Annapurna Conservation Area Project also know as (ACAP) in Nepal is a prime Nepal travel destination and a prime example of eco-tourism model working. When Nepal first opened to travel in the 1950’s, one of the major concerns was loss of natural habitat and the eventual disintegration of local culture and ways of life as tourist travel in the region made more and more impact. ACAP, has been a joint-effort project between the people of Nepal, and the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, a non-profit and independent organization set up to conserve this beautiful area. The project success is due to a system that integrates local and native communities of the area with the conservation project. It is the people’s natural urge to conserve the area they call home that has made the project such a world renowned success and a model for conservation projects worldwide.
The Annapurna Conservation Area is Nepal’s largest protected area covering 7,629 km² in the Annapurna range of the Himalayas across the Manang, Mustang, Kaski, Myagdi, and Lamjung districts. The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) operates under the guidance of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal’s leading non-profit, non-governmental environmental organisation. It is self-funded by entry user fees but receives additional support from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (USA) and the German Alpine Club. The project was set up in 1986 and has undertaken an innovative and successful approach to natural resource and tourism management in the Annapurna region. ACAP practices a multiple land use method of resource management, combining environmental protection with sustainable community development and tourism management. Income from tourism is used to integrate traditional subsistence activities into the framework of resource management and to develop small-scale conservation and alternative energy projects in order to raise the living standards of the local people.
The most popular of Nepal’s trekking areas, it is known to travelers as “the Annapurna region” this highland jewel of Nepal, is the most traveled to trekking area in Nepal. The area sees over 65,000 trekkers and visiting travelers each year, a 2001 figure, that is bound to have grown. Famous for its “Round Annapurna Trekking” the area is 7629 square kilometers in size and features elevations from as low as 790 meters to as high as Annapurna I itself, at 8091 meters.
The highlight of the area for the traveling public, is the ability to trek, beyond the Himalayas themselves, seeing all sides, and find yourself on the other side of the Annapurna range. Those wishing to travel the area, usually begin their treks from or near Pokhara (a beautiful lakeside town) as they work their way around the Annapurna range, visiting Ghandruk, Ghorepani (a Poon Hill pit stop), Tatopani (hotsprings), Jomsom (the administrative center of the Mustang district) and Muktinath (an ancient pilgrimage site). For more information on trekking and travel in the area, it may be useful to check the Pokhara trekking routes.
Jomsom, is located in what can be called the midway pitstop for most trekkers, for those that travel down from Thorang La pass (5410m) and or those traveling up through it. Some take a slight detour, from the usual trekking circuit, to see Tilicho Lake; a glacial lake at 4919 meters. Those traveling in the conservation area, will be stunned by numerous water falls, mountains, villages, flowers and view the Kali Gandaki river as it winds its way south through the deepest gorge in the world. The northern reaches of the district, bordering the Tibetan Plateau, harbor some of the most surreal landscapes in the world. Travel towards Muktinath from Jomsom along the Kali Gandaki river, presents trekkers with a vast landscape that cameras fail to capture. A mixture of open space and altitude simply consumes the senses.
Annapurna Conservation Area, is also the window to a prime Nepal travel destination known as Upper Mustang a once forbidden kingdom, the area is home to age old traditions and religion. Many inhabitants have preserved their way of life and many people to this day, live in traditional cave dwellings. Trekkers that travel through the region come in contact with some of the most diverse flora and fauna in Nepal. The Annapurna Conservation Area, is host to some 1200 unique plants, 40 orchids and 9 species of Nepal’s national flower, the rhododendron, which depending on the season and elevation, can be seen blooming along the trekking route.
Being such an established area, and trekking destination, Annapurna Conservation Area features some of the best trekking lodges and accomodations anywhere in Nepal. Suitable housing and restaurants, are available at almost all inhabited settlements along the trekking route.In order to enter the Annapurna Conservation Area, you will need a “trekking permit” issued by ACAP in either Pokhara or Kathmandu as well as a free TIMS card. Numerous checkpoints will check your permit along the way. Some that travel here, choose to fly to Jomsom and start their trek there. Those that do, are still advised to get their permit and TIMS card in one of the above locations as getting a permit in Jomsom will be much more expensive (double).
The use of firewood in the area is prohibited, so those needing fire, are required to carry sufficient kerosene, but better yet warm clothing. As almost all settlements provide great, warm and cozy accommodations, there really is no need to build fires yourself.
Annapurna Conservation Area is a protected site, which includes all plants and animals. During your travels here, should you encounter crafts for sale made from animal products or those that seem to be ancient fossils, it is best to avoid the purchase. “Take out what you brought in” and don’t leave anything behind. For those first time travelers to Nepal wishing to explore the country beyond the major metropolitan areas, the Annapurna Conservation Area is an excellent place to do it.
ACAP Fees: The Annapurna Conservation Area covers treks into the Annapurna Sanctuary and those on the Annapurna Circuit. When trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area you will be required to have the Annapurna Conservation Area Entry Permit. You will be required to show it at check points along the way.
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 200 per person
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 2000 per person
- Entrance fee not required for children under 10 years of age.
- This entry permit is valid for only one Conservation Area. Trekkers visiting both the Conservation Areas will require to obtain individual Entry Permits for each Conservation Area.
- Two passport size photographs are required while applying for each Entry Permit.
- Entry permit can be obtained from Adventure Connexion Office in Lazimpat, Kathmandu and their official website is: http://www.adventureconnexion.com
Terms and Conditions:
- This Entry Permit is valid for single entry only and is non refundable, non-transferable. The permit holder can enter the designated places within the Conservation Area.
- Person entering the Conservation area shall abide by the National park and Wildlife conservation act 2029 B.S. (1973, Nepal) and the Regulations made under this Act.
- This Entry Permit must be carried during the entire trip and should be shown if concerned personnel of the Conservation Area want to check it.
- Entry permits to Annapurna Conservation Area will only be issued from the following entry permit counters listed below. Entry Permits will not be issued from any check posts along the trekking routes of the Conservation areas. Therefore, all are requested to obtain an Entry Permit before entering the Conservation areas. However, under special circumstances, Entry Permit may be issued from the check posts along the trekking route upon a payment of 100% additional charge.