Beginning 1 October, national parks across Rajasthan, viz. Ranthambor (Sawai Madhopur), Sariska (Alwar) among others have been fully re-opened to the public after the COVID lockdown break.
A decision to this effect was already taken in a meeting held on 8 August by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF). Timings were also decided during the meeting, which also highlighted all the perinent issues.
From the very beginning, wildlife has been an integral part of Rajasthan. Tourists come to Rajasthan because of its diverse flora and fauna. Winter is the ideal season for a wildlife vacations and excusrions. Most tourists visit during the periods beginning October. National Parks and Tiger Reserves in other Indian states are also opening. The Rajasthan government has made safaris more convenient by allowing tourists to enter national parks and tiger reserves in the normal morning and evening timings in an effort to make it profitable in the face of the problems posed by the pandemic for the past two years.
“More jeeps will be now available in advance booking for various safaris as gypsies kept for current bookings have also been moved to advance booking.” - Shikhar Agarwal, Principal Secretary
For Ranthambore, reservations are currently sold out for the next few days and are only available for Saturday in the advance booking section. While in the Sariska Tiger Reserve, reservations can be made from both the Sariska Gate and the Tehla Gate. When it comes to maintaining the crowd, vehicles and most importantly wildlife, natural reserves face several challenges. Now the problems have been solved as the new act by Forests Department of Rajasthan will control the daily issues.Human interference in other animal’s ability to roam freely will now be taken special care of. Earlier, jeep booking was on first come first basis through agents, the full-day and half-day safaris were being blocked. Now, the bookings will be online to avoid problems. Prior to this Rajasthan government made a statement that the people who have already made advance bookings and paid huge amounts of Rs 42,637 for half-day and Rs. 75,019 for full-day, will be allowed to visit as per their allotted timings. The tourists can switch to normal safaris.
Wildlife lovers are supporting this decision as they say it will help in the conservation and will protect the ecosystem in better ways. To experience and enjoy the wildlife, people no need to be worried about the zones allotted to them and a full-day half-day system as the safaris will run on a regular basis.
Apprehension among Tour Operators
Tour operators, residents and other stakeholders at the Ranthambore reserve have raised concern on the departments heavy handedness in closing down the current booking system at Ranthambore. This decision,they say, will have a major effect on the weekend tourists and those deciding to chose this destination as an option at the last moment. A memorandum was submitted by these stakeholders on 1 October to the Chief Conservator of Forests to undo this decision, which the stakeholders say, was taken unilateraly, without considering the guidelines of the area committee formed under the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The office on the CCF, on the other hand says that this decision was taken after meeting all the stakeholders and at that point of time there was no objection. The local stakeholders were of the opinion that this decision is likely to land heavily on the earnings of the locals associated with this industry.