National Parks and Conservation Areas :::

Despite Nepal’s small size and heavy demand for land, it has managed to set aside an impressive 18% of its landmass for protection. In 2002 there were nine national parks, four conservation areas, three wildlife reserves and one hunting reserve protecting every significant ecological system in the country.
Most people visit at least one of the Nepal’s protected areas. The majority head to the Annapurna Conservation Area, Sagarmatha National Park, Royal Chitwan National Park or Langtang National Park. Some other conservation areas are in hard-to-reach places, where roads are bad and transportation difficult.

 

National Parks & Conservation Areas:

Name

Location

Features

Best time to visit

Annapurna CA

North of Pokhara, central Nepal

Most popular trekking area in Nepal, extremely diverse landscapes and cultural groups, high Annapurna peaks

Oct-Apr/May

Dhorpatan HR

Central Nepal

Nepal’s only hunting reserve (access is difficult)

Mar-Apr

Kanchenjunga CA

Eastern Nepal

Third-highest mountain in the world, 30 species of rhododendron, many endemic flower species, snow leopard

Mar-Apr, Oct-Nov

Chapter NP

Far western

Core area is important religious site Nepal

Mar-Apr, Oct-Nov

Koshi Tappu WR

Eastern Nepal

Grasslands, often flooded during monsoon, 280 species of birds, wild buffalo

Oct-Apr

Langtang NP

Northwest of Kathmandu

Culturally diverse, varied tropography, important location on migratory route for birds traveling between India and Tibet

Mar-Apr, Sept-Mid-Dec

Makalu-Barun NP & CA

Eastern Nepal

Rugged steep remote wilderness areas. Rich diversity of plant and animal life

Oct-May

Manaslu CA

Central Nepal bordering Annapurna CA

Rugged terrain, 11 types of forest, snow leopard, musk deer

Oct-Nov, Mar-Apr

Mustang CA

Central Nepal, bordering Tibet

Tibetan culture, walled city of Lo Monthang, arid landscapes

Mar-Nov

Parsa WR

South of Kathmandu

Sal forests, wild elephants, about 300 species of birds, many snake species

Oct-Apr

Rara NP

Northwest Nepal

Nepal’s biggest lake, little visited, many migratory birds

Oct-Dec, Mar-May

Royal Bardia NP

Far western Terai

Sal forest, tiger, one-horned rhino, over 250species of birds

Oct-early Apr

Royal Chitwan NP

Southwest of Kathmandu, bordering India

Tropical and subtropical forests, rhinoceros, tiger, gharial crocodile, 450 species of birds, World Heritage Site

Oct-Feb

Royal Sukla Phanta WR

Southwestern Nepal

Riverine flood plain, grasslands,endangered swamp deer, wild elephants

Oct-Apr

Sagarmatha (Everest) NP

Northeast of Kathmandu

Highest mountains on the planet, home of the Sherpa people, stunning monasteries, World Heritage Site

Oct-May

Shey Phoksundo NP

Northwest Nepal

Trans-Himalayan ecosystem, alpine flowers, high passes, snow leopard, musk deer

June-Sept

Shivapuri NP

Kathmandu Valley

Accessible from Kathmandu, many bird and butterfly species, leopards

Oct-May



ROYAL CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK

From the 19th century, the Chitwan Valley was a centre for hunting trips by British and Nepali aristocrats. King George V and his son, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, never made it to Kathmandu, but they did find time to slaughter wildlife in the Chitwan forests. In 11 fun packed days during one safari in 1911, they killed 39 tigers and 18 rhinos.
Nevertheless, the occasional hunting foray did not seriously jeopardize the Terai’s wildlife. In fact, the region’s status as a hunting reserve probably helped protect it.

Flora and Fauna
Flora:
The park has three basic vegetation types open grassland (which constitutes 20% of the park area), riverine forest (7%) and hardwood forest (73%), dominated by sal trees. The forests also have shisham, kapok, palash (or flame-of –the-forest), papal and strangler fig, as well as the scarlet-flowered kusum trees.

Fauna:
            Chitwan has over 43 different species of mammals; bird watchers can try for 450 different species and butterfly-spotters have identified 67 types of butterflies at Machan Wildlife Resort. Some of the most remarkable creatures to be seen in Chitwan include elephants, rhinos and tigers.
            Although you are likely to see more elephants here than any other animal, there are no wild elephants resident in the park. Chitwan’s elephants are all trained Asian (Indian) elephants. Wild elephants do occasionally enter the park though. One particular male from the adjoining Parsa Wildlife Reserve regularly visits the Elephant Breeding Centre near Sauraha, with its captive audience of females!
            Don’t forget to bring a swimming costume. The numerous rivers in the parks have some fine swimming holes and if you’re staying at one of the park lodges or in Sauraha, you’ll kick yourself if you pass up the opportunity to lend a hand at elephant bath time. On a hot day in the Terai, there is no better way of cooling off than sitting on an elephant’s back in a river and shouting chop! If your accent is right you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing cool shower!
            It’s the gaida (rhinoceros) that you will spend most time looking for in Chitwan and with most hope of success. More than 500 rhinos live in the park and many experts consider the park too small to sustain such a number. Increasingly, rhinos are wandering outside the park and destroying local crops, and local aren’t shy about killing them when they do. In recent years a number of rhinos have been relocated to other Terai parks, notably Royal Bardia and Shukla Phanta in western Nepal.
            Chitwan’s Royal Bengal tigers are the most elusive of the park’s wildlife. Without artificial assistance, such as staking a young buffalo calf out as live bait, you would be very lucky to see a bagh (tiger) in Chitwan.
Though their numbers have increased considerably since the park was opened, tiger are solitary creatures and they mainly hunt by night.
            Chitwan is also known for more than 50 other mammals. Chituwa (leopards) are as elusive as tigers and the night prowling bhalu (sloth bears) are also rarely seen.
           

Sauraha

            Sauraha is just outside the park on the northern bank of the Rapti River. It lies 6km south of Tadi Bazaar (on the Mahendra Highway). The setting is magnificent, even if much of the development is inappropriate and careless. It’s a simple village that’s been overrun by a boom and bust tourist industry. Outside of the tourist enclave, however, there’s still ample opportunity to observe rural life – fields of verdant rice and golden mustard surround neat mud-walled houses barns. Ox carts rumble by and there’s a constant background scene of ducks, chickens and children.
            A new bridge gives vehicle access from Tadi Bazaar, and it seems likely that buses will now drop you in Sauraha itself; the intrusion of buses into the village certainly won’t help its character.

 

Elephant Rides:
            The greatest thrill at Chitwan is the traditional elephant safari in search of wildlife; seeing a rhino from atop an elephant is an experience not to be missed. You won’t want to spend your entire visit aboard an elephant, however. It is not a comfortable mode of travel and your first ride is likely to leave you with aches in muscles you did not know you had, not to mentioned an interesting selection of bruises! Two, three or sometime four passengers are squeezed into a wooden-railed howdah (riding platform for passengers).

Jungle Walks:
            Visitors are allowed to enter the park on foot, but in order to get the most out of the experience, and for reasons of safety, it is mandatory that you go with a guide. Walks, which are often nothing more than a pleasant stroll through the jungle, can be exhilarating, but they are potentially dangerous if you meet a rhino. Most lodges (including some in Sauraha) have their own naturalists, but there are also a number of independent guides. These young locals may not have much formal training , but they’re often very knowledgeable about the park’s wildlife and where to find it.
            Walking is the ideal way to see the park’s prolific butterflies and birds, and to also see the flora close up. Short walks will generally cover grassland and riverine forest; you need a day to get into the jungle. Walks can be combined with canoe trips.

  

Canoeing:
            A canoe trip along the Rapti or Narayani Rivers is the most restful way of seeing the wildlife, particularly water birds, and with a bit of luck you may also see mugger and gharial crocodiles. With a great deal of luck you might catch a glimpse of a freshwater Gangetic dolphin.

 

4WD Safaris:
            Animals are surprisingly unconcerned by vehicles, so a 4WD safari can be more exciting than you may expect. It also gives you a chance to get beyond the immediate Sauraha area. Most of 4WD drives take three or four hours. The destination will depend on the current security status, army directions and the state of the roads after the preceding monsoon. Usually you will visit Bis Hajaar Tal, Lami Tal and the gharial crocodile breeding centre near Kasara.

 

Wildlife Breeding Projects:
            There are two important breeding projects associated with the national park worth visiting: the elephant breeding centre 3 km west of Sauraha and the gharial crocodile breeding centre near Kasara. Access to the Elephant Breeding Centre is by 4WD, foot or bicycle, and you need to take canoe across the small Bhude Rapti River near the centre for a small fee. The best time to visit is after 3 pm when the elephants return from the forest.

Bird Education Society:
            This volunteer group will be the first port of call for keen bird-watchers. The small office is the main chowk (intersection) is staffed by enthusiasts and sells posters, check lists, t-shirts and caps, with all proceeds going to bird conservation. Every Saturday morning there are bird-watching excursions that you are welcome to join.