The death of a young woman tourist in a wild elephant attack in Meppadi is the fallout of throwing safety norms to the wind, says noted Kerala wildlife photographer Seema Suresh, who has tent camped in many forests across the globe, including the verdant jungles of Maasai Mara in Africa. Requisite guidelines and warning are given to travellers before they enter the Maasai Mara forest and they are bound to follow the instructions in toto, she adds.
People always travel in search of some incredible experience. While choosing a spot for pitching a tent in wilderness, one should know whether that place is frequented by untamed animals. Having said that always expect wild animals to be round the corner, says Seema.
“The most important instruction given by authorities concerned while staying in Maasai Mara forest was not to venture out of the tent during night time. If you urgently need something just make a sound to attract the attention of seasoned security personnel. They will take us out to have food too,” she notes.
Before hitting the road, one should have knowledge of the safety measures put in place by the resorts and make sure that there is requisite approval from the forest department for tent camping in the forests. It could be better to include local people, who know the forest topography pretty well, in the tent camping group. One should also be extra cautious and vigilant if the spot chosen to pitch tent is infested with wild animals.
The safe Wild Planet Resort
The Wild Planet Resort near the Bandipur and Mudumalai wildlife sanctuaries on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border provides foolproof security to people who want to stay put in forests. The luxury retreat is spread across close to 100 acres of land and the visitors can get a feel of the wilderness in a safe and secure environment. And a standard direction given to all guests is to reach the resort before 6pm. An electric fence around the property cocoons the visitors against any attack from elephants and other wild animals.
Resort owner Mahesh asserts that there had been no untoward incident in the resort, which has a rich legacy of close to 40 years.
How to gear up for stay in wilderness
Mahesh, who is an ornithologist, guides the guests in enjoying the pristine beauty of forests and has some invaluable advice for people planning to stay in the middle of a jungle. As the rainforest is replete with leeches, it is better to wear gumboots or coverings that reach the knees. An experienced guide will be at least 100m ahead of the group and be alert to any sound or movement in the forest. The guides would also ensure that the trekking routes don’t cross the paths of wild elephants to avoid danger. Only people above 18 years of age can trek through the forests, notes Mahesh.
KTDC Lake Palace
If you want to add regal splendour to your stay in the wild, then head to KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation) Lake Palace at Thekkady in Idukki district. Scores of travellers are coming to this stunning palace to know the pulse of the wild. The forest department in Thekkady has many packages in its kitty that facilitates trekking through and camping in the forests. Though the forest area in the region is close to 925 sq km, only 26 sq km of green cover is included in the tour packages.
The Tiger Trail Trekking, a tour package conceived by the Kerala Government and forest department, is a unique offering for the travellers. The other packages include bamboo rafting, stay in watch tower and camping inside the forests. Fifteen people can go on bamboo rafting and there will be an armed beat forest officer and a guide along with the team. Six tourists can be part of the tiger trail trekking and the group will be accompanied by an armed beat forest officer and four guides.
The travellers can also stay in tents deep inside the forests, that too safely. To ensure the safety of visitors, elephant proof tents are also available to ward off attacks by elephants and other wild animals.