India: Day 6- Ranthambhore National Park

From Fortress to Eco-Lodge

Whilst we were looking forward to the rest of the trip, we were sad to leave Ramathra Fort, we had a great time relaxing and spending time just eating and sitting by the fire, we might travel a lot but we tend to be active all the time so it really was quite the rarity to just have some time to ourselves without having to rush around.

Sanjay our driver picked up us after breakfast but not before we returned to our suite and to pack (we ended up keeping that and getting the tent too rather than having to move) just before we left we spotted a herd of Blue Bulls eating directly outside of the window.

The drive to Ranthambhore took a few hours and we stopped on the way at a Women’s craft centre. There has been a drive to encourage families to move out of the national park area as it puts both them and the wildlife at risk so one of the means of doing this, along with financial incentives has been to teach the women a range of crafts and to encourage their independence. I felt very encouraged by this but it was also obvious given the many signs that we saw that some people were just cashing in on a concept. I think it would be pretty difficult to know which are or aren’t genuine organisations supporting women and resettled families but we trusted the judgement of our driver who both knew the area and had steered us well so far. We spent quite some time in the craft centre, I was interested in the different varieties of objects available from paintings to fabrics and pottery. As with our visit to the marble store, we were ‘guided’ around the building and shown a range of products. There is no obligation to buy but likewise you need an iron will if you want to avoid buying something you don’t want! We had decided in advance that we wanted to bring a few things home with us so it wasn’t a problem but we did have to stand firm at times. This is a good article if you want to read up more on the work in this area https://yourstory.com/2016/12/dastkar-ranthambore/

Finally packing up our goods we arrived at Khem Villas, an Eco Lodge on the outskirts of Ranthambhore National Park, as with all of our accommodation it is recommended for its eco-friendly credentials and for engaging in responsible tourism. Checking into our room we were then told that as it was the quiet season we could upgrade to a cottage should we want to, obviously we jumped on the chance and it was the right choice, our original room was nice enough but the cottage looked out onto the crocodile lake and had an outdoor bath and shower.

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Khem Villas is an entirely vegetarian site so after a late lunch we took a walk around the grounds. Rumour has it that it is not uncommon to see jackals, jungle cats, hyenas and desert fox  within the grasslands but the first thing we saw on arrival were some very active monkeys sat on top of the cottages!

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We spent the rest of the day at our leisure, watching the kingfishers and crocs before dinner and an early night in preparation for our first day of Safari.

Khem Villas celebrates the life and work of Fateh Singh Rathore, also known as the Tiger Man of India. He was committed to the protection of the native tigers and helped carve out a sanctuary for them at Ranthambhore. The lobby area contains a large photograph of him plus copies of his awards and publications made about his work. He campaigned for conservation of the tiger, worked alongside (and sometimes against) the government to protect the species and as part of other organisations to raise awareness of their plight.

Khem Villas is located on a large plot of land developed by Goverdhan who is the son of India’s famous Tiger Man. When Goverdhan graduated as a medical Doctor in 1988 he came to back to Ranthambhore to work with local people living around the Park in an effort to engage them in projects that would make them less dependent on the park for their natural resource needs and therefore in the long run help save the Park and its Tigers. 

For 25 years, before Khem Villas became a jungle camp, Goverdhan developed the land on which Khem Villas is located into a small wilderness haven that has small lakes, forest areas and open grasslands. The focus at Khem Villas is not just Tigers but beyond, engaging visitors and informing them about the various challenges that threaten the survival of Ranthambhore and its Tigers. 

Goverdhan is involved with two NGOs Prakratik, Ranthambhore Foundation and Tiger Watch providing health care, education, afforestation, dairy development, employment generation, monitoring of Tigers and more importantly sustainable livelihoods.Tiger Watch realised that the tiger poachers came mainly from the Mogya tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers with no other means of livelihood, so they started a rehabilitation programme for them, involving the women in handicraft production, and setting up a hostel where their children can be clothed, fed and educated, to give them some dignity and better prospects in future. This is strictly on condition that the men give up poaching.  There is a small not for profit shop on site at Khem Villas where all funds raised are donated to these causes.

It’s an inspiring place to stay.

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