Far West Nepal is undoubtedly the newest tourist destination in Nepal. One of the development region, among five of Nepal, this region is still untouched and unexplored, but holds some of the most potential attractions, ranging from the largest herd of Swamp Deer in Asia at Suklaphanta National Park to the majestic beauty of the alpine meadows, forest and lakes at Khaptad, to picturesque off the beaten trails of mountain range such as Mt. Api and Mt. Saipal. The culture is also rich and relatively untouched, from the nomadic Rautes to the Rana Tharu, who travelled all the way from Rajasthan when the Moghuls invaded India. There is much folklore and ancient stories passed on from generation to generation well worth a listen while travelling here.
The Far West Region is comprised of two zones, Mahakali and Seti. It has nine districts with the regional headquarters at Dipayal, Doti district. The FarWest Region covers an area of 19,539 sq Km. The region includes the flatland (The Terai), middle hills, and high mountains, with highest elevation at 7,132 meters. Combining different climatic zones FarWest offers different experiences and tourist products ranging from wildlife in the plains of Terai to the misty hill stations in middle hills and spectacular views if the Himalayan mountain range.
Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve
The Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve occupies the largest grassland in the lowland Terai. Along with the suklaphnta (dazzling, fresh and open grassland), the reserve consists of forests, river beds and wet lands (such as Ranital). The park used to be a popular hunting place for the Nepalese royalty before it was made a protected area. “Royal” was prefixed to the name of the park in 1973. A decade later, in 1984, the park was accorded the status of World Heritage Site. Today, the park is home to many endangered wildlife species and is considered a place of global significance. The grasslands of the park attract a large number of tourists every year. These include wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers, as well as conservationists and researchers.
The entire territory of the park has not been explored as yet. This makes the park an interesting site for both visitors and zoologists. The winters in the park are considerably cold. The summers can be sundry and unpleasant too. In the park, you can easily spend a week without getting bored. The wide range of exotic wildlife species to be found in the park is likely to keep you occupied, engaged and fascinated during your walks or jungle safari. Then there is the culture of the resident population to engage in and enjoy too. The terrain is similar to Bardiya National Park and the reserve has tigers, rhinos, crocodiles, wild elephants and Nepal’s largest population of swamp deer (currently numbering around 2,000) as well as large numbers of migratory birds.
How to get there There is regular public bus service from Dhangadhi to Mahendranagar, which takes 3 hours. The reserve headquarters is 8 km southwest of Mahendranagar. The reserve can be reached by travelling the East-West Highway through Nepalgunj to Dhangadhi and on to Mahendranagar.
Khaptad National Park
Khaptad National Park situated in the middle of four districts in the Far-western region of Nepal is unique. It is endowed with great natural beauty & vast wilderness. Khaptad National Park is blessed with great scenic beauty, very diverse ecology, flora & fauna. It also represents a unique eco-system of the mid-mountain of Nepal. The major natural attractions of Khaptad National Park are the rolling plateau of grasslands & ponds intermixed with oak and coniferous forests. As the part is between 1,400 meters and 3,300 meters above sea level, the peripheral areas of this park consists of steep slopes covered with a variety of vegetation types, ranging from sub-tropical forests at the lower altitudes to temperate forests around the plateau. Khaptad National Park is very rich in terms of its diversity having many animal species and vegetation types.
The number of flowering plants so far recorded in the Mid Mountains is estimated to be 567, of which 346 flowering plant species have been recorded in the National Park alone. Similarly, the National Park is also a home to 23 species of mammals, 287 species of birds (local & migrating) and 23 species of amphibians. A wide variety of colorful butterflies, moths and insects are also an important feature of the park ecosystem. Specially, after designating this area as a National Park, there has been an increase in the population of wildlife, especially musk deer, wild boar, porcupines, barking deer and birds like Chyakhura, Kalij, Titra, and Danphe.
Khaptad National Park is also famous for the herbs that it contains in, about which the famous Khaptad Baba, the renowned hermit after whom name the National Park is named, made the world aware. The National Park is still a bit of an enigma to local populations as it is believed to be sacred and alcohol and meat are not allowed to be consumed in the area.
Api Nampa Conservation Area
Api Nampa Conservation Area is one of the remotest areas of Nepal with still intact rural village life and a low level of modern development. Due to the few numbers of tourists having reached that area of Nepal, the visitor can experience untouched nature and Nepali traditions. The Conservation Area was established in 2010 to conserve the natural beauty and ecosystems in the northern part of the Far West Nepal. It is the youngest conservation area in Nepal, including 21 communities of Darchula district.
The conservation area is named after the Mount Api (7132m) and Nampa (6757m) which lie within the area. The conservation area covers an area of 1903 sq.km ranging from 518 to 7,134 meters above sea level and includes different vegetation types. The central core area is plateau of grasslands intermixed with oak, coniferous forest, riverine deciduous temperate forest. Diverse climatic condition and altitudinal variation of the area have provided habitats for many rare endangered and threatened wildlife species including the snow leopard and the musk deer.
Due to the remoteness of the area communities and villages have kept their traditional way of life mainly living from agriculture, collection of medicinal and aromatic plants and artisan productions. Bordering India and the Tibet Autonomous Region, China the area is rich in cultural heritage sites and traditions due to traditional trading and religious pilgrim routes.
The community of the Byash live up to today a nomadic life moving between the high altitude grasslands in the summer months and the lower valleys close to Darchula town in the winter. This transhumance reflects an unique culture and way of life, which is highly linked to the trade with India and China and the pilgrim routes to the holy Mount Kailash in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
It is located in Achham district and its altitude varies from 2.050 m to 3,792 m. The area has a very diverse ecology and the weather here is always changing. The main attractions of the area include the 12 lakes and 18 meadows.
A variety of flora and fauna exist in the area, and visitors may spot wild boars, bears, and occasionally, tigers. Ramaroshan is also an important religious site. It is believed that right after their marriage, lord Shiva and his consort Parvati spent sometime in the region.
Area where the dolphins are found
According to scientists dolphins are one of the oldest species of aquatic animals on the earth. In total there are 40 species of this magnificent creature in the world, of which only four can be found in rivers - in the Ganga in India, in the Sindh in Pakistan, in the Yangtze in China, and in the Amazon in Brazil.
The Ganges River Dolphin, Gangetic Dolphin or Platanista Gangetic are the dolphins found in the rivers Koshi, Narayani & Karnali of Nepal; Ganga, Ghagra, Gandak & Koshi of India and Padma, Meghna, Bramhapatra & Karnafuli of Bangladesh. These dolphins are also found in the rivers in Nepal such as karnali because they connect to the Ganges.
Another river of the far-west which is important for dolphins is Mohana and its tributaries Pathraiya, Kandha, Kandra, Kateni, Ghuraha & Khutiya, which are all in the Kailali districts. Before these beautiful creatures were identified as dolphins, people from this region assumed that they were just big fish.
Looking at recent statistics dolphin sightings are more frequent in the Mohana in the monsoon season (from June to September) than any other river in either India or Nepal. Dolphin conservationists in the area believe that up to 60 -70 of these fresh water creatures come every year at this time, while at other times very few remain here.
Although the Dolphin conservation centre claims that Dolphins can be seen throughout the season in the Mohana river, main season Monsoon and the main place where Dolphins can be seen from close proximity is at the confluence where Patraiya, Kandha & Ghuraha streams merge into Mohana river.
How to get there This place is in Narayanpur VDC of the Kailali district and is called Dhungana tole. It can be reached from Tikapur in half an hour by car.
Mount Saipal (7031m)
Mount Saipal is the second highest peak in the Far-West region of Nepal. It stands 7,031 m tall and lies in Bajhang District. It is the region’s second highest peak, after Mt. Api. Mount Saipal has been attempted by only a dozen teams so far, but the treks up to Saipal Base Camp from Simikot or Chainpur take place every year. The trek to the base camp of the stunning Mt. Saipal (7031m) runs as usual around 9 days from Simikot or 7 days from Chainpur. The best time for this off-the-beaten-trek is between mid-October and November.
A wetland, situated on the side of western highway in Kailali, near Sukhad town, is one of the biggest of its kind in the Far-Western region of Nepal. Its ecosystem has made the marsh a natural habitat of various species of mammals and birds. It has 23 species of flora. Gradually this natural area is emerging as a site of attraction thanks to the promotional activities by tourism entrepreneurs and other supporters from the region. The number of visitors is increasing every year. Some of the agencies and hotels in the region offer guided tour of the marshland as well as boating services. Ghodaghodi could develop into an attraction for young people, couples in their honeymoon, researchers, or students of bio diversity.
The lake is in Bajhang district, and is one of the most potential destinations of the region. Lying at the altitude of 4,300m, it not only has natural and historical significance, but also offers therapeutic value. It is believed that a dip in this lake helps cure skin diseases. There is also the myth that doing so the Goddess Surma is pleased and she helps fulfill your wishes. Apart from the lake, the trekking route to Surmasarowar itself is a major attraction. Every year, during the end of July a big festival called Birijaat is organized here. Thousands of pilgrims come here for a ritual bath during this annual event.