© Encounters Asia

Conservation + Climate Action in India with Encounters Asia

1 May 2023

The acclaimed Indian author Ruskin Bond once wrote about hankering for old friendships and wanting to travel back in time to “pick up the threads,” which is exactly how I was feeling in April when I ventured back to India after a fifteen year hiatus. 

Amit Sankhala of Encounters Asia is a longtime ATTA member and friend who was able to help organize an exciting and memorable trip to India for me and my eight year old son. Amit’s commitment to conservation, and increasingly climate action, started with his grandfather, Kailash Sankhala. The senior Sankhala helped inspire - and served as the first director - of India’s famous tiger conservation program, Project Tiger. As told in a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, “Tigerland,” the idea of tiger conservation in the early days was seen as radical, with people at all levels of society opposing it.  

Perhaps because of this family history of brave advocacy for conservation innovations, Amit was an early supporter of Tomorrow’s Air, recognizing the value of scaling up technologies that can help clean our air of excess carbon dioxide and store it permanently.

“As someone who has worked on environmental issues for many years through my work in tourism and conservation, I understand that to scale, solutions need passionate communities behind them. Tomorrow’s Air is uniquely bringing this to the field of carbon removal with permanent storage,” ⁠Amit said.

On the ground and in the air, Amit and his family are carrying forward the legacy of his grandfather to this day through their work promoting and protecting tiger territory through tourism. 

© Encounters Asia

When I visited with my son (age eight) in April, we explored the forests of Madhya Pradesh in India’s central plateau. Remarkably, although tigers were a very big draw for my son, what we’ve ended up talking about most since we’ve been home are the other sides of India - the food and cultural heritage we explored in Delhi - and the vast complexity of jungle life that we experienced at Amit’s Kanha Jungle Lodge and Jamtara Jungle Lodge. For example, one day after a solid afternoon of bird watching and leopard and tiger spotting with Amit’s uncle and his wife, both expert naturalists - we were introduced by moonlight to an incredible universe of insects, flying squirrels and frogs hiding in plain sight. My son and I marveled at the sight of translucent snowflake caterpillars munching on leaves, learned about spiders, caterpillars, ants and spiders that masquerade as ants, tiny frogs living in tree holes, zebra stripe cockroaches, and damselflies that hang like sticks on branches. 

I’ve been to India many times in the past, but never have I experienced days of wonder like I did this time. 

I encourage tour operators looking to open up new opportunities in India and media looking for inspiring and meaningful conservation travel stories to reach out to Amit at Encounters Asia. The business is a prime example of climate action and conservation in action.

© Dhiraj Bhaisare