India's Bengal Tiger.
www.flickr.com user RobRyb
Recently Travel Operators for Tigers (an organization that promotes responsible tourism to save India's wildlife and wilderness) announced the winners of its 2012 Wildlife Tourism Awards.
The winners, selected in recognition of their dedication to eco tourism and conservation, are:
- Best Lodge Naturalist: Rajesh Bhatt, Jim's Jungle Lodge, Corbett. He runs eco tourism courses across India and has a set up an organization, called Rainbow, to train fellow guides and school kids. He's currently studying a Masters in Environment and Ecology from Manipal University.
- Best Tourist Related Community Initiative: Prakratik Society, Ranthambhore. This non profit organization was founded by Dr Goverdhan Singh Rathore of Khem Villas, and has been working with local communities around the park for almost 20 years. Amongst other things, it provides health care to over 90,000 patients a year and runs a school with 250 pupils.
- Best Wildlife Promotion Company: &Beyond India. Run by naturalists with a sensitivity to eco tourism, the company focuses on luxury travel and offers India's first and only wildlife circuit.
- Best Wildlife/Tourism Initiative, Wildernest Goa. Wildernest has created a 450 acre sanctuary to form a vital tiger corridor between Goa and Karnataka, and is now trying to get the Swapnagandha Valley designated as part of it.
- Most Inspirational Eco Lodge: Joint Winner Mahua Kothi, Bandhavgarh and Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge, Tadoba. A Taj Safaris hotel, Mahua Kothi is spread over 26 acres. It involves the local community in its work, provides world class training to its staff, and supports many projects including the reintroduction of the wild gaur in Bandhavgarh. Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge was stated in 1996 and is a really good example of how transformational tourism can be, bringing barren land back to life to create a haven for wildlife.
- Visitor Friendly Wildlife Destination: Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. The park has converted ten cattle herders into guides, seen a new generation of tigers arrive after 25 years, and an increase in visitors to almost 150,000.
While the current temporary ban on tourism in core areas of India's tiger reserves still remains, it's expected to be relaxed when the Supreme Court hears the case again on September 27 -- just in time for the tourist season.
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