Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area
High in the heart of the eastern Himalayan, seven valleys spread out from Mt. Makalu, the world’s fifth highest peak. These valleys, particularly the Barun valley, treasure some of the last remaining clean and tidy forest and alpine meadows of Nepal. From the bottom of the Arun valley, at just 435 m above sea level, the Himalayas rise to the snow-capped tip of Makalu 8463 m within a 40 km distance. Within this wide range of altitudes and climates, the Makalu-Barun area contains some of the richest and most diverse pockets of plants and animals in Nepal, elsewhere lost to spreading human habitation.
Nestled in the lower reaches of these valleys are communities of Rai, Sherpa, and Shingsawa (Bhotia) farmers. Though economically poor and isolated, they retain a rich cultural heritage. They hold the key to the preservation of the unique biological and cultural treasures of the Makalu-Barun area.
The Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area was established in 1992 as Nepal’s eighth national park and the first to include and adjacent inhabited conservation area as a buffer. A new park management approach encourages local people to become actively involved in protecting the forests and natural resources upon which their lives depend, and in conserving their own rich cultural heritage. Traditional resource management systems, such as community controlled grazing and forest guardianship, are being strengthened and low level technologies introduced where appropriate. Working in collaboration with an American NGO, Woodlands Mountain Institute, His Majesty’s Government, Nepal is striving to improve local living standards through infrastructure, educational and income-generating activities.
Covering 2330 sq. km Makalu-Barun is a vital component of the greater Mount Everest ecosystem which includes Nepal’s 1,148 sq. km Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park to the west and the 35000 sq. km Comolangma Nature Preserve in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north.
Details about the Park:
- Most of the Makalu-Barun National Park is a remote wildness, with just two small settlements and seasonal herding in high pastures. Historically, few foreigners have visited the area except for the occasional climbing expedition.
- The incredibly steep topography and abundant monsoon rains (1000 to 4000 mm per year) of the eastern Himalayan support unusually diverse bioclimatic zones and a rich storehouse of medicinal and useful plants. Alpine pastures above 4000 m contain the religiously important dwarf rhododendron and juniper, aromatic herbs and delicate wildflowers, including 47 different varieties of orchids. Subalpine forests of fir, birch and rhododendron, and temperate stands of oak, maple and magnolia thrive between 2-4000 m. Luxuriant orchids drape the chestnut and pine forests of the subtropical zone (1-2000 m) and Sal forests reach their northernmost limit within Nepal along the banks of the Arun (below 1000 m).
- The park has 400 species of birds, including the spotted wren babbler and the olive ground warbler. These two species have never been seen in Nepal before.
- There are many wild animals including the endangered red panda, Himalayan black bear and the clouded leopard. Other wildlife found in the park are: ghoral, tahr, wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan marmot and weasel, common languor monkey and the serow.
- The Arun River gushing through the park has around 84 varieties of fish including salmon.
Strict Nature Reserve:
- The inaccessible lower Barun valley, a glacier-fed tributary to the Arun river, and its tributary the Saldima, flow through the most pristine area in the Park and thus have been designated as a Strict Nature Reserve, the first in Nepal. Here natural ecosystems and processes will be protected in an undisturbed state for scientific study, environmental monitoring, education, and the maintenance of genetic resources.
The Conservation Area:
- Some 32,000 people of ethnically diverse backgrounds live in the Conservation Area. The majorities belong to various tribes of Rais and practice an ancient religion which reinforces harmony with nature. Shingsawas and Sherpas. Bhotia people originally from Tibet, live at higher elevations and carry on Buddhist traditions. A handful of other hill tribes including Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Newar, Brahmins, Chhetris and occupational castes live in the lower elevations.
- These people live in isolated villages much as they have for centuries. As farmers, herders and seasonal traders, their livelihoods depend heavily upon forest resources for animal fodder, fuel, food, housing materials, fertilizers, medicine and other creative uses, clothing spun (nettles), paper made form lokta (daphne bark) and countless items made from bamboo including furniture, containers, baskets, musical instruments, raincoats, and aqueducts.
How to Get There:
- Fly from Kathmandu to either Lukla, Phaplu, Lamidanda, Bhojpur and Tumlingtar airstrips, and then trek to reach the park.
Entry fees into Makalu Barun National Park and Conservation Area:
National Park entry fees per person per entry:
- For Nepali Nationals Free
- For SAARC Nationals Rs 500
- For Foreign Nationals Rs 2000
- Children under 10 years Free