Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, flagship of the Tiger Tops group of lodges, is the pioneer wildlife safari lodge in Nepal, and for over 45 years it has been doing the right thing in the remote jungle – now known as Chitwan National Park. It was popular when it opened and it still is today, and for good reason.
Famous for its “tree houses,” the 20 basic en-suite rooms were built on stilts out of local materials long before this became popular elsewhere, and Tiger Tops has kept it this way. They have since opened several other wonderful lodges in other areas of the park (such as Tharu Lodge and Tented Camp), but they’ve never expanded the original.
Most people visit here to spot the elusive Royal Bengal tiger (with only about 3,000 remaining in the world) and many are pleasantly surprised to find an abundance of wildlife, including the endangered one-horned rhinoceros, leopard, four species of deer, sloth bear, two species of crocodile, the critically endangered Gharial, four-horned antelope, and, occasionally, wild dog. Naturalists or nature guides, the best in Nepal, escort guests on elephant-back, in open vehicles, on foot, and by boat, to find animals or explain the hidden life and folklore and medicinal benefits of the plants.
The Tiger Tops Swissair Pre-School was started more than 15 years ago for young children (up to second grade now) selected from different ethnic communities on the basis of financial and nutritional need, the objective being to prepare them for primary education in government schools and to give them the skills and confidence they will need to carry on with their schooling. (This program continues even after Swissair declared bankruptcy.) The school is free, but in exchange it asks the students’ parents to work in the organized vegetable gardens a few hours a month. The aim of the gardens is to become self-sufficient, providing healthy, seasonal meals to the students.
Snowball is a new goat-breeding program, where a village gets a kid to raise, breed, and then pass on its kids to neighboring villages, making it much like the Heifer Society.
By raising donations from guests, Tiger Tops helped save other schools in the area that were started by locals but ran out of money. The Tiger Tops Tharu Village Clinic provides treatment and medicine to villages for a donation of three rupees (about two cents) and is manned by a health-licensed Tiger Lodge employee 24/7 for emergencies. The School Library Program keeps kids busy on Saturdays with classes in art, drama, and music, as well as conservation awareness. The lodge has helped install various foot and hand pumps, providing villagers with clean water, and a toilet facility has been installed at the school (with funds from friends and guests). Recycling efforts are encouraged by paying locals for empty plastic containers.
A team of 40 staff trained in farm management and vegetable growing work two organic farms, providing vegetables, poultry, meat eggs, and milk to the lodges. Livestock is carefully and sensitively reared – you will not see a caged chicken. Produce reaches the lodges within 90 minutes of being harvested.
On the conservation side, Tiger Tops provides assistance to a ‘buffer zone,’ paying a guard’s salary to keep anti-poaching at bay, a huge problem in the area. Also, in conjunction with the International Trust for Nature Conservation Tiger Tops works to conserve the natural habitat in various ways, e.g. working with the communities to stop deforestation.