(Written by Bushra Satkhed)
What happens when you let a group of women free in the wild? “We felt detoxified and refreshed. Our bodies and minds were exposed to a different environment from the urban spaces we are used to. The touch of the forest was a pleasant break from our regular routine, which felt amazing,” says Aarti Karve, a stay-at-home mother, who went on a trip with Himangi Vartak, Managing Director at Gifts Galore, to Corbett National Park in June 2015.
This month, Karve and Vartak will enter into the rarefied space of women-only tourism in the wildlife sector. Junglee Belles Club offers booking services for women’s groups for wildlife tours, which will include three or four-star hotel reservations and a woman volunteer for the trip. The initial trips will be in wildlife sanctuaries such as Kanha National Park, Pench National Park of Seoni and Chhindwara districts, Panna National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park and Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
“The club will organise activities on the second and fourth Saturday of every month, which will include half-day outdoor safaris and workshops on wildlife photography and Photoshop to help women develop new skills,” Karve adds, “It is an on-demand service. We will plan the trips for women who approach us with an interest in going on a tour. We do not have any pre-planned tours that women can join in. We will handle all the bookings and a woman escort will accompany them, if they like.”
“Vacationing, for Indian women, is mostly driven by their children and husbands. We are a patriarchal society, therefore, women are still getting used to the idea that they can do things on their own. Women need to discover themselves and some ‘me time’ can help them achieve that,” says Vartak, adding that they are open to membership for women from Pune and the tours can be organised for women from anywhere in India and abroad.
The club is designed to bring women together and create bonds, overcome fears and shatter their inhibitions. While wildlife travel groups are mushrooming across the country, exclusive clubs for women are few in number. Women on Wanderlust (WoW), Jugni and Women on Clouds Club are among the leaders. “We wanted to create a way for women to carve out a path for their self-discovery. The club will be their getaway to new experiences,” says Vartak.