Nepal’s unique topography makes the country a nature-lover’s paradise. Its majestic peaks and rolling hills, coupled with its lush forests and breathtaking rapids, are all testament to the beauty of the great outdoors. That said, it is of little wonder that tourists go to Nepal not only to climb its numerous mountains, but also to revel in the beauty of nature.
Unlike most crowded tourist destinations, Nepal has managed to strike a balance between cosmopolitan business centers and lush scenery, thereby allowing wildlife to thrive in the country even as it continuously gains popularity as a backpacking and trekking destination. With the country’s thriving wildlife including rare finds like the Bengal tiger and the Indian rhinoceros, it is not surprising to find that many wildlife photographers flock to the country to capture the beauty of such exotic animals.
Do you want to venture into wildlife photography? Do you want to capture the vibrant wildlife in Nepal? Or maybe you just want to properly document your visit to Nepal? Regardless, here is a rough guide on wildlife photography in Nepal that will let you make the most out of your visit to the country.
Where to practice wildlife photography in Nepal
If you are planning to try out wildlife photography, then it is probably safe to assume that you already have experience in photography in the past. That said, in this article, we will focus on the specifics of photographing wildlife in Nepal as opposed to talking about the basics of photography, although I will give you handy tips in taking wildlife photos while in the country (but more on that later).
Having said that, the most important question that you will have to confront when venturing into wildlife photography in Nepal is this: where is the best place to shoot photos of animals in the country? Of course, you will find animals wherever you go, but if you are looking for wildlife and some rare finds, then your best bet is to go on a safari adventure. Luckily for you, there are quite a lot of safaris in Nepal, so observing animals in their local habitats should not be too much of a problem insofar as the opportunity to spot rare finds is concerned. Not sure where you should be headed next? Here are a couple of safari adventures you definitely would not want to miss if you want to take great photos of wildlife:
1) Chitwan National Park
For those who want to spot elephants, rhinos, and even crocodiles, the Chitwan National park is certainly a must-see. This national park is easily accessible from Kathmandu and is well-known for running a successful rhinoceros conservation project. With over 600 rhinoceros roaming friendly in the national park, you should not have any difficulty in spotting one (or a couple, actually). In addition to the enormous rhinos, you will also find elephants, gharial crocodiles, deer, and a variety of birds and another smaller animals in the park.
You can explore the national park on foot or aboard a vehicle. If you want to take pictures of as many animals as possible, however, you might want to explore the park on a jeep in order to cover more ground. An ox cart is also another option you might take, especially if you do not want to disrupt the animals in the area.
2) Bardia National Park
The Bardia National Park is located in the far western part of Nepal. Unlike the Chitwan National Park, this safari is less frequented by tourists due to its location. Thus, if you are looking for a more rugged safari experience, then you will certainly enjoy exploring this national park.
The Bardia National park is an especially great venue if you want to spot the Royal Bengal Tigers. Although the elusive Royal Bengal Tigers can be found in different locations in Nepal, you have greater chances of spotting them in this area, mostly because foot traffic is not as heavy as in other national parks.
Also, since the Bardia National park is close to the Karnali River, you may also venture on a whitewater rafting trip while in the area. Not only will this be a superb outdoor activity, but you will also have a chance to see more of the animals that live near the river.
3) Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
For the bird-lovers out there, the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is without a doubt a haven. This wildlife reserve is located on the eastern plains of Nepal and is not very far from Pokhara. Housing over 400 bird species, touring the wetlands is certainly a great way to catch glimpses of – and of course photograph – various birds in the area. You will also be able to find different species of ducks, geese, storks, and even eagles and kingfishers.
Another great thing about this wildlife reserve is that various accommodations have been set up in the area, so you can hang around the reserve for a couple of days and take your time in photographing various bird species. Staying in the reserve is also a great opportunity to meet fellow bird watchers and nature photographers from different parts of the world.
What are some tips for doing wildlife photography in Nepal
Unless you intend to be a prize-winning wildlife photographer, there really are no hard and fast rules when it comes to wildlife photography in Nepal. Nonetheless, there are a couple of tips which you can utilize in order to take better pictures and make the most out of your experience in Nepal. That said, here are some things which could come in handy when taking up wildlife photography in Nepal:
1) It is important to love and respect animals
This is the most crucial factor when it comes to wildlife photography. If you want to take great photos of wildlife, then it is imperative that you love animals. Love and appreciation of animals come with respect, and the latter really does wonders when it comes to taking photos of animals in their natural habitat. This does not go to say, however, that you need to favor all animals equally. You might have a preference for birds or for large mammals – that is perfectly fine. What is important is that you keep the welfare and safety of the animals in mind in the course of your wildlife photography session.
Safaris in Nepal span great areas of land, so if you want to cover a lot of ground and see a lot of animals, exploring on foot just will not cut it. As mentioned earlier, however, while taking a jeep or other motor vehicle is certainly the most efficient way to go about it, doing so is not respectful to the animals in the area you will be visiting and will most likely scare them away. Exploring the safari on an ox cart is certainly a more eco-friendly option, not to mention one which will serve your purposes better.
2) Just take pictures
In the age of well-curated Instagram and Facebook feeds, it might be tempting to spend so much time taking aesthetically pleasing wildlife photographs. While there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you are a professional wildlife photographer, it might not be the best course of action to take for beginners. Obsessing over your shots can actually take the joy out of wildlife photography and that is certainly not what you are going for.
Instead of spending too much time on getting the perfect shot, start with taking photos of as many animals as you can. Learn how to spot animals quickly and how to take pictures of them without being noticed. Once you have these skills nailed down, you can move on to the more technical aspects of wildlife photography.
Of course, the ultimate goal is taking great photos of photos, but do not let your end goal distract you from your experience. After all, wildlife photography is also meant to celebrate wildlife and appreciate nature.
3) Know your equipment
There is no need to be a professional photographer in order to delve into wildlife photography but knowing your equipment will certainly work wonders when you are out in the safari, trying to spot rare animal species. This is especially the case if you really want to develop your skills as a photographer and take high quality photographs of animals in their natural habitat.
Bear in mind that the subject in wildlife photography are moving animals, many of which are not used to human presence or contact. That said, knowing your camera really well is an asset as you will often have to quickly change settings – sometimes without looking at your equipment lest you lose track of your subject.
Again, you do not have to be an expert just to take wildlife photographs, but a good rule is to stick with equipment you know by heart. Some people get too excited with the prospect of wildlife photography and would even buy new equipment to take with them to their Nepal trip. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to have a better-quality camera to document your foray into the wildlife, even the highest quality camera in the world will not be of much help if you cannot operate it properly. Worse, you might even end up damaging your camera as you fumble in the safari. So save your fancy equipment for more chill adventures where you can tinker with the camera settings and stick with the equipment you are used to while in the safari.
4) Consider investing in a trail camera
I am an advocate of sticking with equipment you are already familiar with, but I make an exception when it comes to trail cameras. Trail cams are particularly useful for two purposes: 1) researching wildlife photography locations and 2) capturing great wildlife photos.
The trick to being a good wildlife photographer is being very patient, especially if you are trying to get photos of elusive species. If you have a limited time to spend in Nepal, however, camping out for hours and waiting for certain animals to appear might not be the most viable option. This is where trail cams come in handy. You can buy a couple of low-cost trail cams and install them in several strategic locations. This way, you can document the kind of animals that typically pass by the area, allowing you to have a better idea of where you can find certain species.
Most people assume that trail cams are typically low-res, but that certainly is not the case. On the contrary, there are now trail cam brands that offer great resolution, allowing wildlife enthusiasts to take high-quality photographs of wildlife. In fact, some trail cam models have shutter speeds quick enough to capture still images of birds flying with so much clarity.
5) Get a guide
If this is your first time to try wildlife photography in Nepal, then it is better to go with a guide. A well-experienced guide can lead you to areas in the safari where you can get a better view of the animals or where you are more likely to see elusive species. In addition, a safari guide can also give you some tips when it comes to interacting with animals, more specifically, how to act around them. Venturing on your own might seem exciting, but for beginners, a good guide can really spell a lot of difference.
Wildlife photography can sound intimidating for beginners, but it really should not be. As long as you enjoy being out in nature and you have a decent camera, you are well on your way to taking great wildlife photographs. Unlike outdoor hobbies such as kayaking or mountaineering, wildlife photography does not require a lot of training. In fact, the best way to learn it and improve your skills is to get out there and start taking photos. So if you really want to try wildlife photography, just take your trusted camera with you and go for it – all while keeping the tips above in mind.