Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chitwan: Paradise & Opportunity Lost


In the mid 1980's we established a jungle lodge (Narayani Safari) at the outskirts of Royal Chitwan National Park. The lodge itself was located on a bluff overlooking Rapti River and the national park beyond. For many years till mid 2000's we operated this property till the political situation forced our hands.

When we started, we had been given the permission to operate our own elephants and conduct jungle activities inside the park after paying royalties and other fees like the other lodges inside the park. 

At that time, the explicit understanding between the government: Forestry Ministry, King Mahendra Trust et al and us was that it was to be a new model for the park and tourism. If successful this model was to be implemented on all existing properties inside the park. The time period for its implementation was to be the next 15-20 years. The idea was that LIMITED jungle activities including elephant rides were to be operated inside after paying royalties and fees but no hotel or lodge or private motorised vehicles were to operate inside the park itself. 

The Narayani Safari experiment succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations mating good environmental practices with high quality tourism.

In the mid 2000's we exited the hotel business and the property changed hands. Recently in March 2013 I went back to Narayani Safari for the first time since this change of ownership. While it was good to see the improvements in the lodge itself, the state of jungle activities has regressed much to the detriment of the country and the tourism industry due to political pressure from various groups, inability to act swiftly and decisively and the lack of political will to do the right but difficult thing. 

I doubt that the overall experience of the tourists would make them want to come back again to what was once the best wild life experience this side of East Africa. 

Images March 2013
Top: Narayani Safari outdoor dining area
 Elephant ride and viewing the wildlife (rhinos, rose ringed parakeets on kapok trees, peacock and spotted deer) in the community forest outside the national park

1 comment:

  1. Can you illuminate the negative changes you observed and what should be done. Thanks