Source: A&W Magazine

Themorning sun was beating down hard as we made our way back to the Kisli parkgate, but it had been a few hours well spent. The four of us had had a quietbut delightful drive through the meadows and malevolent sal forests of theSurhi range of Kanha, where statuesque barasingha abounded and the salheartwood borer beetle Hoplocerambyx spinicornis, was doing its best to kill wholegroves of trees. The trip had been a revelation. Seldom can I remember a drive withsuch a sense of ‘wildness’ seemingly all to myself, free of the usualcamera-laden tourists like me. We had stopped, we had watched, we had listened –often for half an hour at a time – all our senses concentrated on the infinitesights and sounds of the jungle. Yes, the driver had become a little fidgety,the guide a bit bored, but I was elated. That morning I had what I wanted as atourist and customer. Isn’t customer satisfaction the ultimate objective of a qualitysafari drive? Here was a responsive, customer–focused, informative driver andpolite park guide, succeeding within well thought out and applied vehicleroutings – even with 1,33,660other visits last year. Let’s remind ourselves whereand why parks were originally created – for conservation and recreation. It wasright here in India after all that the first park was created in Bori Sanctuaryin 1865, in what is now the Satpura Tiger reserve. This was seven years before anywere declared in the Unites States – too often credited as the originalforerunners. Yet for decades the agencies constituted in the two countries tooversee these precious landscapes have run them in completely different ways.In the United States they encourage you to visit, design clever ways to helpyou enjoy their natural rhythms, allow you time to reconnect with nature awayfrom modern contraptions, through camping, hiking, biking and nature trails, kayakingand rafting, clever signposting, mapping and even refuge huts. They make surethat you are prepared and able to have an amazing time, and ideally fall inlove with a place, so you come back again, spending your dollars to help thepark authorities to preserve them – ad infinitum. In India it’s been exactly theopposite. Close off the most fabled landscapes, restrict you to small areas,make you as inconvenienced and often as uncomfortable as possible travellingaround, staying inside or doing anything of great interest within them.Furthermore, ensure there are no facilities or services, you can’t go withexperts, get no guide books or maps and finally send you away feeling youshould be grateful for what you did or didn’t see. The CEO of The National WildlifeRefuge Association, which oversees 6,00,000 sq. km. of wilderness acrossAmerica and its 53 million visitors per