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Jungle Safari

A trip to Nepal is incomplete if you have not been on a jungle safari. While the mountains of the north have some of the highest and most magnificent peaks in the world, the tropical jungles of the Terai preserve some of the best wildlife habitat in the Subcontinent. Some of these rich wildlife habitats are now protected, and can be toured on elephant back, 4WD, dugout canoe or on foot accompanied by a licensed guide.

Nepal has 16 national parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas, occupying 16% of its total geographical area. Jungle safaris on elephant back or Jeep rides are offered at the Parsa Wildlife Reserve, Royal Bardia National Park, Royal Chitwan National Park and the Royal Suklaphanta wildlife reserve, all located in the Terai.

SAFARI PARKS

Royal Chitwan National Park is the most popular destination for tourists wanting to have a good experience of the region's wildlife. It was declared a National Park in 1973. In 1984, UNESCO designated it as a Natural World Heritage Site. The Park offers protection to 56 species of mammals including the one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tiger, leopard, sloth bear, wild elephant, striped hyena, Gangetic dolphin and wild bison. There are an estimated 470 species of mammals, over 500 species of birds, 126 species of fish, 150 species of butterflies and 47 species of reptiles in the park! A recent study also points out that over a third of Nepal's tigers are in Chitwan.

The park is spread over an area of 932 sq. kms and located in the lowlands of the kingdom. The forest cover is predominantly sal, interspersed with tall grasslands, small hills, ox-bow lakes and flood plains.

The best time to visit Chitwan is from October through February, when the temperature averages 25 degrees Celsius. The months of March, April and June can be extremely hot, while July-September is the monsoon season when rivers swell and parts of the park are inaccessible.

Access and Accomodation for Chitwan: RNAC has daily flights from Katmandu to Meghauli ($72 each way), and flights to Bharatpur ($55) each way. If you want to stay at Sauraha, the budget accommodation place for Chitwan, get to Tadi bazaar, located 15 km east of Narayanghat on the Mahendra Highway. Royal Chitwan National Park is easily accessible by road from Kathmandu, connected as it is by a national highway from Bharatpur to Sauraha. The state-run Sajha Yatayat buses cost around $ 1.2 from Katmandu or Pokhara, while tourist buses cost around $2.5. There are also greenline air-conditioned buses between Katmandu and Sauraha at $7.

The other exciting way to get to Chitwan is to take a 2-3 day rafting trip down the Trisuli river to Narayanghat, or directly into the Western edge of the park.

There are plenty of jungle lodges and hotels in and around Chitwan. The lodges in the park are expensive. For budget accommodation, look around Sauraha and take your pick of a range of good lodges.
 

The Royal Bardia National Park is spread over 968 sq. km and located in the Western Nepal Terai. It is easily the largest and least disturbed wilderness spread in the Terai, and is predominantly Sal forest sprinkled with tall grasslands. It is bound on the north by the Chure hills and is skirted on the West by the Geruwa river.

It is here that your chances of spotting a tiger in Nepal are the highest. Other animals include the rhinoceros, swamp deer, leopards, jungle cats, blue bull (nilgai) sloth bears, barking deer and langurs.

There are a few wild elephants, and one of the males is considered the largest in Asia!
The Geruwa river that rushes in through a break in the hill range is home to the famous masher game fish, gharial, mugger crocodile and the freshwater Gangetic dolphin. The park also has cobras, kraits and pythons.

The park boasts more than 250 species of birds, including the endangered Bengal florican, Sarus crane and many species of geese, ducks and parakeets.

The activities include jungle safari on elephant back, walks, boat rides and Jeep drives. The best time to visit is from October-March.Royal

Access and Accomodation for Chitwan for Bardia: The reach the Royal Bardia National Park, there are daily flights as well as public buses from Katmandu to Nepalgunj. The park office is situated at Thakurdwara, 20 km southwest along a dirt road from Anbassa on the Mahendra Highway. The drive from Nepalgunj takes less than 2-1/2 hours, although local buses take much longer. For Thakurdwara, there are a couple of direct buses from Nepalgunj at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., taking 3-4 hours and costing $1.

Night buses from Kath-mandu to Mahendra-nagar can drop you at Anbassa during the week hours. Buses to Mahendra-nagar charge $2.5 and to Pokhara $5.

There are a number of lodges and hotels that have recently sprung up, so there is no real problem for accommodation. However, in the season, it may be advisable to make a booking before heading out.
 

Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve is a smaller (305 sq km) version of Bardia. Located at the southwestern extreme of the Kingdom, its topography is primarily riverine floodplain, open grassland and sal forest. It also has a large lake and the Bahini river flows through the park.

The park is home to tiger, leopard, a good number of swamp deer (prime habitat, often sighted), otters, his-pid hare, blue bull (nilgai), leopard, hog deer and wild boar.

The park also has over 300 species of birds and most of the tourists who make the trip here are keen bird watchers. Reptiles include gharial and mugger crocodiles, Indian python, cobras, kraits, rat snakes and monitor lizards.

Activities include wildlife watching on elephant back and jungle walks. The best time visit is February-March.

Access and Accomodation for Chitwan for Royal Suklaphanta: The reserve is close to Mahen-dranagar on the Indian border. The ranger's office is 3 km past the airport, and is accessible by rickshaw. The company operating inside the park picks up guests at the airport for $10. The accommodation provided here is in comfortable safari tents and the price ($150) includes meals, game drives and walks.

There are regular buses and flights to Mahendranagar from Kathmandu.

Parsa Wildlife Reserve is located to the east of the Royal Chitwan National Park. It is spread over 499 sq. km of hills and flatlands, and has a sub-tropical monsoon cli-mate. The forests are predominantly sal, with other species like chir pine, sissoo and khair, and grasslands making up the rest. This reserve has tigers, leopards, sloth bears, wild dogs (dhole), blue bull (nilgai), hog beer and barking deer. It also is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered giant hornbill and the Bengal florican. Snakes found are cobras, kraits and pythons.

October to March is just right for a visit. Activities include safaris on elephant back and jeep, and jungle walks.
Access and Accomodation for Chitwan for Parsa: The reserve headquarters for Parsa is located at Adabar on the Hetauda-Birganj highway, and easily accessible from Kathmandu. It is connected by daily flights to Simra and buses that ply regularly on the national highway.

What to bring along
Although the Terai can be cool during the winter, it can be stiflingly hot during the summer months. If you are headed there in winter, bring along a sweater or jacket. Summer months require cool clothes, good walking shoes, shady hat and sunscreen. Make sure your clothes are in colours-like brown and green- that help you blend into the background.

Carry along some mosquito repellant, anti-diarrhea tablets and anti-histamines. Meanwhile, along with photo equipment, a pair of binoculars will prove invaluable. If you are closer to the mon-soon months, carry some waterproof jackets and an extra pair of shoes. Just in case.

The Terai jungles are also famous for leeches that appear in the monsoon and are around for a few months after. Salt or a lighted cigarette will make them fall off, do not pull them off as the wound may get infected. Try an insect repellant to keep them away.

 
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