The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has decided that from July onwards all Safari Jeep operators must obtain the legal certification issued by the SLTDA to operate in national parks.
This was mentioned at a workshop held in Minneriya to raise awareness and train existing Safari Jeep operators.
A series of workshops, funded by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Department of Wildlife Conservation, and Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), conducted by the Federation of Environmental Organizations (FEO), was held focusing primarily on Minneriya National Park, Kaudulla National Park, and Hurulu Eco Park.
The workshops were held to raise awareness on the new law of licensing Safari Jeep Drivers and to train the existing Safari Drivers to obtain the necessary certification. Out of the 700 Safari Jeep Drivers identified by the Authority, 400 have obtained the license through these free workshops.
Following the conclusion of the free workshop series held by the SLTDA, any other Safari Jeep driver who had not obtained their certification through the workshop will have to obtain the license by paying a fee participating at an annual workshop conducted by the authority.
According to the Chairman of FEO, it has been revealed in a study that 38% of all tourists in Sri Lanka visit national parks and over 70% of those had rated their experience as ‘really bad’ due to various reasons such as harassment of the wildlife and misbehaviour of safari drivers.
The free workshops, also known as ‘nature interpretation’ programs are aimed at training safari operators to interpret nature better, to obey rules and to provide better quality, enhanced experience, stated the FEO Chairman.
Former Director General of the Wildlife Conservation Department Sumith Pilapitiya stated that the park complex - consisting of Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks and the Hurulu Eco park, has decided that any disciplinary action taken against a Safari jeep operator will be enforced in all three parks.
The issued licenses will be renewable and traceable; tourists who receive their services will be able to give feedback thus ensuring more clients for jeep operators who provide a quality service.