Koshi Tappu—A Natural Paradise

Imagine a warm and lazy day on the riverbank, watching long-legged herons and storks fishing in the placidly flowing waters of a slow moving river, while a herd of thick-necked water buffaloes amble about leisurely on the shore, perhaps ruminating on whether it’s time to call it a day and retire for the evening. As the sun sets on the far horizon, the sky around is enveloped in a pinkish glow. The scene is romantic all right.

Well, you can be part of such a scene in Nepal. All you got do is to hop on a plane from the capital Kathmandu to Biratnagar in eastern Nepal (45 minutes) and carry on from there to the Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, some one and a half hour away. The 175 sq km reserve, on the floodplains of the Sapta Kosi River, was originally founded to protect the rare water buffalo, this area being the only remaining habitat in the country for these animals. Listed as ‘endangered’ in the IUCN Red List since 1986, the worldwide population of the wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) is fewer than 4,000. The reserve has around 150 of them. Weighing between 700 to 1,200 kg, their head-to-body-length is 240 to 300 cm with a tail 60 to 100 cm. long, and a shoulder height of 150 to 190 cm. Their horns are heavy and large, spreading outwards up to two meters.

While these rare animals would be reason enough to merit a visit, Kosi Tappu also has the distinction of being an excellent wetland site (ramsar) for around 485 different types of water birds, which makes it a must-visit site for bird-watchers around the world. These birds come in all shapes and sizes, from storks, herons, bar headed geese, black and white ibis, egrets, and ducks to the endangered swamp partridges and Bengal floricans as well as the Siberian Saru which migrate here come winter every year.

It is also interesting to know that some 200 species of fish have been recorded in the waters here, besides a number of amphibians and reptiles, including, nine species of frogs, two of toads, six of lizards, and five of snakes, as well as 11 types of turtles, and a fair number of gharials and mugger crocodiles. Mammal species around the area include the Asian elephant, wild pigs, otters, jackals, different kinds of deer, etc. besides of course, the wild water buffalo. Another especially interesting mammal sighted here is the Ganges River Dolphin.

Now, when would be the best time to visit this natural paradise? Well, October through March would be ideal. This way you avoid the heavy monsoon rains and the overwhelming heat of an Asian summer. Not to mention, tormenting mosquitoes that can make your life hell, as well as all sorts of other equally troubling insects and dangerous reptiles. Besides, Oct-March is when you’ll be able to get good viewings of the fabulous assortment of local and migratory birds that frequently inhabit the place.

So, the next time you are in Nepal, take a real break from the ordinary and visit Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. You’ll not only have the fantastic experience of an extraordinary natural paradise, but you’ll have something else to talk about back home, aside from the usual trekking in the Himalayas and the elephant rides through the jungles of Chitwan. Try the difference. Be different!

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