From the low-lying flat plain starting at just 60 metres from the sea level to the highest point of the earth – the tip of Mt Everest is 8848 metres from the sea level, Nepal includes a bewildering variety of terrain, climate, and ecosystem; thus making it an idealeco-tourism destination.
All these protected areas have played instrumental role in the preservation of rare species of flora and fauna. A tiger monitoring conducted within the Chitwan National Park from 7 December 2009 to 22 March 2010 showed that the number of tigers here has reached 125 adult tigers from 91 adults in the year 1991. The result of the survey completed under the coordination of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Reserve with the help from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation has brought a sense of relief among those worried about the extinction of tigers from the earth. It also shows that Nepal was doing well in the field of conservation, even in the period of armed insurgency that raged through the nation from early 1990s to 2006. As normalcy has returned to the nation, further progress can be expected in the future.
1. Chitwan National Park
Lying within 6 hours drive from Kathmandu, it was established in 1973 and included in the UNESCO world heritage list in 1984. Chitwan National Park is home to rare one-horned rhinoceros, the Bengal tiger, gharial crocodile, leopard, wild boar, wild dogs, and wild cats. It covers 932 square kilometers in the sub-tropical lowland of terai. Around 600 plant species, 56 mammals, 539 birds and 49 reptiles are reportedly found in the park. There are also crocodile, turtle, and vulture breeding centres in and around the park. The park has attained popularity among the tourists for jungle safari on elephant back, jungle walk, and canoe rides.
2. Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
This is the country’s second youngest national park, declared in 2002 and the nearest one from Kathmandu at a distance of mere 12km from its centre. It covers 159 kilometres area in the northern edge of Kathmandu Valley. It primarily protects temperate ecosystem with the animals like Himalayan Black bear, leopard, jungle cat; and vegetation like pine, oak, and rhododendron. It is also a rich watershed area supplying much of drinking water in Kathmandu.
3. Langtang National Park
This park, the second nearest one from Kathmandu at just 32 kilometres north, includes mountainous terrains, and high mountain ecosystem in an area of 1710 square kilometres in the Nepal-China border. Covering a large chunk of the central Himalaya, it attracts visitors with its Langtang Range, glaciers, glacial lakes, high altitude vegetation, and animals. Red panda, wild dog, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, Himalayan black bear are found here.
4. Sagarmatha National Park
Spread over an area of 1148 sq. km. in the Khumbu Region of Nepal, this park was established for preserving the Hiamalayan ecology surrounding Mt Everest. Almost all of the park area lies over an altitude of 2500 metres. All the treks to Mt Everest, including Everest Panorama Trek,and Everest Base Camp Trek, from Namche onwards move through the park territory. It was established in 1976 and included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. Sagarmatha National Park does not just include superb mountain sceneries of the whole earth; it also covers the areas with original Sherpa culture and their heritages.
5. Bardia National Park
Another park in the subtropical flatland in the mid-western terai, it covers 968 square kilometer area and was established in 1988. It is the biggest protected area of terai and a shelter to one horned rhinoceros, Bengal tiger, elephant, black buck, crocodile, and Gangetic dolphin as well. It provides sanctuary to 53 different mammals, more than 400 species of birds, and several varieties of reptiles and water animals. The visitors can enjoy jungle safari on the back of elephants, jungle walk, and boat ride here.
6. Khaptad National Park
To get to this national park , board a flight to Chainpur, the district headquarter of Bajhang district from either Kathmandu, Nepalgunj, or Dhangadhi; then walk for two days. Situated in the western Nepal, it is also a rich natural habitat. Established in 1984, Khaptad is an excellent place for birdwatching, with more than 270 species available in the park. There are impeyan pheasants,partridges, flycatchers, cuckoos and eagles here. Although covering only 225 square kilometre area, it includes subtropical, temperate and sub alpine climate zones and vegetation. Khaptad is a good place for trekking, sightseeing, and a pilgrimage as well for the Hindus.
7. Makalu Barun National Park
It is reached by a flight to Tumlingtar , the entry point of the park, from Kathmandu. Like Langtang National Park , Makalu Barun also covers high mountain terrain and Himalayan ecosystem extended over an area of 1500 sq. km. This park covers some areas of Arun River Valley having tropical climate to the Skyscraping Mountains in the north including Mt Makalu (8653m). The Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation of Nepal claims that it is the only protected area in the world featuring 8000m -plus altitude difference within its boundary. This awesome range of elevation can only be marked by equally awesome biological and ecological diversity.
8. Shey-Phoksundo National Park
Located in the northwestern Nepal, this national park covers the territory around the famous Shey-Phoksundo Lake of Dolpa district. The biggest national park of Nepal extending over 3555 sq. km., it was established in 1984 and it protects ecosystem of High Himalayas and of beyond-the-Himalayan region. The sceneries of Shey- Phoksundo and its surroundings are sharply etched in your memory as the quintessential images of Shangrila Nepal, should you reach there once. Back in 1999, Eric Valli shot the scenes of his award winning Caravan movie in this region. To reach the park, one should fly to Juphal airport in Dolpa from Nepalgunj, and then walk for half a day to reach Suligad, the park entrance.
9. Rara National Park
Like Shey Phoksundo, this national park covers the surrounding areas of the Rara Lake, the biggest lake of Nepal. It is located in the north-western mountain region of Nepal. Although the smallest national park of Nepal with an area of 106 sq. km., it is a paradise for migratory birds in the winter. The summer also gets spectacularly beautiful as the flowers around the lake burst into full bloom. Rara National Park was established in 1976.
10. Banke National Park
This is the youngest national park of Nepal, declared on 12 July 2010. It occupies a core area of 550 sq. km. and a buffer zone consisting of 343 sq. km. area. Lying adjacent to the Bardia National Park, this one in the mid-western Terai of Nepal protects the lowland ecosystem of Nepal.