JLR—the new attraction

Print edition : September 18, 2015

The JLR's Kyathadevara Gudi wilderness camp. Photo: By Special Arrangement

FOR years, Karnataka’s tourism mainstay at all leading international trade fairs was heritage, culture and architecture. But at the World Travel Market 2013 conferences and interactions, an unexpected theme was showcased—wildlife, along with nature and adventure tourism. This coincided with Conde Nast Travellers’ October 2013 issue hailing Kabini as India’s next big safari destination. Karnataka’s wildlife terrain and eco-tourism in general, and the entity promoting it, the Jungle Lodges & Resorts (JLR), caught the attention of the global travel industry, with leading tour operators implying that wildlife could now become the backbone of tourism’s future in Karnataka and would be the platform to expand its product portfolio. The JLR, created in 1980, has promoted eco-tourism, adventure tourism and enchanting wildlife destinations in Karnataka.

Working closely with the Forest Department (which continues to be a shareholder), the JLR runs 18 properties across national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and the coast—with a footprint across the entire Western Ghats, from Castle Rock in the north to Shivamogga and Mangaluru in the south—making it India’s largest and most popular chain of resorts in wildlife and eco-tourism. The JLR is planning to start the “Great Kanara Trail” soon. It also provides consultancy services to other State governments for promotion of eco-tourism, and trains naturalists and guides.

Commenting on the efficiency and popularity of the JLR resorts, its Managing Director Vijay Sharma said the corporation made a pre-tax profit of Rs.12 crore on a revenue of Rs.52 crore, “but being an extension of the Forest Department it is not profit that motivates us. We strongly believe in responsible tourism and operate well within our carrying capacity, given the sensitive areas we operate in”.

Although angling, which was a popular sport in the JLR’s Bheemeshwari Fishing & Nature Camp and the Galibore Nature Camp (where masher weighing over 45 kilogram were routinely caught and released into the river) has been banned since November 2013, Bheemeshwari continues to be the second highest revenue earner among JLR’s properties. The JLR has plans to set up resorts at Belagavi, Apsarkonda (near Honnavar) and Ottinani (near Kundapura).

Ravi Sharma

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