4 April 2012 by Luke McCormick
Taj Safaris introduces ‘voluntourism' at Pashan Garh, Panna National Park
This latest initiative provides guests with first hand experience of villagers' lives while staying in light-footprint, non-intrusive luxury cottages. A joint venture between Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces and &Beyond, the Voluntourism project at the 200-acre lodge in Panna National Park has addressed wildlife conservation and community engagement
Taj Hotels is a strong advocate of responsible tourism, a message articulated clearly by the Taj Safari lodges. The company harnesses a passion for nature, wildlife and conservation, alongside working with local communities towards tiger conservation. Other initiatives include education, health and nutritional support, and local enterprise development.
The Voluntourism packages have been designed for adventurers looking for three- or five-day holidays with a purpose. As well as visiting the villages and engaging in their daily activities by assisting in collecting firewood, tending the fields and milking cows, guests can share a meal with the locals and exchange stories.
They will also have the opportunity to assist the chef in baking treats for local children, and to accompany the Taj Safaris team in educating families about health and safety in the household, e.g. installing smokeless chulhas for cooking, rather than the widely used traditional earthen stoves whose smoke harms the lungs and eyes.
Additionally guests can attend the Panna National Park conservation lessons for local children - provided by Taj Safaris - which educate about how each element of the jungle contributes and affects the wellbeing of the eco system.
After an educational morning there is the chance to further engage with the children through painting images of the surroundings, and discussing everyone's newly acquired knowledge. All of this before a shared traditional meal including regional vegetables, eaten on crockery made from leaves and assembled by the group.
As a reward for all the hard work the package includes safari drives, nature walks and visits to ancient temples including the 10th and 11th century Khajuraho temples built by Chandela Kings.