Creating reptile habitats and assembling frog aquariums--that's the new buzz at holiday camps. Melissa Fernandes finds out more
Do you shudder with fright at the thought of a hissing snake or a menacing crocodile? Then maybe you should attend one of the holiday camps organised by Gerry Martin, which will teach you how to deal with these creatures. At these camps you will interact with snakes, crocodiles, lizards, turtles and many other similar crawlies. RobinAge caught up with Gerry Martin, the founder-director of this project and a herpetologist by profession, to learn more about his camps. He says, "The Gerry Martin Project is about helping children build a strong connection with wildlife and encouraging them to interact with the wild. It educates and inspires children to be in sync with the environment and wildlife."
So where did the idea for the camps come from? Gerry grew up on a farm outside Bengaluru. As a young lad he was surrounded by animals and this led him to develop a passion for the wild. He soon wanted to work towards its conservation. Says Gerry, "The first time I held a wild snake in my hands, I was six years old! I brought home snakes and bugs from the wild. Over time, I felt extremely comfortable being amidst greenery and nature."
From here on he pursued his passion of working with reptiles and in the year 2000, he earned the title of the country's first National Geographic Channel Adventurer when he worked on a documentary called 'Super Croc'. Talking about his camps Gerry says, "The initiative to organise such camps came from parents. Many of them were eager that their children experience wildlife. The camps were created to introduce children to animals and the outdoors at an early age. Giving them this kind of exposure will help them relate to nature easily in the future."
Janik Gerlach, a class 8 student from Inventure Academy, Bengaluru says, "At the camps we are treated to the excitement of witnessing wildlife personally. These camps are educational and entertaining as we come in direct contact with different reptiles." Janik enjoys the reptilian company especially when he is taught how to handle, measure and weigh crocodiles. Janik adds, "The activities are highly adventurous and give me a chance to hold reptiles. Besides these high-adventure activities, one can also go trekking and rock climbing."
Gerry's camps are educational - they teach children to become wildlife savvy and help them understand the delicate balance of nature. Children even get to interact and work with conservationists and specialists in natural biology, thus learning about everything from moths to turtles!
Camps like these are also the perfect way to prevent kids from becoming couch potatoes. Away from the city, in a new world of adventure, kids can also get rid of their fears.
14-year-old Rebecca Samuel from Frank Anthony Public School, Bengaluru says, "The camps are indeed a great wildlife experience. In one of the camps, we made a one-minute documentary on wildlife. For this we measured red roof baby turtles, cleaned a crocodile pit and were also taught how to handle crocodiles. The camps imparted knowledge in abundance. We watched a documentary called 'Crocodile Blues' which was about Gharials and why they are on the verge of extinction. It was an eye-opener for all of us as we were shown how the reptiles are disappearing due to our negligence and ignorance. Besides this, I also saw a variety of snakes including checkered snakes, water snakes, rat snakes, cobras and a lot more." Echoing her sentiments, Anthony Shek from Inventure Academy says, "The camps are informative and helped me overcome my fears. Initially, holding a crocodile was difficult, but after following the instructions I found it easy."
So, if you are also in the mood to go on an amazing adventure this vacation, get out there and explore the wild!