Join Kuldip Gadhvi on “A Guided Tour” or “Found a Friend in Bhuj” or a “Handicraft Village Experience” … Grab the opportunity to catch up any herder on the way who invites you to visit his cattle camp or a lift to some random villagers in the middle of the road and end up making friends and sharing cup of tea/lunch…
The Rann of Kutch is a host to a number of travelers today. Several years ago, this was an unheard destination in the western state of Gujarat, India.
One of the young people native to this area is now actively involved with responsible tourism.
Kuldip Gadhvi, founder of Kutch Adventures India, runs a local tour operation business where many unknown artisans are given an opportunity to sustain his/her basic needs using tourism as a tool.
In January 2001, an earthquake devastated the entire Kutch region in Gujarat. Many of the survivors had to live on aid for several months. Kuldip had to quit education and take up a job with many such organisations that had set up their operations to help rehabilitate the people of Kutch.
Kuldip developed an affinity towards the local communities and their varied culture. Especially the local traditions which are distinctly unique and glorious. After having spent years of understanding and involvement, Kuldip started guided tours with a large focus on local crafts, culture and communities, the backbone of the region.
Having worked as a tour guide for few years with various tour operators, Kuldip felt the need to start his own tour operation as he did not feel justified with the tour packages designed by other operators. His vision was to integrate as many artisans possible in his package so that they could sustain themselves.
Also being a local, and passionate, he had a better understanding of the region and its culture as compared to typical commercially inclined tour operators.
The commercially inclined tour operators had left no choice but for the shops and local markets to offer commissions in order to get business. This eventually led to misunderstandings and complete depletion of financial resources of the local artisans.
Kuldip’s Kutch Adventures India created an avenue for visitors to directly interact with genuine local artisans, this enabled them to welcome people, share their culture and most importantly, be a local ambassador to the vast legacy of culture that they have inherited.
Kutch Adventures is entirely based on local involvement. During each tour of local communities, artisans are involved from the beginning to end.
Kutch Adventures India have introduced some least visited villages and communities, some of the traditional artisans who were struggling to sustain a business, and some of them who were being exploited by big businessmen. These locals had not benefited even though Government highly advertised Kutch as a destination and visitor numbers had increased in the last 5 years.
Kuldip prefers to organize and plan each tour himself. This ensures that visitors, due to their limited access and understanding of local culture, don’t leave bad impressions on locals by dressing, greeting, home visiting, or not knowing what to expect and what not to do right. It also means that locals, due to lack of English or understanding of outside world, do not miss chance to share their thoughts, stories, realities and any subject that may come during the tours/visits.
Kutch Adventures informally educates locals and visitors as well. It is the dedication and sincere effort which fetched them the World Responsible Tourism Award for Best in Engaging People & Culture in 2014. Now, the local people get some stable income to sustain themselves and their crafts.
Today Kutch Adventures India is contributing something to sustain the local people and their crafts. They informally educate locals and visitors as well. They share their thoughts on what is fair and what not, what to expect and what not to and how to act more responsibly and honestly that visitors/locals can notice the difference.
Each visit gives locals an opportunity to familiarise with their guests, enabling locals to communicate directly to the visitors though many language barriers. Some of local artisans are now encouraged by international visitors who are supporting them directly, to cut the chain of the middlemen. Kutch Adventures always gives priority to least known and struggling artisans who are still not known to the world.
Kutch Adventures India tries to visit random, interior villages to give a chance to meet and interact with the least known local artisans far away from the reach of middleman and without paying commission to bring visitors to their doorstep.
Home stays concept was introduced in 2012 to allow visitors to experience staying with local families, to understand local culture, experience home cooked food and not just support giant hotels/businesses that get plenty of business anyway.
Interestingly Kutch Adventures India was founded pretty much without funding. What was needed to offer “Guided Tours” was already there: a car, a network of locals and a willingness to offer different experiences to their visitors.