Opting for a jungle walk into the vast Bardia National Park, gave me a real up close and personal view of the flora and fauna residing there. The national park was once a hunting reserve, but it is now a conservation area. Governmental efforts and the WWF have resulted in the doubling of tiger populations and the achievements of Zero Poaching Years. It also has over 50 mammals, 407 bird species, and 839 species of flora. The crunching sound of my feet on the trodden ground, kept me alert. I marveled at the greenery, the sweet fragrance of the Sal trees wafting in the air. Carefully walking in whispers, I spotted langur monkeys. They are known for their distinctive black faces and gray colored fur. Some were sitting on top of tree branches, while others were happily swinging from branch to branch. I could also hear birds cawing and chirping, as they sat perched welcoming the morning sunlight. The guide pointed to some spotted deer, taking a drink near the small river. Unfortunately, there was no sight of the tigers or rhinos.
Undeterred and determined to see the wildlife again, I went for an elephant ride. With the help of an experienced mahout, the elephant was carefully guided through the dense jungle safari. Sitting on the howdah can be quite uncomfortable. The weight keeps shifting according to the large strides of the huge beast. However, it was all worth it. Immense relief and happiness washed over me as I saw a pair of one horned rhinoceros. They looked so calm, munching on the tufts of grass. Their numbers had been dwindling as poaching increased for their horns. But, their population is on the rise, as initiatives are taken for anti-poaching and the study of these amazing rhinoceroses.
The moment finally arrived, when I heard soft gasps and awes from the group of people on top the howdah with me. They had spotted a tiger, going towards a small river, ready to take a bath. I almost wanted to squeal in delight, to be able to see the majestic animal so close. Looking at the tiger with locked eyes, it took a dip in the river and simply walked away, oblivious to the elephant and me.
The great and surreal wilderness of Bardia has truly captured my heart. With such rich and amazing wildlife I had the opportunity to see, Bardia is a destination that combines the love for uniqueness and wilderness. Seeing the endangered species of elephants, rhinos, and tigers at its glory is an experience that would last a lifetime. In the words of Albert Camus, “You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.”