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Rainforest Eco-Tourism, Organic Farming, and Research in India | Madikeri, Karnataka, India

More photos of this internship may be found here.

One or two term internships at an organic farm providing a unique eco-tourism destination in the Western Ghats of India. Interns will support the Rainforest Retreat (eco-lodge) and its guests, while learning about sustainable agriculture at the Mojo Plantation, a 25-acre farm. Located in the Kodagu District in the state of Karnataka, the Rainforest Retreat is located in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world and the surrounding environment provides a beautiful backdrop for guests, students, and locals alike.

 Interns can support guest relations, agricultural activities, or conduct research guided by founders Dr. Sujata Goel and Dr. Anurag Goel. Ideal hands-on experience for students interested in eco-tourism, hospitality, sustainable development, agriculture, or biodiversity. Free room and board is provided.

Internship Start Dates:

  • Winter, spring, and fall – internship not available summer term due to monsoons

Duration of Internship:

  • 12+ weeks

The Rainforest Retreat at Mojo Plantation is a unique project that combines eco-tourism with sustainable agriculture and environmental education. The site is home to an eco-lodge with six rooms, situated on a 25-acre certified organic farm in the tropical rainforests along the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats in Coorg (Kodagu). The farm grows cardamom, coffee, pepper, vanilla, and other spices and fruits. The Rainforest Retreat caters to environmentally conscious travelers and naturalists looking for a unique stay in an idyllic setting. The regularly organize and host workshops, tours, and educational programs for students and special interest groups. They have been recognized as one of India’s leading sustainable tourism destinations and has received awards for their work.

All proceeds from the farm and retreat support the WAPRED Research Foundation (Worldwide Association for Preservation and Restoration of Ecological Diversity), an environmental NGO. Founded in 1997, WAPRED aims to promote ecological awareness and develop sustainable methods of agriculture in the Western Ghats. WAPRED continuously documents the biodiversity found on-site, as well as supports research on a variety of topics, including: the effect of agricultural methods on biodiversity, natural pest control, soil management, community development, sustainable development, and traditional farming practices such as panchkavya.

The Western Ghats, or Sahyādris, are a mountain range in western India and are considered one of the world’s top ten biological diversity hotspots and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. With more than 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, and 179 amphibian species, the Western Ghats are truly a wonder. Typical sightings at the Rainforest Retreat include wild boars, barking deer, porcupines, civets, macaques, Atlas moths, squirrels, frogs, reptiles, and birds such as the Malabar grey hornbill, whistling thrush, kingfishers, and drongos. It is a prime bird-watching and trekking destination.

Mojo Plantation and the Rainforest Retreat were founded in 1994 by Dr. Sujata Goel and Dr. Anurag Goel. Their previous research experience in the fields of biological sciences includes botany, plant biochemistry, genetics, ecology, and molecular biology. They have extensive experience in India, Europe, and North America, providing them with unique insights into the local ecology and culture. With their extensive science backgrounds and international experience (India, Europe, North America), they are in a unique position to help design and supervise graduate and doctorate research projects, while also sharing about the local ecology and culture.

For more information about the Rainforest Retreat, Mojo Plantation, and WAPRED NGO, please visit their website.

Interns have many opportunities to get involved. Interns should be open-minded and ready to work, as they will typically support activities across the Rainforest Retreat, the Mojo Plantation, and WAPRED. Primary duties can be divided into three main roles:

Guesthouse/Eco-Lodge Activities Intern

Ideal for students interested in business, hospitality, tourism, and recreation. Hands-on experience supporting the tourist experience through office support (accounting, website, communications/PR, bookings), guest management, housekeeping, kitchen duties, leading treks and tours, gardening, etc. Interns should have an interest in nature, ecology, or agriculture, but training will be provided. Interns should be fit enough to support with physical activities in the retreat and on the farm, and should be good communicators, and comfortable in a service role. Qualified candidates on-site for at least five months may take on a junior manager role after training (small stipend provided).

Sustainable Development & Agriculture Intern

The Mojo Plantation offers a valuable experience to learn about sustainable livelihoods, organic agriculture, the rainforest eco-system, conservation vs. development issues, and eco-tourism. Interns should be willing to help out wherever needed and tasks may include general farm work (landscaping, gardening, nursery maintenance, etc.), visits to local farms, research, documentation, packaging and marketing of organic produce, teaching English, helping with educational workshops, and conducting interactive farm tours. Interns interested in non-profit management may also be able to support WAPRED activities.

Research Intern

The rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats and the science background of the founders provides a unique location in which to conduct research.  Students may propose their own research projects or support current research (depending on experience and need). Research positions are typically for graduate and doctorate students, but undergraduate students may incorporate research into their program.

Academic Background

Students with a background in biology, agriculture, ecology, development, and sustainability are obvious candidates, but those with other backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Students with creative interests (pottery, carpentry, crafts, art, etc.) may also find unique opportunities. Business and hospitality backgrounds are a plus.

Skills/Experience

Ideal candidates will have experience and interest in the environment, agriculture, biodiversity, and sustainable living. Those interested in hospitality should have some experience in a service role.

Language Requirements

Interns should be fluent in English, but knowledge of and an interest in learning Kannada or Hindi is appreciated.

Other Requirements

Interns should be sincere, enthusiastic, and mature. Interns must be comfortable in a rustic and rural environment.

Estimated One-Time Expenses

        IE3 Global Program Fee: $3,450

        International Travel: $1,800

        Visa Fees: $150

        Recommended Immunizations: $700

Estimated Monthly Expenses

        Housing: Included

        Food: $50 (mostly included)

        Local Transportation: $75

        Recreation: $150

        Personal Expenses: $100

Hospitality interns working in management may be eligible for a stipend up to 5000Rs/month (approximately USD$75).

Room and board is provided by the eco-lodge. Interns should be prepared for simple, rustic living conditions.

Quotes:

“As both a guesthouse and organic coffee plantation, Rainforest Retreat is a center for environmental education on a variety of topics (organic agriculture, biodiversity, conservation, alternative energy, etc.) encompassing sustainable living practices for people of all different cultures and demographics. Learning, living, and practicing these lessons in a beautiful rainforest ecosystem have further encouraged my personal mission and commitment to environmental stewardship. While every detail of the site creates a beautiful experience, it is important to realize just how difficult agriculture and conservation work is as a long-term project. The work Sujata and Anurag have done on this site shows just how important such work is, and how it can be accomplished through the combined efforts built on research and the hard-work of the local staff. I wholeheartedly believe that Rainforest Retreat can inspire many people to adopt these practices for a sustainable lifestyle and encourage them to explore different (and admittedly some difficult) living conditions as long as they come with an open-mind. I think each experience is different but builds toward a better world across cultures and countries.” – Helen, University of Washington

Read more about Helen’s internship experience at the Rainforest Retreat.

“Rainforest Retreat is a delicate, diverse ecosystem. Half coffee plantation, half guesthouse, it is a surprisingly international center for organic culture. My time here has reignited my appreciation for biology’s many dividends and has exposed me to the realities of organic farming—the cultural, political and personal institutions that both inhibit and encourage the expansion of the organic model. Geographically, green, mountainous Coorg is a repository of a rich cultural history that offers endless topics of study. While the spiders and snakes may not be so welcoming, Coorgis made me feel as though I was an integral part of their community, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to live and work with them. Sujata and Anurag Goel, who own the plantation, were an incredible source of information, inspiration and guidance for me while I was at Rainforest Retreat, and I would encourage any and everyone to spend time here to tap into their knowledge.” – Lily, University of Washington

Read more about Lily’s internship experience at the Rainforest Retreat.

“I have actually decided on a career path outside of my studies in Eco-tourism. My experience here has only helped to cultivate an interest in experiential education. The most satisfying element of this internship has been educating guests as to the workings of an organic plantation through the aid of biodiversity and ecosystem services. It is most effective in helping their understanding to take them on a tour through the plantation or a trek and allow them to discover and ask questions in order to pursue that which interests them. There is an inherent educative aspect in most ecotourism ventures, and that is the aspect that I found most rewarding.” – Jeffrey Kessler, Oregon State University Cascades

“By the end of my time there, I would introduce myself to guests by saying, ‘Well, I’m technically a management intern, and I’m in charge of making sure all the guests are comfortable and coordinating your stay. I also guide treks and lead plantation tours. But I also like to work in the garden when I have the time. And I’m also helping with the research projects of the NGO. I have also created a few children’s programs. And I help in the kitchen.’ It was truly a holistic internship and the position became more and more uniquely mine as my interests grew and were in turn fostered by Sujata, the plantation’s owner.” - Lauren, Western Washington University

Read more about Lauren’s experience at the Rainforest Retreat.

Terms

Fall | Winter | Spring

Application Deadline

Fall: April 15
Winter: September 1
Spring: November 15

Basic Requirements

- Interest in sustainability, agriculture, ecology, or hospitality
- Comfortable in rustic/rural setting
- Willingness to learn