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Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, Nepal

Bengal tiger, Nepal
Asian rhino, Nepal
Above: Siwa Oasis, Egypt
  • Bengal tiger, Nepal
  • Asian rhino, Nepal

"This is the first National Park of Nepal established in 1973 to preserve a unique eco system significantly valuable to the whole world. The Park covering the protected area of 932 Sq. Km. is situated in the subtropical inner Terai lowlands of southern central part of Nepal. The Park gained much wider recognition in the world when UNESCO included this area on the list of World Heritage Site in 1984. It should also be emphasized that only a very small part of the national park is used for tourism.
The great majority of the land, particularly in the hills, remains unvisited and therefore undisturbed. This is ideal for wildlife, and also preserves an element of mystery for humans; because large areas are still unexplored, our knowledge of what birds and animals the park contains is by no means finalized, and there is always the possibility of making new discoveries."

This hardly visited Park is in the far west of the country and virtually on the border with India (Uttarakhand). Access is the number one problem and probably the only reason as to why people don’t travel there in greater numbers. Presently, there is only one flight per day from Kathmandu flying with Buddha Air to Dhangadhi – which is only a short one hour drive away from the park. Alternatively it is 4 hours by car from Bardia National Park. It’s certainly possible to come into Nepal from India over the border from Banbaasa but again access from there is not great. Uttarakhand is quite a remote state and the nearest major town is Nainital. From there it’s a 10-hour journey to Delhi.

It’s pretty basic accommodation that’s available in and around the Park. There are no lodges inside but it is actually possible to camp independently inside the Park. Outside there is one tented camp and some basic lodges.

The Park itself has a reputation for being a lot more savannah like (similar to East Africa more than Chitwan) and it is believed to be a lot more like the African idea of a ‘Safari’ rather than Chitwan. It’s also home to the world’s largest population of swamp deer and it’s not uncommon to view 1,000s of these at a time! There is a good, healthy concentration of tigers – 32 at the last count and the strange thing about them is that they seem to be happy sharing territory here, for tigers this is normally regarded as being very deviant. As with all of Nepalese parks, birds are large in numbers with over 470 separate species including the Bengal Florican.

Sukla Phanta is actually a grassy area within the Park, and the grass turns silvery white come October (sukla means white and Phant means grass in Tharu dialect).

Inside the Park, Rani Tal (Queens Lake) is an old creepy lagoon with thick Tarzan like vines, deer wading in the water and the occasional crocodile sighting. An early morning trip here is essential to see and hear the birds and to watch all the comings and goings from the nearby watch tower.

There are elephants present in the Park, but their wanderings mean they are just as likely to turn up in Bardia or Corbett (India park) so you should not come with the expectations of seeing them.

In terms of visiting the Park, the Phanta (grass) is burned in Mid November and by the following April it is too tall to see anything.

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Sukla Phanta lies far to the west of Nepal, near the border with India and was the countries first National Park.

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