Turning the tide for tigers
Let me begin with a depressing, no, horrifing statistic. Tiger numbers in India dropped from 50,000 at the turn of the 20th century to a shocking all-time low of just 1,400 back in 2008.
Thankfully, due to conservation initiatives like Project Tiger, substantial government investment and increasingly sustainable tourism practices over the last decade, this number has been slowly growing. At the last count, in 2016 there were around 2,500 tigers in India, which represents around two-thirds of the worldwide population.
Madhya Pradesh in Central India is home to 25 per cent of India’s tigers and nearly ten per cent of the world’s tiger population, which the WWF estimates to be around 3,800. There is, therefore, a mounting global responsibility to protect these endangered tigers and their forest habitat for future generations.
With six intimate eco-lodges based in Madhya Pradesh, Pugdundee Safaris takes this responsibility seriously, so much so that the company has built a reputation as one of India’s leading responsible tourism companies. Their team works tirelessly to set high standards for responsible travel, build partnerships with local villagers and ensure that every guest leaves as an ambassador for tiger conservation. Their passion for wildlife and determination to make a difference through sustainable wildlife tourism practices sets them apart and makes them an ideal choice for an ethical tiger safari. For it is only through responsible tourism that we can turn the tide for tigers in India.
Pugdundee’s lodges are all mini eco systems tucked away in the jungle, where resident birds and mammals happily co-exist with guests. No trees have ever been removed to make way for construction. The lodges have been built by locals using sustainable construction techniques. Most of the furniture has been handcrafted by local craftsmen from old sleeper wood. Buildings are sited around existing trees, make use of natural ventilation, insulation and traditional construction materials. All of Pugdundee’s six properties are certified as eco-friendly by Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT), an independent organisation that scrutinises all areas from construction, resource utilisation, waste disposal to development of local community. Three Pugdundee lodges have ‘Outstanding’ Pug ratings. The six tiger eco- lodges in Madhya Pradesh include:
- Ken River Lodge – Panna
- Kings Lodge – Bandhavgarh
- Tree House Hideaway – Bandhavgarh
- Kanha Earth Lodge – Kanha
- Denwa Backwater Escape – Satpura
- Pench Tree Lodge – Pench.
Pugdundee’s strength comes from its team, more than 70 per cent of whom are from nearby villages. Many youngsters have grown with them to become managers, inspiring a brigade of fellow villagers. The team regularly offers intensive training to enhance skills and build capacity. The local villagers are the true bastions of the forests and it is vital to have their support for a sustainable tomorrow.
Of course, the luxury of the jungle is all about the breathtaking views; fresh air; an off-the-beaten-track location; humble hospitality; and an engaging naturalist to bring the jungle to life. It’s about the adventure. The thrill of that bucket-list tiger or sloth bear sighting, enhanced by the creature comforts of a top-rated eco lodge.
Both interiors and curios are inspired and procured from local entrepreneurs and talented craftsmen. Pugdundee also encourages local villagers to share with guests their native skills, cultural practices and their way of life for an authentic, experiential stay. When locals see a direct economic impact from tourism, it incentivises them to conserve and protect wild habitats and wildlife for future generations.
Pugdundee is committed to replacing plastic with environment healthy alternatives such as refillable stainless-steel water bottles.
Each lodge has skilled local guides who possess time-tested knowledge and are additionally trained by modern conservationists on things like wildlife observation skills, communication skills, recording and documenting observations and the upliftment projects offered by their dedicated Pugdundee Safaris Conservation Cell. They are, therefore, well equipped to showcase India’s natural heritage with pride.
Locally grown or sourced ingredients create regionally inspired cuisine that is not only fresh, but supports marginal farmers and local markets. Most of the lodges have organic vegetable and herb gardens.
Guests are engaged regularly through presentations, resource materials and excursions, proudly showcasing India’s natural heritage. Pugdundee aim to inspire guests to become ambassadors for conservation and wildlife to spread the message far and wide. Pugdundee also actively promotes bespoke wilderness activities such as nature walks, village visits, photography tours and cycling safaris for a more intimate, organic bush experience. They are also pioneers of walking safaris with camping in Satpura Tiger reserve and the newly launched cycling through Kipling country, the corridor forest between Pench and Kanha.
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