Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nature India Guidelines when visiting Kaas Plateau, Satara

The Plateau of Flowers - Kaas
Satara, Maharashtra

Present Scenario, Tourism and Guidelines 

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has recently included Kaas Plateau of flowers (near Satara, in Maharashtra) in the list of World Natural Heritage sites. It is one of the 39 recently declared sites of Natural heritage in Western Ghats. In recent years the popularity of Kaas Plateau, Satara has increased many folds and the increase in numbers of tourists have resulted in a direct or indirect impact on its bio-diversity.  The lack of proper guidelines and limited patrolling by the Forest Department is causing a tremendous stress to this fragile ecosystem.  Without any proper regulation and control, Kaas has unfortunately turned into a picnic spot, with the in-sensitive & rowdy tourists plucking and trampling flowers, parking vehicles on the plateau, littering garbage, picnicking and creating mess. .... This could lead to only 2 situations in the coming years... Either degradation of this amazing place or a complete ban on tourism and thereby losing on the opportunity to appreciate and tap the potential of this place and finally its conservation.... either of these situations are not ideal solutions..... Hence to reverse this, it is extremely important to advocate and implement responsible Eco-tourism.

In view of this, the Forest Dept. and some NGOs have decided to implement strict restrictions and fees from year 2012. While we strongly welcome this move, we would also like to bring to the notice that even before these restrictions,Nature India" ecotours have been advocating strict Guidelines from its inception on our every trip to wildlife areas (and not just the Kaas plateau), because we are committed towards a responsible ecotourism....Nature India has been educating, sensitizing and showing the wonders of Nature responsibly as we believe awareness is the 1st step towards conservation and prohibiting people from visiting these places might do more harm then good..... the well being of nature and its denizens have always being our 1st priority.

Some news on the restrictions and steps taken recently....

To help conserve this fragile habitat from degradation, it is very important for each of us to ensure discipline whenever we plan a visit to such places....Remember, each one of us are stakeholders in preserving our remaining natural places and cannot just push it on the authorities ....  While the government will surely come up with systematic regulations to regulate the influx of tourists on the plateau and while they, along with some local NGOs make their own efforts....  Nature India earnestly appeals people to follow the below mentioned guidelines and implement it when visiting Kaas Plateau individually or in groups:
  1. Always advocate “Nature First” .... there should not be any compromise on this. The wellbeing of Nature (flowers, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians etc) should be the 1st priority, even if we are not able to see or photograph certain species.
  2. Respect the laws and rules set up by the competent authorities of that region (Forest Dept or NGOs) and follow the rules set up by them, irrespective of whether others follow it or not..... It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not break the rules and tell others not to do so. Kindly pay the required entry fees proactively and help to maintain the harmony.
  3. Do not pluck or trample any flowers. Remember, these flowering species grow in certain conditions like specific soil, altitude, moisture, wind etc. and are extremely vulnerable to the change in environment, they cannot be grown at our home or in other habitat..... and most importantly, it encourages other people to imitate you.
  4. Do not Drink, Smoke or consume any Narcotic like drugs while visiting such places. Please maintain the sanctity of the Plateau.... treat it like a sacred place.
  5. Park your vehicles only in the designated parking space allotted by the forest department, which is about 3 kms before or 2 km after the plateau. You will need to walk through the tar road to reach the plateau. We can surely do this much for this amazing yet fragile place.
  6. Do not spend too much time on the Kaas plateau.....there is more to see in the surrounding region (Kaas Ghat road, Thoseghar waterfall area, Sajjangad Fort, Chalkewadi windmills, Ajinkya Tara Fort, Pachgani table-land, Pasarni Ghat near Vai etc). These places also offer spectacular variety of species of flowers.
  7. While one cannot stop the urge to visit this wonderful place again and again. is always recommended to avoid visiting Kaas plateau consecutively, if you have already visited it once, thereby helping to decrease the pressure to manage it. Fortunately, we are blessed in Maharashtra with several other places with wonderful variety of flowers like many forts namely Purandar, Sinhgad, Pratapgad, Anjaneri, Harishchandragad, Panhala, Vishalgad, Vasota, Torna, Raigad, Rajmachi etc....and places like Malshej Ghat, Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Amboli, Bhimashankar, Suryamal, Kasara Ghat, Varandh Ghat, Mulshi, hills around Belgaum and trimbakeshwar where one can find not just a wide variety of flowers, but also some rare ones.
  8. The “Tour operators” should not take more than 20-25 participants at a time, so that they can keep a strict vigil on their activities. Avoid taking large buses. Ensure that every participant follows the rules and guidelines and take moral responsibility of their activities. Before you start, make it clear that strict action will be taken if anyone disobeys.
  9. Do not carry any food or eatables on the Plateau and litter the area. Even if you take care to “not litter” the area, there are others who may get motivated to carry food items.
  10. Kaas Plateau is not a picnic spot. It is designated as one of the 39 nature heritage sites within Western Ghats by the UNESCO. It is extremely fragile biodiversity hotspot. Do not be selfish and make it a recreational area for your entertainment.
  11. If you are visiting with your family, then take responsibility that your family members follow these guidelines. Ensure that the children that you bring along should not scatter away and thereby trample the flower beds due to over-excitement.
  12. Photographers: While photographing flowers, the photographers are requested not to alter the surroundings or lie down to get desired shots. It may cause harm to more flowers. Preserving the flowers is more important than capturing a “prize winning” image.
  13. Botanists, Researchers & Academicians: We respect the need of research and study, however, we earnestly appeal to avoid collecting any specimens from this particular region when you are on a botany excursion without prior permission and supervision from the forest dept. You will appreciate that this region is already under multiple pressures, more-over your actions can be replicated un-knowingly by lay-persons / casual visitors here and can give them just the reason for an excuse to pluck the flowers.
  14. Appreciate that we do not require any facilities (Hotels, Restaurants etc) anywhere near such fragile ecosystem for the well-being of this place. Avoid using facilities of such places if at all they are present and discourage people from using them. Stay in Satara town instead.
  15. It will be a great service, if you could carry some of the garbage from the plateau, back with you to dispose off appropriately. Even though, it is a little effort, such acts will surely help manage the place well.
  16. While informing about Kaas plateau to more people or while sharing images or travelogues of the plateau on various social networking sites, please ensure that you also put a note on the do’s &  dont’s and the precautions for those who intend to visit.
  17. If possible proactively contribute “funds” to the right organizations which are taking efforts to conserve and manage this eco-sensitive heritage. Find innovative ways, how you can contribute towards the maintenance and conservation of Kaas plateau. Take out some time to interact with villages and school children to motivate and encourage them to preserve its biodiversity.
While we strongly believe that prohibiting people from visiting such places is not the solution..... we carry much more responsibility now to ensure that our visit to such places should not have a negative impact on the biodiversity of the region. Unfortunately, the fact is, that most people in India are insensitive towards Nature, probably due to ignorance or maybe due to lack of any guidelines..... If each of us follow the above regulations, then there is a hope that we might do due justice to this amazing place and show the world that people in India care for their natural heritages..... with such places, we also get an opportunity to sensitize more people towards flora and nature as a whole. If managed well, then this can certainly help to generate funds, not just for the conservation of this area, but also for the well-being of the villagers around and their sustainable development.

Instead of converting this place as an alternative hillstation for Mahabaleshwar (which we believe was the initial plan of some people, before it came in focus due to tourism), we would wish to see Kaas as an example of successful conservation story through responsible ecotourism, sensitive approach, better management and systematic research. We also believe, tourism, if done sensitively & sensibly, is part of the solution to the many conservation related challenges we face today and each one of us is a stakeholder in this...... Now the Onus is on all of us !!

Thanks & Regards,

Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar
Nature India
Appreciate, Respect & Conserve

To know about our trips to Kaas plateau, please click here...

Have a look at this blog by our participants in Sept. 2012, to know how we conduct the tour (This was also published in the English daily newspaper "Mumbai Mirror").


Nature India Policies

Nature India Policies and Guidelines
      •  Please note that "Nature India" strongly advocates nature first and there will not be any compromise on this what-so-ever. Preserving our natural wealth is our utmost responsibility and hence any acts or activities that may harm or disturb nature will not be entertained. Anyone found to violate this, will be promptly asked to discontinue with the trip at his / hers own risk.

      • "Nature India" also respects and values the interests of the local folks and the guardians of forests, hence requests all the participants to co-operate with the local rules and help to retain the harmony. In the absence of any management authority, use good judgement and treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guest.

      • You have CHOSEN to participate in a group, so you will HAVE to follow the group rules….No one is an exception. During the tour, the decisions and instructions taken by the group leader shall be considered final and binding on all the participants. In the event, any of the participant(s) disobing the instructions of the group leader, the participant(s) shall be solely liable for the risks, responsibilities and consequences. Nature India reserves the rights of admission or rejection to anyone on any trips.

      • Consumption or possession of Alcohol, Tobacco products or Narcotic substances is Strictly Prohibited during all Nature India tours…..Please co-operate.

      • Such trips are subjected to various parameters. We advise participants to pack only curiosity and leave expectations at home….. Nature India never takes Guarantee of any sightings..... and that’s the very essence of such Nature trips :-)

      • Nature India trips are always focused on and are serious Wildlife trips and we usually do not have space for any other activities like shopping, sight-seeing or adventure, unless and until specified…. These trips are ideal for those who travel to learn, grow, enjoy and respect nature.

      • In case of any cancellations, the advance amount is non-refundable….please appreciate, that the advance amount goes in for booking the logistics (Stay, travel etc) which are non-refundable to us too, so kindly do not request for refunds in case of cancellations. We do not allow replacements nor the amount is transferable.

      • The trip charges mentioned are for Indian Nationals only. Foreign nationals & NRIs will have to pay extra charges wherever applicable.

      • Nature India will not be responsible for any delays or alterations in program or expenses incurred due to flight cancellations, strikes, vehicle breakdown, sickness, weather, war, civil unrest or disputes and any accidents.

      • The tour itinerary is planned with utmost care and caution and we usually stick to the plan….. But Nature India reserves all the rights to modify / postpone /cancel the tour plan if required due to factors beyond our control, without informing the participants…. and shall not be liable to refund booking charges in such a case. However, we try our best not to compromise on the overall agenda.

      • Female participants: Absolutely, feel free to bring to our notice if you feel any inappropriate behaviour from anyone or if you feel in-secure at any moment. Have faith on us to take appropriate actions. Your complaints / requests in this regard will be kept secret as you wish. Please do not hesitate to inform us.

      • While we respect and appreciate individual suggestions for any changes (if possible) and though are quite flexible, we have to first access its impact on our budget, before implementing it.

      • Such trips are subject to various parameters. We advise participants "to pack only curiosity and leave expectations at home"…..….. Nature India never takes Guarantee of any sightings.....and that’s the very essence of such wildlife trips :-)

      • Medical Costs – In case there are any mishaps, Nature India is not responsible for the medical costs other than initial first aid and transport to the nearest available medical facility from site wherever possible. Personal medications are expected to be carried by the respective participants. But carrying band-aids, painkillers, and some general first aid is always advisable. In case of serious medical history, the participant should inform Nature India at the time of registration for the trip. Nature Indiareserves the right to deny registration to the participant if found him/her physically or medically unfit for the trip.

      • Do not carry any un-necessary valuables…. Nature India will not be responsible for any loss, damage or theft of any personal belongings or equipments and no claims of the participants, parents, guardians, relatives or friends of participants will be entertained. We advice the participants to be careful if carrying valuable things with them during the journey and take care personally. It is also advisable to lock your bags before leaving the rooms and so, if possible carry extra locks for your bags.

      • Nature India advocates eco-friendly practices… we advise to carry extra bags to carry your own garbage to be disposed off appropriately. Throwing garbage and littering in trails is not allowed. We encourage eco-friendly habits…. Do not waste water, electricity, food. The wilderness is very fragile and it is our responsibility to see that we leave a minimum impact during our trips.

      • Any issues regarding the logistics, anyone’s misbehavior or forest rules should be brought to the notice of Nature India first ….. Do not confront the hotel management, individual, forest dept etc.. In such cases the decision taken by the group leader shall be considered final and binding.

      • Please appreciate that such wildlife/birding trips are completely different from the general fun trips or picnics. There are certain ethics and discipline that has to be followed strictly. Please co-operate & be patient if you have any issue, and bring that to the notice of respective group leader first.

      • You will need to get up very early in the mornings and follow strictly, the group leader’s instructions regarding time, so as not to inconvenience the whole group because of one person. We have very limited time with us and we all need to ensure that we maximize our stay.

      • Please remain in contact with the group or group leader all the time and don’t stray far away…. Respect the time of others. During the walking trail, please ensure that you have been briefed about the route that is planned and kindly follow the same without deviation. You should never be out of sight of the team leader and inform him/her if you are lagging behind. Remember, your safety is not just our responsibility, but also equally yours.

      • Be a good role model, both as a photographer and as a birder/nature-enthusiasts /photographer……… be courteous, polite & educate others by your actions and help, share & enhance their understanding…. infact, Such trips are a wonderful opportunity to make friends of common wildlife / photography interests.

      • While on Trail, Please be with the group/together. Photographers are requested to allow the other members to observe the creatures / birds first before rushing to take images…..Please follow the group leader’s advice. We do not have exclusive photography tours, unless specified and hence the priority is to see than to photograph. However, we do observe fair opportunities for all (the birders, Nature enthusiasts & photographers).

      • The Stay, Food and other logistics are arranged as per the budget, but without compromising on cleanliness, hygiene and comfortability…..local delicacies are always given a preference and the food is unlimited. Any complaints regarding the stay, food or travel should be brought to the notice of the group leader only. Mineral water and refreshments will be provided on board during travel ONLY where-ever possible. It is advisable to personally carry some dry snacks and ensure you have enough water to drink during the trail.

      • The general facilities in such Nature places are very basic. Do not expect to get special requirements like "Black tea/ coffee" or "Tea without sugar" or "early morning bed tea" or "a-la-carte meals".....we do try our best to make it available, however, remember, that we may lose some precious time due to this and it also sets a precedent for others demands.   

      • Please ensure that you carry the appropriate cloths and footwears as per the region and season. We request to wear only camouflaging / earth coloured cloths when in a Nature trip, avoid using bright cloths and objects as it can distract birds and animals. It is also advisable to carry a torch, cap, notebook, band aids, extra t-shirt at all times.

      • All the participants will be given a docket containing
        • The Checklist of birds of the region where the trip is arranged
        • History / Information of the place
        • Detailed tour Itinerary
        • Nature India Policies & guidelines

      • Where-ever jeeps are arranged as local transport …...In the front seat, ONLY the driver / Guide will be seated.....Kindly all (including the photographers) make note of this ......your co-operation in this matter is requested.

      • In some protected reserves no one is allowed to step out of vehicles during safari’s….this is a rule followed strictly all over India in all Tiger reserves…..  Nature India strongly advocates the rules set by the Forest Dept., hence we will not mediate in case anyone violates the rules. It is our responsibility to act sensibly and guide others to maintain responsible tourism.

      • During safaris, kindly maintain silence and avoid any sudden movements when you see birds or mammals…. You might startle them and people in the jeep may lose the chance of its sighting. Have patience….you will get to see more together….. And remember all the participants respect equal chance to see the mammal / bird.

      • The main focus on these trips would be on Bio-diversity and not on some specific creatures…. Also, please note that these are not an exclusive photography trips unless specified. We encourage Biodiversity observation and information.

      • Prepare yourself and your equipment for unexpected events--avoid exposing yourself and others to preventable mishaps. Act as per your individual expertise and responsibilities.

      • Nature India has now adopted a "NO-PLAYBACK" Policy (from May, 2018)... Hence, we shall not play any calls to attract birds. Request you all to Co-operate.

      • Nest Photography is discouraged on Nature India trips to avoid disturbance & to respect the privacy of birds. It is well observed and documented that spending time near nesting, may disturb the birds and can put their life at risk. Similarly collection of any specimens (plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, wood, fossils, used nests) or any other objects is also not allowed on any  Nature India trips.

      • Nature India does not carry any insurance liability. If you intend to, then please get insurance cover prior to commencement of the tour.

      • Kindly note that though utmost precautions will be taken, "Nature India" will not be responsible for any liabilities. Each one comes at his / hers own risk and responsibility...

    If you have any issues or seek clarifications regarding the above, then please revert back to us.

You will appreciate that this long list of Rules and Policies are the Basis of Nature India tours and are extremely important not just to achieve a common wavelength amongst the participants, but also for a responsible Eco-tourism for which we are strongly committed.....We also believe, eco-tourism, if done sensitively, is part of the solution to the many conservation related challenges we face today !!

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Appreciate, Respect & Care for Nature
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