How Nepal’s cliff honey hunters are risking their lives
A minor slip could mean falling hundreds of feet and sure death for hunters, who carefully navigate the steep mountains.
High up in Nepal’s mountains, groups of men risk their lives to harvest much sought-after wild honey from hives on cliffs.
Trekking hours through the steep mountains, one group led by experienced honey hunter Devi Bahadur Napali carried food, bamboo ropes, sharp bamboo sticks and other tools needed to harvest the honey.
A minor slip could mean falling hundreds of feet (dozens of metres) and sure death for the hunters, who carefully navigated the steep and narrow openings on the mountain.
Before starting to climb a steep cliff high above the Tama Koshi River, Nepali reminded the group to ensure they had enough food, water and local alcohol. They piled up grass and logs at the bottom of the cliff and lit a fire to smoke the bees out of their hives.
Nepali climbed up a ladder made from bamboo rope with a sharp bamboo stick in one hand and a basket in another – the stick to break off the hives and the basket to collect them.
Dangling in the air, he sliced off pieces of hives and caught them with the basket, then gave a signal to a teammate to use a rope tied to the basket, full of dripping hives, to lower it to the ground. Two other team members prepared to clean off all the bees and squeeze the hives to extract the honey.
Thousands of bees hovered over the men’s faces, which were protected by face nets.
Nepali’s hands were swollen badly. He was stung on his hands, feet and elsewhere on his body. He drinks the alcoholic beverage, he said, to make the pain bearable.
On this day, the group was able to harvest about 34 litres (nine gallons) of honey from the cliff colony. They will be able to sell it at a market for $25 a litre.