Green Mansions

The jungle safaris in Nepal are the natural gift of the Gangetic Plain that connects south Nepal and north India for 500 kilometers. This stretch was called the Char Koshe Jhari in Nepal, meaning the 'eight-mile forest' and was a formidable barrier until the 1950s. It was not only the dense foliage of the lowlands, but also the scourge of incurable malaria that discouraged human penetration of the belt.

Then the entire stretch was sprayed with DDT in the 1950s. The resultant eradication lured outsiders to the lowlands en masse. Fortunately the human encroachment also brought the environmental and ecological protection of substantial areas into national parks

Today, some 15% of Nepal's area has been designated protected wildlife preserves. This fact is an international record for a small and poor country. Displaying considerable political will and determination to protect and preserve its fauna and flora, Nepal has set its own examples in sustainable development strategies, people - and - park projects, and other conservation programs. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature cited Chitwan National Park as a success story because of Nepal's coordination with the WWF in safeguarding and regenerating the rhino population of the park. What transpired was that protection of one species is also the preservation of others. Along with the unique one-horned rhino, another member of the park - the majestic Royal Bengal tiger - also benefitted, as did other resident inhabitants and migratory guests in the park.

The ideal months for safari in Nepal's Terai lowlands are from October to May. The destinations can be reached either by flying south or by driving down on the countryside highways, or even by rafting down the Himalayan rapids.

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan means both 'heart of the jungle' and 'leopard forest' - and both indicate the lush and dense depth of the area. Easiest of the National Parks to reach, the park is one of the richest wildlife preserves in Asia and the most famous in Nepal. The park lies in the Chitwan Valley between the Siwlik (Churia) and the Mahabharat ranges. It is drained by two rivers, the Narayani and the Rapti. The indigenous people are the Tharus who were immune from malaria.

The valley was officially designated a national park in 1973 and the Nepal Army was deployed for its protection from poaching. In 1976, its area was enlarged to 1,040 square miles from its previous 402. CNP is also notable for another fact that it was where concessionaires were first allowed to build and develop safari resorts and jungle lodges in Nepal.

There are numerous quality and budget resorts and lodges in Chitwan. Equally, there are many worthwhile places to visit. While a jungle walk with a trained naturalist can reveal can reveal the nearby vicinities, and elephant ride is the best way to penetrate the deep jungle to view rhino, the elusive tiger, leopard, sloth bear and gaur (wild cattle). The rivers contain crocodiles and mahseer fish, and an evening visit to the elephant stable is worth the while. Watching elephants being bathed and fed are other memorable experiences. Chitwan is a veritable preserve for diverse animal and bird life, rare reptiles, and ecolog

Bardiya National Park

Bardiya National Park is located in the remote and sparsely-populated far west Terai, and is the largest in Nepal. It is probably the most untouched preserve for adventurous travellers.

It is another tiger territory, even better for that than Chitwan, and is also famous for game fishing which can yield the massive 50-kg plus masheer fish. Viewing of other fauna and flora is a chief pastime here, along with canoeing. This is also an ideal trailhead for trekking to the hills of west Nepal

The drive to Bardiya can take up to 12 hours from Kathmandu, and is a most memorable and scenic countryside drive as well as through the streches of the Terai. One can also fly to Nepalgunj, the nearest town, from Kathmandu and drive 90 minutes to the Park.

Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve

Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve is a small and remote area tucked away in the far south-west corner of Nepal. It is a gem of a wildlife sanctuary which is notable for the swamp deer called barasingha, meaning "twelve horns" in Nepali, which number an impressive 2,000.

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve

This lies in the eastern Terai on the floodplains of the Sapta (seven) Koshi river system. This reserve, a tapu (island), bounded by rivers on its east and west, and a barrage to its south, is a haven for 280 species of birds and 20 different sorts of ducks, rare swamp partridges and other waterfowl during winter. Koshi Tappu is also the only sanctuary in Nepal for wild buffalos

The Tharus

The lowland Terai of the safari parks is equally noteworthy for its endemic and ancient people. the Tharus. These colorful and malaria-immune "aborigines" or "tribals" of Nepal number some 600,000 today, and they speak unique dialects and practice various rites from animism to other traditions.

Apart from the natural flora and fauna of the Terai national parks, the Tharus in themselves have become a subject of focal and scholastic interest for many visitors to Nepal, especially those interested in art and crafts.