Nepal’s ten national parks, three wildlife reserves, six conservation areas, 12 buffer zones and, surprisingly, one hunting reserve – collectively about 23% of the country’s total area – help support a surprising array of fauna.
In global terms, the country hosts nearly 4% of all mammalian species and, mainly because of its location along seasonal migratory routes, an astonishing 9% of birds (of which around half can be spotted in the hills and forests of the Kathmandu Valley alone).
Most wildlife inhabits the rich lowland Terai region adjoining India. The one-horned rhinoceros is almost emblematic of this area, which it shares with a handful of wild (as opposed to domestic) elephants, crocodile, buffalo and bison. Deer, such as the spotted and swamp varieties along with sambar, are ubiquitous but there are also antelopes, elusive tigers, leopards, hyenas, sloth bears and jackals. A handful of Gangetic dolphins survive in the Karnali River.
Deeper into the hills, bears, boars and the almost fox-like red panda eventually give way to several high-altitude dwelling goats and the Himalayan Tahr. Rarest and arguably the most beautiful of all is the snow leopard.
Walking with Elephants
To walk in the company of elephants in Nepal is a humbling experience. These huge creatures are just magnificent to behold, and while walking with them you’ll have an intimate view of both their interactions and personalities, as they graze on surrounding plant life. The guided walk will take you through the jungle, following a path marked out by the elephants before reaching open plains and grasslands; a memorable activity that will bring you closer to these ancient animals than you might have ever imagined.
The Rapti River, which runs through mid-western Nepal into India, is an evocative, murky and mighty waterway that cradles an abundance of wildlife both on its banks and below the surface. A canoe safari is one of the best ways to witness the natural world that surrounds Rapti, so as you paddle down some of the river’s smaller channels keep a look out for crocodiles, bird species such as herons and cormorants, the one-horned rhino, and if you are lucky, a glimpse of the elusive tiger too.
A Jeep Safari
Taking a Jeep safari gives you the best chance to see the magnificent one-horned rhino and tiger up close - more ground can be covered, and your expert guide will have their eyes and ears peeled. Keep a look out for peacocks, monkeys, deer and wild boar too.
Visit a Local Village
The Tharu people of Nepal mostly reside in the Terai lowlands, where a string of small, quaint villages of mud and daub huts and houses can be found. Self-titled ‘the people of the forest’, what is not grown or hunted is gathered from the forest, including a vast array of medicinal plants. Visit a village on the edge of Chitwan National Park to witness first-hand this traditional way of life and learn about their unique culture. You will be welcomed in with shouts of ‘Namaste’ and there is even the opportunity to taste some local delicacies.