Honey hunting refers to the process of gathering honey from bee colonies in the wild. People in Nepal, especially those residing in the Hongu Valley, have been involved in this profession for several centuries. However, Nepal has become an extremely popular tourist destination in the past decade with thousands of people visiting the country from all over the world every year. This has led to a sudden burst of commercialisation which has threatened the traditional honey hunting in Nepal. Renan had a wonderful opportunity of joining the honey hunters on their trip, where he was able to capture the risks and immense skill required for this job. Honey hunting requires building up a fire at the base which produces smoke, compelling the bees to come out of their hives. In the meantime, the honey hunter clings to a rope, waiting for the perfect opportunity. Once the majority of the bees have left due to the rising smoke, the honey hunter climbs up to start collecting honey.

Renan's Story - Life of a honey hunterAsdhan Kulung, face swollen and exhausted

One of the leading honey hunters in the Hongu Valley is Maule Dhan, who is an expert at this job. Maule tries to scrape swarms of bees from the hives using his 20-foot bamboo pole, but in doing so faces the wrath and increasing number of bees who constantly sting him in his face. This stinging, however, is disastrous for the bees since once their stingers get stuck in a material, they can't get those out. As they try to move away, the stingers gradually disembowel them, and an orange tendril is pulled out of their abdomens.

Smoke making the Bees leave - Life of a honey hunterSmoke making the Bees leave, as the Honey hunter climbs the rope

After returning home, the other honey hunters slowly pull out the stingers from his swollen face; but he isn't angry or even irritated at the bees since he is aware of the fact that they are only trying to protect their babies residing in the hives.

Climbing over the bamboo rope - Life of a honey hunterClimbing over the bamboo rope a few hundred feet on the cliff

The honey hunters work extremely hard and spend the entire morning and noon collecting honey. On a good day, they can collect around 50 litres of honey, which is slightly poisonous and is not yet edible, along with fifteen pounds of beeswax.

Honey hunter precariously balanced on cliffHoney dripping, as the Honey hunter precariously balanced on cliff, while Bees stuck all over the body

Maule Dhan will be retiring soon. His assistant, 41-year-old Asdhan has been working with him for nearly 18 years. After Maule retires, naturally, it falls upon Asdhan to take the responsibility of becoming the leading honey hunter. In order to achieve this role, he needs to be blessed by Rangkemi, the forest spirit, in his dreams. However, even after working for nearly two decades, he still hasn't had that dream, which is definitely disappointing. He can still harvest honey even without having that dream ever, however, people who have done that in the past have often met with unfortunate incidents some have lost their close ones, while many people have had their houses destroyed.

Bamboo Ropes - Life of a honey hunterHoney hunters had spent the past two weeks hand weaving a new one with hundreds of long thin strips of bamboo.

Honey hunting requires extreme dedication and the ability to sustain the pain of hundreds of bee stingers, which is why very few people in Nepal nowadays choose this job. One can't help but wonder what will happen to the honey hunting scenario in Nepal, now that Maule Dhan has retired and no one is still ready to pick up his torch.

Credits: Renan Oztruk for NatGeo