Tiger Tourism: Radha Gets You a Date With Tigers

Besides opportunity to see tigers up close, Radha Sharma's customised expeditions to tiger reserves gives wildlife enthusiasts lifetime learning on tigers and the interdependent ecosystem.

After nineteen years of teaching Biology, Chennai’s Radha Sharma has quit her job and has turned tiger reserves across India her new classroom. Wildlife and adventure enthusiasts are her new students. She takes them up close to tigers giving them an experience and learning of a lifetime. Radha is one of the very few women in India in this space.  

It was a tiger sighting during a wildlife photography tour in 2014 at the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve with Mr Gudda, a sought after Naturalist good in spotting tigers Radha says, brought about this U turn. “After a 30 minute drive Guda applied brakes and there we saw our friend Bazoola (a tigress) leap. It was a family of five with cubs near a Jamoon tree. Soon after langurs and peacocks made calls and I was speechless for thirty minutes” Radha told tellmystory.in.

Her passion for tigers only turned wild ever since. Visits to tiger reserves increased. The excitement among her students when she shared with them her  tiger encounters made her evolve a  package to help them experience the same thrill and joy. That was the beginning of the company  “Earth Calling Expeditions” that Gudda and Radha co-founded. “Now our summer programme for kids include learning about tiger census, tracing pug marks, brick making, trekking besides sessions on wildlife by forest officials” explains Radha.

The learning experience tours not only focus on tiger sighting but it also emphasize on giving an experience to the guests about local community, local culture and food.
Earth Calling’s Learning Experience Tours through the year include major tiger reserves including Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Ranthambore, Pench, Panna, Satpura, Kaziranga Tadoba, Kabini and Corbett to name a few. Talking about her programmes, Radha says “We limit our numbers to four jeeps with four members in each for the 4 or 5 day packages. Our learning experience tours not only focus on tiger sighting but it also emphasize on giving an experience to our guests about local community, local culture and food. We also try and educate them about the delicate interplay and interdependence of the ecosystem. The package would cost each Rs 25000 to 40000.”
On whether tourist activity in tiger reserves could disturb and stress the big cats, Radha says “Safaris in central India tiger reserves are organized in both buffer and core areas. Although only 20% of the core area is open to tourists, there are strict guidelines and rules laid by forest department. We are a team of disciplined drivers, guides and naturalists. Our priority is compassion towards wildlife and the safety of our guests”. She adds “In tourism zones, tigers are used to seeing people coming. Tiger Tourism is very very important if we don’t want tigers to get extinct.” 
“Dotty” a tigress she has met many times at Bandavgarh Tiger Reserve remains her favourite. A  “Flying tiger” at Kaziranga, she recollects gave her the best ever tiger moment. “As we were waiting we saw some movement around 30 met away. A tiger came, sat in the bushes. As all got ready to click, the tiger roared and jumped across.”
The pandemic had brought tourist activity at the tiger reserves  to a grinding halt. Though Radha was hit herself, she had reached out to many women guides who had lost their livelihood. Her conversation with them and forest officials on Instagram helped her raise funds to help them with supplies.
Please watch the video below on Radha’s story, taking wildlife enthusiasts  into tiger reserves. 

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