The first virtual online hosts in Bardia National Park Nepal

40 days of lockdown Bardia National Park Nepal
Mai 3, 2020

‘I enjoy to have contact with tourist again. I learned a lot of new things and I am happy I can still generate some income for my family’

The last 4-months Nepal has been in a lockdown due to the threat of COVID 19. Many people who are working in the tourism sector in Nepal lost their job and usually that means no job no income. Also  for the coming months, it is expacted that tourists will not be visiting Nepal. How to survive  in these difficult times?  Manmohan Chaudhary (32 years old, nature guide) Balkrishna Tharu ( 28 years old, nature guide) and Ragubhir Tharu (27 years old, cook ) will tell you more about the impact of the lockdown on their lives and how they are still able to make some income by conducting live virtual tours and classes.

What is your regular job and how long do you work in tourism?

Manmohan: I was borned and raised in Bardiya and  since 11 years I have been working as a nature guide. The last 4 years I work for Bardia Homestay.

Balkrishna: In 2014 I completed my nature guide training and since that time I take visitors on a jungle safari inside Bardia National Park

Ragubhir:  I was very young, only 15 years old when I started to work in tourism as an assistent cook. Now I am a senior cook and I work for Bardia Homestay since 2 years.

Since the 24th of March till the 22 nd of July,  Nepal was in a national lockdown for 4 months. What is the impact on your lives?

Balkrishna : All of sudden we didn’t receive any guests anymore and our work changed. Now we work in the garden and maintain the buildings of Bardia Homestay. We work in a two weekly shift schedule. We were restricted for 4 months to go any were. Only food shops were open and transport was not possible. Now slowly the country is opening again.

Manmohan: It changed a lot. Many guides who worked at other lodges, lost their jobs immediately. Luckily we received from Bardia Homestay 100% salary till the 1st of May. After that 50% and from the 1st of August 25% of our previous salary. Less income means that live became more difficult. The money we receive now, we can only use for necessary things like food for our family and solving health issues.  Normally, we received in addition to our salary also tip money from customers, and we could buy new clothes for ourselves or our family members. Before the lockdown we also tried to save money on our bankaccount for future expenses and school fees for our children. But now that is not possible.

What do you miss the most now without having any tourist visiting Nepal?

Ragubhir: I like to be busy and to make our guests happy with delicious food. Live has become boring and less interesting, because nothing happens. When there are guests, something always happens

Balkrishna: Yes I agree with Ragubhir.  I do miss meeting new people and listen to the stories they tell and I miss taking them into the jungle.

Manmohan : The jungle has been closed now for 4 months and as a nature lover I miss spotting birds and wildlife and to share my knowledge.

Since the end of June you are the first online hosts in Nepal and you offer virtual tours and classes on  the platform MyNepal.online.  What are you doing exactly and how do you experience that?

Ragubhir  I am a online cooking host. Every Saturday and Sunday people can join my live virtual  Cooking Class Dal Bhat . I teach and show them how to make a delicious Dal Bhat and in meanhwile the participants can cook in their own kitchen. I have a look into their pots and pans and I give them advice how to make their Dhal Bhat very tasty. In the beginning I was a bit nervous because people were looking at me, but now it is really fun to cook with them.

Balkrishna  I am conducting together with Manmohan live tours on the countryside like the Tharu Farming Virtual Tour  and Tharu Culture Virtual Tour . I recognize what Ragubhir is saying. In the beginning I was nervous too and I didn’t know how to present my self in front of the camera and how to interact with the customers virtually. But slowly I feel more confident and I improved my English.

Manmohan: Yes I was also feeling nervous in the beginning. I conduct  the wildlife classes like   Encounter with the Tiger Class and   Bardia National Park Wildlife and Birds class I feel it gets better all the time. I learned a lot of new things like how to set up a presentation in power point and how to write a script. I learned how to use the  Zoom App and Facebook live App. I am really happy with my new job!

Ragubhir : All my knowledge was in my head, but now I wrote my own Dal Bhat recipe on a paper so participants have instructions before the cooking class starts.

What do you like about conducting the tours?

Of course we are happy that we can still generate an income for ourselves and our family Balkrishna says and Ragubhir adds that he is happy with the additional income on top of the salary of Bardia Homestay.

Manmohan:  And we are all happy that we can still share our knowledge with foreigners  Our virtual guest are asking many questions and it gives us the opportunity to expand our knowledge in different ways.

Ragubhir : Yes I agree and interacting with international guests online brings a lot of fun in our lives as well.

What is the impact you generated for yourselves and your community the last 6 weeks?

Manmohan: We started the tours 6 weeks ago.  Of the total proceeds 58% goes to the host’s salary and 20% to the community. But we also have two other colleagues working for Bardia Homestay (the driver ‘Jayram’ and the cleaning lady ‘Ramoti’) who are not able to conduct  tours and  therefore not able to make additional income. Because at Bardia Homestay we are one team and Ramoti and Jayram are part of our community, we decided as hosts that the total amount of 286 euro (78% of the proceeds) we share among all of us. We are really grateful for the support. It means that all the 5 staff members earned this period 60% of their regular salaries with the virtual tours and classes Ragubhir adds. And of course we hope to welcome more participants in the month of August Balé says.

Why would you advice someone to follow a tour?

Balkrishna: While you can stay safe in your own country you can still learn about the Nepali culture and nature. And it can be really fun to bring Nepal into your home. I hope when the park is opening up again I can also take you on a live tour into the jungle.

Ragubhir: When you are following  my cooking class, you can taste the Nepali food in your own country. And of course you make us happy by supporting us to generate income for ourselves and our community in these difficult times.

Manmohan: Even when it is possible to travel to Nepal again we will still offer virtual tours and classes, because it is a new way of traveling also for people who are not able to travel to Nepal and it is a great way to  orient yourself on your journey and to get acquainted with West Nepal.  We hope that in the future you are able to travel again and we are looking  forward to welcome you in Nepal. Dream now, Travel later!

MyNepal.online want to connect Nepalese locals, who are working in tourism, online with travelers who feel connected with or want to experience Nepal virtually. From the 15th of August they also offer virtual tours in Tansen and in Bhaktapur. See Website MyNepal.online