We are going to Raft Karnali river (the one in the far west, going to Bardia national park) on November 20-21 2011. Standard 10 day intinerary. Looking for group members (need 4+ more). We are signed up with a company for whom we found multiple good reviews online (for650 per person), but are willing to switch to a cheaper one (around 550pp I think) if this suits most group members. We are an australian couple in our mid- 30ies.
Below i will give reasons for us doing Karnali + Bardia National park-in case it might clear someone up on a possible add-on itinerary to make such a remote trip even more worth it (financially too). But please note that we are only looking for rafting companions, not for the visit to Bardia which is already fully planned. So -
Our reasons to do Karnali are :
1) remote,pristine, one of the most scenic locations for rafting in Nepal (according to Lonely planet and rough guide).
2) grade suitable for mediums- beginners.(we checked with several specialists: there are a few big rapids, but they are quite straightforward) We rafted about 5 times on grades 3-3+ and were told that's more than enough experience.
3) takes us right into Bardia national park - saves us on flight costs and transfers.
We decided for Bardia instead of Chitwan cuz much less crowds+regular tourists' reports on better sightings of tigers, wild elephants and rhinos than Chitwan (according to tripadvisor reviews and the personal experience of our friends who went to both). Even though Bardia has less headcount for these particular animals, the sighting chance is higher, because of less visitors and smaller area of the park. And you are likely to be alone with your guide when you see them, not sharing 10 elephants with 40 tourists surrounding one poor animal...
Few people visit it cuz of remoteness: 18 hours drive by bus or 1 hr flight from KTM to Nepalgunj. (150$per person both ways).We are flying, and since Karnali rafting clients are also picked up from Nepalgunj if they choose to fly from KTM, this puts 2 excursions accomplished for 1 set of air tickets. Plus, transfer to Nepalgunj to Bardia (normally100per jeep from and back to the airport)is only needed 1 way if rafting, since rafting ends actually in the national park and we will be dropped in Ambassa, small village next to all lodges, pickup from there to hotel/lodge is normally free. That is yet another 50$less on transfer costs.
4)Many people are told that even though Bardia is a much more exclusive experience than Chitwan, it is also much more expensive. Not necessarily! We are actually going cheaper! (Less than$50per day for us both including lodge, accommodation and tailor-cut excursions-without the elephant /croc breeding centers and cultural dancing - just the 2 of us and the guide in wildlife trekking and elephant safaris). We picked a family lodge rather than a hotel (looked on tripadvisor but I guess can be any other travel site), contacted owner directly and BARGAINED!Price went down 40%!
So if anyone has similar plans and is interested in Karnali river rafting - let us group together and make sure we are set to go! Please post here or PM me to make arrangements!