Sagarmatha National Park extends over an area of 1,148 square kilometers of the Himalayan ecological zone in Khumbu region of Nepal.
The Park includes the upper catchments areas of the Dudh koshi and Bhote koshi Rivers and is largely composed of rugged terrain and gorges of the high Himalayas, ranging from 2,845m at Monjo to the top of the world's highest peak- Sagarmatha at 8,850m above the sea level.
The famed Sherpa people, whose lives are interwoven with the teachings of Buddhism, live in the region.
The renowned Tengboche and other monasteries are common gathering places to celebrate religious festivals such as Dumje and Mane Rumdu. Tengboche, Thame, Khumjung and Pangboche are some other famous monasteries of this region.
For its superlative natural characteristics, UNESCO has enlisted SNP as a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Sagarmatha is a Nepali word derived from सगर sagar meaning "sky" and माथा matha meaning "head". Thus Sagarmatha means forehead of the sky.
In the Himalayan Mountains on the border with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, the Park lies in the upper catchment of the Dudh Koshi river, about 140 km east of Kathmandu and is centred on 27o57’55”N by 86o54’47”E.
The Park is bordered to the east by Makalu Barun National Park, Rolwaling valley of Gaurishankar Conservation Area to the west, Qomolangma National Nature Preserve to the north and Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone to the south.
The Buffer Zone was declared on 1st January 2002 covering an area of 275 km2 including the settlements inside the park. In 23rd September 2007, Gokyo and associated lakes were designated as Wetlands of International Importance under Ramsar Convention.
The Park’s core area covers the upper headwaters of the Bhote Koshi, Dudh Koshi and Imja Khola rivers which fan out under the crest of the Himalaya Mountains on the Tibetan border and meet near the area’s main settlement, Namche Bazar.
The buffer area reaches down the Dudh Koshi valley to Lukla 18 km south of Namche. The Park is enclosed by high mountain ranges and lies over extremely rugged terrain, deeply incised valleys and glaciers culminating in Sagarmatha / Mt.Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
The catchments are ringed by 25 or more peaks over 6,000m, and seven - Baruntse, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumo Ri, Guachung Kang, Cho-Oyu, and Nangpai Gosum - over 7,000m high.
The rivers are fed by the long glaciers at the head of each valley: Nangpa Glacier on the Bhote Koshi, Ngozumpa Glacier on the Dudh Koshi, Khumbu Glacier on the Lobuje Khola and the Imja Glacier, one of eight which feed the Imja Khola under Sagarmatha.
The Ngozumpa Glacier, 20 km long, is bordered on the west by the four Gokyo lakes impounded behind its lateral moraine. All the glaciers show signs of retreat and several glacial lakes have formed in recent decades; one, Imja Dzo which started to form in the 1970s, is now 1,200 ha in area and 45m deep.
The upper valleys are U-shaped but below about 3,000m the rivers cut steep ravines through the sedimentary rocks and underlying granites. Near Namche Bazar they join the Dudh Koshi which drains eventually into the Ganges.
Except for some alluvial and colluvial deposits at lower levels, the soils are skeletal.
In comparison to other parts of Nepal, the Park has a comparatively low number of mammals, probably due in part to the geologically recent origin of the range.
Larger mammals include northern plains grey langur Semnopithecus entellus, jackal Canis aureus, grey wolf Canis lupus (but not seen since 1980), Himalayan black bear Ursus thibetanus (VU), red panda Ailurus fulgens (VU), yellow-throated marten Martes flavigula, Siberian weasel Mustela sibirica, snow leopard Panthera uncia (EN), masked palm civet Paguma larvata, sambar Rusa unicolor (VU), Himalayan musk deer Moschus leucogaster (EN), southern red muntjac Muntiacus muntjak, Sumatran serow Capricornis sumatraensis (VU), Himalayan tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus (300) and Himalayan goral Naemorhedus goral (Jefferies & Clarbrough,1986; Lovari,1990).
Results from recent surveys suggest that populations of both tahr and musk deer have increased substantially since the Park was gazetted and has led to a recovery of the snow leopard population.
Smaller mammals include web-footed water shrew Nectogale elegans, Himalayan water shrew Chimarrogale himalayica, short-tailed mole Talpa micrura, woolly hare Lepus oiostolus, bobak marmot Marmota bobak, Royle's pika Ochotona roylei , rat Rattus sp. and house mouse Mus musculus (Garratt,1981).
The Park is important for a number of high altitude breeding species, such as blood pheasant Ithaginis cruentus, robin accentor Prunella rubeculoides, whitethroated redstart Phoenicurus schisticeps, grandala Grandala coelicolor and several rosefinches.
The Park's small lakes, especially those at Gokyo, are staging points for migrants and at least 19 water bird species have been recorded including ferruginous duck Aythya nyroca, and demoiselle crane Grus virgo, also wood snipe Gallinago nemoricola (VU) (Inskipp, 1989; Scott, 1989).
Bar-headed geese Anser indicus fly over the mountain, and the yellow-billed chough Pyrrhocorax graculus has been seen as high as the South Col (7,920m) (Hunt, 1953).
A total of six amphibians and seven reptiles occur or probably occur in the park. Documentation of the invertebrate fauna is limited, though Euophrys omnisuperstes, a minute black jumping spider has been found in crevices at 6,700 metres (Wanless, 1975), and 30 butterfly species have been seen, among them the orange and silver mountain hopper Carterocephalus avanti , which is not recorded elsewhere in Nepal, and the rare red apollo Parnassius epaphus (Jefferies & Clarbrough,1986).
Six vegetation zones as described for the Nepal Himalaya by Dobremez (1975) exist in the Park:
lower subalpine above 3,000m, with forests of blue pine Pinus wallichiana, east Himalayan fir Abies spectabilis and drooping juniper Juniperus recurva;
upper subalpine above 3,600m, with birch rhododendron forest of Himalayan birch Betula utilis, Rhododendron campanulatum and R. campylocarpum;
lower alpine above the timber-line at 3,800-4,000m, with scrub of Juniperus species, Rhododendron anthopogon and R. lepidotum;
upper alpine above 4,500m, with grassland and dwarf shrubs;
sub-nival zone with cushion plants from about 5,750-6,000m. Above this conditions are arctic.
In the upper montane zone the oak Quercus semecarpifolia used to be the dominant species but former stands of this species and Abies spectabilis have been colonised by pines.
Rhododendron arboreum, R. triflorum, and Himalayan yew Taxus wallichiana are associated with pine at lower altitudes with the shrubs Pieris formosa, Cotoneaster microphyllus and R. lepidotum.
The vines Virginia creeper Parthenocissus himalayana and Clematis montana are also common. Other low altitude trees include the maple Acer campbellii and whitebeam Sorbus cuspidata. Abies spectabilis occupies medium to good sites above 3,000m and forms stands with Rhododendron campanulatum or Betula utilis.
Towards the tree line, R. campanulatum is generally dominant. Black juniper Juniperus indica occurs above 4,000m, where conditions are drier, along with dwarf rhododendrons and cotoneasters, shrubby cinquefoil Potentilla fruticosa var.rigida, Sikkim willow Salix sikkimensis and Cassiope fastigiata.
In association with these shrubs is a variety of herbs: Gentiana prolata, G. stellata, Leontopodium stracheyi , Codonopsis thalictrifolia, Thalictrum chelidonii , the lilies Lilium nepalense and Notholirion macrophyllum, Fritillaria cirrhosa and primroses, Primula denticulata, P. atrodentata, P. wollastonii and P. sikkimensis.
The shrub layer diminishes as conditions cool, and above 5,000m R. nivale is the sole rhododendron. Other dwarf shrubs in the dry valley uplands include buckthorn Hippophae tibetana, horsetail Ephedra gerardiana, black juniper and cinquefoil Potentilla fruticosa.
Associated herbs are gentians, Gentiana ornata and G. algida var.przewalskii , edelweiss Leontopodium jacotianum and Himalayan blue poppy Meconopsis horridula. Above this and up to the permanent snow line at about 5,750m, plant life is restricted to lichens, mosses, dwarf grasses, sedges and alpines such as Arenaria polytrichoides and Tanacetum gossypinum.
Tourism in the protected areas should not be limited to providing recreational opportunities for visitors and generating park revenue.
It should be an effective means to raise awareness among visitors through nature education and maximize the benefit to the local communities in eliciting public support for conservation.
Thus, the objective of tourism in park should aim at enriching visitors’ experience as well as informing them on conservation needs and their anticipated role in protecting natural and cultural heritages for the future generation too.
Tourism in the Khumbu region was started during 1950s with the opening of the area for foreigners in 1950. The Park-record on visitors shows the increasing trend of tourists visiting the Park.
The most common ways to reach Namche Bazaar from Kathmandu are:
Flight to Lukla and two days' walk
Bus to Jiri and 10 days' walk from there
Flight to Tumlingtar and 10 days' walk
Bus to Salleri and 5 days' walk
Flignt to Phaplu and 5 days' walk