About SOPHIE HARTMAN
I first visited India in 1989, have had close links with Chhattisgarh since 2003 and been involved with tourism in the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh since 2008. I returned to university in my thirties to study for an MA in Hindi and Bengali literature and my passable Hindi has enabled me to build close friendships in rural areas where English is barely spoken. My engagement with India took a profound turn in 2007 when I met John Ash, founder of the travel company Green Gondwana, whose ethical approach to tourism in a region populated by extremely vulnerable people I have tried to follow, since his sad and early death in 2008.
I provide in depth support while planning guests’ holidays and can either meet clients or give telephone advice on all aspects of a trip: visa applications, international flight bookings and, of course, destinations and activities. We can arrange everything from the moment you land in Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata: transport, hotels, and city tours, all with ethical operators.
And My Colleagues
I work hand in hand with Sunny Upadhyay of Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat, who has been my friend for almost fifteen years. He was my introduction to Chhattisgarh in 2003, and I have yet to meet anyone who does a more glorious job of doing so for others. Sunny's wonderful wife Sabrina joined us in 2013 and has been the most delightful addition to the team. I usually meet guests in India at some point during their stay, and will accompany people throughout if they wish, though all serious guiding is left to the people who know India best, be he a goatherd in Chhattisgarh or a gutsy female taxi driver in Mumbai.
Responsible Tourism Policy
We aim to bring into the minds of our guests an understanding of both the joys and the hardships of rural and tribal Indians. We strongly believe that foreigners showing an appreciation of the simple but productive lives of those at the low end of India’s social hierarchy can send a message to those in power that this way of life is worthy of their support and protection. We also believe that the financial support we provide by employing local people in full time, year round jobs helps to prevent migration to cities and the damage and exploitation that comes with this.
We work in an area where tourists are not common and we genuinely work hard to ensure that we do good not harm. We take only couples, families, or very small groups to villages and give guidance on the acceptability of taking photographs and how best to return the great favour of being welcomed into people’s homes. All guests are given a fact sheet with some tips on cultural etiquette.
We strongly recommend that all able bodied guests do as much of their sightseeing as possible on foot or by bicycle. Not only is this better for the environment but it makes for a far more interactive sort of tourism, which we feel benefits everyone.
Many of our guests travel from Bhoramdeo to Kanha National Park (or Satpura) where they are encouraged not to have a too tiger-centric attitude. There is much to see in the forest other than tigers, and bullying guides and naturalists into charging around at speed in order to ‘provide’ them with a tiger is something we abhor.
We have various charitable projects, largely associated with water, access to which is of course crucial to the survival of these vulnerable communities.