Nepal

Boating

Introduction

Nepal provides some fine opportunities for boating. These range from the glacier-fed lakes up North and down to where the laden rivers ease into the plains of the Terai. Pokhara's Phewa Lake is the most popular destination for travelers wanting to indulge in recreational boating. It is the second largest lake in the kingdom and measures roughly 1.5 by 4 km. Its eastern shore, also known as Lakeside or Baidam, is the center of tourist activity in Pokhara.

Begnas and Rupa Tal are located 15 km out of Pokhara at the end of a road that turns off the Kathmandu highway. Both these lakes offer some splendid boating opportunities. Phewa, Begnas and Rupa Lakes were all part of the body of water that once filled the Pokhara valley. While Phewa is always bustling with the tourism-created Lakeside area, Begnas and Rupa have remained largely pristine. These lakes are divided by a forested hillock called Panchabhaiya Danda and the lakes offer a perfect nature retreat because of their seclusion.

Rowing around

Renting a boat for a couple of hours and heading out to the middle or the other side of the lake bordering the forested hill, and taking a swim, can be the highlight of a warm day. The water is cleaner out far from the buffalo and washing on the edge. Boats can also be had for the whole day, or on an hourly basis. You can either row around yourself or hire a boatman, the former being definitely a better option.

At Phewa, tourists have a choice of pedal-driven boats (which are basically fashioned out of two regular rowboats joined together by placing planks over them and providing space in the middle where the pedals are located), rowboats and sailboats. The latter are a recent development but definitely worth the money when there is a good breeze around. There is also a choice between fiber body sailboats and wooden ones.

Boating in the Pokhara valley is fun throughout the year, except during the monsoon months. However, the best time is in the winter months between October and February, when the skies are clear and the mountains cast their shadows on the lake's tranquil waters.

Down in the Terai, one can also go canoeing on the Narayani or Rapti rivers near Chitwan Royal National Park. Canoes can be had on an hourly basis and the trip is definitely rewarding in terms of both the pleasurable boat ride as well as the wildlife that one encounters - gharials, muggers, waterbirds and the occasional mammal. Remember not to be too adventurous and stick your hand in the water! With a bit of luck you might even catch a glimpse of the Genetic dolphin, although sightings are as rare as seeing a tiger!

Access, Accommodation and other

Pokhara is situated 200 km west of Kathmandu and is accessible both by air and road. The flight takes you alongside the Himalayan ranges to the north and the forested Mahabharata range to the south, while the road journey follows the snaking Trisuli river and offers a glimpse into life in Nepal's midland hill settlements.

There are local buses out of Pokhara to Begnas bazaar, a small market center at the end of the ridge that divides the two lakes. From the bazaar it is a short, pleasant stroll to either lake. Begnas has no lodges or hotels and so it is better to stay at Pokhara and make a day trip here.

Canoeing on the Narayani and Rapti rivers can be done out of Chitwan national park, which is located 160-180 km from Kathmandu. It is best advised to take a licensed forest guide along on your boating trip - it'll prove a worthwhile canoe safari!

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