Nepal is of course most known for its trekking routes and Mt Everest. Less widely known are its lowlands (at around 150-200m above sea level) with the jungle areas and respective wildlife.
We ventured into the west of the country to Bardia National Park to explore that aspect of Nepal. We were rather unlucky with the weather. Three days out of four it was raining, which is unusual for this time of year and also affects the wildlife as the animals are less out in the open and trying to find shelter from the cold. Nevertheless, we made the most of our stay and went out each day seeking the animals by Jeep and on foot.
While all days were unique and enjoyable, two experiences stand out the most.
The first was a very rare sighting of an enormous Indian Rock Python (*see correction below), about 6m long and 50cm in circumference according to our guide. When on safari looking for snakes or crocodiles there is often that moment when you realize the shape you were so sure was an animal is actually a stick or a log. Well, that brain trick apparently also works the other way around; while we were walking on an actual walking trail through the jungle I saw this shape 15-20m away but dismissed it as a log. Only upon prodding from our guide did I recognize the moving body of a giant and seemingly endless python slithering across our path. As the Indian Rock Python was quite relaxed we were able to watch and observe it for a while after it had crossed the path. After this encounter we ventured on but had to come back the same way only about 30 minutes later. By that time the python had strategically positioned itself at the edge of the path with its neck partly coiled in order to be able to shoot out at the first unknowing victim (a deer would have been ideal) coming across the path. As the python was right alongside the path and positioned to pounce there was no way we would pass it. Instead, we had to make a long and laborious detour through the jungle and then able to observe it some more from the other side of the path.
The second series of experiences was the tracking of the tigers. There were several instances where we got very close (four to five times of the course of four days). By tracking the foot prints, markings, smell and sounds of the tigers you know when you’re getting close and it is definitely exciting. Whilst we did not actually manage to see a tiger in those four days, the closest encounter where the tiger was bounding away from us from about a 10-15m distance was impressive as you heard the mass of the large animal hitting the ground and tall grass as it sped away.
Bardia National Park was a wonderful experience and we hope to be back some day.
*Correction added 22 Feb 2019: I was made aware that what I understood to be an Indian Rock Python is in fact a Burmese Python.