Lifted straight from the pages of a Rudyard Kipling book, the steamy jungles of southern Nepal are home some of the best wildlife watching in Asia, if not the world. Within the Terai plains, visitors can seek out tigers, elephants, monkeys, rhinos, bears, deer, crocodiles, leopards, river dolphins and a staggering 867 species of birds.
world-heritage listed Chitwan
National Park is regarded as Nepal’s most popular national park, both for
its abundance of animals and its accessibility to Kathmandu. Bardia
National Park is much more remote and also more pristine. Just getting
around the parks is an adventure, usually involving a mix of elephant safaris,
rafting, jungle walks and jeep trips. While poaching took its toll on animal
numbers during the decade-long Maoist insurgency, the latest counts show
numbers to be on the incline.
Africa often want to tick off the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and
buffalo), and if you swap tigers for lions, you can do the same in Nepal. One
of the most majestic animals in the world, the Royal Bengal tiger is also one
of the hardest to spot. The density of their habitat combined with the foliage’s
orange-brown hues keep these notoriously shy cats well camouflaged.
stealth across the Terai, the spotted leopard is Nepal’s other elusive big cat.
Keep your eyes peeled above – most sightings occur in the limbs of trees.
one-horned rhino, with armour-like body plates and a solitary horn similar to
its African brethren, is Nepal’s local celebrity. The most common way to spy a rhino
is by riding on the back of an elephant, effortlessly traversing the park’s
jungle vegetation from an excellent vantage point. An option for braver souls is
to track the rhino on a jungle walk. Test your tree-climbing skills before
setting out, as rhinos have been known to occasionally charge tourists. All
lodges in the park can arrange guides for jungle treks.
National Park is the place to see wild elephants, where you have a good chance
of spotting them along the banks of the Karnali River. Otherwise you can settle
for getting intimate with the park's domestic elephants, lending a hand with
their daily wash in the river at Chitwan.
round out the last of the Big Five, and Nepal is home to one of the last
remaining habitats of arna -- an
endangered species of long-horned wild buffalo. You will find a healthy
population grazing each evening along the wetlands of the Koshi
Tappu Wildlife Reserve in eastern Terai.
all of Nepal’s wildlife is found in the jungles. The most famous Himalayan
inhabitant is the snow leopard. With its thick, white spotted fur, it is undoubtedly
one of the world’s most beautiful cats, and also one of the most elusive. A less
expected high-altitude animal is the red (lesser) panda, which can be found in
the foothills of eastern Nepal. Other wildlife to watch for include the Himalayan
tahr (mountain goat), bharal (Himalayan blue sheep) and everyone’s
favourite shaggy bovine, the yak.
The article 'Watching wildlife in Nepal' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.