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Royal Bardia National Park

INDIA | Sunday, 9 January 2011 | Views [601]

Our time in Khati had been hectic and a break was long overdue, so with the pressing issue of a acquiring a new visa stamp and solar business to conduct in Delhi we decided to make our trip out of the valley. The adventure saw us head into Western Nepal via Mahendranagar undertaking some of the most scary, hair raising road trips I have undertaken (and there have been a few!!). Past the brickfields of Uttarakhand where child labour appeared to be the norm to the lush green fields of Western Nepal. The prevalence of men spraying chemicals onto crops, clothes dripping wet and not a concession to safety porocols in sight has been an all too common trend. As soon as you cross the border all private vehicle ownership drops to zero and the number of bicycles rises accordingly.

Our destination was the Royal Bardia National Park at Thakuradwara in Western Nepal. This region suffered greatly during the Maoist era. Our last journey to the area was at the height of the conflict when the situation for the average Nepali was dire. While tourism numbers have improved slighty they remain only a fraction of what Thakurdwara previously experienced. However, it was fantastic to talk to people who while dubious of the future of Nepali politics were positive for their futures.

Accomodation at Thakuradwara on the periphery of the park is in traditional style Tharu mud rendered, thatched roofed huts. And with sixteen guesthouses and not many tourists you are spoiled for choice.

Royal Bardia National Park covers an area of 968 spkm and is the largest Park in the lowland terai. In 1976 a small area was gazetted as he Royal Karnali Wildlife Reserve to protect flora and fauna. In 1982 renamed Royal Bardia Wildlife Reserve, extended and given National Park status in 1988. Thanks to translocation programs from the Royal Chitwan National ark in the 90's the park is now home to one horned rhinoceros. Through a variety of ecosystems is prolific birdlife, herds of wild elephants, tigers, leopards, jungle and fishing cats, rhesus and langur monkeys, a variety of deers - chital, hog, sambhar, swap and barking deer (to name only a few animals). And on the banks of the wild Karnali you may see a mugger or gharial crocodile (estimates vary but approximately only 200 breeding pairs are left in the wild) or spot otters or rare gangetic dolpins swimming by.

Unfortunately, during the Maoist era wildlife poaching was rampant resulting in the numbers of one horned rhinoceros and tigers dropping. We spoke to the Army Colonel who is now responsible for troops patrolling the park and he was so obviously proud of the new tiger cubs that had been born a few days before. Tigers are being radio collared so an eye can be kept on their movement around the park. The army now patrols continuously on the park boundries theoretically keeping poaching to a minimum.

The park entrance fee is 500 Nepali Rupees for a day permit, your guide is arranged through your guesthouse. Our Guide was decidedly lack lustre and enjoyed the opportunity to sleep wherever/whenever possible. This is one of the few parks you are able to freely walk in, so you could find yourself as tiger or leopard food or being charged by one horned rhinoceros - luckily in our case it was simply a fantastic walk through varied ecosystems!

We were treated to the most magnificent sight of a herd of twnty five wild elephants come out of the jungle, lumber down an embaknment and cross a riverbed. There were elephants of all sizes righ down to two tiny babies being protectively looked after by their mums, being sheltered in the centre of the herd and therefore out of harms way. At the rear was a huge tusker who sniffing the humans in the breeze chaperoned his herd across and then stood in the riverbed facing our direction (luckily we were a safe distance away) defiantly stamping his feet and wildly swaying his trunk while analysing the situation...  he then had a big drink, sprayed water around and with ears flapping lumbered up the next embankment with his tail last seen disappearing into the vines of the forest that neatly enveloped the herd without a trace.

A myriad of deers littered the junglescape and we followed the fresh trail of a tiger. From high up in a hide we spotted a one horned rhino and babby wandering around down below and a python so huge they have been known to swallow deers. At the Park entrance is an interpretive centre and a mugger and gharial crocodile breeding centre - can I add this was as close as we came to seeing a crocodile.

After six days in Nepal we crossed the border back to India by foot into the beautiful Sal forest at Gauri Phunta then took an archaic, rusted out, lumbering bus through Dudwa National Park and through part of the impoverished state of Uttar Pradesh. The poverty is grinding and it was yet another reminder of what an unequal planet we live on. This brings me to the here and now in Delhi and to a cold wave that has hit Northern India.



Tags: nepal, road travel, royal bardia national park, wildlife



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