India’s vast network of protected areas and reserve forests are rich in diversity of plant and animal life. This has made the country a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts. However, the facilities at most of these reserves are inadequate. Even worse, those facilities that are available, are often modelled along a suburban sensitivity that have little relevance to their environment. Children’s play parks with plastic equipment and neatly tended English-Style flower gardens, attempt to create a familiar environment within an otherwise wild world.
There is a pressing need for responsible travel to these areas with low-impact interventions. Moreover it is important to foster a greater appreciation for the natural habitats by sensitizing visitors. By designing accommodation within these natural settings, a stronger affinity can be achieved between both worlds.
Government-Led Eco Tourism
The Vanavihari Resorts are one such commendable initiative undertaken by the local government of Andhra Pradesh. Their aim is to establish premium, boutique eco-resorts in various forest reserves across the state. The intention is to set up earning models that spread awareness among travellers. Eventually they hope this encourages their continued support towards conservation. Therefore the project focuses on identifying locations in the existing wildlife habitat where programs can be placed with minimal disruption. However, instead of creating an artificial environment, which would render the project irrelevant, it is to be left intact in its raw and pristine state.
The scope of the project entails a wide variety of services, starting with the analysis of four project sites. The feasibility report identifies their hidden potential but also their possible risks. Hereafter the proposal elaborates on establishing the most suitable program and right capacity for each of the sites. Based on the potential and requirement of each location, the interventions range from sustainably built cabins for accommodation, to restaurants, spas and pools. Sustainability is a key driver in the planning process.
The masterplan for each site proposes to position larger scale public programs in relation to important landscape features. A large natural pond, a historical water harvesting tank, or a clearing in a forest act as anchors to position the buildings.
The accommodation and other private programs however are scattered more inconspicuously on the edges of water bodies. Since the scenic streams and ponds at the sites attract birds and wildlife, they make for ideal locations for forest cabins as observatories. Stilted and sited along the edges of these water bodies, each cabin can enjoy their privacy in the midst of the natural habitat.
The structures are simple in construct and materialization. They ensure an easy and straightforward execution and maintenance thereafter. Prefabricated modules for the structure avoid adverse impact on the sites during construction. As infills within the structural framework, locally available timber and stone connect with the natural setting. It avoids a built environment that is alien to its location. Despite their simplicity, they bring a level of luxury through the way they interact with the natural elements. They display an inherent naturalness that is synonymous with sustainable eco resorts set in the jungle.