A visit to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve guarantees a beautiful sight of birds at their natural habitat - a sight that will stay with you for a lifetime.
It was my first travel to the far eastern part of Nepal. I was accompanied by the bracing waters of the Sun Koshi River for a few miles. The brilliant blue of the calm waters was heart lifting. Further east, we drove through the one kilometer long Koshi Barrage. The wide endless Sapta Koshi River around us was a magnificence to the eyes. The name Sapta Koshi translates Seven Koshi as the 7 Koshi streams merge to form this divine water body.
Although visiting Koshi Tappu was unplanned, we were too excited to not step into this nature filled wonderland. We were surrounded by greenery and air filled with freshness as we drove inside the premises. We could hear chirpings of various birds that we had probably never seen before. When we reached the entrance of the wildlife resort, the villagers kindly welcomed us by offering us tea. This is when we realized that this wildlife reserve, unlike Chitwan and other conservation areas, was run by the locals for a living.
Before our adventure began, we explored the Koshi Tappu Museum, where they conserved the bodies of animals found in the wildlife reserve.
Our trip started off by a long jeep drive through the forest area. The smell different flowers and plants were soothing to the nose. The guide, which was an old local, showed us their fish farming reservoirs from which they export the best and freshest fish to other areas of Nepal. Further ahead, as the greenery cleared, we could see the Koshi River slowly being revealed. The boundless surface of the river mimicked that of an ocean. I was absolutely amazed when the guide said that this was only a part of the Koshi, and the main river is actually further across.
We drove a few miles north to reach our rendezvous for the next adventure of the trip: canoeing. If you ever plan on visiting Koshi Tappu, then this activity is a must. Drifting through the tranquil water was utterly satisfying. As it was late December, the depth was substantially lesser, yet it felt like we were floating above the middle of an ocean. The breezy atmosphere was peaceful and calming. There were many pieces of land above the surface of the river. These small islands, also known as "Tappu", is what gave this wildlife reserve its name.
I have never found birds more attractive as I did here. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded in this area according to their data. This included various water birds, vultures, woodpeckers, cuckoos, etc. There were also vibrant, colorful birds which, even though for just a few moments, was a bliss to our eyes. It was a great delight to have viewed so many species of birds in a single day. Apparently, as winter had just arrived, birds from the cooler had recently migrated here, where the climate is much more suitable. Unlike birds in Kathmandu who are familiar with humans, birds at Koshi would fly away as soon as they spotted our canoe approaching their way. Hence, getting a close view of the birds was extremely difficult. We were in regret for not bringing a pair of binoculars.
We stepped off in some of the tappus as well as the grasslands in between and walked in search of more kinds of birds. While roaming along the plains, we also came across a pond where the few gharial crocodiles of Koshi Tappu habituated. Other than the crocodiles, one of the few other mammals that exist includes the wild water buffalo, known as the 'Arna'. The arna were an endangered species years ago, but today, their population at Koshi has tripled. The long-horned Arnas, individual or in herds, are a breathtaking sight in the wild, where we had to fearfully walk closer to them to get a good picture.
After returning to have a delicious lunch served with local vegetables and freshly caught fish, we prepared ourselves for our final adventure, the elephant ride. The female elephant, 63 years old, was joyous to carry us around in her back. She took us around the grasslands and across the river, while the sun gradually resided behind the hills. The view from high up her back was magnificent. I felt like I could continue this trip for days and still have a wonderful time.
Just a single day here definitely felt rushed, yet we relished every moment of this tour. I will certainly plan to visit Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve once again in my life, and surely make more memories with this place.
Pranit Shrestha is a Content Writer at Nepal Traveller. A fitness maniac and a travel junkie, he loves seeking new adventures.