With the invasion of travel vloggers on YouTube and other social media platforms, one gets a lot of options to choose from. It can be the ice hotel in Norway, the shopping streets of Jaipur or the undiscovered little gems in Kerala. They seem to be all over the place, introducing you to roadside eateries, resorts, mountains, and beaches and all that is required for you is to take your pick. But then the flip-side is that one needs to be judicious and double check before embarking on such an adventure.
Living in a tent
Despite the dangers of a make-shift tent, it is surprisingly loved by most travellers. Considering it is closest to nature, tent camping is undoubtedly a fascinating adventure, if safety measures are strictly followed. But now what is being done is that most travellers carry a tent (cost around roughly Rs. 2000) with them and that has been pitched in the forests to sleep. Imagine the utter carelessness! Most of them are not even aware of erecting a tent properly but do it anyway and then take attractive pictures and put it out for the world to see. This tent facility is available at the Thattekkad riverside and to be fair, it does look lovely. But then one must remember that a thin polyester cloth remains your only protection gear against wild animals.
Where elephants roam around
Elephants are known to be the sons of Sahyadri, and Kerala is called the boon of the Sahyadri mountains. That makes Kerala, the land of elephants. If you have read the news of an elephant strolling near Nilambur’s Life Mission Kendra, you will be able to understand how much this habitation is familiar to them. When you pitch a tent in the middle of the forest, you are inadvertently blocking the elephant's pathway. Even tigers will walk into cities if their habitat gets spoiled by humans. Remember that cheetah was once caught on a CCTV camera in Bangalore! What I am trying to say is that towns and forests are increasingly getting accessible to wild animals. And since we live in concrete buildings, it should not worry us but imagine if we were living in such flimsy tents? I still cannot get over those images of elephants leaning against the stone walls near our cottages at Mudumalai. What if we were inside tents?
To opt for a tent or not?
Nature lovers are all for such tent camps, as they feel such clean, cheap and fuss- free arrangements hardly derails the ecosystem. And most of these appealing tents you see in travel magazines are usually based abroad. According to my Malayalee friends since New Zealand have no carnivores in their forests, such tents are highly effective. It is when we try to replicate the same here that such deaths occur.
Safety measures while setting up a tent!
It is always better to go for tents by checking into credible agencies or friends’ recommendations. Meesapulimala’s base camps or the tents at Parambikulam are handled by govt agencies and therefore suggested.
Make sure to plan your trip so that you reach the location by noon. Just so that you can walk around and inspect in detail the safety precautions of the accommodation. You must remember that though they assure you about sealing the area with electric wires, that is no impediment for a wild animal. There was this report about a mama elephant who pounded the wires with a tree to take the baby elephant over the other side of the resort.
While pitching the tent, make sure you are not trespassing on their usual route. Please lend an ear to what the locals have to say as they have a better understanding of the ways of a wild animal. It is important that your camping should not disrupt their natural habitat and avoid making short trips to the forests. Not only are they unlawful but also risky as well. Get the help of a seasoned forest guide.
Look out for clean washrooms and check if it is near your tent. Carry a torch with you when you visit the washroom as you might encounter snakes and other creatures on the way. Make sure you have the phone number of guides or resort managers with you. It is advisable to put up a tent on flat plateaus rather than grasslands and check if it is safe from wild reptiles.
While walking through the forests do follow the forest guide’s instructions. While staying at Parambikulam, we were instructed by guides not to step out at night and discouraged to visit dams unattended, as it might have crocodiles. Despite all the precautions there are tourists who still step out for an Instagram picture.
If you have noticed unlike in India, the foreign companies usually start their meeting explaining in detail about the security precautions of their company. A safety officer will detail about fire exits, emergency exits etc. You can demand a similar commentary about your tent security from the people concerned. Details like forest area, whom to get in touch with during an emergency and other nitty-gritties can be explained.
Remember our mission is not to dissuade you from exploring tent camping. All we are trying is to make it safer.
7 camping mistakes
1. Knowing nothing about your camping location
2. Not knowing enough about the trail that gets you there.
3. Arriving too late to the campsite
4. Relying fire for cooking and warmth
5. Underestimating weather
6. Taking an outdated map
7. Not planning water refill carefully