Chhimi Dema

Peace, if lost or forgotten, can be found again at Marang Jungle Camp in Panbang, Zhemgang.

The 1.5 acres eco-lodge offers visitors a taste of rural life with subtle luxury and a rich natural environment.

The lush forest surrounding the camp hosts more than 200 bird species next to Marangdut, a tributary of Drangmechhu.

The jungle camp, located in Marang village, was established in 2016 and is managed by the River Guides of Panbang (RGP).

RGP has 11 members today. The oldest member is 51-year-old and the youngest, 6. The group was formed on November 22 in 2011.

Two members were terminated for violating RGP’s code of conduct, and a member passed away. The late member’s son continues to receive his father’s share from the group.

Ugyen Tshering, popularly known as Khenda, a member of RGP, said that they started Jungle Camp to raise economic opportunities which declined with poor mandarin orange production in Zhemgang.

“We saw our parents make huge income from mandarin orange export but today the fruit production decreased significantly, impacting people’s income,” Khenda said.

RGP, as way to help the community, outsource transportation services from the vehicles in the Marang village, buy vegetables from locals, and helps to secure funds to buy farming machinery and construct greenhouses.

Khenda said that RGP strives to take the community along with them as they grow. “It is right for us to engage the community in our journey. Without their support, RGP would not have reached this far.”

The Jungle Camp was formed in 2016 after six tourists came to Panbang for rafting and the group was asked to manage their lodge.

Khenda said that the guests were delighted with their services and rewarded them handsomely.

Bhutan Foundation supported the group with a budget for construction materials, tents, and covered other expenses.

Khenda said that Bhutan Foundation’s support has been critical throughout their eco-tourism journey.

Jungle Camp has 10 tented rooms with thatched roofs made in the traditional Khengpa style. The rooms are comfortable and simple with two single beds, a table, and a chair.

The camp offers simple meals and local cuisines based on guests’ preferences.

Guests at the camp can engage themselves with various activities such as fly-fishing, rafting, and cycling.

The pandemic presented a difficult time for the group—all the reservations were cancelled. The Jungle Camp catered to officials visiting Panbang on Covid-19 duties and to de-suups.

Khenda said that the group is hoping to expand the camp with additional rooms in the coming years.  RGP is also exploring biking and hiking routes in Panbang.

Khenda said that the distance to reach Zhemgang often discourages visitors.

The regional tourists visiting Jungle Camp have to enter from Samdrupjongkhar or Gelephu.

“If the tourists are allowed to enter from the Royal Manas National Park, then we might have a chance to see more visitors,” Khenda said.

RGP is in touch with the Department of Tourism to have visitors come to Jungle Camp.

This story is supported by GEF-UNDP Ecotourism Project under the Department of Tourism.