Royal Manas National Park may be the favorite holiday destination for the Kings and tourists, but the place is of little interest to the Bhutanese people. Or so it seems. Three months after it was opened to tourists, no Bhutanese has come on a holiday to the park.
Covering more than 1,000 square kilometers, the park is home to tigers, leopards, rhinos, elephants and more than 360 bird species. Besides, the park boasts boating facilities, a bat cave, hot springs, a royal museum and many unique festivals of the local communities.
The Department of Forest and Park Services under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests wants to make Manas an ecotourism destination with the help of WWF. Since February, the department has been building camp sites near five villages of Panbang, Shillingtoe, Gomphu, Pantang, and Norbugang.
The park will open for ecotourism from November this year. Enquiries have already started coming in.
The park manager, Tenzin Wangchuk, said the camps are built on 50 decimal plots of land with secure fencing. Each camp site comprises two lodges with a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a toilet with piped water supply.
Built at the cost of Nu 500,000, each lodge can accommodate four people. There are provisions to camp outside the lodge.
The camps are four hours of leisurely walk from one another. But one can ride a bicycle between them.
Once the camps are completed, they will be handed over to interested people from the five local communities. Earlier, the park had decided to handover the camps to all the communities, but only a few showed interest in running them.
Tenzin Wangchuk said 40 people from the five communities have been given 10 days of training in guiding, cooking, and sanitation. He said the camps are built to last for only five years, after which they will be rebuilt by the people who have taken them over. The camps are expected to help the poor local communities improve their living standard.
Manas area has been preserved as a wildlife sanctuary since 1966. It was upgraded to a national park in 1988.