Indian vacations are now going wild

By Akhila Damodaran| Express News Service | Published: 11th December 2018 02:08 AM
Wildlife tourists in Bengaluru opt for places such as Kabini, Bandipur and Bhadra

BENGALURU: Wildlife tourism is slowly on the rise in India, and is obtaining global recognition too. From Indian rhinoceros, leopard and Bengal tiger to Asian elephants, Asiatic lions, sloth bears and  hundreds of bird species, tourists from all across the world are attracted to the country. According to WildTrails, an app for wildlife holidays, about 25,000 people from Bengaluru, on an average per month, opt for wildlife experiences. Kabini, Bandipur and Bhadra are some of the most common places that Bengalureans opt for. Foreigners from UK, US and other parts of Europe also visit the city for wildlife trips near Bengaluru.

With the advent of social media, wildlife tourism has become quite popular in India, and one doesn’t get reservations if they don’t book at least three months in advance, says Manjunath Gowda, CEO, WildTrails. “Our research shows growth at 30 per cent which is unmatched in any industry. This situation is popular in the West, where wildlife vacations are a must. But I see wildlife tourism becoming mainstream and getting a niche/premium tag in India as well,” he adds.

The app that was started three years ago helps a traveller find different species of mammals and birds while on a wildlife safari. It also provides details of possible wildlife sightings at some of the top exotic wildlife destinations across the world. Gowda says, “It’s the first and the only app that brings sightings and sighting indices of various species across various national parks and tiger reserves on a daily basis.”

He adds, “I noticed that the Karnataka tourism department used to write on a white board about which wild animals could possibly be sighted every day in their jungles. That inspired me and I felt there was a relation between various natural factors and sightings, which later proved right for us.”

WildTrails is reshaping the wildlife tourism industry with a solution that uses data analytics, modern technologies, and AI/machine learning to deliver a personalised experience for wildlife travellers. It shows the sightings index of a given species for a given time frame. Based on this, one can book packaged tours for that sanctuary. “We also provide all content for that park,  along with sightings and also a completed encyclopedia of any given species. We have a separate app for recording sightings. Naturalists use that to source information across all national parks and tiger reserves. We run data analytics and machine leaning to build a predictable model around it, using artificial intelligence. That helps a lot while planning your trip,” explains Gowda.

More than 50,000 active users on the app are from Bengaluru. “We have more than a million active users on our Facebook page from across the world, and Bengaluru might be 25 per cent of them.” Gowda suggests October to March or April/May for wildlife tours in the country. But in Karnataka, anytime around the year is good, with best sightings from around October to February. “As far as big cats are concerned, they are better sighted specially in December, January and February. And of course, birds (the migratory birds) are best viewed in winter,” he says.

The app covers more than 70 countries, with details of sightings and trips across Africa being added in a couple of months. “Our vision is to cover the entire global scene with sightings and trips and be the one stop destination for anything wildlife,” Gowda says.

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