Bardiya National Park is situated on the eastern banks of the Karnali River, about four hundreds kilometers, west of Kathmandu. The park spreads 968 square Kilometers make it the largest wilderness reserve on the Terai lowlands that form a transition between the plains of northern India and the outer foothills of the Himalayas. With the Himalayas to the north and twisting turns of the Karnali River and its tributaries to the West and South, the location of the park provides a huge protected area of diverse habitats for a multitude of endangered species. The western end of the Bardiya is bounded by numerous water ways of the Karnali which have created many large and small gravel island. These islands and lower ground area covered by a mosaic of grassland and riverine forest of acacia, sisam and the large buttressed silk cotton trees. In spring, silk cotton blooms and the forest comes alive with scarlet flowers. Bardiya National Park is a protected area as well best wild life destination in Nepal.
Nepal had lost this region to the East India Company through the Sugauli Treaty in 1815. It was a part of British India for forty five years and returned to Nepal in 1860 in recognition for the suppression of the Indian Independence movement in 1857. These days, this annexed area is still renowned as “Naya Muluk” which elucidate “new country”. An area of 368 square kilometers was set aside as Royal Hunting Reserve in 1969 and announced as Royal Karnali Wildlife Reserve in 1976. It was proclaimed as Royal Bardia Wildlife Reserve and extended to the Babai River Valley in 1984. Bardia is originally a hunting reserve which became a conservation area in 1976 and then Bardiya National Park was declared the protected National Park in 1988 as Royal Bardiya National Park.
It is the largest and most undisturbed wilderness area in Nepal’s Terai, adjoining the eastern bank of the Karnali River in the Bardiya district. Bardiya National park is wilder, denser and is a hair- raiser. Conservation is a bold theme within Bardiya, the park as well providing a home habitat to species, also provides an ideal environment for study of wildlife. The WWF and the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation are active in the park monitoring wildlife and breeding habitats. It is not a commercial tourist spot. Bardiya does not compare to popular Chitwan National Park in terms of commercial tourism. A visit to Bardiya for the average tourist is one of adventure and real jungle treks with few other people around. Bardiya National Park is the largest protected home of Royal Bengal Tigers in Nepal and one of the biggest in Asia.
Over 1400 people who were farmers residing in the sector, removed to provide a greater area for the huge species within the park. The aim was to preserve the diversity of decreasing species, in particular the tiger and its natural prey species. A buffer zone and community forest were established around the park to try to reduce subsistence poaching inside the park by the local communities. The people who were resided inside the park have improved without intervention. It was not until the mid-90 that basic facilities for travelers began to appear. Since, then tourism has begun to increase and now, there are varieties of lodges available. Visitors feel much closer to nature and completely removed from bright lights shops, restaurants, bar and traffic. Many of them have believed that the park is now set to become one of the premier eco- tourism destination place in Asia.
Bardiya National Park is most westerly and the largest of its seven National Parks in Nepal. The park was originally formed to protect the various ecosystems found in the area, variety of wild life and to conserve tigers and their prey. There are various kinds of endangered species such as Rhinoceros, Wild elephant, Tiger, Swamp deer, Gharial Crocodile, Marsh mugger Crocodile, Gangetic dolphin, Bengal florican and the Sarus crane as well endangered birds such as Bengal florican, lesser florican, silver eared mesia, Sarus crane are all found here. Lush dense forests, savannah and riverine woodlands are home to an incredibly diverse range of flora and fauna. Bardiya is also home to one of the last known herds of wild elephants in Nepal. The variety of Bengal Tiger and diversity of life inside the park is huge with at least 150 species of reptiles and fish, over 400 species of birds and 48 different mammals having been recorded.
The Bardiya National Park is the largest and most undisturbed expanse of wilderness in southern Nepal. Although the largest park, it is least explored by foreign tourists. About 70% of the park is covered with Sal Jungle, the remaining 30% is a mixture of grassland, savannah and riverine forest. Bardiya is the home of a wide variety of animals, many of which live in and around the Phantas. These open grasslands such as Baghora and Lamkoili are the best places to sight animals. The most conspicuous of which is the spotted deer, other ungulates include black buck, hog deer, samber deer, wild boar and barasingha or swamp deer. The island of the Karnali River harbours the sub-continent’s largest antelope species, the nilgai or blue bull. The Karnali and Babai rivers attracts a large number of wintering waterfowl along with resident species such as herons, kingfishers and wall creepers .The park contains eight types of ecosystem.
Besides the Park there is a beautiful countryside to explore and friendly local Tharu people. The park headquarter is located at Thakurdwara and is bounded by idyllic villages and fields resided by an indigenous ethnic group, the Tharu who have their own unique language, customs and traditons. Their houses are constructed with reed and bamboo, covered with a layer of mud and dung. Sometimes, the outer walls will find colorful paintings and carvings of peacocks and deers. The Tharus are self-supporting and live from farming and fishing. Many households keep buffaloes, goats, chickens and pigs. A walk through the rice fields or a bicycle tour along the river is a great way of exploring the countryside. Visitors can join the locals with farming, dancing and cooking then always welcome to celebrate a Nepalese festival and able to study the Tharu culture and countryside activities. Visitors get opportunity to visit a small Tharu museum. They will receive to view various indigenous artifacts ranging from kitchenware to farming tools along with some Tharu history sign boards. An alternative to the museum is to visit a Tharu Village either by tour or by heading own self from Thakurdwara by bicycle.
If any visitor really would like to visit to Bardia, do not be in too much of a rush. Visitors are welcome for a short period, at least 4 to 5 days. It will give opportunity to discover Bardiya National Park in different ways and will increase possible to view the wildlife. River boating and fishing in Bardia, resorts offer river expeditions. Rafting and boating takes place on the Geruwa River from where visitors will view crocodiles, birdlife and may be a tiger or rhino. The best way to view a rhino in Bardiya Jungle treks to spot a rhino, one –horned Indian Rhinoceros in Bardiya. The best times to view a rhino is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when they come out to the watering holes or in the hot climate when they feel to swim. They generally disappear into the jungle during the mid – day heat. The best way to Bardiya Tigers in the summer season are viewed at watering holes. The king of Bardiya is the Bengal tiger. The tiger population is slowly increasing and counts around sixties animals.
If visitors are looking for unspoiled natural beauty and remoteness, then the Far West of Nepal will give a memorable experience. It is a good base camp to combine Bardiya National Park with a visit to Khaptad National Park, Rara National Park, Shuklaphanta National Park and the area around the Karnali / Bheri River. Shuklaphanta is characterized by flat open grassland, forest, riverbeds and tropical wetlands in famous for bird spotting and the endangered swamp deer. Khaptad and Rara National Park are respectively located above the 14oo and 1800 meters above sea level and offer beautiful trekking experiences. Visitors can easily spend two to three weeks in west Nepal.
The best period to visit Bardiya National Park is from mid- September till mid- December and then begin of February till the end of May. During these months day temperatures between 25 up till 37 degrees and animals will move to the river to drink which gives better opportunity to spot them. From mid- December on wards till the end of January it can be more chilly and sometimes foggy weather. The monsoon brings hot and sticky days, starts in June and lasts till the end of August. There are buses from both Pokhara (12hrs) and Kathmandu (17hrs) directly to Bardiya or to Nepalgunj which is another couple hours by bus from the entrance of the park. Buses from Nepalgunj and other surrounding cities just going by the park can drop at Ambassa/Aambassa which is another 16km away from the entrance, but any hotel will come to receive. Otherwise visitors can fly to Nepalgunj and then follow the instructions above for getting to the park or hiring a private taxi from Nepalgunj to the park entrance is also possible.