 12, 2014

My Yoga is trekking in the mountains


Ah... KABINI RIVER LODGE!!!

Some 80 kilometers from Mysore, through a beautiful country landscape with curving roads, large tanks and few vehicles, past the heart of rural Karnataka, and in the shadow of vast forests of the Western Ghats lays the Kabini River Lodge. The story of Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd. began with its operations at Kabini and today, it is one of the most famous wildlife resorts in the world.

A showcase to the wealth of Nagarhole and indeed wild Karnataka, Kabini has a rich history dating back to more than a century. Kabini is a visual treat. Sambars, spotted deer, gaurs, wild boars, elephants, leopards, tigers - it is the place, widely considered to be the mecca for wildlife sighting.

The forests extend as far as the eyes can see. Sandwiched on both sides by the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Nagarhole National Park, the Kabini River preserves among the last remaining wilderness in the country.

What is now the Kabini River Lodge was earlier the hunting Lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore and a favorite of his guests. The lodge is located in Karapura Village on the backwaters of the Kabini dam. During the late 18th and early 19th century - it was common to see Viceroys of the British East India Company at Kabini. Lord Mintow, King Edwards, Lord Mountbatten, Lord Irwin and the Russian Grand Dukes visited Kabini during their stay in India. Later on, JLR took over and began its path breaking experiment of community based ecotourism in a wilderness setting.

The journey of JLR begins at its very gates and its story is best told while sipping coffee at the very regal Viceroy Lodge. The antique furniture, the regal appearance and dozens of very old photographs whisper about the ancient roots of the place. There are photographs of the Maharaja of Mysore and his hunting party, some black and white stills talk of the elaborate kheddah operations undertaken to capture elephants.

Crocodiles silently submerging, otters curious enough to offer a few seconds of precious viewing, birds totally nonchalant and assured of the protection accorded to them, leopards observed more on trees and silently fading away into the wild, elephants frolicking in the waters and the tiger frequently seen looking over his kingdom - the magic of Kabini is not explained in mere words.
There are more prints of hunting parties of every sort, tigers, leopards, gaurs and mahseers. History breathes from each brick and the forests have tales to tell. Ahhhh.....the magic of Kabini

September 9, 2014

Visiting Karnataka and its Rich traditions

A land whose vitality is expressed through its culture, from the ancient dance drama of Yakshagana, to the unknown story of the silent rock of Hampi, from the best expression of Islamic architecture at Bijapur to the marvelous rock temples at Belur and Halebid. Karnataka is truly a microcosm representing the diversity of the entire country into one single unit. It is indeed a blessing that we all are witness to the bounty of this ancient land everyday of our lives.

As a state, traditionally forests have been revered and accorded a high degree of protection. Greenery has been respected and the capital city was famous across the world as a garden city. Very few urban conglomerations in the world would have a sprawling national park in the form of Bannerghatta so close to the city centre and if one goes further down the road beyond Kanakapura, the wilds of Karnataka beckon in the form of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.

It is also a land of a mind boggling variety of food sensibilities. Puliogare, Bisibele Hulianna, Chitarana, Mosaruanna, Vangibath, rice avatars such as Sanna, Noolputtu, Kadabu, Kadubittu, Kadambuttu, Bemble curry, Pandi curry, Yenne Badanekayi, Menthe Soppu, Coorgi version of rice roti, akki roti and above all, Ragi, the simple down to earth millet which is the staple food across millions in the state. Ragi would perhaps qualify as the epitomisation of the Kannadiga spirit, strong, hard working and soft at heart. A ball of ragi mudde with a puli (tamarind) rich sambar made by forest guards at some anti poaching camp, deep inside the forest with few utensils and a simple assortment of masalas is a treat. When after a day’s walk, you are sprawled out on the bamboo bed and Karia puts the ragi powder onto the utensil, pours water and uses a bamboo karchi to mix the powder and within minutes, the ball is made - it feels like heaven and many forest lovers would testify to it.

Then the exotic fiery food of North Karnataka with Jowar dominating the minds and food tastes just as Ragi does so in South Karnataka. Jowar bhakri follows you as you move around the villages and towns in and around the northern part. Mysore pak is as famous as its namesake town with tourists often thronging popular sweet shops during a visit to the town.

Then there is the geographical diversity in the form of natural regions. Karnataka has one of the richest remaining forests in the country with more than 43,356 thousand square kilometers or twenty two percent of the land under recorded forest area.
These forests are a treasure house of biodiversity and the sheer choice that nature has to offer humbles and reminds man of its bountiful nature. The famed Western Ghats achieves its greatest glory in the state with more than 60 per cent of the Ghats falling in Karnataka. Besides forest rich areas in the central and eastern portions also enrich the forest wealth of the state.

The state has perhaps one of the leading wildlife landscapes in the world. With more than 25 percent of all elephants, 10 percent of all tigers and a dense conglomeration of major herbivores as well as predators, the jungles of Karnataka abound with the attraction of its wildlife.
The forests are diverse. In the southern portion are the famed national parks of Nagarhole and Bandipur bordering contiguous forests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. As we move eastwards, we touch the forests of Biligiri Rangana Betta and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. Karnataka is a wondrous state, one which abounds in natural wealth and grand vistas.

JLR has been given the mandate of showcasing this natural wealth through low impact ecotourism. Lodges have been set up in various parts of the state. Upcoming resorts in the next few years include forest belts in the northern part of the state as well, at places such as Hampi and Bidar. This geographical spread has assisted in developing ecotourism as visitors are increasingly interested in experiencing the natural beauty as opposed to packaged holiday tours. Karnataka is indeed the best place to be, when it comes to appreciating forests, hills, beaches, temples and human cultures. JLR strives hard to match the expectations of eco-tourists and showcase the natural wealth of Karnataka.

September 8, 2014

The Naturalists Magical World - Article by a friend Josh

While observing mega fauna is always enjoyable, there is more to a safari than just the elephant. Birds, insects and the flora are all integral to the jungle and our naturalists specialise in showing these wonders to all. Joshua whose interest in the jungle starts after the safari is over and guests are safely ensconced in their tents writes about a few
denizens of the forest.

It’s a Jungle Down There

Each morning and evening, the guests at our JLR locations return from their jeep safaris, elephant treks, coracle and boat rides and share tales with each other of what they saw in Karnataka’s untamed wilderness. The avid nature lover, wildlife photographer, and city slicker alike huddle together to discuss which of the big five were seen - elephant, gaur, dhole, leopard, or hopefully even a tiger.

Between rides, many rest and the children play, while at night we go to bed soon after dinner to be ready for a very early rise to go back into the jungle. But, as exciting as it is to spot our incredible big mammals - and especially the mega predators - your safari need not stop when you come back to our lodges: the jungle is not only found beyond our campuses.

Metres from our rooms and tents, tiny hunters and hunted play out the same deadly game of survival as the big, hoofed animals play against claws and paws, but often with even more ingenious and incredible techniques and capabilities. But don’t hide in your room!

These creatures are safe to observe up close - if you can find them. So, get a torch and maybe a magnifying glass and look around the properties to see another dimension of our jungles - for a fascinating wilderness lurks right beneath your nose.

Praying mantises mimic flowers or leaves and wait for a grasshopper to come too close, which they will snatch and crush with spiked forelegs more powerful in relation to their size than most larger predators have at their disposal. And, while the innocent looking ladybird beetle may look pretty to us, it is a voracious predator, devouring aphids and other tiny insects - and it’s attractive wing covers that comprise its shell is not for decoration. Meanwhile, scorpions prowl the leaf litter, immobilising prey with a perfectly aimed flick over the head of their tail-shaped abdomen, which ends in a deadly stinger.

Of all the predators in the micro jungle, spiders are perhaps the most fascinating and likely the most varied and incredible in hunting techniques. Myriad spider species are to be found, all with wondrous and deadly techniques. Some, like the orb-weaving spider, decorate their webs with pieces of plants or flowers - even making little baubles of extra shiny silk - to lure insect prey to their doom.

They make their webs of silk from a protein, forming strands which are stronger than steel for their diameter. Some strands are made sticky for catching prey, others strands are non-sticky for the spiders to walk on without getting entangled themselves. Other spiders make holes in the ground and build a trap door of silk and forest debris, which they flip open to jump out of at lightning speed to seize an unsuspecting victim passing by.

Another spider has evolved to look just like the ants on which they prey, lurking among them and even tricking the ants with pheromones to make them “think” that the spider is one of them. It has no poison, and has to stab its hapless victim with its sharp mandibles. Once prey is caught, almost all spiders inject their quarry with an enzyme which dissolves their prey from the inside, allowing them to suck their meal dry. And you thought that wild dogs or tigers were the jungle’s cold killing machines.
All around in the bushes, trees, leaf litter and maybe just outside on your windowsill, thousands of species use ingenious hunting methods, camouflage and protection tactics to survive and thrive. Truly, the food chain goes down to the smallest of links, and witnessing it is a fascinating lesson in the relentless, dazzling cycle of life.

September 5, 2014

The Naturalist's Magical World - People at Kabini

He is a naturalist, who is our window to the natural world. One of the first naturalists of the company, Sundar, says that his job in the initial days of operation was the best that a person could hope for. Travelling, learning about interesting birds and trees and interpreting for guests was a fun filled affair.

For many, a naturalist is a person who seeks out the mysteries of the world and walks with inquisitive eyes for the wonders of nature to open their bounty to him or her. Perhaps, the biggest challenge before a naturalist is to extract this hidden love of the wild and encourage us to respect nature. For there is no greater joy that a naturalist may experience than showing an unsuspecting guest, the spectacle of elephants bathing in the wild, and the guest recounting it for the rest of his life.

In 2004, while on a safari, the jeep had crossed Sunkadkatte forest camp and was driving towards a nearby water tank. It was then that the driver noticed a gaur standing on the road, about 200 metres from the jeep. A gaur is a huge animal and always a treat to watch in the wilds of Nagarhole. All guests were entrapped in its sight when they noticed that the gaur shifting its legs and looking agitated.

The naturalist sensed something wrong and backed the vehicle slowly. It was then that a tiger came upon the road directly in front of the gaur. The tiger charged and the gaur backtracked. This confrontation went on for some time, when all of a sudden the gaur snorted and charged at the tiger, forcing him to backtrack by several metres. This happened for another ten seconds by which time, the gaur and the tiger were very close to the jeep. Finally, in an amazing display of strength and bravado - the gaur hit the tiger hard at its chest. The tiger cried out in pain and ran away. It was a rare sight and for all sitting in the jeep that day, it was a memorable experience that they would take back from Kabini and keep it treasured for the rest of their lives.

Memorable Encounters

Being a naturalist is not all fun as nothing works as planned in the wild. Unseasonal rainfall can turn a perfectly sedate safari into a drenched affair, breakdowns may happen and assistance may be needed. Naturalists in JLR are meant to face adverse scenarios. This makes them handy managers and guest relation officers as well.

Naturalists and drivers have several comic tales to tell as well. One famous incident is of guests disinterested in wildlife. A few years back, some guests came for a couple of nights and went on their first safari. Having seen wild dogs and elephants aplenty, they were still unimpressed. It was then that they saw a gaur standing in the middle of the road. After their insistence that they are tired of watching the animal, the driver was about to retreat, when all of a sudden - a tiger charged. After a mammoth struggle, all occurring a few metres away, the exhausted tiger carried its kill and went into the bush.
The naturalist bursting with joy had already conjured up plans of celebrations at such a bounty of nature, but the guests still looked unimpressed. He found out soon when they returned to the camp, one of the team members was heard speaking on the phone, ‘saw nothing at all in the jungle, just some cat eating a cow and making us wait for half the time, nothing much at all’.

There have been instances where the mighty predators have shown their strength. Afsar has one tale to tell when he saw two leopards near the elephant camp at Balle in Nagarhole national Park. Patiently observing the two cats from a distance, they were taken aback when the female charged, freezing the blood of all present in the jeep. She charged four times and then all of a sudden dived into the bushes, with her partner following.

Once Umesh and Jeevan had over a few days seen the mighty tiger in action twice. The first sighting was at the Udboor Junction in Nagarhole National Park. The guests were taking photographs of some spotted deer when a tiger ambushed the group and carried away a deer in a matter of seconds. Another occasion was when all were seeing a tiger crouching behind a rock. Thereafter, in an awesome display of its strength, the tiger pounced on an unsuspecting wild boar and killed it with one swipe of its paws.

While observing mega fauna is always enjoyable, there is more to a safari than just the elephant. Birds, insects and the flora are all integral to the jungle and our naturalists specialise in showing these wonders to all. Joshua whose interest in the jungle starts after the safari is over and guests are safely ensconced in their tents writes about a few
denizens of the forest.

September 4, 2014

The Naturalist's Magical World - People at JLR

Looking around and soaking in the beauty of nature, the naturalist is one amongst all of us. The term naturalist, having been in existence for long has come to represent many things to many people. He has no special degree. He may or may not ramble a long list of Latin names of the flora and fauna. However he has one important role - respect nature, absorb her beauty and spread the message to everyone around.

It is wise to remember that wild animals are highly unpredictable in nature. These are aspects on which training is imparted to the naturalist. In fact, carelessness is one quality that speaks lowly and scores least in the naturalist’s daily behaviour. Being alert is necessary as visitors too are often unpredictable in nature. It is their responsibility to monitor each visitor and respond to a situation in an appropiate manner.

The naturalist collects a bewildering vareity of experiences along his lifetime. Each incident differs, a good guide can indeed tell a million tales. Catching Shivanand wide eyed and peering into crags for spiders can be a lesson in itself while he is renowned for his ability to identify birds from a distance. Afsar is highly sought for his passion in wildlife and Prassana has particular interest in butterflies and insects.

And then there are the walkers. Men who trek in the jungles, pointing out insects, birds and plants to accompanying guests. Men like Pramod, Pundalik, Andy, Uday and several more who have traversed the jungles of Karnataka. Walking in the jungles brings about a remarkable perspective of experiencing nature in her glory. All good naturalists are walkers and explorers of nature first, taking joy in the flutter of a butterfly or the dew drop on a tender leaf. They bring to life stories that none thought would exist.

At JLR, being a naturalist is serious business. He is entrusted with the responsibility of managing visitors, educating them, briefing them on the code of conduct and sharing their personal experiences. The naturalists are trained and groomed by the Chief Naturalist, S. Karthikeyan to ensure that they match up to the highest quality.

September 3, 2014

Towards an ecologically sound world - A JLR Initiative

JLR manages its resorts in ecosensitive zones, renowned for their wealth of flora and fauna. Most resorts are located in the vicinity of protected forests and have as their primary mandate, protection of resources. Green Initiatives thus act as operational tools that serve the twin purpose of reducing costs as well as aid in lowering the ecological footprint of the resorts. The greatest challenge in promoting a greener lifestyle is that of raising the sensitivity of the staff. This is the simplest forms of conservation and perhaps the most effective. The change makers in this regard are the resort managers and senior personnel who through a method of carrot and stick promote the “switch-off” policy.

At the micro level, we ensure that nothing remains switched on when rooms are empty. Power savers are being installed in all the new properties and old ones are being upgraded. Air conditioners which are prime guzzlers of electricity are actively discouraged. At a macro level, we promote the use of solar technology. Therefore, most resorts are being equipped with solar heating. The end expectancy is that of near complete usage of heated water from solar based panels. Additionally, most street lights are being replaced by conventional grid based supplies to the solar panel based cheap lighting systems. Similarly, electric cars are being introduced to ensure reduction of pollution and ease mobility in some of the large resorts. Another simple intervention has been that of the use of low energy consuming lights that substantially reduce the electric bill and aid to energy saving.

The Kabini Manifesto on Clean Living

- No plastic in the campus. Whether by reducing intake or by recycling after usage, plastic to be eradicated.
- Segregation to be seamless and effortless in the long run. Plastic, paper, metal, glass, waste plastic, tetrapacks, egg-shells, e-waste, napkins, sachets and their associates to be segregated and respectfully recycled.
- Besides segregation, designate a place to keep waste wood, steel, plumbing material, switches, pipes, wires so that they can be put to use later.
- Plastic Bottles PET, a subset of the larger plastic-chemical industry to be reduced. Hence, install water purification systems at no extra cost and convey the message to guests.
- Recycle A4 papers in its entirety. First use both the sides, then send it to the segregation unit. Get a rubber stamp made that says "We only use recycled paper" and educate the world.
- Start an organic garden. Even if the production is low, the message gets conveyed. And reverse the hesitation over organic products. Instead of the conventional higher rates, sell organic stuff at half the market price of that day and still make money.

- Reuse everything and see innovation happen. First use is made of the tonnes of waste wood lying around, then old pipes and then just about everything. The carpenter can make magic with wood, the plumber saves money by using old pipes and the electrician has enough stock to last a year without fresh purchase.

- Install a consolidated Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System, to take care of the wet waste that is generated in large amounts. This will be the final answer for waste generated in toilets, kitchen and dining areas and if as a result we get bio-gas and reusable water, it reduces energy consumption

- Save energy. First step - replace all bulbs with CFL and thereafter with LED. Reduce usage of the generators. Compel vehicle drivers to increase their fuel efficiency. Move towards solar energy especially for heating solutions. Reduce spillover in the water tank, install power saver switches in the rooms, bath tubs are to be removed.
- Vegetable waste to be used, either by vermicomposting or as in Kabini River Lodge, where the waste is now sold to the milkman who for 30 years had been taking it free. Now they provide five litres of milk daily in lieu of the waste taken.

- Make cycling an essential activity. Reduce dependence on in-house energy requirement of vehicles. Rent out cycles to guests at nominal rates.
- Use waste newspapers and old hammock strings to create carry bags for products sold at our Earth Shop.
- Dry leaves that were burnt are to be collected. The collected material is strewn across the forest inside the campus to convert into humus.

- Old logs to be reused in producing soil. They are kept at strategic places and people are made to understand the utility of insects and other organisms in converting organic matter into soil.
- Repackage the philosophy of treating people who collect waste. One way of doing that is to make good looking dustbins intricately designed that is easy to maintain and extremely attractive. Just by being positioned at a place, people should be attracted to see the dustbin and it is here that we spread the message of cleanliness to them.
Do more to prevent waste creation

Little Tough Act but are we Creating Nature lovers at Kabini and Jungle Lodges

At Jungle Lodges...............

Briefing is an essential part of an ecotour. We make concerted efforts to brief guests for a minimum of two and possibly three times during their stay. As a guest checks in, the programme is explained along with the list of dos and donts. The naturalists speak at length about the forest and its ecology, requesting guests to be respectful of the primeval forest that we are about to set foot into.

Prior to each safari, a briefing is given to the guests about the forest and its denizens. They are asked not to talk during safari and requested to switch their phones. Telephones are strictly banned during the safaris, a rule that is written on stone. Camera flash is discouraged as it causes distress to wildlife.

When we insist on guests to wear sober clothes while on a safari, it is meant to have a lower footprint over the forest. A person wearing clothing that matches the environment is less likely to cause distress to it as opposed to one who does not. Often guests are seen rushing back to their rooms as they had bright clothing on. The naturalists wait for them to return in sober clothing and then proceed on the safari.

During the safari, the naturalists talk about the diversity of the forest. Tiger-centric tourism is giving way to enjoying the forest in its entirety and the naturalists play a major role in bringing about this change amongst countless guests.

Towards the evening, when the ambience is light and discussions invariably veer towards nature and conservation, the naturalists engage the guests in a dialogue before playing a wildlife movie that showcases the natural wealth of the forest. Discussions tend to last till the dinner is served and many environmentally conscious individuals have just been reborn as nature lovers.

Concern for the forest is born out of the deep respect that local villagers have towards natural elements. Staff and guests actively cooperate with the Forest Department staff during emergencies such as fires or injury to animals. Notifying authorities has often had beneficial effects. A famous incident occurred when a guest at Kabini River Lodge, Dr. Ajit K Huilgol, a renowned Renal Surgeon documented a cruel sight of a tiger struggling in a jaw trap. The tiger was saved as he immediately informed the concerned authorities and can be seen today at the Bannerghatta Zoo, albeit with an amputated leg, as a result of the damage caused due to the jaw trap. When it comes to the JLR way of ecotourism, conservation is truly a part of the organisational ethos.

September 2, 2014

The Kabini way of Ecotourism

As an ecotourism organisation, JLR follows regulations which are mostly self imposed and sometimes uncomfortable to adhere to. Jungle lodges practices eco-sensitive tourism. However, at the same time, it must be acknowledged that any form of tourism will have an impact on the environment that it is operating in. In such a scenario, the onus lies upon the concerned organization to evolve a highly result oriented approach that seeks to reduce and eliminate various negative impacts upon the environment.

Policies include zero tolerance for loud music in the campus, maintaining strict hours for running generators, discouraging loud parties and so on. JLR encourages guests to maintain silence during their stay at our camps as listening to the sounds of the jungle can be a rewarding experience. Littering is strictly discouraged. Visitors are sensitised to the harm that a carelessly thrown plastic bag can wreak on a susceptible animal. The challenge is to make them aware of the harm small actions can have on the ecology.

A strict adherence on safari ethics is maintained, standards that go beyond mere lip service to ecotourism. Rules are followed and respect for wild animals is maintained. A self driven rule for route systems is followed, an exercise made possible due to the guidance provided by the forest officers of the Nagarhole National Park. A minimum distance is maintained between each vehicle, so that a vehicle that sights an interesting animal behaviour move as soon as the sighting is completed, Wireless radio sets have been removed as their presence was causing a spirit of over-zealousness amongst drivers.

For every person questioning the validity of strict adherence to rules, there are other guests who appreciate these small nuances of management. It has been our policy to go out of the way and instill a conservation based approach. Even if a small percentage of the thousands of patrons who visit JLR properties each year spread this message and continue being the ambassadors of conservation, JLR would be glad to work harder.