Duration : 2-7 days
Best Season : Sep - May
Grade : Moderate
Max. Altitude : 1300m
While most people picture mountains and high altitude trekking when they think of Nepal, fewer people are aware that Nepal is also one of the world’s best safari destinations. In the southern low land areas of Nepal towards India, lie dense subtropical rainforest and deep jungle habitat offering the opportunity to view many exotic wild animals by elephant back or four-wheel drive. Safari activities include canoeing, jungle walks, bird-watching, as well as the opportunity to visit an ethnic Tharu village and experience their unique culture.
Along with the rest of Nepal, this area which is also known as the Terai, has been the target of a major conservation effort. This incredibly rich habitat comprises of floodplains which reach the India border as well as grasslands, and hardwood forest. The unique wildlife of the Terai includes the Royal Bengal tiger, Marsh Mugger crocodiles, and a rare breed of asiatic wild buffalo. The area is also rich in bird species including a variety of koels, drongos, babbles and orioles, as well as numerous deer including the musk deer, swamp deer, and black buck.
Chitwan National Park (2-4 Days)
Bardia National Park is a smaller and lesser known park than Chitwan but home to the same exotic wildlife and Terai jungle. As this area is more isolated, it receives fewer visitors, adding an extra element of adventure and excitement when it comes to exploring the park and its numerous activities. The small number of resorts are well appointed and located along the boundaries of the park, offering the Bardia as their front yard.
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (3-5 days)
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is located in Eastern Nepal, and comprises of 175km of wildlife reserve and wetlands habitat. The park was established in 1976 and is home to many of the Terai’s unique fauna including the Ganges River dolphin (Gangetic dolphin), mugger crocodile, deer, nilgal and over 280 species of birds. The Koshu Tappu Reserve is also home to Nepal’s last remaining population of wild water buffalo. The reserve area can be accessed via the Mahindra Highway.
Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve is a protected area lying in the southwest of the Terai region. It contains the largest patch of continuous grassland in Nepal which is also habitat to the world’s largest population of swamp deer. The vast open grasslands and wetlands contain an extensive variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians including the monitor lizard, oriental rat snake, mugger crocodile and Nepal’s largest breeding population of hispid hare and Bengal floricans. The reserve was also once the site of an ancient Tharu kingdom, and remnants of the fort of King Singpal can still be found there.
Elephant safari is a traditional way of exploring the jungle of the Terai. From the back of an elephant you will also be able to see over the top of high grassland, making it one of the best ways to view wildlife. Elephant safari can also give you the opportunity to see wildlife up close as the elephant is often able to get closer to animals than a vehicle or person on foot can. It is possible to view some animals from as little as one metre away.
A Jeep safari will take you well into the heart of the jungle, giving you the opportunity to get off the beaten track, and providing some unique wild life spotting opportunities. Jeep safari tours involves a thrilling 4WD (4-Wheel Drive) journey into dense forest, enabling you to view some of the rarest species of animals, birds etc. up close. The jeep driver is able to stop the jeep whenever wildlife is spotted and animals are generally used to the presence of vehicles.
Jungles walks, or exploring the jungle by foot, provide you with the ideal situation of viewing wild animals at very close range. Jungle walks are especially ideal for bird watching and for viewing plants or native flora. On your walk you will be guided by a naturalist who can help you to identify the different species of birds, animals and plants you may come across that are native to the Terai jungle.
Nepal contains nearly ten percent of the world’s bird species making it an exciting and popular destination for birdwatchers and bird lovers. Not only that but it is an opportunity to birdwatch in one of the most spectacular and beautiful natural environments on earth. Lowland areas such as Chitwan or Koshi Tappu are some of the areas with the greatest diversity of bird species, however it is also possible to choose trekking routes which contain rich bird diversity. Remember, bird watching is always best on foot.
A slow canoe ride along the quiet rivers of the Nepal floodplains offers the best opportunity to view the unique riverside scenery and aquatic flora and fauna. There are many opportunities for sightings of crocodiles as well as many species of aquatic birds such as the marsh mugger and gharial.
Colourful Village Visit:
There are many opportunities in the national parks of the Terai to experience jungle scenery and native wildlife. However one of the unique features of this region not to be overlooked is the culture of its indigenous local people, the Tharus. The Tharu have been living close to the jungle and its wildlife for centuries. Visit a local Tharu village to experience first-hand their culture and lifestyle and learn about the unique symbiosis they have with their natural environment.
Tharu Stick Dance:
A melodious tribal dance performed by men with rhythm or drums and the clashing of sticks. The dance shows how rhinos and other wild animals are scared away from the village.
The relaxing ox-cart ride will enable you to view the lively cultural villages around the area.