We all have been locked in for a long time now. At least the longest we have been forced to. Even though our bodies are locked indoors, our minds still wander the great outdoors. It wanders to the destinations we had planned to travel or have been frequenting at regular intervals. Sitting at home, we are still making plans to escape at the slightest opportunity - to near or far, once all this is over.
Being closely related to the Wildlife Tourism industry, I know for a fact that this industry has taken one of the hardest hits. Most of the business here is seasonal in nature and the lockdown happened during the peak season of 2020-21. Even though Parks are opening now for a very short period before monsoons, this sector will be pinning its hope only on the next season starting from Oct 2020.
Though we are not sure regarding when things will get back to normal, one thing is sure: Travel & Tourism is never going to be the same again. Just like our lifestyle, tourism activities will undergo a huge behavioural change to its approach. Tour operators, service providers and above all tourists will be adapting to a “new normal” when the dust settles down.
This global pandemic has served humanity with a wake up call it long deserved. It has also given us time to do some retrospection and plan ahead our actions for a better future. Our actions now have to be more responsible in nature to deal with any such shocks or at least make us better prepared to handle them.
I am sharing five tips on how to be a responsible wildlife-loving traveller in post pandemic period:
Going Local - India is blessed with wide natural & wild landscapes. All the major cities have some wildlife getaways close by. As travel restrictions which are in place going to be of unpredictable nature, it’s wise to explore the nearby areas initially. It’s also a great away to support any local community based ecotourism initiatives which have been badly affected due to lockdowns. Exotic far away locations are always tempting but it will take some time before we can access them. Till then we can support our nearby destinations and communities.
Comfort with a purpose - When choosing resorts or lodges in the wildlife areas, try to consider the camps with nature friendly operations and which give back to the local communities around it. Don’t hesitate to ask direct questions about their CSR programs, garbage/ sewage disposal methods, local employment generation and the size of their ecological footprint before booking. This way you can make a responsible decision and contribute to the environment in your own way. Give extra consideration to properties having sustainable practices even though it comes at a premium price.
Respect Nature - We all love to see or photograph a Tiger or Leopard when we are out on our safaris. But the ‘wild’ is made out of many other things like birds, insects, trees and landscape. We should take a moment to appreciate the various elements of nature and prevent ourselves from getting obsessed with a singular pursuit. You will then be surprised to see what a rewarding outdoor experience it can be. It also encourages the local guides and tour leaders to share their knowledge and provide you with a rich experience.
Respect the Dos/ Don’ts - Visit to any nature reserve or eco-sensitive area comes with its own guidelines of Dos & Don’ts. Concerned authorities and local guides are always aware of such guidelines. Do listen and follow them to minimise your footprint in the area during the visit. Respect local knowledge and traditions. Do nothing that can cause any damage to the natural environment, habitat or wildlife.
Contribute - Responsible Tourism holds key to the future, not only for the tourism industry but also for our planet. Community based initiatives need constant encouragement from a steady flow of caring visitors. If possible, spend some more time in the destination and get yourself involved in some voluntourism. Being part of the solution can be your new mantra. You can enquire about any small or big projects happening in the area prior to or during your visit. You can then contribute to it according to your capacity. That way you can engage with the communities in a better way and also have a real world experience.
One way to achieve these goals during your future travel is to look out for a responsible tour operator who is ready to answer your queries and help you out to design a ‘mindful’ travel experience. You can also help out a small travel business with ethical practices which is working closely with community based initiatives and have suffered badly during this turbulent times.
This way we can build a resilient tourism ecosystem which will be highly considerate towards the need of the local economy and the environment it depends on. Only then we can utilise this wake up call in the best possible manner and build a better planet.