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HEMMING IT IN You can’t experience the wild staying in a hotel room, says Rob Flowers
HEMMING IT IN You can’t experience the wild staying in a hotel room, says Rob Flowers

Rob Flowers was a tourist guide till the day he had to endure a dripping tent. Now he makes good ones so that wildlife enthusiasts don’t suffer his way

Rob Flowers is a tent manufacturer, who runs a successful company, East African Canvas that puts up luxury tents for safari owners in East and South Africa. Rob is currently working with Saad Bin Jung, owner of Bush Betta in Karnataka. Saad manages many camps in the Bandipur and Nagarhole reserves and hopes the concept of luxury tents will help patrons enjoy nature in all its natural glory.

Rob says: “Staying in hotel rooms on a safari or a wildlife trip kills the actual purpose. You might as well sit at home and watch a wildlife channel instead. If you really want to experience the sights and sounds of a jungle, you need to stay in a tent.”

Rob started as a tourist guide in the vast wild expanses of Kenya and East Africa. “As the guide, I was invariably given the worst tents available. On one occasion, we were forced to set up camp in the midst of heavy rainfall. My tent had numerous holes and served no protection against the rain and insects. I sat there completely drenched and decided to start a business of making and supplying good quality tents to tourists.”

He adds, “It turned out to be a huge success. We made tents from high quality canvas, which protects people from natural elements like rain and insects. We also ensure that customers take precautions to prevent spread of diseases like malaria, which can assume massive proportions in camps.”

With his nearly 15 years experience as a guide, Rob has a great deal of knowledge about wildlife and is a stickler for wildlife conservation. “Human-animal conflict has been increasing over the years, both in India and Africa. It is acute in forest pockets that have been converted into coffee plantations and paddy fields. Regulation is needed to prevent deforestation. He adds, “As far as camps are concerned, the camp managers must ensure that the premises are safe, for both humans and the animals. For example, if you are putting an electric fencing, you must make sure that it does not injure the animals.”

Close encounters

Rob has had a series of close encounters with wild animals ranging from wild buffalos to elephants in his many years in the forest. “I am a person of the wild. I have suffered some injuries, but managed to escape.”

Narrating an anecdote, He says, “One of my friends was attacked by a wild buffalo, near a dry river bed in Africa. He managed to catch the horns of the animal and fend it off for sometime. Eventually, he let go and was stabbed in the arm, injuring a muscle. The animal then let go and he walked back, dripping blood to his camp. He was operated upon and is now fit and healthy.” He grins, “When he entered the camp, his wife just walked up to him and admonished him for being late.”

Rob says that a lot of factors are taken into account before making a tent. “You need to know the climatic conditions of the area, whether it is an area with a lot of mosquitoes or other insects etc.” ”

This column features those who veer off the beaten track.

NIKHIL VARMA

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