The Shey-Phoksundo National Park
Shey-phoksundo National Park, Nepal’s largest National Park, is situated in the Trans-Himalayan region of northwest Nepal. The national park was established in 1984 within an area of 3,555 square kilometers. In 1998, an additional 1349 square kilometers of forests and private lands surrounding the park became the Shey-phoksundo National Park’s buffer zone. This buffer zone is jointly managed by park officials and members of the local community. Together they have initiated community development activities designed to preserve the natural resources within the buffer zone and educate the local people about the importance of wildlife conservation and the national park.
Nepal’s deepest and second largest lake, Phoksundo Lake, and its highest waterfall, which is near Phoksundo Lake’s outlet, are both located in Shey-phoksundo National Park. Many beautiful glaciers are also found near and above the lake area. Phoksundo Lake is famous for the beautiful turquoise color of its water and the spectacular landscapes that surround it. Shey-phoksundo National Park is clearly one of the most scenic mountain parks in the world. Shey-phoksundo National Park also contains a number of monasteries (known as “Gompas”) and other religious area. The most famous of these monasteries, Shey Gompa dates back to the 11th Century.
Elevations in the national park range from around 2,000 meters to nearly 7,000 meters above sea level. The park’s extreme variation in altitude results in large climatic differences and ultimately a diverse range of biotic systems. This is reflected in the extreme diversity of flora found in Shey-phoksundo National Park. Less than five percent of the park is forested, with much of the forested area lying in the southern portion of the park. This forested area contains blue pine, spruce, cedar, silver fir, hemlock, poplar, bamboo, and rhododendron. Moving north in the national park the altitude rises and the vegetation transitions to fewer rhododendron, and more caragana shrubs, Salix, Juniper, white Himalayan birch, and the occasional silver fir. Moving still farther to the upper Himalayas, flora becomes sparser and sparser until there is only barren ground.
More than 30 species of mammals, over 200 species of birds and several reptiles are found in Shey-Phoksundo National Park. The park provides prime habitat for the snow leopard and its primary prey, the blue sheep. Some of the other wildlife species that make Shey-phoksundo National Park home, include Asian leopard, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, ghoral, goral, toral, serow, jackal, wild dog, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan mouse, hare, rhesus monkey, grey langur, Tibetan partridge, yellow-throated marten, wood snip, blood pheasant, white-throated tit, red and yellow billed cough, raven, jungle crow, snow partridge, the Impeyan pheasant, wood accentor, and crimson-eared rosefinch, Himalayan griffon, white breasted deeper, moral pheasant, and cheer pheasant. Shey-Phoksundo National Park also has nearly 30 species of butterflies, including Paralasa nepalaica, which is the highest flying butterfly on earth. The park also contains just six reptiles.
The easiest way to reach the park is by air from Nepalgunj to the Juphal airstrip in Dolpa followed by a half day walk to the park entrance at Suligad. Local accommodations are available in Dunai, Sangta, Chhepka, and Ringmo. Campsites with rubbish pits, toilets, and shelters are available throughout the park. Trekking lodges are located in Dunai, Chhepka, and Ringmo and provide food and limited supplies. Park offices are located at Suligad, Chhepka, Palam Ringmo, and Toijem, at the headquarters in Palam there is a small visitor center. Individual trekking is permitted to trek to Ringmo or Phoksundo Lake. The Tran-Himalayan region of inner Dolpa is restricted to group trekking only, a group trekking permit is needed and can be arranged through any recognized trekking agency of Nepa