Tourism stops burning bright

In tiger country...

Tourism stops burning bright

The Supreme Court’s directive banning all tourism activities in core areas of all tiger reserves in the country had an immediate effect in Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks. By early Wednesday morning, many tourists -- confused, angry and disappointed-- left the place.

After the State forest department had on Tuesday decided to stop all tourism activities. For the first time in 40 years, the busy Bandipur tiger reserve as well as Antharasanthe guest house at Nagarhole came to a virtual standstill, following the State forest department deciding on Tuesday to conform with the apex court directive.

By Late Wednesday morning, reception centers at the parks were deserted with the forest department staff relaxing and the fleet of forest department vehicles parked.  
Bandipur has nine suites and three dormitories that can accommodate at least 300 people per day.

Tourists were informed Tuesday night that the safari on Wednesday was cancelled. “Many tourists left early in the morning after the gates opened at 6 am. But for the ban on night traffic on the road through the park, they would have probably left in the night,” said a Forest official.

The department staff turned back tourists who, unaware of the ban, came in Wednesday morning to check on accommodation. They were told that all bookings were cancelled. A board was hung at the reception apologising for the inconvenience caused due to Supreme Court orders. The fee for the bookings was refunded.

Vengam Raju and his family from Bangalore who arrived in the morning left after subjecting the park officials with a barrage of questions.

Swallowing his disappointment, Raju said: “It is good that tourism is banned. It might be a good thing for the conservation.”

Another family from Sultan Batheri in Kerala spent a while admiring the wild boars and macaques at the entrance to the park, before they went back the way they came from. A family from Madhya Pradesh could not hide their disappointment. “It is unfortunate. We had heard a lot about Bandipur,” said Saurav Maheshwari, one of them.

At Nagarahole, things were not of much different from Bandipur. According to Chief Conservator of Forest Kumar Pushkar, guests had left after the safari was cancelled. “The fee was refunded,” he said.

Damanakatte gate, the entry point of safari, wore a deserted look with just two forest staff manning the gate.

The ban caught the Forest departent by surprise. “We had planned a major renovation. Some of the tourism blocks were painted only recently. The souvenir shop, which was closed recently, was being converted into ticket counter. Even on Tuesday evening lot of new bedspreads, curtains were purchased and stocked,” informed an official.

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