Shuklaphanta reopens after monsoon break

- BHAWANI BHATTA, KANCHANPUR

Sep 14, 2017-Shuklaphanta National Park reopened for sightseers last week after being closed during the monsoon. In the past, the park used to begin receiving visitors from mid-October after its rainy season break, but this year the opening date was brought forward by a month after eager tourists started turning up at the gate. 

Shuklaphanta is spread over 305 sq km and is located in the southwestern part of the country. According to Bed Kumar Dhakal, chief conservation officer of the park, tourists started arriving a few weeks earlier than usual, all excited to see the wildlife and other sights. 

“We didn’t have the heart to send them back. Therefore, we opened the park a month earlier than in the past,” said Dhakal. “Unlike last year, the roads inside the park had not been damaged by the monsoon rains, and so we saw no harm in letting visitors in.”   

Four to five vehicles entered the national park right after the park gate was opened. Most of the tourists visiting the park, according to park authorities, are foreigners. “On Tuesday, three Japanese tourists entered the park,” said Dhakal. 

“Currently, we are repairing parts of the inner roads which were damaged by the monsoon rains. Once we finish the maintenance work, tourists will be allowed to drive to the park’s grasslands which teem with swamp deer. These deer with large antlers are one of the major attractions here.” This will further increase tourist inflow, he added.  

After Shuklaphanta was upgraded to a national park from a wildlife reserve last year, tourist arrivals have risen sharply. Last year, according to the national park office, there were more than 2,600 tourists, a big jump from the previous year’s figure of 1,900 individuals.

Also, various activities have been conducted in the region in the last couple of years which have helped to boost tourist arrivals. “After the upgradation into a national park, many tourism entrepreneurs arrived with plans to build hotels,” said Parmanand Bhandari, a local businessman. “Locals living near the national park have been offering home stay services to tourists.”  

Rana Tharu Home Stay, which is operated by an indigenous community near the national park, is one of the major attractions for tourists. Last year, the home stay received around 1,200 vacationers.  “After the home stay came into operation, local agricultural produce has found a market among the visitors,” said Chet Ram Rana, secretary of the home stay. “This has encouraged locals to take up vegetable farming and livestock rearing.”  

In the past, the national park used to be known as a habitat for swamp deer with more than 2,000 individuals making their home here. After five rhinos were brought here from Chitwan National Park last year, the pachyderms became an added attraction.

 

Published: 14-09-2017 06:44

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