Khaptad National Park, covering 22,500 hectors (225 sq.km) of land’s located in the Far Western Development Region. Its distance from Kathmandu is 446km. This area lies at the cross point of Bajhang, Bajura, Doti and Achham districts of Seti zone in the far western region of Nepal.
Khaptad is isolated massif with the highest point 3,300m above sea level. The top is a rolling plateau of extensive grass land interspersed with oak and coniferous forests, shrubberies and buggy areas. The slopes of the massif are thickly vegetated with broad leaved and coniferous forests and bamboo stands. The park covers unique ecosystem of the mid-hill region of far western Nepal. the core area of Khaptad is of religious significance. Khaptad is of importance of nature conversation mainly because of the wide variety and high quality of its forest. Khaptad area covers various climatic zones, such as sub tropical, sub alpine, upper temperate, lower temperate with different types of flora and fauna. During the field visits, about 270 types of birds, 29 shrubs, 30 different types of plants, 50 herbs, 20 butterfly and 25 types of wild animals were recorded.
A meditation area, including religious places and the Ashram (Hermitage) of Khaptad Swami, a renowned spiritual saint, is located in the central area of the park. The park area also includes the important religious places of Tribeni, Shahashra Linga, Khaptad Daha (Lake) and Ganesh temple. Alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco,, violence and killing are strictly prohibited in these religious sites.
Khaptad Baba’s hermitage is about 20 minutes walk from both the park headquarters and the army barrack. It is surrounded by dense forest. The hermitage provides a beautiful mountain view on the north. Tribeni, confluence of 3 rivers is about 20 minutes walk from the park headquarters. On days of Jhestha Purnima a fair called Ganga Dushhahara is held at Tribeni and hundreds and hundreds of people congregate here. There are numerous temples in the Tribeni area, of which the temple of Shiva is the most important one.
Similarly, Ganesh temple is one and a half hour walk from the park headquarters. At the time of Ganga Dushhahara Mela, a great multitude of devotees come to offer worship at this temple. Khaptad Daha (Lake) lies at an altitude of 3,050m. It is hour’s walk down the park headquarters. On the full moon day in Bhadra a fair is held. Shahashra Linga is the highest point (3,300m) of Khaptad, this place takes 2 hours walk from the park headquarters. During the Ganga Dushhahara a number of pilgrims congregate here. Suki Daha is a small lake, located at about a days walk away from park headquarters Suki Daha is another small lake located within the park area. An alpine grass slope without trees is called “Patan”. A “Patan”, area has only flowers, grass and medicinal plants. According to local people there are 22 Patans within the Khaptad National Park. Nagdhunga, the stone with the serpentine shape is a religious place. It is one and a half hours walk from the park headquarters. Likewise, Kedardhunga is located close to Tribeni. It is a religious place dedicated to Kedarnath, a Hindu god.
On clear days, Khaptad provides a beautiful view of snow peaks to the north. These are Saipal, Api- Nampa and Surma Sarovor. Similarly, on the east Shankhamala peaks are seen from Lokhada, the park’s entrance point from Bajhang side. Sometimes Malika and Badi Malika peaks are also seen from Lokhada.
Local people, park staffs, army personnel, Khaptad Swami and other concerned persons reported that the best seasons to visit are April to July and October to November. They insisted that the most important time to visit Khaptad area is Jestha 15 to Ashadh 20 ( mid May to mid June ) if it is not raining. Khaptad Baba once kept weather records of the whole year and only 28 days saw fair weather out of 365 days.
Although, mid and far western regions have various attractions for tourists but unfortunately the western regions of Nepal, especially beyond Dhaulagiri are most backward in terms of socioeconomic development. But tourism can be developed, because there are numerous places of attraction in the west.
However, these area are least visited for various reasons. First is the lack of infrastructure and the second is the information. Many place of the western region remain unexplored. Thus, there are hardly any trekkers going west of Jumla. Similarly, Only a few mountaineering expeditions are launched towards the western Nepal. The poor status of tourism in western Nepal is best illustrated by the number of visitors to the protected areas. In 1990, Nepal recorded 45,950 visitors to the various parks and reserves. Of this 29991 of 65.3 percent went to Royal Chitwan park alone. The number of visitors to the western parks is very low: 412 to Bardiya, 259 to Sala Phant and 7 to Khaptad. The number of visitors to Khaptad has actually declined over last few years.
Joint promotion of Khaptad National Park with Bardiya National Park and Sukla Phant National Park definitely increases the duration of tourist’s stay in western Nepal. The department o f Natio n al Park and wild life conservation should provide the tourists with every detail of Khaptad, Bardiya and Sukla Phant National Parks. The Ministry of tourism and civil aviation should make necessary arrangements for additional air services. Rafting on the Seti, Karnali and Bheri rivers is highly feasible. Upon arrival at Dipayal, tourists can raft down the Seti to Karnali. They can continue to Bardiya National Park .
From Bardiya, they can proceed to Sukla Phant by the highway under construction. . .-
Resort and drinking water facilities shiiiild be developed at places along the route. For those gping to the park via Doti, lodging facilities should be developed at Silagadhi Dipayal, Jhigrana and Bichkopani. Similarly, on the Bajura side, Martadi Dongri, Kanda, Singro need to be developed. And for those preferring to travel *via lodges and restaurants should be developed Chainpur Sunar Gaon, Bajhang Chhanda, Daru Gaon and Lokhada. Local entrepreneurs should he encouraged for this with loan facilities. Similarly, there there – is need for developing camping sites at appropriate place. The entrance fee to the national parks in the west should be reduced to the half of Chitwan national park to attract more tourists. A-tourism information centre should be established at Dipayal to survey and promote the place of interest for tourists in the west of the Karnali river The department of tourism and department of national parks and wildlife conservation should collaborate to produce a promotion brochure on Khaptad National Park. The author is a team member of Khaptad Tourism Development Study and has returned recently from the place.
Pic credit: Er. Rajesh Rajopadhyaya,