Rural India vacation, culture & wildlife

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Rural India vacation, culture & wildlife

Environment

Both our professional accommodation providers, at Bhoramdeo and Kanha have turned plots of land that previously were either unproductive scrubland, or environmentally damaging eucalyptus, into well wooded havens for bird and insect life. The camp owners at Kanha have gradually felled the eucalypt, using it to build the shells for their tented accommodation and all their furniture (it is a marvellous mosquito repellent) whilst continually replanting mixed forest as they go. Both the accommodations provide alternative drinking water to the ubiquitous plastic bottles that now litter India (quite apart from the disposal of plastic bottles, it takes four litres of water to produce a single litre of drinking water). At Kanha in the form of a highly efficient filtration system and Bhoramdeo in the form of a very deep bore hole. Both use solar power to heat their water, and dispose of their rubbish on site using composting where possible and trying to minimise the purchase of anything plastic wrapped.

We operate with small group sizes which not only maximises interaction within the group, guides and local community but also minimises the impact on environment.
We work with Frank Water a UK water charity (reg. 1121273) that works with NGO partners across India to improve access to safe water and sanitation. In our area, Kabirdham, FRANK works with Samerth, a local NGO, to provide safe clean water to an area that has suffered much due to climate change. We have more fund raising projects in the pipeline, including a sponsored walk visiting villages that have been helped by Samerth, which we hope will raise both funds and awareness.

We believe wildlife tourism can be an important conservation tool if used responsibly. Travel to national parks and wildlife areas brings positive economic benefits as entrance fees contribute to the maintenance and conservation of local flora and animal species, while visitors benefit from the educational aspects of the area and take away with them an increased awareness of the need and place for conservation. Equally important tourism helps the local communities living around these reserves by providing jobs and helping them realise the importance of the forest.

Community

We believe there are two fundamental factors in creating a successful and socially beneficial vacation: slow travel and placing value on local knowledge. All our guides on treks in the hills are local herdsmen (yadavs) or farmers; they not only know the best routes and the food and medicinal uses of every plant and tree, but also whether it is worth a diversion to see a leopard footprint, to bypass a village where private ceremony is taking place or drop in on one where a baby welcoming party will enjoy the presence of some extra guests. It enables real relationships to be established between guests and host nationals. We ensure that there are multiple languages speakers on all our tours to avoid cultural faux pas and to enrich the exchanges between everyone. Our guides ensures that same villages are not visited by foreigners more than once in any month and that all supplies are brought along so no strain is not put on the local resources. We encourage guests to bring small but useful presents; jumpers or shawls for children (central Indian winter nights can be bitterly cold) and fresh fruit and vegetable for longer stays (50% of Indian people do not even eat one fully balance meal a day).

All our accommodation providers employ the vast majority of their staff from local villages and encourage the learning of English, interaction with guests and opportunities for promotion. The also support the education of the children of their staff and their health needs.

2 Reviews of Rural India vacation, culture & wildlife

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Reviewed on 20 Nov 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Every day of my trip was exciting and memorable. It was a truly wonderful experience to explore rural Chattisgargh with a seamlessly tailored vacation. I felt I made friends every step of the way and a part of me has stayed with a wish to return. At Bhoramdeo jungle retreat each day felt magically like two as time seemed to stretch effortlessly to accommodate an activity of our choice; maybe visiting the local home or the sewing school in the morning and another, maybe a tribal village market, in the afternoon with plenty of time to rest in
between.

We took beautiful walks through local villages, farmlands and jungle, and spent time meeting and chatting with local people. With sophie and sunny as guides it is a real privilege to have genuinely rich and interesting encounters with local people, with lots of room for fun with the village children too.

Bike rides were beautiful, weaving through the quiet countryside lanes to ancient temples and villages, all with time to absorb the unique beauty of the environment and the rhythms of village life. The food is all locally sourced and utterly delicious. The trip to Khanha National Park was exhilarating. Our hosts and guide there are exceptional and without expectation I experienced the real thrill of being in truly immersed in the wonder of the natural world where human presence is an insignificant part of the animal kingdom. Witnessing tigers close by was utterly exhilarating and magnificent, the slow ease of a python across the track extraordinary , time alongside rare wild dogs, many birds species and deer. All with the expert knowledge and tracking of our guide, Raj,who lives and breathes tigers and wildlife. A bike trip through the the buffer zone with an overnight stay to share an evening and hear about the stories of a life lived beside the jungle is a treasured memory.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Put yourself in Sophie's expert hands. Expect a vacation in beautiful places that are unspoilt by tourism. Sophie has all the top tips so just follow her suggestions.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The whole vacation was integral to these aims- benefiting the local community, reducing environmental impact and nature conservation and awareness. Part of my vacation was to take part in a successful initiative to sponsor village women to enter a pinkathon run in the nearest city. This involved a trial run in the village where tracksuits and trainers were given out by the superintendent of police for the district, visits to schools, and lots of fun with local girls and women who otherwise wouldn't get the chance to go to the city, let alone run and benefit from free breast cancer care. Also, I attended a great workshop with the
village women to discuss and raise awareness of menstrual issues and was introduced to re-usable sanitary pads which the women later learned how to make. This is an innovative initiative run by Rajisi and her husband. It avoids the use of disposable sanitary wear and provides a far more sophisticated solution to the traditional rag, which prevents women from being active during menstruation. All the accommodation I stayed in used natural resources, such as environmentally friendly methods including wood burners for water heating and local sustainable products. All the team at Bhoramdeo were from the local community and all the benefits of tourism there carefully and respectfully managed. Much time was spent raising awareness of environmental issues, such as water management and projects that are involved with the local community.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. The best vacation of my life.

Reviewed on 20 Nov 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


So much to praise about this wonderful trip!
- Safaris into Kanah National Park – real ‘Jungle Book’ land (Rudyard Kipling territory).
- Sophie is an ornithologist so together with the expert naturalist, Raj, we saw so many different birds, as well as the rare Swamp Deer, a python, and yes, we
were so, so lucky – tigers. Such an exquisite and intense experience. I have a very long list of animals, butterflies, birds and trees that we saw.
- Sleeping at night listening to the sounds of the jungle at Shergarh – a most extraordinary and luxurious tented safari camp near Kanah.
- Visit to Phen Wildlife Sanctuary, so lovely that there were no other jeeps, like safaris were fifty years ago. So peaceful to stop the jeep and listen to the
sounds of the animals and the jungle.
- Picnic breakfast unpacked from back of jeep in Phen.
- Cycling around Bhormadeo – to temples, lakes, through farmland.
- Being greeted with trays of flowers and fresh lime drinks when we returned from our cycle rides and walks.
- 11th century temples with carvings of gods and erotic sculptures.
- Experiencing a puja at the temple where we were completely welcomed by everyone.
- Walking in the jungle and meadows, down from near Chilpi back down to Bhormadeo Jungle Retreat (BJR).
- Fabulous food – I felt so well on it.
- Perhaps most of all, simply being around the people at Bhoramdeo.
- And the stories from Sunny as we relaxed around the fire in the eves with drinks in hand before a scrumptious meal.
- Visits to village markets – good shopping.
- Being greeted and welcomed by villagers and the gorgeous children as we strolled along. Seeing how they live so peacefully in such tranquil settings.
Really made me reflect on how we live our cluttered lives back home.
- A special highlight of this particular trip was the running event. Sophie and Sunny took a team of 144 local young women from Bhoramdeo to Raipur to
take part in ‘Raipur Going Pink’. Some of them had never taken part I a formal race before and their joy was so infectious. Such a confidence building
experience for them, they also brought back the crucial health awareness messages to their remote tribal villages. Sophie and her team of fundraisers
provided running shoes and track suits to all those runners.
If you like running and Sophie is offering a trip with a run in it – book that! It is like nothing you will ever experience outside of India.

- I cannot speak highly enough of this small, very personal company and the friends they work with, embedded in and committed to the land, the wildlife
and its people. Book a tour - they are bespoke and varied. You won't regret it. I just got back - it was the trip of a lifetime.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Where discreet clothes – long sleeves and long trousers. Bring really warm layers for the eves and for traveling in the open jeeps. I didn’t get a single mosquito bite but I covered up in the eves and wore lots of repellent. Sophie will email you great advice in advance on all aspects of your trip.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Being of benefit to the local people, reducing environmental impacts and supporting conservation are part of the fundamental reason that Bhoramdeo
Jungle Retreat (BJR) is situated where it is – Sunny was born in the district and decided return and locate BJR there to help improve the environment and the lives of the local people. Helping the community is not an add-on – it informs everything they do there. Here are some examples of how BJR uses some of its revenue to help the community, all wide-reaching and long term:
- Installing high quality water filtration for the guests instead of providing bottled water thus reducing plastic rubbish by 100s of bottles each month.
- Giving reusable cups to the community thus reducing the number of plastic cups thrown away as litter at celebrations.
- Installing efficient, low-polluting boilers to heat the water for the guests’ showers.
- Setting up a sewing school for the local women and paying for a sewing instructor and the materials.
- A clean-up programme to nudge behaviour so that locals reduce how much litter they leave.
- A wonderful health campaign for local tribe and village girls, which was kicked off with a running event to spread awareness about breast cancer and other issues that put women’s lives at risk.
- If you like running and Sophie is offering a trip with a run in it – book that! It is like nothing you will ever experience outside of India.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I had a 2-week trip with the tour operator and I've never been so well looked after! Every detail taken care of to give us a great adventure, wondrous
sights, immersed in jungles, wildlife and tribal village people. All the vacations are tailor made and Sophie is incredibly flexible. For instance, we chose to travel back from Kanha by car in order to take in Phen Sanctuary. I’m a keen cyclist and we did lots of cycling when we got to Bhormadeo Jungle Retreat. All excursions into the local community tenderly, sensitively led by Sophie and her team of hosts and guides. I’d never been to India before and I was nervous about how to behave and whether I’d fit in. And I wanted to learn about where I was visiting, not just be a tourist. And Sophie and her team took care of all my concerns – their insights into how the community works, health campaigns for local women and their families, and recycling initiatives, all made me feel part of BJR despite just being there for a few days. It was very hard to leave and I would definitely book another trip with the tour operator again. I was in safe hands.

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