A Wildlife Reserve makes for a holiday with a difference, if you are prepared to rough it out.
If relaxing by the pool, fine continental meals and twenty-four hour service is what you look for in a holiday, then Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is not for you. But, if wildlife in mega numbers is more to your taste, and, if you are willing to relax your standards, then this is definitely a place to visit!
With over 400 species of birds, Koshi Tappu is a naturalist’s dream. The reserve is on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance. It is also the home of Nepal’s last herd of wild water-buffalo, and one of the few places to see freshwater gangetic dolphins, but, beware of the crocodiles. Boat rides in wooden canoes are the easiest and most relaxing way to see the park. Alternatively, you can take an elephant safari from the park stables, perfect for navigating through the soft reedbeds.
Within the park it is possible to see many varieties of fauna but the area is particularly noted for its diversity of birds. Migratory species arrive in winter from as far away as Siberia.
The reserve sits on the banks of the Sapta Koshi River, and constant floods in the monsoon season keep it as permanent wetlands. Totalling 175 SqKm, it is small even by Nepal’s standards. It stretches into parts of Sunsari, Saptari and Udayapur Districts, and takes about an hour by car from Biratnagar town (and airport), just off the Tarai’s east-west Mahendra Highway. Though relatively small, it is teeming with wildlife. The reserve has a humble park rangers camp with elephant stables, and guides who will show you around for a small fee.
You should take time before going, to do a little online research. Koshi Tappu is definitely not for everybody. Onsite accomodation is basic, but you can bring your own tent and set up camp instead. Next to the office is a small family guesthouse with separate, simple bedrooms and local food is offered. Outside the reserve, some kilometers away, are a few resorts with less basic accommodation. These places have restaurants and their own guides.
The weather is pretty unbearable here in the hot season and the mosquitoes become an irritant as well as a health risk. Spring and autumn are, therefore, the best times to visit. For those travelling between east Nepal and India, Koshi Tappu can be a wonderful opportunity to explore a largely ignored part of the country.
Pat Kauba is a freelance writer and photographer with a love for the wild and the unique. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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