I have always been lost. I still am. If past is any indication of future, I will forever be lost.

I have come to accept this fact; even appreciate it. Thankfully, there still is so much in this earth to get lost into.

Like Babai valley..

Falling in the core region of Bardia National Park in western Nepal, Babai valley is the more untampered part of this increasingly popular wildlife destination.

I was fortunate to join a team rafting through Babai river across Bardia to check on the status of rhinos translocated in the valley as part of a repopulation program. This program is an on-going initiative by the Nepal government in collaboration with organizations including WWF Nepal, where I currently work.

moon2

We began our day early, even as the moon hung about the morning sky. A few hours’ drive to Chepang where Babai enters Bardia from its east, and a lazy breakfast later, we were on the raft (a little too late for good wildlife sightings).

I have been to Babai valley before, but had never seen it this way. White florescence of Kans a native grass species (Saccharum spontaneum) swayed along the river banks, when  not covered in predictable green.


Gharials and muggers basked in impressive numbers along exposed sandy beach patches. Every sighting, a reminder of how fast these reptiles could be. Vanishing into the water within seconds, leaving me fumbling with camera settings, except for one shot for evidence.

mugger

More disgraceful was being unable to photograph a turtle! We sighted one, but it literally ‘ran’ over stones on the bank and dove into the river. Even before I could lift my camera, that guy just ‘ran like a turtle’!

I busied myself taking pictures of subjects that didn’t vanish as easily – garbage, for instance; much more common than I remembered from a decade ago.

frooti-bottle-in-babaiwater-bottle-in-babai

Of course, I did eventually get some wildlife images: A few birds, a couple of deer, and a translocated rhino and her four-month-old calf!

bird2

chital

sambar_auto_sm1-rhino-and-calf_sheren-shrestha-wwf-nepal

The most exciting sighting though was a dramatic scene played out at the end of our trip. We were approaching a rapid at a bend; rumbling sound from the cliff on our right attracted our attention to rolling stones and flying dust, and then a huge splash.

sambar-in-rapids-sm

A pair of sambar deer had just jumped into the river, right in front of us! The current was pretty strong, but the deer were clearly stronger swimmers. Both managed to cross the river safely, although separated by our raft.

sambar-second-crossing-rapids-sm

There were no tiger sightings this time, but I cannot guarantee that no tiger sighted us. We sailed away, hearing alarm calls. Perhaps the deer had just escaped their death.

Amidst sadistic fantasy of a tiger jumping into the river after the deer, we reached Parewaodar – the end of our rafting trip.

sunset-sm

Sun set across the Parewaodar bridge, lowering curtains on this brilliant day.

As we drove back to our hotel, I went back to being lost. I was back in Bardia..back in Babai. I still am.

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