With Chitwan becoming increasingly mass-market, BARDIA NATIONAL PARK, northwest of Nepalgunj and the largest area of undisturbed wilderness left in the Terai, beckons as an unspoiled alternative. Budget lodging is widely available, but there’s nothing like Chitwan’s commercialism, and the distance from Kathmandu is likely to shield the park from the masses for many years to come. The area was particularly badly affected during the civil war, and Bardia district had the highest rate of “disappearances” in the whole country.
Ecologically, Bardia spans a greater range of habitats than Chitwan, from thick riverine forest and sal stands to phanta (isolated pockets of savanna) and dry upland slopes. The Geruwa, a branch of the awesome Karnali River, forms the park’s western boundary and major watering hole, and the density of wildlife and birds along this western edge is as great as anywhere in Asia. The Babai River drains the core area to the east of Thakurdwara, forming a sanctuary-like dun valley teeming with game, but it is out of bounds to visitors.
2010 saw the creation of Banke National Park, which borders Bardia to the west and stretches over 550 square kilometres. Together the two parks now form the biggest tiger conservation area in Asia; tourism has not yet developed at Banke, but may well do so in the future.