Karnataka’s forests were the playground of hunters Kings, queens and ministers from lands afar, came here in pursuit of big game. The bigger the game, the harder they were chased. Kabini’s forests were a special favourite. Rulers came. The viceroys and the officers of the British East India Company came, these forests even played host to the Russian Grand Dukes’ penchant for game hunting, way back in 1891. Today, these forests still hold sway. Their allure still brings people from the farthest outreaches of the globe – Hollywood even – but with a different motive.
Kathmandu, 1978; the Late Sri. Gundu Rao makes the journey to attend the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)
Conference and, by what must have been an intervention of destiny, is given lodgings at the world-famous Tiger Tops Jungle Lodges. The magical setting within the Royal Chitawan National Park and the number of international tourists it brought, captured the imagination of the far-seeing bureaucrat, who later went on to become the Chief Minister of the State.Tiger, leopard, elephant, gaur, crocodile, blackbuck, sloth bear, mahseer, peafowl – the state of Karnataka is home to a fascinating range of wildlife – so why not? Upon his return, he wrote to Tiger Tops, inviting them to build a similar model as he’d experienced in Nepal at Nagarahole. A year later, the Government of Karnataka in partnership with Tiger Tops unveiled the Jungle Lodges and Resorts: and India witnessed the birth of what became the country’s first-ever foray into eco-tourism.
In 1980, the Jungle Lodges & Resorts’ River Kabini Lodge, India’s first eco-tourism destination opened its doors to a waiting public. And then, came the challenges. When you’re pioneering something, you have to be prepared for a few set-backs. In 1987, Tiger Tops drew out of the partnership, and sold their interest to the Government of Karnataka. Looking back, Jungle Lodges & Resorts becoming 100% owned by the Karnataka government, was perhaps the watershed in the history of the venture. Today, we’re an eco-tourism brand with properties across Karnataka and countless fans all over the globe. The journey so far has been long, winding, sometimes a little rocky.But above all, it’s been adventurous.
What began as an experiment has grown into the catchphrase of the times. Eco-tourism wasn’t always as fashionable as it is now. And the story of Jungle Lodges & Resorts is rightfully the story of India’s awakening to wildlife preservation.In the years, we’re proud to have done our bit towards making the nation more sensitive to the cry of the wild. In our lifetime, we’ve seen hunters grow into protectors of the wild; people shedding their indifference to become fierce ambassadors of the jungle; and mostly, the JLR raison detre, positive trends and growth in wildlife numbers.
From an idea to an exemplar wasn’t an overnight journey. The years have been a learning process – we’ve weeded out the unnecessary and included practices, what have become the JLR philosophy. Part of our purpose is to help each and every one of our guest understand their role in preserving the gifts of nature. A sense of appreciation for the things around them, which cannot be achieved, if we operate like any other resort. We source a large portion of our provisions from local farmers; our staff includes reformed poachers – capitalising on their sound knowledge of the forest and wildlife for the greater good; and our guests often leave as avid endorsers of conservation. So, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever find a 100-room JLR property. We simply don’t believe in human beings outnumbering the animals. More experience and redefined luxuries is the JLR motto. The sights, the sounds, the moments all come into play. Out here, nothing comes between you and nature. JLR is also about cultivating your dormant sense of wonder. The sights and experiences, a JLR resort affords you, are unlike any other. And we believe that such stories must be shared. Meal times at JLR are together times. Barring a couple of properties, all our resorts have no restaurants but instead have a group dining area called the Gol Ghar, where lunch and dinner buffets are served at set timings. Dinners by campfires nourish the storyteller in every one of us, past experiences have taught us. Come by and discover the JLR experience for yourself. But tread softly, for these are hallowed grounds.