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Bardia National Park

Located in the Terai lowlands, the sub-tropical region of western Nepal which borders India and forms part of the Gangetic Plain, Bardia National Park is a fauna-rich combination of undisturbed forest, jungle and grassland with the Babai River carving its way through the centre of the park.

Bardia is the largest national park in the Terai region, covering an area of 968 square kilometres, and was established for the conservation of tigers and their prey. Initially a wildlife reserve, it was expanded into a National Park in 1988, the same year Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge was opened in order to support the local people and the park’s development through tourism. With just 21 rooms the lodge has an intimate feel and most of rooms have been built using local techniques and materials so blend seamlessly into their surroundings.

Bardia National Park is a wonderful wilderness for wildlife lovers and birders who don’t mind venturing off the beaten track to witness something truly exceptional. With direct flights from Kathmandu only, it is difficult to pair up a visit with the much more commercialised Chitwan National Park, making it feel even more remote. It’s common not to see other vehicles or tourists on safari, apart from at the Park’s official entrance, which is rather touristy and a stark contrast to the rest of the area. It is however, only an hour and a half from Nepalgunj Airport so if you’re willing to fly via the capital then Bardia is worth the trip. The route to Kathmandu flies adjacent to the Himalayas, making it one of the most scenic commercial flights in the country. Alternatively, Bardia is a 9-hour drive from Chitwan and Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha makes a convenient stop off point a third of the way in.

Safaris in Bardia are much more active than in other parts of Asia and Africa. Days often involve driving to a clearing and then walking to the edge of a riverbank or lookout spot in the hope of spotting the big three; the Asian elephant, the greater one-horned rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger. Animals in Nepal are generally quite shy and skittish, making sightings even more rewarding, and binoculars an absolute necessity! Accompanied by exceptional guides, there is a good chance to spot many of the other species that call Bardia home; the Gharial crocodile, Marsh mugger crocodile, leopard, swamp deer and grey langur monkeys, and the rare Ganges river dolphin are occasionally spotted on rafting trips along the Karnali River. With more than 400 species of birds, including the endangered Bengal florican and Sarus crane, Bardia National Park is a total paradise for bird lovers. Even on half an hour walks around the Karnali Lodge perimeter, guests can spot tens of species of birds. Anglers can also enjoy fishing trips on the Karnali or Babai rivers which are a great natural habitat for the 125 recorded species of fish, like the golden mahseer.

Bardia is remote, wild and a destination for those that want to see a little visited part of Nepal. Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge was built at the request of the King to help improve development in west Nepal and it remains the only luxury accommodation in the area. A trip here is about the prospect of seeing a Bengal tiger, the proliferation of birdlife that dominates the park and a truly wilderness experience.

Features in the following itineraries

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My favourite thing is to go where I've never been.
Diane Arbus

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