Rambling to Bardia National Park
Paul Ramble gives you a no-nonsense guide to Bardia
The sun is setting; the Terai sky is taking on the beautiful hues that are unique to this part of the world. Dusk approaches as you turn off the main west-east highway that runs across Nepal and enter a jungle road that make every bone in your body rattle and your teeth clatter, but you are oblivious to the discomfort.
You’ve left the concrete world behind while entering a primeval world, where vines descend out of the sky high trees like living reptiles, and termite mounds appear eerily in the distant invoking images of long forgotten citadels that hosted the hordes that have long since vacated residence. I look out the window and see Tharu mud huts with their intrinsic mud sculpted walls. The women sitting outside playing with kids who are busy waving out to me as I pass by while our driver is swerving all across the road to avoid the potholes and chickens that run across trying to prove their immortality before the next inevitable curry.
I stayed in Bardia National Park for three days which just doesn’t give it any justice. From the accommodation to the activities you are truly in for an adventure that retains and assures to be a safari.
Day treks through the jungle start early morning with 5 am wakeup call and breakfast which is usually a hearty one that sets the tone of the day. By six you arrive at the national park gates and get through the day passes for which the officials are very strict.
Getting inside the park by six is essential if you want to observe any wild animals. The guides that accompany you must have a wealth of information, from terrain to spoor. Every moment is thrilling as you get to understand whether a female or male tiger crossed the trail and in which direction she set off, where the spotted deer slept last night, or whether the elephant droppings you are excitedly looking at are wild or domesticated. The water ways that meander across the jungle are full of water fowl, the endangered fresh water dolphins, ducks, water birds, crocodiles, pre-historic gharial with their thin long snouts.
As you look at your feet, little prints of river otter and storks criss-cross your path, further ahead you see the water oozing into a very fresh rhino track, and your heart starts pounding. Does the humongous elephant grass ahead of you hide a rhino or maybe even an elephant? The trek lasts all day and exhausted, exhilarated and bursting with stories you head back to the lodge trudging through wearily to the calls of, “what did you see”? Everyone sits together has a drink while swapping animal adventures or misadventures from the day, but its 9 pm and you can’t keep your eyes open.
How to get there
Bardia is easy to access via air from Nepalgunj airport and only a two hour drive away.
You can stay here from as little as Rs 500 and go upwards of Rs 10,000 a night, food is around Rs 200 for dal bhaat. To enter the national park you have to pay the daily charges (Rs 1,000 for foreigners) with addition to your personal guide charges. Elephant rides are handled by the government who have a set charge per ride. The guide charges can vary from lodge to lodge and drinks can be quite pricey.