In the early eighties, a wildlife resort called Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) was born at Mastigudi, along the banks of the River Kabini (a tributary of the Cauvery). JLR started as a small setup with a few tents by the river. Three decades later, it has grown into a chain of tourist homes that have pioneered eco-tourism and brought the locals and the tourists closer to the wild.
As part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of this award-winning government establishment, the Chief Minister unveiled a commemorative book titled “Wild Vistas”. The richly illustrated book is a treasure trove of nature’s bounties in Karnataka. Interspersed with stunning pictures that exude the energy of the wild, the book traces journeys into the jungles.
The attractive book is the tireless effort of Kunal Sharma supported by N. D. Tiwari. Kunal Sharma is the resort manager of Kabini River Lodge, the flagship property of JLR and N. D. Tiwari is the Managing Director of JLR. Kunal’s interest in JLR was kindled when he studied about the resort and its eco-tourism practices while doing his MBA specializing in Forestry Management. As a person who studied JLR academically, Kunal saw JLR from the outside and then it’s working from the inside. The book is an objective account by a person with a passion for the jungle.
For ages Karnataka has lured adventure lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and wanderlust tourists. From sun soaked beaches to misty hilltops, from the hiss of King Cobras to the kiss of elephants, from elusive tigers to vibrant peacocks, from dolphins to mahaseers, Karnataka is a traveler’s paradise. To its north, the Kali cascades down the Sahyadris. To its south, the Cauvery meanders along rugged slopes. To its west, towering hills stand in the way of rain-laden clouds.In between are dense forests, sylvan hills, velvety plains and verdant valleys. An assortment of flora and fauna thrive midst the loops of flowing rivers and the lungs of the countryside.
It is hard to separate JLR from the best on offer for a nature lover in Karnataka. Twelve and counting, JLR’s resorts in pristine locations are windows to the vistas of wild Karnataka. Pictures spanning decades capture the landscape, the people and the wildlife – the essence of the biosphere of the state. “This book is about Karnataka, JLR is mentioned in the passing”, says Kunal who burnt midnight oil over the research for the book over the past two years. The book is a labor of love and is a compilation of the work of professional and amateur photographers, naturalists, travel writers and the staff of JLR. “Photographers gave some of their best captures without any hesitation. None of them asked for money”, says Kunal as he talks about the contributions that poured in generously.
JLR has loyal guests whose relationship with the resort and its conservation efforts have strengthened with time. “Eco-tourism should cover all aspects of nature. This book is an example of JLR’s association with nature lovers”, says N. D. Tiwari. Late Colonel John Wakefield’s principles of sustainable tourism ensured that JLR endorses and practices the concepts of eco and educative tourism. “Papa (as Colonel John Wakefield is affectionately called) opened his house for the research of the book”, says Kunal who unearthed some old photographs and references from shelves of the grand old man’s library.
Apart from showcasing the natural grandeur of each of the JLR resorts, the book is peppered with guest columns by eminent personalities like Bittu Sahgal, Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, Rohit Barker and Hugh and Coleen Gantzer. It also carries special features on eco-tourism and the people and traditions of the state.
The book puts forth the eloquence of nature. Some pictures speak a thousand words; others leave you at a loss for words. The yawn of a tiger, the art of a weaverbird, the kill of a leopard, the feed of a frog, the call of the wild- you can attribute some pictures to serendipity, the others to long hours, days, months and years in the jungle. Wild Vistas is an elaborate collection of evocative pictures, descriptive experiences and moments that are truly wild.
This article was published in The Hindu, Bangalore edition on the 10th of June 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.