Holidays in Rural India
How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...
ALL our accommodation providers employ a majority or entirely local staff.
We run campaigns (literally – I run races to raise money!) for water charities. Specifically raising money in 2015 to have a well dug in a village that was suffering badly from water shortages due to climate change, and now working with Frank Water and a local NGO Samerth to support long term solutions (such as using school roofs for rainwater harvesting systems) in various villages in the area. We are hoping to have a rainwater harvesting system installed at our main accommodation provider, Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat, and are in the process of arranging a several day sponsored walk to villages with whom Samerth has been working, as a fundraiser in 2017.
We ran a litter project last year focussing on the nearby temple, which is a local tourist attraction and was becoming inundated with rubbish. A small team of working holiday youngsters spent a month with us, visiting local schools to educate the pupils on litter and recycling and had two big clean up days involving local school children and domestic tourists. Christmas guests joined in with our working holiday kids and built two rubbish bins (Bhoramdeo’s first) and we set up an arrangement with local stall holders who empty the bins and burn or bury the rubbish (far, far from ideal, but recycling facilities are non-existent and this is infinitely preferable to the previous situation where the litter festered and was eaten by domestic and wild animals, and attracted rats which then drew in snakes).
The next step is to try to phase out the use of plastic in the village.
We strongly recommend that all able bodied guests do as much of their sightseeing as possible on foot or by bicycle. Not only is this better for the environment but it makes for a far more interactive sort of tourism, which we feel benefits everyone.
Many of our guests travel from Bhoramdeo to Kanha National Park (or Satpura) where they are encouraged not to have a too tiger-centric attitude. There is much to see in the forest other than tigers, and bullying guides and naturalists into charging around at speed in order to ‘provide’ them with a tiger is something we abhor. We have had good feedback about the decency of our guests, and I feel proud of that – people do need a bit of nudging in the right direction when venturing into new territory and it is the responsibility of the tour operator to do that.
We work in an area where tourists are not common and we genuinely work hard to ensure that we do good not harm. I will (and have on several occasions) gently suggest that clients would be better off visiting a less vulnerable part of the world if I do not feel they have the sensitivity properly to appreciate, and thus treat with the tender respect it needs, this special part of the world. We take only couples, families, or very small groups to villages and give guidance on the acceptability of taking photographs and how best to return the great favour of being welcomed into people’s homes. All guests are given a fact sheet telling them not to give anything to children, how they should dress and how best to remunerate kindness (locally made blankets, a cricket bat and ball for a village, gifts of food etc). I feel that by bringing small scale, sensitively managed tourism to an area that is massively neglected by its own government, we are gently pointing out both to that government and to the villagers with whom we spend time, that their way of life matters