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safari | tiger tops | nepal - return of the bengal tigers
conservation kings, a new breed of safari
Nepal has achieved what was once thought impossible. In the past ten years, it has more than doubled its Bengal tiger population, bringing them back from the brink of extinction after poaching & revenge killings from locals decimated the population.
In 2010, 13 countries where tigers live pledged to double their wild tiger populations by 2022 - in an effort to bring them back from the brink of extinction. Only Nepal has so far reached its target.
The tiger population in the country has grown from 121 in 2009 to 355 in 2022. The big cats are mainly found in five national parks across the country, including Bardiya and Chitwan. Other species, including rhino, elephant & leopard populations, have also increased due to the anti-poaching efforts of the country.
Nepal's zero-poaching approach with support from military units assisting the national park teams has worked to protect the tigers. In buffer zones next to the park, community anti-poaching units monitor nature corridors that allow tigers to roam safely while avoiding high population centres.
intro to tiger tops
This family-run business and pioneer of conservation in Nepal since 1964 promotes tiger awareness at all of their properties and aims to have a minimal impact doing so on the surrounding environment.
Tiger Tops wants to ensure a legacy of sustainability and thus engages with local communities to provide jobs, skills training, health and education facilities. They offer a luxury adventure experience, not in the traditional sense, but rather to transport their guests to remote and beautiful parts of this extraordinary country allowing them to experience the environment at its most natural with modern comforts. Good food, comfortable rooms and great staff bring this Nepali safari experience to life.
tiger tops karnali
From the moment I arrived at TT Karnali lodge, it's clear that wildlife is never far away. Located on the periphery of Bardia National Park, this lodge gives you an intro to the architecture of the Tharu people (lowland people of Nepal). The main lodge, built from clay & thatching with a central fire pit, was our main communal area for cosy evenings with a drink in hand, chatting with newfound friends. The lodges' signature rooms are a delight, with high ceilings & king-sized beds along with all the amenities a guest could ever need.
On my first morning, Sambal, my guide and a dedicated naturalist, tells us that the elusive leopard was spotted in camp just a few days earlier.
Bardiya's big cats are the main reason people visit this sprawling national park in the far west of the country; the diversity of the wildlife often ensures guests leave with an appreciation of species they'd never even heard of before.
Bardiya is very well known as one of the best parks to spot tigers as the jungle here is less dense than its sister parks, such as Chitwan, giving you the space between the flora to spot these elusive animals.
My trips into the national park included game drives, boat trips & walking safaris where we managed to spot the majestic Bengal tiger along with one-horned rhinos, monkeys & marsh muggers (crocs). One of the most unexpected animal sightings was while we were sitting on the banks of the Girwa river, and a small pod of dolphins breached the surface while hunting for prey.
tiger tops tharu lodge
Situated on the boundary of Chitwan national park, away from the heavily touristy areas of the park on to the east of the river, this charming lodge takes you back to the golden age of exploration.
Built in the traditional style of the Tharu people, these elongated buildings are home to the safari rooms reminiscent of those that were first constructed by tiger tops in the 1960s. Solely lit by lanterns, the rooms have an old-world ambience with a touch of luxury that is welcomed in the jungle, especially the fluffy bathrobes for those cold early morning starts.
At the restaurant, dinner is ready, and the chef has cooked up the most delicious fare – hand-made bread and tender chicken with some Nepali delicacies. The food at tiger tops is simple & delicious, with different dining options at every sitting. Lunch is served al fresco, overlooking the garden that is frequented by butterflies and hundreds of bees that come to feast on the nectar of the local flora.
The chef really goes out of his way to ensure that all dietaries and food preferences are catered for, and we are not disappointed. Nothing is too much effort for guests at tiger tops; guests are gods here.
While Chitwan does not offer the same tiger spotting opportunities as Bardiya due to the dense jungle, it does offer spectacular viewing of Asian rhinos. On my elephant walking safari, I had the most breathtaking experiences with a mother rhino & her young calf. Our elephants protected us as we managed to get within 20m of these prehistoric-like creatures; it was a truly unforgettable experience. I also headed out into the park with my own guide for game drives & canoe trips; they both delivered spectacular wildlife interactions, especially the abundance of bird life that can be found along the river.
community & conservation credentials
Tiger Tops proudly supports 1000s of children in surrounding communities through the provision of scholarships, textbooks, uniforms and staff training. They engage meaningfully with the community to ensure education programs are sustainable and achieve desired results for future generations.
Tiger Tops is also partnering with ITNC on a number of initiatives, including the long-term Tiger Monitoring Project (estd.1974), as well as initiating the country's first Gharial breeding program.
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country travel tips
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