Chitwan National Park
Asia’s most well-preserved conservation area is the Chitwan National Park, where wildlife thrives and habitats remain intact. Only a half-hour flight away from Kathmandu, the park lies in the 'Tarai' region (plains) and is home to a range of wildlife including endangered species like the Greater One-horned rhinoceros and the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. Enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park has a particularly rich flora and fauna boasting more than 450 species of birds. Resorts within the park facilitate safaris on elephant back, boat ride or jeep drives.
Jaunty rides on elephant back, crossing rivers on dug-out canoes and catching unsuspecting wildlife in their natural habitat; these are thrills one is not likely to forget even years after the mystical holiday in Nepal. Chitwan owes its fame to Chitwan National Park, the most well-preserved conservation area in all of Asia. The park is home to a large variety of wildlife including the endangered Greater One-horned rhinoceros and the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. Chitwan, only a 30 minute flight away in southern Nepal, has a sub-tropical climate. Resorts both inside and outside the national park cater to the needs of tourists who come down for safari adventure in the jungles. Chitwan is easy to reach both by road and by air. The nearest airports are in Meghauli and Bharatpur and flights leave for these airports on a regular basis.
Chitwan National Park is the favorite destination of tourists looking for an enduring safari experience. Once this large tract of land was declared a national park, illegal settlements were halted and deforestation brought under control within its boundaries. At the same time poaching was controlled to some extent. The natural habitat of wildlife was preserved and they flourished. Major Projects were initiated to save the tiger and rhinoceros with the help of friendly nations and foreign institutions. As a result rhinos are quite commonly seen in Chitwan and occasionally the Bengal tiger can be spied well camouflaged among the tall grass. The Rapti River has been dammed to create a man-made lake called Lamital where waterfowl and many other exotic birds are found in abundance. Elephant grass that are five to six feet tall, provide excellent cover for animals.
There are resorts and lodges of varying standards that cater to the needs of tourists both inside and outside the national park. Most include elephant safaris, jungle walks, canoeing and a variety of cultural activities in their programs. Reservations can be made at the Kathmandu offices of the various resorts and lodges. Accommodations range from the luxurious to some that offer simple food and shelter. The rich culture of the indigenous Tharu people of Chitwan can be observed first hand during village walks. Tharu cultural dance are performances to the delight of tourists who sometimes join in. There’s never a dull moment in Chitwan with a choice of activities to fill your day, whether you stay two days or a week.
Wildlife and Breeding centers
Besides the rhinos and tigers there are sloth bears, wild boar, gaur (bison), 4 species of deer, 2 species of monkeys, 2 species of crocodiles, leopard, wild cats; a large variety of reptiles and over 500 species of birds. Apart from jungle safari, there are many places of interest within the park such as the Elephant Breeding Centre and Crocodile Farm where these animals have been successfully breeding in captivity.
Things to do
Jungle Safari: Jungle safari on elephant back is the highlight of a trip to Chitwan. The elephant takes visitors into the heart of the jungle clearing paths where there are none, wading through the river allowing an unmatched view of the jungle. It is a good photo opportunity as well with a view from the top. Jungle walks, jeep drives and canoe rides are the other means of seeking out the abundant bird-life and wide variety of flora and fauna in the Park. With a bit of luck, you may see the elusive Royal Bengal tiger too.
Birdwatching: The Chitwan National Park is made up of dry deciduous forest, tropical evergreen forest and riverine grasslands. The highest number of bird species (over 539) has been recorded here than in any other part of Nepal. The naturalist accompanying you will point out birds on trees that you would never have spotted on your own.
By air: Daily flights from Kathmandu to Bharatpur airfield. Chitwan is also served by Meghauli airfield. The rest of the journey is by road.
A pleasant four- hour drive is a good means of seeing more of the country and reaching Chitwan at the end of the journey. The road goes over the Mahabharat Range (2,500 m) and follows the Trishuli River most of the way. An exciting means of reaching Chitwan is by rafting down the Trishuli.