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Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park
Nepal Travel Destination

The Chitwan National Park is the most popular protected area in Nepal and is the oldest of Nepal’s national parks. It is located in the tropical lowlands of the Terai in the flood plains of its surrounding rivers. It is such an attractive destination for so many reasons- elephant rides, bird watching, wild animal spotting and more. If you do not make it here when you travel to Nepal, you will truly be missing out on a most unique opportunity.

Secluded by two main rivers-the Narayani and Rapti-and the Reu River, Chitwan National Park was declared a national park in 1973. It is home to over 55 species of mammals including the Bengal tiger, sloth bear, one-horned rhinoceros, Gangetic dolphin, and wild elephants. There are over 500 species of birds including peacock, woodpeckers, and floricans. More than 126 species of fish, near 150 species of butterflies, over 49 species of amphibians and reptiles call this home and over 600 plant species. Numerous swamps, lakes, Churia hills, grasslands as well as sal and riverine forests provide an ideal environment for an immense number of species; diversity found nowhere else in Asia.

This park is definately known as a bird watchers paradise. Not only is it a regular home to over 500 species of birds, but it is also the migratory destination for other birds such as the bar-headed geese, pintales and the Brahminy ducks. Just as in the Koshi Tappu wildlife reserve,some of the migrating birds fly to the park from as far as Siberia during the winter.

Besides the birds the park is home to some exotic animals like the rhesus monkey, grey langur and python along with many other types of snakes. The different deer that live on Chitwans grounds are the barking deer, sloth deer, hog deer, and the chittals.

Other than the 100+ Bengal tigers that inhabit the park, the leopard, the swamp lynx and Bengal cat are other species of the feline family that live in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park.

Land and air animals aside, there are also fresh water Gangetic dolphins living in the Narayani River as well as the endangered snouted gharial (also known as) the Gangetic crocodile. During certain seasons you can find these crocodiles along the river banks, floating in the rivers, lounging or squatting along the lake sides.

The park works tirelessly to preserve its vast variety of wildlife. The Chitwan National Park works on various research projects to better understand the ecology and behavior of the park’s many animals. There is even a Gharial Crocodile Breeding Center which has been set up in the park to establish a program of replenishing the endangered species and relocating them to their natural environment.

One of the biggest research projects in all of Asia, is to do with Nepal’s population of Bengal tigers. The King Mahendra Trust for Natural Conservation (the same fund that sponsors the Annapurna Conservation Project) together with the World Wildlife Fund helps to monitor and preserve not only the population of Nepal’s wild tigers but also the numerous other endangered species in the park.

The local tribes that lived in Chitwan before it was named a national park, are known as the Tharu Community. These people are rich in their culture and most of the time if you are staying within or outside the park, resorts offer traditional dances such as the stick dance, performed by the Tharu as part of their package.

Of course you would not feel like you were in Nepal if the park did not also have multiple religious and historical sites. There are some amazing temples and ashrams such as the Kewalani Devi Temple, Balmiki Ashram (where Sage Balmiki the creator of Ramayana had his retreat), Bhakteshwor Shiva Temple and more. Chitwan National Park is one of UNESCO’sworld natural sites.” The park is one of the ultimate world natural conservation success stories with the strictest of anti-poaching policies around the world. Because of this, Chitwan National Park is home to some 500 one-horned rhinos which thrive in the parks grass and wetlands. If not protected by the strict anti-poaching policies, the species would have long become extinct due to widespread poaching for its horn, believed to have aphrodisiac qualities. More than 100 Bengal tigers call the park home and hunt their prey in a natural dense jungle setting.

Located far from the hustle and bustle of Nepal’s metropolitan areas and away from the crowds, this remote destination offers visitors some unique ways of exploring the jungle. One of the more popular ways of doing so is on an elephant-back ride (Elephant Safari) through the tropical forests. While you are on an elephant, they can safely bring you closer to other wild animals without startling them, offering you great photo opportunities unavailable to those traveling on foot. The reason this is so special is because unlike a zoo, the animals that inhabit the park are all wild and live, hunt, and exist in their natural environment. Another popular way to view the wildlife within the park during your travels is via jeep safari. Of course there is always walking with a guide. Most of the guides are well versed on the parks wildlife and bring forth explanations of various plants medicinal qualities.

The possibilities for a personal agenda do not end there, if a resort is your preference, some of them offer guided bird watching tours for those dedicated birdwatchers as well as those novice to the “bird game” through the jungle with an explanation of which species you are seeing. You could also take a different view of the park by boat ride. Different resorts often offer boat rides down the Rapti or Narayani Rivers giving you yet another vantage point of the flora and fauna of the park. Although not offered by all resorts, some do offer the experience of a lifetime with the option of bathing with the elephants. To get to the Chitwan National Park, you have a few options. Land access is the easiest way to get into the park. There are at least 9 entrances to the park from the East West highway and the Prithvi Highway. There are also daily flights from Kathmandu to either Bharatpur or Meghauli. Another adventurous way to get into Chitwan, is by river rafting down the Trishuli for a few days, which eventually meets the Narayani river before the border of the park.

If you plan to stay in or near the park for a few days, there are many different resorts and lodges to stay at. There are numerous resorts around the park offering from the simplest of accommodations to lavish depending on budget or preference. To stay in the park really gives you the chance to sit and relax and enjoy the serenity of the jungle and rivers, while still having access to all of the amenities you would need; a cold beer and lawn chair perhaps. Booking just the resort can be expensive, so it is always best to take advantage of the discounted packages offered by some travel agencies that include a visit to Chitwan National Park as part of an over-all Nepal travel program as these agencies have repeat business report with the resorts often being able to secure significant discounts for it’s clients.

To view pre-designed Nepal travel packages, see our programs page orĀ the encyclopedia for more Nepal Travel items.