The Queen and Prince Philip have twice visited Nepal. First was the infamous tiger hunt of 1961 hosted by King Mahendra, saluted by 376 domestic elephants, catered by Boris Lissanevitch and immortalised in the book Tiger for Breakfast.
Our Tiger Tops Meghauli grass airstrip was carved out of the thick jungle, ‘coolies’ cleared insects from the royal camp and allegedly tipped buckets of water into the cistrn when the chain was pulled in the hastily constructed royal loo.
But the 1961 trip can be said to have signalled the early beginnings of Nepal’s tiger conservation story. The Duke of Edinburgh, the first president of WWF, refused to hunt in order to highlight the need for conservation, pleading a diplomatically bandaged trigger finger — little comfort to the Chitwan tigers and rhino that were shot by others in the party that day.
During the second state visit 25 years later in early 1986, I and others had the chance to shake her hand in the garden of the British Embassy in Kathmandu. The emphasis was on development, diplomacy and the decades of service by the British Gurkha, with moving meetings with highly decorated veteran heroes of the ranks.
The Duke of Edinburgh broke away from the main program to revisit his old hunting ground, gratifyingly now protected as Royal Chitwan National Park and South Asia’s first natural World Heritage Site. Binoculared and safari-suited, he spent a peaceful day in the Tarai jungles with then-Prince Gyanendra and joined us at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge for lunch.