1816 stands out as a very significant date in Nepal’s history; this was when the Sugauli Treaty was signed between the forces of the British East India Company and the Nepal Army—a treaty that included annexation of the far western region of the country to the Company, beside other things. However, in 1860, the British magnanimously returned the region to Nepal as a sign of their gratitude for the country’s aid in quelling the 1857 uprising in India. This region is where is located the largest of the national parks in Nepal, the Bardiya National Park.
The national parks in Nepal have an important role to play. Considering the diverse topography of the country (from 67 m in the Terai to 8848 m in the Himalayas), resulting in an equally diverse range of animal species, Nepal can be said to be an excellent Asian wildlife safari destination, and this is where wildlife parks come into the picture. Nepal wildlife has something for all kinds of animal lovers. For those interested in butterflies, it should come somewhat of a surprise to them that, although the country is so small, it has about 650 species of these fluttering beauties.
For those who love fishing, the ‘mahasheer’ found in Nepali rivers is a prized specimen in sports fishing. Similarly, for those who are on the lookout for bigger animal species, a jungle safari in Nepal is likely to bring them face to face with Royal Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinoceroses, not to mention, gharials, alligators, leopards, elephants, etc. The largest population of the magnificent Royal Bengal tigers is to be found in the largest wildlife park in the country, that is, Bardiya National Park.
Established in 1988, this park lies in the far-western region of Nepal in Bardiya District; the best way of getting there is by flying to Nepalgunj and driving on from there. The park sprawls out over an area of almost 1000 sq. km and has the Babai River flowing through it. It also adjoins the eastern banks of the mighty Karnali River. Towards the north are the Siwalik Hills while the northern side is demarcated by the Nepalgunj-Surkhet highway. Neighboring the park is another park, the Banke National Park, and together, they comprise the Tiger Conservation Unit Bardiya-Banke, extending over some 1440 square kilometers. This makes it a fantastic destination for an exciting Nepal wildlife safari.
You have good chances of seeing the regal Bengal tiger in the wild, that’s a pretty exciting prospect, isn’t it? For the record, male Royal Bengal tigers can be 2.7 to 3.1 m long and females, 2.4 to 2.54 m, with the tail alone measuring up to 1.1 meters. The shoulder height is from 90 to 110 cm while the weight is around 235 kg (males) and 140 kg (females). The coat is colored yellow to light orange while the stripe color ranges from dark brown to black. The belly is white and the white tipped tail has dark colored rings around it. You’ll know when a tiger is in the vicinity; its powerful roar can be heard from up to two miles away!
Including these magnificent beasts, which are no doubt the prima donnas of the park, about 640 animal species are to be found in the Bardiya National Park. Fish species account for 125 while 23 are that of reptiles and amphibians. Likewise, there are at least 53 mammalian species, including rhinoceros, elephant, deer, dolphin, and, of course, the Royal Bengal tiger. The one-horned rhinos are not indigenous to the region; rather, they have been relocated here from Chitwan National Park, which is of course world renowned for its substantial population of the endangered animals. Their horns are prized for their reputed aphrodisiacal properties, and thus these tuskers face constant danger from poachers in both the parks. For your information, these mammoth beasts stand from 1.5 to 1.8 m tall (males slightly taller) and can weigh as much as 2700 kg each!
Speaking about birds, around 407 species have been seen so far in the Bardiya National Park, and these include the endangered white-rumped vulture, bar-headed geese, peafowl, Bengal florican, lesser florican, Sarus crane, bush warblers, chestnut-capped babbler, striated grassbird, jungle prinia, grey-crowned prinia, etc. As for flora, the park has around 839 species of them, and this, combined with dense forest and substantial grassland, along with the Karnali and Babai rivers and their numerous tributaries, go to make the region a prime wildlife habitat. Indeed, the Bardiya National Park is an ideal destination for a jungle safari in Nepal.