The Karnali Ultimate Nepal Expedtion


The Karnali is widely acknowledged as one of the best multi-day river trips available in the world and literally means ‘Holy water from the Sacred mountain’. It is also Nepal’s longest and largest river and with its many tributaries, it drains almost all of the west of Nepal, which, incidentally is also its least inhabited – the “Wild West” as many people call it. This lower section of the river definitely lives up to that name – the area that it flows through is wild and unpolluted with some of the most pristine jungle scenery in Nepal, and abundant wildlife.

Flowing from near Tibet’s holy Mt. Kailas, the Karnali offers powerful high volume rapids with names like “First Blood”, “God’s House” and “Flip and Strip”, in a setting of wild forests and steep, narrow gorges. After a week of negotiating the Karnali’s upper gorges and pummeling whitewater, we spend two nights at Bardia National Park and another two nights exploring Kathmandu, Thamel and its environs.

For the eight days and 180 kilometers we won’t see a single sign of the modern world making it Nepal’s finest multi day river rafting. The rapids earlier on in the trip are comparatively easy, but as you enter the main canyon, be prepared for a thrill-a-minute adventure. There is a rapid waiting for you every corner. The Karnali’s headwaters come off of Mount Kailas in Tibet, the center of the universe for both Buddhist and Hindu religions, and then slice through the Himalayas in a series of magnificent and isolated gorges and forests.

From easy-going class 3 to continuous and powerful Class 4+/5 rapids, there are miles of beautiful scenery, pristine beaches, and deep gorges. Adventure travelers on the Karnali have seen Langur and Rhesus monkeys, leopards, bear, martins, and giant catfish, as well as freshwater dolphins and Bengal tigers. To sum it up, one of the finest rafting and kayaking trips in the Himalayas. Spectacular, remote, jungle-clad canyons with abundant wildlife. Our guides will run this expedition with our Nepalese partners at Equator Expeditions, run by well known adventurers Mahendra Thapa and Gerry Moffatt

Nov 06 : Arrive Kathmandu
Airport meeting and transfer to our hotel in the bustling and colorful Thamel district of Kathmandu. Pre-trip meeting at the hotel at 630 PM, preceding a lively welcome dinner.
Kathmandu Resort Hotel, Dinner only

Nov 07: Kathmandu
A day to rest from the long journey to Asia and experience the ancient wonders of Kathmandu and the bustling streets of the Thamel district. The morning is free to rest and enjoy the small shrines, temples and shops of this vibrant town. Shopping is particularly tempting, with wonderful jewelry, fabrics, Buddhist religious art and handicrafts.

We regroup for lunch, after which our day continues with a half-day tour of old Kathmandu, focusing on the main temples of the city. These are:

The temple is colloquially known as the “monkey temple”, after the large tribe of garrulous monkeys guarding the hill and amusing visitors and devotees with their tricks, including sliding gracefully down the long double banisters of the main stairway. The soaring central stupa is topped by an aureate block featuring the watchful eyes of Buddha. Set around the base is a continuous series of prayer wheels that pilgrims, circumambulating the stupa, spin as they pass by.

This is Nepal’s pre-eminent Hindu temple and one of the most significant Shiv temples on the subcontinent. As the Bagmati is a holy river, Pashupatinath has become a popular place to be cremated – the ghats (river steps) immediately in front of the temple are reserved for the cremation of royalty, while those a little further south are for the commoners!

Another site with a religious bent is the huge stupa of Bodhinath, which is the largest in the country and among the largest in the world. It’s also the centre for Nepal’s considerable population of Tibetans. Late afternoon is a good time to visit. This is when prayer services are held and the locals turn out to walk around the stupa (if you want to join in, remember to walk in a clockwise direction). Surrounding Bodhinath are a number of monasteries, but be discreet and respectful if you intend visiting them.

Dinner is on your own. There are many good restaurants featuring a variety of cuisines.
Kathmandu Resort Hotel, Breakfast & Lunch only

Nov 08 : Nepalganj and Bardia
After breakfast we head to the airport for an early hour-long flight to Nepalganj, taking in amazing Himalayan views along the way. In Nepalganj we will meet up with the Indian members of our group arriving by overnight train from Delhi and with the Nepali rafting team. It’s about two hours to our lodge in Bardia National Park from there. If we’re in early enough we will enjoy the first of our wildlife viewing excursions in the park.

We stay at the Bardia Forest Hideaway set on the edge of Bardia National Park. The Forest Hideaway was created to provide the perfect setting from which to explore this pristine conservation area. With deluxe accommodations and a restaurant offering a wide variety of fine dishes, it provides guests with a relaxe atmosphere in rural surroundings. Built to reflect the local tharu style, the hotel complex consists of timber and clay cotages with traditional grass roofs and decorations plus all the modern conveniences.
Forest Hideaway or similar, all meals

Nov 09 – 10: Bardia National Park
Bardia National Park, the largest and most undisturbed park in the lowland region of Terai, is known for its abundance of wilderness. Initially a royal hunting reserve, it was later granted the status of a national park. The purpose was to preserve the ecosystem of the region including all wild species. The park encompasses approximate 300 sq km of sal forests and riverine grasslands. High elephant grass and dense forests provide home to plenty of animals.

We will enjoy an early morning elephant safari (1 hr), a full day walking tour within the sanctuary, outings in 4WD vehicles with the game guides, birdwatching, Tharu cultural activities, and visits to the elephant and/or crocodile breeding centers. We spend the days up close and personal with the game n a variety of ways and at the lodge enjoy an evening cultural program of local Tharu dances too.
Forest Hideaway or similar, all meals

Nov 11: To the river
It’s about a 7 hour drive from Bardia to the put-in spot on the Karnali. We intend to arrive there in the afternoon in time to float less than an hour down to our first campsite on the river.
Camp, all meals

Nov 12 – 17: Rafting down the Karnali
This is truly a great experience in whitewater. For the first part of the trip the river challenges our team efforts as we take on some demanding rapids such as First Blood, Human for Lunch and Flip & Strip, while passing through stunning gorges and dense jungle that creep down to the river side. You have an option of paddle or oar boat depending on how involved you want to be.

Camping on the Karnali trip is awesome. The massive floods of the monsoon deposit huge tracks of pure white sand, creating great beaches to camp on. Occasionally we might get visited by a local villager out hunting. Village kids also wander down to take a peep at the colorful rafts and safety kayaks and the people who are on them! We will have a lay-over day on the trip, depending on weather and such, which will give us some time to get into some beach volley ball action or go for a hike and explore a small village higher up. Maybe you would like to try your hand at kayaking by asking one of our friendly safety kayakers for a lesson. Or just relax with a great book and take in the sun and replenish the energy stocks!

Lots of whitewater and some great gorges to float and paddle through makes the Karnali one of the top 10 multi-day white water trips in Asia or even the world.

When we reach the confluence with the Seti River on about Day 10 we’re past the major rapids on the Karnali. The lower section of the river is home to fresh water dolphins, marsh mugger crocodiles and gaurials, the giant fish eating crocodiles with the long, graceful jaws, so there is are some good chances of spotting wildlife. The jungle and riverine forest scenery is entrancing.
Camp, all meals

Nov 18: To Kathmandu
After a short day on the river, we take out and enjoy a simple meal at a local spot. From there it is a two hour drive to Nepalganj where we’ll catch our return flight to Kathmandu. We’ll share a festive farewell dinner in Kathmandu, swapping stories of our adventures on the Karnali and preparing for the transition back home
Kathmandu Resort Hotel, all meals

Nov 19 : Depart
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your trip home or head on to your next adventure.
Breakfast only.

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Trip Details

Location: Nepal
Duration: 13 Days
Grading: Demanding
Departure: Custom Travel Only


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