The TOFTigers Wildlife Tourism Awards 2016, in association with Sanctuary Asia and Outlook Traveller, were held at a Gala Dinner on the 23rd September in the sumptuous gardens of the British High Commissioners residence. In the company of the judging committee, chaired by world renowned film maker, Mike Pandey, 250 guests including tourism business leaders, wildlife conservationists, Forest and Government officers and the media enjoyed the festive atmosphere and came to celebrate the ‘Best of the Best’ in nature tourism, community action, and conservation support. The theme of the evening was 'Rewilding' and this was reflected in many of the awards on the evening.
We would very much like to thank the key sponsors:
The winners and runners up were:
The Billy Arjan Singh Memorial Award for Wildlife Guide of the Year 2016
Award sponsored by Taj Safaris
Winner: Radhika Prasad Omre from Madla, Panna Tiger Reserve
Radhika exemplifies the qualities needed as a wildlife guide in India today. The ability to excite and enthuse visitors, great knowledge and a willingness to put extra time and energy back into supporting the park, be it vulture surveys or nature training, and teaching visitors to respect these precious assets.
Runner up: Vinod Gulab Uike – Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
A local Gond from the village of Kolara near the north park gates, with excellent knowledge of the flora and fauna, a skilled spotter of big mammals and lover of birds. Today an influencial member of his village.
Lodge Naturalist of the Year 2016
Award sponsored by Indian Wildlife Experiences
Winner: Dhan Bahadur Tamang from Tharu Village, Chitwan in Nepal
Dhan is recognised as one of Nepal’s best and longest serving naturalists, with world class knowledge of tiger populations through his field research over 40 years contributing to the work of pioneer wildlife researcher, Dr Chuck McDougal. His commitment to communicating his love of nature to his many visitors is second to none both in Chitwan and Bardia.
Joint Runners up: Surya Ramachandran, Singinawa Jungle Lodge, Kanha
Very well respected naturalist and photographer, who can generate as much interest in an ant lion as in a tiger. Highly praised by his visitors and fellow naturalists alike.
Joint Runners up: Mittal Gala – Khem Vilas, Ranthambhore
The only female naturalist in Ranthambhore, with a keen wit and great ability as a storyteller. She works extensively with the lodge’s NGO’s such as Tigerwatch, helps educate kids and ensures the property’s ecological balance is protected and maintained.
Dr Chuck McDougal Visitor Friendly Wildlife Destination of the Year 2016
Award sponsored by Trans India Holidays
Joint winners: Chitwan National Park in Nepal and Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra
These winners, with contrasting histories, shine a light on how tourism is helping to protect wildlife.
Chitwan, a pioneer in nature tourism in the 1960s, has declared a zero poaching record for the second year running with growing tiger and rhino populations. With a wonderful range of activities to enjoy, on foot, boat, jeep and elephant back, the main park has now expanded by over 90 sq. kms. thanks to 68 community owned buffer forests that are changing lives for local communities, through small scale ecotourism activities.
Pench Maharashtra, newly opened to tourism and soaking up an overspill from its neighbouring park in Madhya Pradesh, has seen rapidly rising tiger numbers and prey through successful protection measures and new water efforts transforming this park back into a thriving wilderness. Visitors are offered an increasing variety of ways in which to experience the Reserve’s undulating terrain, from walking to night safaris, their presence acting as a deterrent to illegal activities. Bordering communities are benefitting from new livelihood incomes from the nascent tourism.
Runner up: Kali Tiger Reserve, Karnataka
Previously known as the Dandeli – Anshi Tiger reserve, Kali Tiger Reserve is up and coming destination thanks to first class management. Large village relocation efforts, better protection, wildlife census efforts and 200 camera traps, as well as proactive management that has placed the park on the domestic nature and birding tourism circuit.
Wildlife and Tourism Initiative of the Year 2016
Award sponsored by Singinawa Jungle Lodge
Winner: Jabarkhet Nature Reserve in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand
Jabarkhet Nature Reserve is a shining example of a citizen action conservation project re-wilding part of a rapidly diminishing middle Himalayan ecosystem. Set up just over two years ago by Sejah Worah and her team, the Reserve has restored a 110 acre wasteland and rubbish dump back into thriving forest habitat with over 300 species of birds, large mammals including goral and bear and over 300 species of wildflowers. The Reserve aims to cover its running costs through private membership and revenue from visitors who can spend their time immersed in forests with trained guides on carefully planned nature trails.
Runner up: Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
The re-wilding of over 70 hectares of landscape around the Mehrangarh fort landscape that bears a resemblance to its ancient past is a spectacular success. This former ‘wasteland’, has been turned into a place for people and nature to flourish and enjoy again in the heart of a busy city.
Wildlife Tourism Related Community Initiative 2016
Award sponsored by Jungle Sutra Wildlife Journeys by Creative Travel
Winner: Pakke Jungle Camp with Help Tourism in Arunachal Pradesh
A heart warming story of transformation of Nyishi hungers in the Pakke Tiger Reserve into fierce wildlife protectors. Catalysed by the Nature Conservation Foundation in Bangalore and the local forestry officer, village chiefs coming together under the Ghora-Aabhe Society joined forces with Help Tourism to set up Pakke Jungle Camp providing much needed alternative income for the villages. With four species of hornbill on the verge of extinction just a few years ago, this successful partnership between communities, tourism, forestry and conservation, has helped to turn around Hornbill numbers as well as a cascade of other creatures including tiger, clouded leopard and Binturang.
Runner up: Flame of the Forest – Women’s health care project in Kanha, MP
Flame of the Forest’s owners, Karan and Isabelle Modi identified the need and helped invent a simple women’s hygiene product that is now having an immediate and very positive impact on local villagers on a primary health concern that has overcome real stigma. Now villagers are selling to other villages to create small scale businesses and additional income.
International Tour Operator of the Year 2016
Winner: Exodus Travel from London, United Kingdom
Exodus Travel has taken over 10,000 people to see Bengal tigers over the last forty years, in small groups offering immersive nature experiences using sensitively run lodges. Under the guiding light of one of its most indomitable leaders, Paul Goldstein, with over thirteen marathons run in a now famous 15kg tiger suit, Paul, Exodus and their clients have raised over 1.5 crores for tiger projects including a school in Bandhavgarh, community work in Ranthambhore and now projects in Tadoba.
Runner up: On the Go Tours, United Kingdom
Wildlife Promotion Company of the Year 2016
Winner: Abercrombie & Kent India
One of the oldest and best known wildlife safari brands in the world, Abercrombie and Kent continues to deliver high quality safaris and tours across India, using quality eco sensitive and PUG eco-rated lodges and increasingly new glamping sites to get their safari goers off the beaten track. Its A&K Philanthrophic Foundation funds projects across the globe and an Indian school, with support for TOFTigers Village Wildlife Guardian scheme in Ranthambhore from its India office.
Runner up: Travel Inn, New Delhi
A well-known and well run business run by Ravi and Anit Kalra particularly in the wildlife sector, doing some quality special interest nature itineraries.
Up and Coming Excellence in Nature Award 2016
Award sponsored by Cox and Kings India
Winner: Mela Kothi, The Chambal Safari Lodge, Chambal, Uttar Pradesh
The Chambal Safari Lodge owners, Ram and Anu Pratab Singh, conceptualized and hosted in 2015 the first ever Bird Festival in Uttar Pradesh, home of the Chambal gorge and its fabulous birdlife. Shining a light on UP’s importance for birdlife and also sensitizing the local population to the natural gem they have in their midst, the Festival was attended by many of the world’s best birding experts, conservation NGO’s and over 2,000 visitors and 400 school kids. Opened by the State’s Chief Minister, and supported by its Forest Department, a resounding success showing how partnership working can create a win-win situation for wilderness destinations and local communities.
Runner up: Red Earth, Kabini, Karnataka
Red Earth is an organically inspired 20 room lodge, offering all necessary comforts for guests, whilst care has been taken to preserve and nurture all that is natural. Locally inspired building materials, organic vegetables and fruits, fish caught by local fishermen, it’s an inspiration to others in terms of caring for people - not just the guests but also their own staff and community. Value based hospitality with a heart.
The John Wakefield Memorial Award for Most Inspirational Eco Lodge of the Year 2016
Joint winners: Reni Pani Jungle Lodge, Satpura Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh and Singinawa Jungle Lodge, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
These lodges exemplify the very best in lodge operations, community service and environmental accountability today, achieving TOFTigers’ highest PUG eco-ratings. More than this, both have set out to re-wild most of their property, turning back the clock with their habitat restoration over the years, so visitors feel they have already arrived at their nature destination.
Singinawa has continued to showcase the unique art and culture of the original custodians of the land, the Gonds, opening a new Kanha Museum of Life and Art in their grounds in 2015. Reni Pani continues to raise the bar for best practice, not only with its low impact and aesthetically pleasing buildings, but also the quality of its guiding, its numerous visitor experiences and its ongoing work with local communities, and support for Satpura Tiger Reserve.
Runner up: Kanha Earth Lodge, Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
Kanha Earth lodge, set in 16 rewilded acres bordering Kanha buffer forests, is part of the Pugdundee Safari brand, and is an Outstanding Pug-rated lodge. It delivers high quality, ecologically sound lodging and local community support to the neighbouring village of Baadi. Offers a wonder array of activities for visitors and employs five high quality naturalists. It’s also been successful in raising a local village boy to becoming deputy manager in five years, a credit to the organisation’s meritorious structure.