Wild West Wonders

Bardia National Park and Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve Tour Package (7 days, 6 nights)

Bardia, which is the Tharu word for ‘herdsman,’ is one of the last remaining wildernesses of Nepal. But it is peerless in that it’s a place where wildlife is the most talked about topic. Guides talking to each other ask more about tigers and rhinos than about their families. It is a unique fact but not totally surprising given that Bardia boasts of an impressive 37 mammals, most of them too beautiful or too elusive to remain out of your mind even when they are not in sight. These include the big three: Royal Bengal Tiger, Asian elephant, and One-horned rhinoceros. Deer species are well represented by chital (spotted deer), hog deer, and the barking deer. Another resident is the four-horned antelope and Nilgai, or blue bull, the largest antelope species in the sub-continent. 
 
The Bardia National Park covers a whopping 968 sq km, making it the largest national park in Nepal’s lowlands. But what makes it special is the omnipresence of the wild world. As you drive into Thakurdwara, the village where most resorts in Bardia are located, you see machans (wooden towers) rising high above the abode houses and green fields. They are like huge wordless signboards proclaiming the proximity of the place to the jungle. Farmers keep vigils on these lofty perches to ward off wild elephants that come out of the jungle to feast on their crops. You never run of stories of encounters with wild animals. You are never out of earshot of the sounds of the jungle. The fact that a primeval world lies just beyond the gate of your resort never escapes your mind. To go to Bardia is to surrender to the wilderness.

     

    Day 01 Arrival in Bardia, Tharu Museum visit

    Assistance at the airport upon arrival and transfer to resort in Thakurdwara, Bardia. Visit the Tharu Museum.
     
    Tharu Museum
    At the entrance of the Tharu Museum is a vehicle that symbolizes the Tharu philosophy of using green energy: a wooden bullock-drawn cart. The museum is like a wonderfully preserved interior of a traditional Tharu home, with paintings hanging on the walls and baskets woven out of elephant grass hanging from the ceilings. The Tharus were originally animists, and their deities, like the many animals they revere, do not like to be confined. On a typical family altar there are several figurines, tied down with strings to get them to stay and protect the house. 
     
    Dinner at hotel

    Day 02 Full-day jungle walk or jeep safari or rafting

    Breakfast at hotel. Enter the national park in the early morning, carrying lunch packs. Spend entire day in the jungle, covering the main rhino and tiger habitats. Jungle walks can be replaced by full-day jeep safari or rafting.
     
    Jungle Walks
    Jungle walks are walks of adventure. You never know which of Bardia’s 37 mammals might pop up. There is a great tension on jungle walks: you want to see animals, to get close, but not too close. That is the thrill of jungle walks, wishing to get the best of the wild world while aware all the time of the fact that the jungle doesn’t play by your rules.  It is this tension and suspense and fear (no denying it) that makes every snapping twig, every glimpse of a body gliding into the bush, and the view blurred by the mist rising from the river chilling and thrilling at the same time. Waiting at the usual stakeouts on the river banks is a great way to try your luck and patience. Your ears are cocked as you hear a low growl that seems to coming from very near you. Then you realize it is coming from you, a voice of dissent by yours hungrily, your deprived stomach.
     
    Jeep Safari 
    One of the smoothest roads in Nepal is the fire lines that also double as the roads in the Terai national parks. Cruising along on this road in a hoodless 4WD, ancient Sal trees flanking it like the pillars of a cloistered driveway, is luxury in a place it is least expected. You need to maintain a good hold on something for sudden, though not screeching, stops are to be expected. A jackal may be feeding on leftovers, or a Barasingha (swamp deer) stag may be standing beside the road, neck turned back, its magnificent 12-branched antlers like a crown on its head. Better still, a Royal Bengal Tiger saunters across the road, lazily looking at you once before the black stripes and yellow of its body disappears into the Sal sanctuary.
     
    Rafting
    A raft on the rivers that flow through Bardia is the best seat in the house. Going with the flow was never lovelier. On a rafting trip the river becomes the guide, taking you through the heart of the jungle. No sputtering engine, no grumpy elephant, no need to walk or wait—just silence, an occasional musical lapping of the oar, and the happy abandon of handing control over to the river. And the river doesn’t disappoint. You can catch glimpses of colorful kingfishers and meditative figures of eagles scouring for prey and count crocodiles and gharials on the banks.  If you are lucky, you will see the shiny coat of the Smooth-coated Otter, or better still, that of a Ganges river dolphin.
     
    Overnight at resort

    Day 03 Bird watching, crocodile breeding center visit, elephant ride or visit the Blackbuck Conservation Area

    Breakfast at hotel. Guided bird watching tour followed by a visit to the Crocodile Breeding Center. Lunch at resort. Elephant ride or visit the Blackbuck Conservation Area.
     
    Bird watching 
    Bird species that have struggled elsewhere flourish in Bardia’s pristine jungles. A total of 426 species of birds have been recorded in the Bardia National Park, a list that includes 11 species whose existence is globally-threatened. Bardia is one of the last staging grounds for several species: over half of Nepal’s near-threatened birds are found here. One such bird is the rare and elusive Bengal Florican, a grassland-dwelling species. Sarus cranes, the world’s tallest birds that can fly, also visit Bardia. You couldn’t be faulted for thinking you had entered the Jurassic Era when you hear the whirring of huge wings and see the Great hornbill perched on a tree, its casqued beak giving it the appearance of a relic from the dinosaur age.
     
    Crocodile Breeding Center
    If you ever want to count the teeth on a gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), the Crocodile Breeding Center is the place for you. The name gharial comes from ‘ghara’ (pot)—an allusion to the pot-like protuberance on its nose. The breeding center also has another crocodilian in residence, which has even more intimidating set of teeth: the mugger crocodile (Crocodilus palustris). It is usually basking in the sun, displaying its (as Lewis Carroll described them) ‘gently smiling jaws.’
     
    Elephant Rides
    Elephant rides in Bardia are the equivalent of African safaris on the savannah—albeit without the sound of engine. There is a feel of being one with a gargantuan body as you adjust your body to lurch-and-relax motion of the mighty beast. Wading across rivers, moving through the tall grasses to which they give their name, they provide safety and comfort.
     
    Blackbuck Conservation Area
    The 488 hectares of the Blackbuck Conservation Area in Khairapur is one of the last strongholds of blackbucks in the sub-continent. The Khairapur herd is one of the last remaining wild herds of blackbucks in Nepal. This herd is surprisingly tame and used to human presence. You will have a field day with your cameras as these svelte and smooth-coated beasts leap up and down as if they were made of rubber, or as the males lock horns to establish hierarchy.
     
    Overnight at resort

    Day 04 Camping in the Babai Valley

    Breakfast at hotel. Drive to the camp site in the Babai Valley. Short jungle walk in Babai and return to campsite for the night.
     
    Babai Valley
    The Babai Valley is the poster-perfect part of the Bardia National Park. The valley is named after the Babai River, one of the two main rivers flowing through Bardia. Babai remains untamed and undeveloped. There are no resorts. Only a couple of army posts dot this picturesque are of secluded pockets of grasslands, riverine forests and a beautiful river. Its isolation and the pristine condition of its habitats was why a couple of rhinos from Chitwan were relocated here in 1986.
     
    Overnight at camp

    Day 05 Fishing in Babai River and departure for Mahendranagar

    Early morning bird watching and then fishing in the Babai River. Drive to Mahendranagar. Lunch at Chisapani. Visit Ghodaghodi Tal on the way.
     
    Fishing 
    Fishing in the Babai River can land you the holy grail of Asian fish—the Golden mahaseer. Be careful not to wander too close to the edge of the river banks as you fish. Golden mahaseers are known to weigh as much as 80 kgs, and you might be tugged into the river by one of the senior members of the mahaseer clans of Babai.
     
    Ghodaghodi Tal
    With its huge lotus covered waters, the Ghodaghodi Tal looks like a huge poster laid out between Sal forests. For birds, a total of 142 species of which exist here, it is a paradise. Located beside the East-West Highway, it is easy to drive past the lake. But once you go to it, it is easy to forget about the world that surrounds but never penetrates this sanctuary for birds and bird watchers.

    Day 06 Visit Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve and suspension bridge

    Early morning jeep safari in Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve. Visit famous phanta (grasslands), lakes, and ruins of ancient Tharu village inside the reserve. Visit suspension bridge in the evening.
     
    Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve
    Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve is Nepal’s answer to Africa’s national parks. Although much smaller than its African counterparts, Sukla Phanta’s numerous grasslands are redolent of Africa’s great grassy expanses. It also resembles Africa in another way—huge herds. Sukla Phanta has the largest Swamp Deer herd in the world, numbering 2,170 individuals. A jeep safari to the Sukla Phanta, the grassland after which the park is named, is often rewarded with a seemingly endless chain of these brown bodies. The reserve also has tigers, rhinos, and elephants. Another elusive, though diminutive, member of Sukla Phanta is the hispid hare, a pygmy hare species that is often mistaken by people for a baby hare.   
     
    Like other national parks in Nepal’s lowlands, Sukla Phanta was once the site of Tharu villages. Sections of the wall of an ancient Tharu king’s palace can still be seen in places. Near this archaeological site is the even more ancient looking Rani Tal. This lake is the 305 sq kms of the reserved compressed into a few sq meters. Birds feet and cavort here, deer wade through its plant-choked waters and, if you are lucky (and the deer unlucky), a tiger will be sneaking up behind the deer.

    Day 07 Departure for Kathmandu

    Breakfast in Mahendranagar. Drive to Dhangadi airport and fly by Buddha Air to Kathmandu.

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    The best time to visit?

    From late October to March.

    Attire

    Mornings and evenings start getting chilly November onwards and get really cold from December right up to February. Warm clothes needed for visits in the November to February period. Note that jungle safaris are extra cold due to the wind chill factor; wear a good windcheater. March and October have mild, warm weather. 
     

    Visa

    The minimum duration of a tourist visa to Nepal is fifteen days and costs $25.
     

    Is it possible to go to Bardia by road?

    It is, but traveling by road has numerous disadvantages. The bus ride to Bardia from Kathmandu takes 12-14 hours. The monsoons often leave stretches of the highway riddled with holes. Other obstacles include strikes that sometimes last weeks, halting all forms of transportation. Getting stuck in these bandhs, as the strikes are called, can be a torturous experience, especially if there are no facilities such as hotels and restaurants around.
     

    Are Jungle Walks Safe?

    Yes, provided you follow the safety measures.  Explain to your guide that you would be happy to spot animals, but do not want to flout safety rules to do so. It’s good to carry a strong stick for protection against animals.
     

    Is swimming in the rivers permitted? Is it safe?

    Yes to both. For safety reasons and for maintaining silence (an important etiquette when in the jungle), however, your rafting guides will decide the places where you can.
     

    Necessary Items

    Sunscreen, insect repellent, hats and sunglasses, binoculars, Swiss army knife, book on Nepal’s birds. Pack medicines for stomach illnesses. Water purifiers are also recommended, although all resorts have mineral water. Waterproof bag if you plan to go rafting.

    Contact Us Book Now Download PDF Bardia National Park and Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve Tour Package (7 days, 6 nights)

    Package Includes

    • Transport, pick-up, and drop
    • Sight-seeing and activities in Bardia and Sukla Phanta
    • Hotel accommodation (Hotel with full Board Basis)
    • Return air tickets (KTM-Nepalgunj-KTM)
    • Entrance fee for: Bardia National Park, Crocodile Breeding Center, Tharu Museum, Blackbuck Conservation Area, Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve

    Package Excludes

    • Visa fee at the International Airport
    • Laundry
    • Personal expenses
    Contact Us Book Now Download PDF Bardia National Park and Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve Tour Package (7 days, 6 nights)

    Adult (12yrs+) Child (02-11yrs) Infant (below 2yrs)**

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    ** Infant tickets will be issued at the check-in counter before your flight at 10% of adult fare rate

    Download PDF Bardia National Park and Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve Tour Package (7 days, 6 nights)