Bardia National Park is in the Western Region of Nepal and the best place in the world to see wild tigers! It’s often referred to as “Chitwan National Park 30 years go” and is famously void of toursists but full of wildlife! Bardia is more remote and a longer ride from Kathmandu or Pokhara but well worth it. My first trip into the jungle was a trek in Bardia National Park but this time we drove deep in hoping to see elephants and get another glimpse at a tiger and rhinos!
Getting to Bardia National Park
Overnight bus from Kathmandu to Mahendranagar – Get off at Ambassa
Bus from Pokhara to Mahendranagar– Get off at Ambassa
Fly to Nepalganj Airport – Ask your lodge to arrange a pickup from the airport
Almost as soon as we got into the dense undergrowth of the national park we saw a few herds of deer. The young ones startle easily but bucks are always standing guard in herds ranging form just a few to a dozens. At one point the whole herd crossed the road and each one stood at attention for a moment just to check us out!
Driving deeper we passed birds and insects playing a jungle orchestra. Blue kingfishers, green parrots and soaring white storks kept me captivated while the bigger game remained hidden. We got out a few times to check watering holes but only saw these colorful birds.
Bardia is one of the best places for hiking in Asia!
Then suddenly Ben shouted to stop! Behind the trees was a giant male elephant! Huge tusks appeared through the trees and with a camouflaged grey hide among the brown trees. His massive ears heard our jeep and he lumbered away from the road but we were still full of wonder. The day had only just begun and already my adrenaline was pumping; the excitement of what lie ahead was palpable.
Our first stop was a viewpoint by the river. The monsoon waters had been carving a huge cliff for years and now it was threatening to take out the trees. We waited patiently here hoping to spot a tiger taking a drink or rhino wading into the water. Unfortunately we only saw a few deer here before deciding to try a different viewpoint.
I kept my eyes peeled when we all piled back in the jeep. Huge termite mounds kept tricking us to thinking something was hiding and the dense forest made it hard to see anything. Some trees had enormous bulges ridden with rot or disease and others vines twice as wide as me reaching up to the highest branches.
The cacophony of the jungle grew louder as a troupe of long-tail langur monkeys burst through the canopy. They scurried away as our jeep slowed to a halt but a few bolder ones crept back towards us curiously staring at our motley crew. I carefully climbed down from the jeep to try and snap a better photo. I balanced one foot balanced on the wheel trying to step down but slipped off snapping a branch and sending the monkeys running for good.
Almost as soon as we were back in the jeep and moving a massive eagle perched at eye level just to the right. It posed just long enough for a photo before spreading its wings and soaring away. We drove past another skiddish group of monkeys and a herd of deer before coming to a river.
Normally the jeep could just drive across but recent rains made it too high so we hopped out and crossed on foot. The waist deep stream had a strong current. It was difficult to keep all my gear dry but I made it safely across with the help of a bamboo walking stick. Slippery stones and long marsh grass tickled our feet but the cool water invited everyone back in after safely depositing our bags on the other side.
The afternoon sun quickly dried us off making the water’s chill fade all too quickly. Then again I was here to see wildlife so I didn’t mind the heat. A few meters from the river our guide, Subash, led us down a trail into the bush. In a flash he turned around and signaled we should run!
Wait a minute, was he saying to backup or maybe just stay here? His hand signals were hard to read but his eyes told me he’d just had an encounter with one of the big three! I stayed by his side camera in hand and feet ready to run like hell when an enormous elephant crashed through the trees barely 10 meters away!
Trekking in the jungle comes with its share of risks. I HIGHLY recommend getting travel insurance before coming to Bardia National Park. Thankfully I didn’t need it while I was there but World Nomads gave me peace and mind in case anything did happen.
Huge ivory tusks told me he too was a male but this one was a little smaller than before. Luckily he hadn’t paid us any attention and we froze worried that any sudden movements or sounds might make him charge us. He paused briefly to graze on the leaves before moving on. When he finally disappeared in the undergrowth we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and ventured onwards only to be met by another pair of ivory tusks!
This male was smaller yet but still an enormous creature. The encounter left us speechless as he passed closer to us even though well hidden in the dense trees.. He followed his brother without pausing even to glance our way and Subash decided this trail wasn’t safe anymore. We backtracked to the road and found another path but a in a few steps heard the thundering sounds of another elephant crashing through and turned to run away making a long circle around them! Circumventing the herd was the safest choice so we stuck to the road for a bit. With the elephants out of sight the birds began serenading us again and we could see a few monkeys cautiously approaching.
Elephants are the most dangerous animal in the jungle so I took the other animals coming back as a sign that we were in the clear. The trail took us to a lookout called Tin Kune, a famous spot among the locals for wildlife sightings. Tin Kune translates directly as “three corners” and is named for the 3 rivers which converge here.
Wildlife Trekking in Nepal
I’d spent hours watching rhinos at this riverside vantage point on my jungle walk the other day and happily climbed a tree hoping they’d be back again today. Almost as soon as I found a comfortable spot (about 30 feet above the ground) a rhino dutifully crossed the stream in front of us!
Kingfishers and cranes soared between the trees as this unicorn cooled off before departing. Luckily another one appeared again minutes later, or perhaps it was the same one changing his mind. Either way we were a captive audience here at Tin Kune for an hour when a third rhino waltzed through!
After they’d all wandered off we decided to follow suit and head to another spot down the river. Hopeful for spotting a tiger to round out the big 3 we trekked through the jungle past a small group of rhesus monkeys and a huge honey bee hive. This spot was called Kingfisher and in addition to the beautiful birds, a river flattened out revealing tall grass with another grazing rhino!
I scrambled up another tree for a better view but sadly he disappeared in the grass. We stopped for lunch to give the animals a chance to come back but a few langur monkeys chowed down while we ate. Subash reminded us there was a river to cross crossing before we got to the jeep and we all agreed it was getting late. The day had been a success with wild elephants, rhinos, monkeys and more revealing themselves to us. No tigers today but we were exhausted and happy to head back to Thakudwara.
A few more groups of deer and monkeys invited us to slow down for a photo but none of us wanted to get out of the jeep again so off we went. Back at the park entrance a huge family of rhesus macaque monkeys were lounging around. Dozens of babies played with each other; the mothers occasionally grabbing them by the tail to reeling the little ones back in. Some rolled around play fighting while others groomed each other but one baby sat solitary chewing on a pink flower and stealing our hearts with his snack!
If you enjoyed this post I hope you visit Bardia National Park. Comment below if you have any questions about Bardia or Nepal and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can! Even if you don’t want to leave a comment you should check out these great hotels in Bardia and Kathmandu!
Bardia National Park Hotels
There are many hotels in Bardia National Park but its important to understand that you will be in the jungle without many modern conveniences. Life goes at a slower pace here and there is no such thing as 5 star luxury in Thakudwara. You will find a small range of accommodation choices and I hope these descriptions help you pick your hotel. Make sure you contact the lodge beforehand so they can help arrange a pickup for you at Ambassa or Nepalgunj.
Accommodation in Bardia National Park
Wild Trak Adventure – Private Cottage Rs 1000/night ($10) – My favorite place in Bardia National Park and the only place where you’ll find a native English speaker. John Sparshatt founded Wild Trak Adventure 5 years ago and has been taking tourists like you and me into the jungle ever since. Wild Trak guides are tiger experts with a huge range of tours available. Wild Trak Adventure is between the river and the farms giving you a unique chance to see village life mix with the jungle and is only a 10 minute walk to the entrance of Bardia National Park!
Bardia Jungle Cottage – Private Cottage Rs 1000/night ($10) – Bardia Jungle Cottage (BJC) is the closest lodge to the entrance of Bardia National Park. Prem, the grandfather of a local family runs BJC and has been working with the national park for decades. They offer cheaper albeit less adventurous tours with local guides.
Mr. B’s Place – Private AC Cottage Rs 3000/night ($30) – The only place with AC in all of Bardia National Park. Mr. B offers a more diverse menu and has the most luxurious cottages in the area.
Where to stay in Kathmandu
On your way to and from Bardia National Park you will undoubtedly fly through Kathmandu. I highly recommend checking out the following places based on you budget.
Budget hotels in Kathmandu
Wanderthirst Hostel ($4.50/night) – Beautiful new budget hostel for travelers. Great rooftop view, relaxing atmosphere, good food and good people. Private rooms available and they have healthy breakfasts!
Fireflies Hostel ($4.50/night) – Wanderthirst’s sister hostel down the street. Same amazing vibe but a bit more of a party. Check out their roof and treehouse!
Dreamland Eco Hostel ($4.00/night) – A quiet community space just out of Kathmandu right in the heart of an isolated area. They have a pool!
Hotels in Kathmandu
Kathmandu Eco Hotel ($16) – Great location in the heart of Thamel. Nice rooftop and good food but Wifi wasn’t great in the room.
Kathmandu Grand Hotel ($20) – Free Airport transfer, good location. Great for solo travelers.
Best Hotels in Kathmandu
Dom Himalaya ($26+/night) – We stayed here for 2 nights and it was the best place I stayed in Nepal. Big comfy bed, great internet, delicious buffet breakfast and good water pressure with hot water in the bathroom. Perfect for a couple!
Baber Mahal Villas – ($92/night) – By far the best hotel in Kathmandu! If you have an expansive budget than this is the place for you!
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The little monkey is so cute Mike! We only stayed in Kathmandu for the month back in 2013. Loved the place but it will be cool to venture out of it for a bit to see what Nepal has to offer in terms of wildlife. I fondly recall nature shows covering Chitiwan, curiously enough, some 30 years ago when I was a kid. I imagine the place is brimming with wildlife and your post gives me an idea that yep, it’s a paradise. Cool deal on it being tourist light too 😉
Ryan, Bardia is such a wonderful paradise. One of my favorite parts was how few tourists there were making the wildlife stand out even more. I almost missed that little monkey because I was too busy photographing his family but then someone else in the jeep pointed him out. Glad you enjoyed the read 🙂
This looks like an incredible trip idea. Great pictures too, by the way. The monkey stole my heart!
The monkey stole all of our hearts! We didn’t want to leave him but were so sweaty from the day that we had to haha.
I was wondering if that was in fact a bee hive in your one photo above, thats massive. stay clear of that! that seems like fun exploring you did.
Yes it is a bee hive and it was HUGE! The honey bees mostly stick to themselves but you’ve gotta look out for hornets out there.