Travel to Nepal
West Nepal (Tiger Attack) - April 23 - 30, 2012
Travel to Nepal

Both myself and wildlife photographer Valji Varia (UK) have always been lucky to see big cats together since we first explored the Nepalese terai together in 2004. Even in Chitwan National Park we have been fortunate enough to see both Tigers and Leopards! Our most recent trip together was to Bardia National Park which delivered the best results ever with 6 individual tigers seen 10 times in a period of 7 days (including a mother and 3 cubs).

Valji is very passionate about Big Cats and has visited many counties to see these magnificent felines throughout Africa, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. After all his experiences of Big Cat encounters and other wildlife Valji proudly states that only in Nepal will one wytness the essence and true wild behaviour of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Valji had originally planned to visit Nepal in April 2008 but unfortunately the trip was cancelled due to the Icelandic volcanic eruption and the subsequent closure of the European airspace. However, as promised Valji returned to Nepal in April 2012 after establishing Natural Variation Safaris ( and in collaboration with myself and Travel Nepal ( resulted in some unforgettable wildlife encounters which can be reviewed further on the respective websites.

Valji and his wife Dr. Mary Varia arrived Nepal on 21st April with the prime aim of experiencing a sense of adventure and exploration in the jungles of Nepal. We all were very happy to see each other again and off course looked forward to the potential of finding and capturing images of the wild tigers of Nepal. On day 1 we took the opportunity to relax and catch up as well as discussing our important business ventures together in the Travel Nepal office. During this entire time it was impossible to not think about tigers and we were eagerly waiting for the next day to get to Bardia National Park and some unique wildlife viewing opportunities from Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge.

On the morning of 23rd April we finally boarded our light aircraft to Nepalgunj, a flight of approximately 55 minutes with Buddha Air which also offers fantastic views of the high snow-capped Annupurna mountain range. Valji was busy taking pictures of the snow peaked mountains, a view that everyone should try and see at least once in their lifetime. The intense heat in Nepalgunj is in sharp contrast to the relatively mild conditions in Kathmandu but we were happy as it is this type of extreme heat which we hoped would bring the tigers out to the rich network of waterways from the mighty Karnali river and result in some opportunities to photograph the Bengal Tiger.

manaslu_8150_mtrs._photo_by_valji_varia_400On landing in Nepalgunj we were met by the Tiger Tops representative and served cold drinks before our 2 hour drive to Karnali Lodge. On route we stopped at the Babai River and took pictures of big Marsh Mugger and Gharial Crocodiles as well and scenic views of the very edge of Bardia National Park. There was a warm welcome from the staff as we entered the lodge and we also heard the latest news from a scientific team that were about to leave who said that their census in the park identified 47 Wild Elephants (the biggest number of Wild Elephant they have ever counted) as well as a few tiger sightings. We thought they were joking about the latter but during our Dalbhat (Lunch) found that they had indeed seen a Tigress with 3 cubs! That was music to our ears and we were so excited about exploring the Park that we could hardly wait till 3.30pm for the first of our 16 elephant safaris.

We have begun our elephant safari from a river point which we reached in 10 minutes by vehicle. Once on, our Mahout (elephant driver) led the elephant toward the deep wild forests of Bardia National Park which has an ever increasing reputation for wild tiger encounters. While on elephant back we wasted no opportunity and began an intense search for wildlife. After exiting an area of tall elephant grass we were suddenly rewarded with some fresh pug marks of tigers which we promtly began to follow. The Mahout whispered to us that this pug mark is from the same family of a mother and 3 cubs which had been seen a couple of days back. As we travelled through the jungle we also spotted some nice birds including the Great Slaty Woodpecker, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Yellow-bellied Prinia and many more.

Our excitement grew as we entered the forest with bamboo cane and searched on all four sides for a glimpse of the bright orange and black stripe markings through the dense foliage. All of a sudden with excitement Valji said Oh! there is porcupine! Our elephant stopped and then turned sideways so that we could all view the porcupine which had cleverly hidden itself inside some thick bush that certainly prevented any chance of taking pictures. However, our mission was to see the elusive big cat and so we continued to follow the pug marks...... all of a sudden we heard the alarm call from a spotted deer a little further ahead! We felt we were very close to a tiger and our mahout began to take our elephant faster and faster through the thick forest.

As our excitement continued to build we thought we may be lucky enough to spot one but the bush was very thick making a visual extremely difficult. In addition the tigers were very clever and working hard to escape our keen eyes, much to our frustration! Time went past so quickly in our quest to view the tiger that we could already see the sun setting down through gaps in the forest canopy and so sadly we had to turn back to our lodge. On reaching a small waterhole in the grassland near to the edge of the forest we were rewarded with a sighting of a mother and baby one-horned rhinoceros bathing. Soon after, and as we were about to cross one final river to finish the elephant safari, to our amazement we encountered a huge bull elephant named Bahadur Gaj. He was in an aggressive mood, displaying the tell tail signs of musth. While our bahadur_gaj_from_bardia_n.park_photo_by_valji_varia_400elephant was about to take a drink from the river Bahadur Gaj began to charge! Our Mahout demanded that our elephant run fast enough to get away from the big bull and our poor Kali had to run carrying the weight of 4 adults and the heavy hauda seat! Luckily for us she was extremely strong and we managed to escape from the large bull and lost him in the thick foliage lining the river bank. That was close! And all too close for Dr Varia! That was enough excitement for her first afternoon elephant safari in the stunning Bardia National Park.

In the evening as we enjoyed our dinner under the stars we suddenly heard the alarm calls of spotted dinner. Could this be a tiger? Or possibly a leopard? We took a short walk from the safety of our lodge armed only with a bamboo stick and a spotlight. We had some hope to see a tiger because on the previous evening the local wildlife warden had seen a tiger on the road on his way back home after dinner, but luck was not on our side this evening.

24th April: Very early morning after coffee and cake we are in the forest again enjoying our elephant ride in search of the mother tigress with cubs. Again, we found fresh pug marks but no visual. We did however see two impressive big bull elephants and also a Brown Fish Owl being chased by Large-billed Crows. After Breakfast we drove to the river point which we then crossed by foot as it was too deep for the jeep. We then continued to trek through the forest for about 10 minutes to get to the second river bank and walked along the river where we saw another very big wild bull elephant known as Rajiv. He was standing in the river and eating fresh grasses. On our side of river we enjoyed watching him from distance but Valji wished to make a better picture and so we tried to get closer and closer by silently walking through the bush. We got to within 20 meters of him but the thick riverine foliage obscured our view. However, Valji did manage to capture some interesting shots with the elephants head framed by the green scrub and trees. At times, Rajiv sensed that we were present and so it was very important that we kept our wits about us..... we sometimes had to walk faster away from him then he stopped then again we stopped.... this really was an adventure! After a while Rajiv left the river bank and entered the jungle. We remained on the bank and observed Langur Monkeys, Rhesus Macaque, Wild Boar and many nice birds.

In the afternoon we again went in search of tiger by elephant safari. This time we all had a very strong feeling that the tiger family were still in the same area and so asked the Mahout to lead our elephant directly to the same spot that we had seen the pug marks in the morning. On our way we saw a breeding herd of wild elephant which compromised of four young males, several females and the biggest bull male we have ever seen in the park! We knew that this could potentially be an extremely dangerous situation and so kept our distance. A rhino was also enjoying his graze nearby but we were concentrating solely on the elephants. Valji was attempting to capture some interesting images of wild elephant behaviour when all of a sudden the big bull elephant noticed we were there and started to charge us! Luckily we had kept our distance so had some breathing space but when we stopped we realised that the bull was still pursuing us! The chase led us directly into the area where the tigers had been spotted several days ago and thank God at the same time the bull gave up his pursuit of us. Alas, we felt safe again..... but wait...... all of a sudden we saw tigers coming out from the thorny Bamboo bush in the deep ditch below us! What a sight! Four tigers running around in a maze of foliage! Two tigers ran very fast to the other side of ditch, one sat on the far bank which was only about 12-15 meters away from us and the fourth was still down in the ditch barely visible through the dense bush. They were all around us but where to look? We had good visuals of two of them royal_bengal_tiger_at_bardia_photo_by_valji_varia_400from our elephant and Valji was busy trying to capture these magnificent animals on video. Soon after, the young tiger in the ditch roared violently and ran very fast towards the others. Their mother was concerned for the safety of her cubs and ran directly toward the youngster who had roared at which point we managed to see her entire body in a flash of deep orange and black stripes, stunning!

The habitat in which they were resting was perfect, secure, hidden, a roof of thorny bamboo bush where not even elephants would dare to go. The ground was damp and open so that the tigers would feel cool in the intense heat.... one would not find a better place for a tiger to rest and so we named the location 'Tiger Palace'. What an encounter with the real wild tigers of Nepal... amazing! and so difficult to explain the feeling of excitement, thrill and danger in words! One can watch the video that Valji has included on his website at the following link ( The Bardia National Park truly is a haven for the panthera tigris and the sight of cubs gives hope for future generations of this beautiful cat.

After sometime we moved away from the area to avoid any further disturbance of the family of tigers. Three hours felt like 3 minutes after this encounter! As we headed back to the lodge we saw a rhino walking in the river. He sat down, showing only his head and upper back. We moved closer so that Valji could capture some natural animal behaviour on film.... as we got ever closer the rhino stood up and started to wade through the water, up the river bank and then out of sight into the jungle. We also saw some nice birds including the Large-tailed Nightjar, Pied Kingfisher, Pintail Green Pigeon, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon and many more species of avifauna.

25th April: This morning we again were on elephant back but decided to explore the northern part of the park where we have not been. We also wanted to avoid the previous area so as to limit the level of disturbance to the tigress and her cubs. We had a wonderful safari along the river and through riverine forest and grassland. There we spotted many other animals including Swamp Deer, Hog Deer, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Common Langur Monkey, Rhesus Macaque, and the unusual behaviour of 11 smooth-coated Otters. The mother otter actually ran toward us and was only 3-4 meters away from the elephants foot! I thought the mother was a little deaf with poor vision and hence was running in the wrong direction but this was not the case. She was defending her family! On seeing the otter charge, our elephant made a deep blowing sound through its trunk at which point the otter realised that she had met her match! And ran away! Along the river we also saw some birds including Stork-billed Kingfisher, Eurasian Kingfisher, Brown-headed Barbet, and Oriental Pied Hornbill and a dancing male Peacock.

The afternoon elephant safari on this day was also very nice as we explored different ecological areas with Bardia and saw mugger crocodiles along the river bank. Unfortunately we did not see any tigers this afternoon but a French couple did see the tigress with cubs coming to drink. They looked very happy and we were happy too as it confirmed that the tigers were still in the area and we knew where to search for them for the next morning safari! Just before sunset we saw some birds including the Giant Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill and many more.

26th April: Even though we tried our very best today we were unable to track down the tigers today. However, both elephant safaris were very enjoyable with many herbivores and birds on display including the Changeable Hawk Eagle, Large-tailed Nightjar and Savanna Nightjar. We also tracked down four rhinos with one very small baby rhino and another porcupine.

27th April: Our elephant safari started very early in the morning to search for our elusive tigers. Myself, Valji, our mahut, and our guide were extremely focussed this morning on tracking down a big cat. After only 15 minutes we came across fresh pug marks on the dirt track, followed by alarm calls of both chittal and Langur monkey. As we moved ever closer to the commotion we passed fresh tiger scratch marks on a huge sal tree... the tiger was marking its territory! We closely observed the Langur monkey to identify the direction in which it was looking which led us into some very thick bush. After some time we found the remains of a kill including the skull and part of the limbs of a spotted deer. Unfortunately the shrub was so think we were unable to gain a visual of the tiger nearby.


At the end of the elephant safari we decided to have breakfast on the river bank and waited patiently for a glimpse of the tiger, again with no luck but our determination for a sighting was strong as ever and we prepared ourselves for our afternoon activity. We planned to explore the southern side of the park as the local guide was aware of two adult tigers in the area which had been seen mating there several months ago. We searched as hard as we could and saw many deer, monkeys, wild Boar but again, no tiger. On our way back we met a guide and a tourist on a walking safari and they said that they just saw a tiger walking toward the road in the short grassland. We moved as fast as we could by elephant and as we rushed to the area a chorus of chittal alarm calls echoed throughout the jungle. The tiger was moving but with a significant head start. Again we tried to follow the alarm calls as the sun began to set and the jungle become darker and darker. It is very dangerous to be in the jungle in darkness and orientation can become very difficult. Again we tried our best but the light was not with us and by the time we got to the river it was almost pitch black! The tiger was long gone and again we had to accept that lady luck had abandoned us and to try our very best again in the morning.

28th April: This morning our elephant took a detour as Mary decided that she would like to observe the park from Bagh Machan. From here there is a fantastic view of the park and you can also see along the length of the river.... if you are lucky a tiger may be seen! As we left the machan we heard a series of alarm calls and as per usual we went to investigate. As soon as we reached the track we saw very fresh pug marks.... no more than 10 minutes old! We set off in pursuit being careful to not make any noise and to carefully follow the direction the pug marks indicated. We then came across fresh blood on the road and the drag marks of a kill. We all sensed the the tiger was very close by and headed into the dense bush in the direction of the kill. Only 3 meters in we found a fresh spotted deer kill. All of a sudden the mahout pointed into the thick undergrowth and there he was.... a huge male Bengal Tiger!

We could only see his sharp steely eyes and the white of his forelegs... he was very irritated as we were next to his kill and began to move his tail from side to side. He then began to growl to express his anger and like lightning charged a distance of 20 meters with great speed and an enormous roar! He then changed direction and came back at us with a deafening roar to express his anger at us being there. Wow! What an amazing encounter and what a magnificent beast....... a demonstration of pure natural power and aggression. I was so happy and said thank you to nature for such a wonderful experience for Valji and I..... I am so proud that we have National Parks and can support conservation work..... how else could people like us who share such a deep passion for nature witness sights such as this..... absolutely amazing!

We decided to move back and keep our distance from the chittal kill. We then made the decision to move around the block to see if the tiger would come out again and headed toward the river bank from where we again entered the zone where we spotted the tiger. On our return the kill had been moved! In the space of 20 minutes the tiger had disembowelled the deer and dragged the kill about 15 meters across to the other side of the track. As soon as he heard us returning he abandoned the kill and hid in the foliage. We decided to leave him in peace to enjoy his kill and wait for him on the river bank incase he comes for water after eating his fill of fresh meat. In the end we waited at the river for the entire day up until our afternoon elephant safari at 3.30pm. We saw a couple of rhino relaxing in the river, swamp deer, monkeys, wild boars and many species of birds but the tiger never came.

We made the assumption that the tiger had visited an alternative water source and so eagerly waited for our elephant, Saraswoti Kali and Mahout Ramsharan to come and collect us so that we could go searching in the think sal forest once again. We headed straight for the location where we had last seen the kill but the kill was no longer there. We searched for drag marks in spotted_deer_killed_by_tiger_photo_from_valji_varia_400the bush but with no luck. We had no idea but the tiger had in fact dragged the kill to the other side of the road again. This tiger was also extremely cunning as he had gone over the same drag mark that he had created in the morning! What a clever cat. Once we had worked out how this tiger had tried to confuse us we got onto the correct side of the road and followed the drag marks along some very think bush. It was very difficult terrain and I felt sorry for our elephant. Finally we spotted the remains of the kill but the tiger was not there as other people were already nearby up in the tree. However, they were not high enough and if a tiger decided to attack he could quite easily have reached them!

We were very surprised to see those people by the kill before us as we were the ones who had found the tiger kill on the morning safari. Actually, they were told about our sighting by our local guide and so knew exactly where to begin their search. We also decided to climb a tree and wait patiently for the tiger to return. It was a great experience to be that close to nature and wait in silence for the apex predator to return. Valji knew that this tiger was very clever and did not think that the tiger would return with us so close by, even though we were no longer on elephant back but on a tree! As we expected, the tiger did not return but we could hear him growling in the distance and so he clearly knew that we were there! What an adventure!

29th April: In the morning we investigated the area of the lone male tiger but were unable to see him or evidence of the kill from the previous day. As we left the area we found fresh pug marks of the tigress and cubs. The tigers in the area have learnt to be very discreet as soon as they hear the elephant coming and there camouflage is absolutely perfect for the jungle setting. Again we heard alarm calls from the deer but when we followed the deer began to feed again and seemed very relaxed.... it felt like we were going around in circles but we really enjoyed the exploration. As our morning elephant safari came to an end we met Mary at our jeep before going rafting on the Khaura River. This was very enjoyable and relaxing as we floated along the river through some amazing forest on the crystal clear water enjoying sightings of spotted deer, swamp deer, Langur monkey and many beautiful birds including White-throated Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Crested Serpent Eagle and many more species of avifauna.

This was our final afternoon safari and Valji was determined to track down a tiger! Our lovely elephant Saraswoti arrived at 3.30pm with her mahout along the edge of forest and river to help us in our quest for one last memorable encounter. We headed directly for the 'tiger palace' where we had previously had good luck for seeing tigers. As we moved towards the area we began to hear alarm calls repeatedly. Our mahout was commanding Saraswoti to move faster in the direction of the alarm calls and then all of a sudden his eagle eyes spotted a tiger! The tiger was hunting and stalking hog deer in the tall grass where he was extremely well camouflaged. We tried our very best to keep the tiger in our sights and he was ignoring us as he was concentrating on making a kill. Luckily there was luga with shorter grass in which the tiger entered and we were thus able to work out the direction that he was heading in.

The tiger crossed a dry river bed in pursuit of his prey and we followed. The boulders on the river bed were difficult for Saraswoti Kali to walk across but she tried her very best and managed to get us across to the other side. We carefully circled the area and after some time found him though the visibility was very difficult as he was hidden in some very think bush. After a further 30 minutes the tiger moved into an area of thick grassland... our patience had payed off as now he was much easier to see and his majestic coat was in full view. As we moved closer the tiger began to display warning signs, showing his canines and growling slowly. There was only open ground of approximately 20 meters between ourselves and the tiger, it was a special moment and we were all wondering what he was going to do next!

It was clear that he did not want to leave the area for some reason and there were many deer in our vicinity. We maintained our position and our elephant Saraswoti Kali began to sway her trunk and noisily pull on the nearby shoot of grass. This was the catalyst for the tiger to make its move and irritated by the noise he suddenly charged directly toward us with a huge roar that echoed around us. The power and speed that he was moving at formed a trail of dust behind him and as he approached our elephant he turned to his right into the long grass. The full tiger charge can be seen on Natural Variation Film (

To see this in the open was an absolutely fantastic experience and one I will never forget. Even though I was feeling scared at the same time I also felt a sense of excitement. This is a special moment and one I hope many wildlife enthusiasts will have the opportunity to experience and capped off an outstanding tiger encounter! After the thrill of the charge we decided to leave the tiger in peace but then within a couple of minutes of moving away we saw drag marks which led us to a fresh kill of a male hog deer. This explained why the tiger was reluctant to leave the area and the reason he was so irritated with us being there! As the sunset we decided to return to the area the next morning to see if we could find the remains of the kill.... what a day, what a safari.

30th April: This was our final safari in the Bardia National Park and we decided that we would just enjoy the beauty of the place and the experience of being in this prime wilderness habitat. Of course we had to scan the area of yesterday afternoon's tiger encounter and to our surprise the tiger had consumed the entire hog deer kill! Only the skull, parts of the hoof and some of the intestine remained. He had consumed at least 25kg of meat overnight, what an amazing animal and the most rewarding of apex predators to witness in the wild. If Valji and I had our way we would search for tigers everyday in this stunning location. After leaving the area we passed peacefully along the river bank identifying birds and listening to the various calls of the numerous species of wildlife. We then climbed to the summit of bagh machan and said our farewells to this jewel of a park in the heart of Nepal.

Overall our visit to Bardia National Park was a huge success, we enjoyed each and every safari and even though a couple of days were quiet in terms of tiger sightings, encounters with the various other mammal species that inhabit the park were exceptional. Our list of species identified included:Royal Bengal Tiger, Elephant, One horned rhinoceros, Sambar, Barha-singa, Spotted Deer, Hog Deer, Indian Muntjack, Asian Porcupine, Langur Monkey, Rhesus Macaque, Smooth-coated Otter, Marsh Mugger Crocodile, Gharial Crocodile, Common Mongoose, Soft-shelled Tortoise, Indian Rock Python, Burmese Python, Rat Snake, Fishes and many more small mammals and avifauna including the Great hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Grey Hornbill, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Himalayan Flameback, Black-rumped Flameback, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, River Lapwing and many more.....

Shankar Tiwari

Client's Feedback
Roly Lloyd from Australia
"I recently had the good fortune to go birdwatching in Nepal with my friend Dr Robert Sothman in Nepal. I contacted Tragopan Trek / Travel Nepal Pvt Ltd., a contact found through Birding Pals Nepal. We had excellent feed-back and responses to all our e-mails which gave us confidence to book a bird watching tour through them. We were met at Kathmandu airport by our guide Shankar and had a very comfortable...    Read More

View All
Best Wildlife Film