Dev Balaji says that his mission is to give people a true taste of nature; encouraging them to explore and not pollute
Dev Balaji is so passionate about nature that organising nature camps has become his profession. As a child, he says, he used to take off with friends trekking or camping. “That was when I realised that there are many places to be explored in and around Bangalore,” says this 34-year-old, who started the Nature Admire Camp in the city in 1997.
He started it with two friends — Brian Highland and George Zachariah. “We initially started by offering school camps. Those days such outdoor activities were rarely heard of. The only outdoor activity a child was exposed to was Scouts and Guides.”
His passion was recognised and in ’99 Dev won a scholarship for The Outdoor Educator Course in the U.S. When he returned he started organising treks and nature camps for adults. “In 2000, the IT boom happened. It seemed right to organise trips for working professionals. Our motto was to get the techies off the world of technology, give them a true taste of the wild, encourage them to explore nature and avoid polluting it.”
So off Dev would go with every group, teaching them about nature, its conservation and training them on wilderness safety.
“The aim was to start promoting destinations around Bangalore like Kolar, Ramnagar, Devanahalli and Doddabalapur. There are many natural mountains in these areas. You will need two years to discover all of them,” he says with a smile.
He goes on to add: “You will find more rocky areas in the northern part of the city and more wild life and forests towards the south. In Karnataka, we promote the lofty Western Ghats. These are easier to climb, offer wildlife and there are no weather challenges for the first-time trekker.”
“Things have changed so much even when it comes to organising these trips. When we started, we used the Alpine backpack method, where we would pack everything – from food and water to bedding. But today so many home stays have come up, that it is much easier. We collaborate with the local people to provide the visitors with a taste for local culture and food.”
Then he blames technology for the destruction of nature. “Between 2006 and 2008, people started venturing out on their own relying on information put up on the net. That lead to accidents and deaths as they were unaware of the dangers in the forests and they hadn’t taken the requisite safety measures,” explains Dev, who has also been involved in several rescue operations in the forest areas. “Tadiyendamol in Coorg and Mullayanagari in Chikkamangalur offer the highest mountain regions. It is also safe.”
Dev says he has stopped serious trekking areas now and has started promoting trekking with families just so “they can switch off their TVs and computers and spend time with each other.” He chooses a destination that provides a safe home stay for the families and also organises various activities that “involves nature” like rappelling, jhummering (climbing), high rope traversing etc.
“These activities help develop confidence, decision making, leadership qualities and also act as the perfect stress busters,” explains Dev, who also works on disaster management in the forest areas. He has also trained the Western Range Karnataka State Police in Outdoor training camp and trained them on skills in the forest.
Dev is also open to customising a camp. He has now started organising birthdays and anniversary celebrations, “where the families prefer to reach the mountain peak and sing and cut the cake around a bonfire.”
Dev can be contacted on 9845079414 or firstname.lastname@example.org