The Gurung tribespeople of Nepal have been doing honey hunting from Himalayan cliffs for centuries, but now their lifestyle is under threat from commercialization and tours offering visitors a chance to ‘join a honey hunt’.
Honey hunting is an age-old tradition here in Nepal. Local honey hunters show their exceptional skill by hanging themselves from cliffs as high as 300 meters using bamboo ladders and hemp ropes while harvesting the honeycombs. You can enjoy the spectacular honey hunting views on the steep bee cliffs to experience the tradition and culture of the local people.
Honey hunting is culturally significant and has been in practice for centuries in Nepal. Earlier, it was undertaken twice a year during the festivities of Udhauli and Ubhauli. Indigenous Himalayan folks have been practicing this art in a bid to extract the purest form of honey. While a tradition, Honey hunting is also done for the medicinal values of honey.
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Honey hunting trip
Honey hunting trip has acquired a status of adventure sports activity owing to its rising popularity. A gritty and daring challenge, it’s only some time before people start venturing to test their capabilities, dangling a few hundred feet above the ground on a cliff amidst a swarm of honey bees to cut through hives of honeycomb.
Consumption of honey supports metabolism and helps improve immunity. Effects of honey help maintain body temperature which is significant if you are a Himalayan native. No wonder these natives risk their lives for this edible molten gold. Also believed is that honey obtained from the hives of those wild bees has a peculiar hallucinating characteristic, which, recently, has attracted those seeking natural highs.
Naturally, honey is harvested at different locales but honey hunting is carried out in the remote hillside, by the Himalayas.
Hunt for honey is carried out in different locations. The two major locales, however, are Lamjung and Hinku Valley. In Lamjung, natives of Marsayangdi organize scheduled honey hunting twice a year at Chopli cliff. This region is North West of Kathmandu City. A 6-hour bus ride along Prithvi Highway will take you to Lamjung via Besisahar. A pristine landscape accompanied by Trishuli and Marsayangdi River makes up a majestic ride.
The other popular Honey hunting is carried out in Hinku Valley. This valley, northeast of Kathmandu, lies in the Khumbu region which is famous for trekking and mountaineering activities. A flight from Kathmandu to Lukla and a hike along the Everest trail will take you to this famous site, also famous for the scaling of Mount Kusum Khangkaru (6367m).
With a village full of hospitable locals, enjoy your stay and expect to observe daring ventures of men who take on this hunting with vigor.
Honey hunting Practices
Honey hunting practices in Lamjung and Hinku valley may have some different rituals. Gurung community and locals organize this event and take the lead on formalities plus rituals leading up to the hunt.
It all starts with a blessing to the participants and elders to take a lead early in the morning. With a customary reverence of cliff gods and deities, the hunting party along with the visiting group embarks on a hunting trip. First up, the cliff! The hunting party takes up a trail to the summit. The visiting group finds a spot beneath the cliff with a bird’s eye view of bee-hives that will be a battleground in some time.
Before a hunt can commence the honey hunters are required to perform a ceremony to placate the cliff gods. This involves sacrificing a sheep, offering flowers, fruits and rice, and praying to the cliff gods to ensure a safe hunt.
The hunting party readies its weapon, essentially a blade tide at one end of a long bamboo stick. This is used to take down the hive and collect honeycomb. A second bamboo stick is used to center a basket below the honeycomb in order for that to fall directly onto the basket. A team lowers a custom-made ladder off the top of the cliff as a brave hunter climbs down this ladder until eye-to-eye with the bees. He then carefully places a packet of smoke (generally a bunch of leaves set on fire) to subdue the bees. Cutting through the hive as bees are distracted by the smoke, the hunter carefully accomplishes his mission.
Finally, the collected honeycombs drop onto a basket hanging from a rope which is then lowered down to the collectors watching this event from the bottom of the cliff.
Arriving with fresh-off-the-cliff honeycombs, overall, is an overwhelming feeling. Having witnessed a courageous act, the honey out of collected honeycombs is purest. Best in the World, no doubt! It is so pure that it is believed to hallucinate people when consumed above the average amount. A few sips can make you drowsy. The honeycomb itself is a delicacy and locals fight to have a bite.
Honey hunting in Lamjung and Hinku valley is more than what meets the eye. While the harvested honey is also available at prices set by the locals themselves, a honey hunting trip in Nepal has become a tourist attraction and a source of revenue owing to visits by enthusiasts from across the globe. Let’s face it, nothing can be as challenging as fighting a swarm of bees, dangling off a cliff face, balancing onto a skeptical rope ladder while making sure the collection of honeycomb doesn’t fall off.
Best season for Honey Hunting
The best season for honey hunting is Autumn September to November) and Spring(March to May). The weather is perfect this season. The sunny days are outstanding for mountain view also.