My mum joined me during the ‘Nepal Wildlife Extravaganza’ trip, the amazing prize I received for winning the overall competition and taking the title of ‘BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year 2010’ with Tigers at Play, which had won its ‘Endangered Species’ category…

What can I say, wow, this was an incredible experience and adventure, so many encounters with an array of wildlife, including the jungle cat, civet, Sambar dear, which were so impressive, muntjac, rhesus and langur monkeys, which I loved aww beautiful monkey the Langur, pray mantis, Indian Rhino, the critically endangered fish-eating Gharials, they were awesome, marsh mugger crocodiles which were huge, saw these basking in the sun on the edge of the rivers, an owl that went for Shamble one night as he was calling out to the jackels, they called back and from different sides of us, we asked him so what they doing, he replied that they were calling back and in different positioning until they reach us so we moved on after just being quiet and listening, again quite a feeling and experience it was especially as it wasn’t a clear night, there was a low mist so visibility wasn’t great. I still loved it though lol…

Hearing a tiger raw, which our elephant disturbed when the elephant trod on a branch breaking it and the noise scared the tiger and it took off, seeing her tail disappear off into the distance. Just hearing the tigers raw gave me goosebumps, was as good as seeing one, knowing how close we were. The mahout, tracked down where she was sleeping and said that she had 2 cubs with her! We had a few elephant-back safari’s and it was quite essential as some of the under growth and vegetation was so dense and thick theres no way any person could walk through it! Even being on the elephant watching where the elephant will next put his footing was a mystery as could see a path! Our elephant got bit peckish on route as he took a banana tree, amazing how strong they are. Beautiful gentle giants, love em!

I was very lucky to have the opportunity of being a mahout! It was amazing, I got to be up and close to the elephant and felt his soft textured thick  skin. The bristles of hair were so cool, as were all different heights on his head and of course I spoke to the elephant be rude not too. Again another highlight and one off experience. You cant beat spontaneousness!

Other wildlife we saw was the awesome fishing cat, which we were so lucky to see during the night safari’s that we took part of too.

I must talk about the night safari as for my mum and I and definite highlight. Every night was so different, a different air, different sky, different encounters and sounds.

One of the nights we all felt a bit wary, the guides definitely seemed on edge. We were given sticks to tap on the floor as we walked into the wilderness which was to keep snakes at bay, the guide Hammond, who was quite a big part of our adventure too in the end. But this night felt like we was the ones being watched!…the next day we found out that the feelings that we all felt was correct as both tiger and leopard tracks had been found which had crossed our paths! Very cool huh, maybe not so if we crossed at same time but that is the beauty of being in the wild, you never know what you will see, if anything but it wasn’t just the wildlife and birdlife here, like Africa, its nights skies are like diamonds in the sky, so when we were walking besides this forest and were joined by fireflies it was so special, it was like fairies were flying out and around us, so magical we were captivated! There was a seating area hand crafted by the locals in the wooded area so as you sat there and looked up again feeling so enchanted like you were somewhere magical. It was magical! There was even a ruin in these forest that we walked through and they told us of a lepricorn that had been seen there. So felt quite fitting to be honest, but we was well away in total bliss.

The birdlife was spectacular! Seriously so many varieties, there is over 500 species of birds that have been recored in Chitwan alone!

So we started the trip from Kathmandu. I loved Kathmandu, and the towns we visited, very colourful and mystical, so much character and ancientness within their architecture, pretty amazing buildings, temples and wood carvings. One being the famous peacock which we got to see. The Dwarikas, where we stayed at the end of the trip before leaving for home reclaimed all of the old hand carved wooden windows which were set to be burnt, it is such a beautiful quaint, so much character in the middle of Kathmandu, inside you couldn’t hear the hustle and bustle from the traffic outside! It was like you were in another world, its true, so calming, although saying that I felt different after being in Nepal, even walking around their stoopa’s you did feel enlightened and like the weight and troubles are non existent, very spiritual place. Even when we was given a Tika, we walked around Kathmandu and people would say hi and one lady said that it suited me. Nepal was such a easy place to be.

After Kathmandu we went onto Chitwan National Park, we stayed at Machan Paradise view, and wow what a view over looking the wilderness and long grasses where we will be doing our safari on foot! We also saw kingfisher and other birds fly by here as we were slightly higher. This place was funny as one of our friends Ann had rats stealing her socks and underwear lol!

We had many excursions here, including on foot, elephant back, dugout canoes and jeep in search of wildlife and birdlife at both Chitwan and Bardia. All were exciting as we didn’t know what we was going to see!

In-between Chitwan and Bardia we visited Lumbini, 4 hours from Chitwan.

Lumina is the birthplace of Buddha and as such holds huge religious and historic importance. Born as Siddhartha Gautam in 543 BC (although the date is the subject of some debate), the prince enjoyed a life of privilege until he fled his his palace and family at 29, spurred by an encounter with an old and sick men, deciding instead to search for for the truth of life. After 49 days he gained enlightenment and became the Lord Buddha, inspiring, over the years, millions to follow Buddhism.

We visited his birthplace which consists of the Sacred Garden with a number of artefacts dedicated to his birth, temples and a miniature wetland reserve, created as a haven for the saris crane, its also home for many birds and animals. So the Sacred Garden is where it is said that Buddha was born, the centrepiece being Maya Devi Mandir – the oldest known structure in Nepal, dating back to 300 BC, named after the Buddha’s mother.

We drove West through Terai of lowland Nepal passing through various towns, villages and farming areas and national forest which gave us all a fascinating insight to the Nepalise way of life, plus taking in their beautiful scenery and landscapes.

Bardia is bordered to the west by Karnali River, one of the largest rivers in Nepal. We all ventured out on an inflatable raft trip down the southern boundary of the reserve and it was awesome I loved it, so tranquil also being on the water great opportunities taking great reference photos of the birdlife and there was heaps of birdlife around!

Even gave us chance to view the other wildlife like the highly endangered Ganges river dolphin, and we did se them, they’re incredible, pink too! Along with mugger crocodiles and the Gharials also very rare.

Along the raft trip we also saw lots of local fishing and playing in the river and asian elephants with their mahouts too, both washing and getting across the river with the mahout standing on the elephants back! They got lots of balance to do that!

Once we travelled back to Kathmandu we visited the awesome town Bhaktapur, many temples and craftsmen. Very colourful and full of history, culture and character with an awesome backdrop of the himalayas. Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’, the ‘City of Culture’, the ‘living heritage’ and ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’. It is filled with monuments, most terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs and open courtyards. The city is dotted with pagodas and religious shrines. Bhaktapur lies along the ancient trade route between India and Tibet.

There was an old Nepalise lady up on one of the magnificent relic looking stairways, I asked if I could take a picture of her, she said a price so a lot of tourists ask her. Well worth it as she has just as much character as the stairs and temple at the top.

The food was amazing throughout, couldn’t fault it once, so fresh, you could taste all the herbs like the fresh ginger and lemongrass, and we were given lots of lush sweet mini bananas! It was awesome hearing the geckos whilst we were eating.

We saw and learnt sooo much and the Nepalese people were so lovely, welcoming and full of admiration and passion for their wildlife, birdlife, culture and history, wanting to share this with us was wonderful, I loved that about them. The guides (Hem, Suchit, Shambhu and Hammond) were just the best!…lovely guys with big hearts, huge passion for the birdlife and wildlife, even running their own conservation charity and publishing their own bird books!

Such fab characters, I didn’t want to leave, they had captivated both my mum and myself with their beautiful country. It was lovely that I got to share my prize win/experience of Nepal with my mum, and come away with some great friends ‘the FAB 5!’ they made our trip so memorable and fun! Funny as they welcomed us into their group of 5, re naming us the Magnificent 7 haha I loved that!

It was such an awesome adventure in so many ways that I will never forget this trip!

Hope you enjoy the read and the photographs.