Friday, April 4, 2008

What is acceptable?

What is acceptable? Who determines? Will it change the environment?

Today, Ratmale is just a village the tourist passes on the way back to the hotel or tour bus from Kaudulla Park at about 6pm on days, between June and November, when elephants inhabit the lake shores in herds sometimes exceeding 300. The villagers are used to seeing both foreign and local tourists whiz by in jeeps, but that is all. Some of the village boys, who work in the park, act as trackers, so have more exposure.

Eighty percent of the village is related to one another by blood or marriage and is one of the few places that are like this due to its status as one of the original villages in the district prior to being discovered and colonized.

It is a matter of time before someone puts up a hotel as it is only 4 km from the park entrance. A restaurant is more likely to built sooner.

If I am honest about it, I like the village the way it is, but it is for the villagers to decide what is going to be their fate, and I am sure they will permit progress and development. I also want to market my lodge, the way it is, unspoilt, but then that is short-term, if the mere intrusion spoils it.

I know the mere sight of a woman in a bikini or bathing suit could freak out people in the village, and I may have to explain if not prevent such attire. So it is to that degree, that the tourist must also have some sensitivity and behave accordingly. There is the village temple almost next door, but hidden by the forest and undergrowth. However noise travels especially at night, and loud music and shouting drinking etc. can upset the monks and set of a firestorm of protests.

I don’t know the answer to the questions I have raised above, and will have to tread carefully knowing this is an untested aspect. Local tourists are sometimes more insensitive than overseas tourists in respecting village customs so it is all about how the outsider behaves inside.

As the numbers expected are small and the concept is to preserve the environment as much as is possible, I don’t expect a major change in the short term arising from this enterprise, but I will just have to be extra careful that any sensitive instances are dealt with promptly and to be fair, resolved in the villages favor in order to get the maximum cooperation from the locals. After all it is their territory I am intruding for my benefit.

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