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Neora Valley Jungle Camp

Aiming to safeguard wildlife protection in one of India's young and lesser known Protected Areas, the Neora Valley Jungle Camp is one step towards sustainable development options in this remote area. The endangered Red Panda has lost parts of its natural habitat. Bamboo as the main feeding plant had been replaced by other plants, often timber trees. Additionally, population growth is resulting in increasing demand for settling area. Converting the present situation into the establishment of a community forest reserve is the paramount goal of the initiative. Communities have started reforestation and the need for improved education and entertainment facilities for the youth that before shot birds with their catapults as a time-pass has been addressed.

The Neora Valley Jungle Camp is located at an altitude of 1868m at Kolakham village in the Kalimpong Hills of Darjeeling District, on the fringe of Neora Valley Nationalpark.

The National Park with its dense forests is located on the tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and West-Bengal. It extends from 30 m of altitude up to 3200 m on an area of only 88 square km. Though this sounds rather small, it has to be considered that due to the topographical features the surface of the Park is much larger. Neora Valley offers a unique eco-system consisting of tropical, sub-tropical, sub-temperate, and temperate vegetative systems. Rhododendron, sal, oak, bamboo, ferns etc. form the forest and a variety of orchids is found within. The National Park is home to many endangered species like the red panda, the musk deer, and the clouded leopard.

The Camp itself is a sophisticated combination of local atmosphere and modern amenities. Situated on a hill above Kolakham village, it consists of three four-bedded attics, plus one double-bedded honeymoon suite. A tastefully furnished dining cum commons area with an attached tea room cum library are guaranteeing community without hampering the desire for privacy. All buildings are constructed in ethnic style with maximum usage of local materials. Good weather conditions provided, majestic Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, can be seen atop the lush green valleys. The warm light of candles and oil lamps makes one fast forget the lack of electricity. The absence of artificial light is honored by views of an incredibly rich starry sky.

Staff for kitchen, service, housekeeping, maintenance and guiding come from near-by Kolakham village. After intensive training they today add a local note to the professional service and set-up.

Fresh ingredients from adjoining farms are combined into traditional meals of the Nepali cuisine. Continental and Indian dishes are available on demand.

Performances of local dance and music groups allow insights into the rich culture of the valley's Rai population.

Cardamom is a major crop and guests can observe the processing of the fresh fruit into the roasted spice. Some villagers still know the techniques of weaving maize and paddy straw into sitting mats.

Various self-help groups like sewing or culture groups have been initiated to provide alternative and additional livelihood options for the villagers. Family planning workshops are offered to address the problem of unintended population growth.

In order to establish a community owned reserve forest 1 000 tree seedlings have been distributed and planted during a great ceremony in summer 2007. Aim of this measure is to add natural resources to the village's assets, thus extending the Red Panda's habitat. Local youth is educated about the wildlife through SWAP (Save Wildlife Awareness Programme).

Besides the villagers themselves, the community tourism project is supported by the Forest Department, the travel trade, a population planning NGO, various bird watching groups and few private sponsors.

If you are interested in experiencing the Neora Valley, please click here.

For more information about the Social Development and Conservation Programmes click here.

Outlook Traveller has dedicated a feature to the Jungle Camp, headlined "Stress burning at Neora Valley".