Chitwan National Park. National Park in Nepal, Asia

Chitwan National Park

National Park in Nepal, Asia

Chitwan National Park Photo © Berre Ruijsink

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Chitwan National Park

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 - Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park.
For a traveler, Nepal is synonymous with the Himalayan Mountain Range. The vast stretch of ice-capped peaks standing tall, touching the cloud, draws many visitors to this small hill nation who wish to explore these mountains. Besides the mountain, Nepal also offers some wild wonders. The Chitwan National Park is perhaps the best natural park found in Nepal. The park attracts a lot of tourists every year because of the sizable number of wild animals, especially rhinoceros and Bengal tigers which are found abundantly in this park.

History and Demographics

Chitwan National Park was established in the year 1973. The importance of the park allowed it to earn its status as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. This 932 square kilometer park is located on the south-central of Nepal, which is in the lowlands of the subtropical Terai (Wikipedia Article) zone in Chitwan district. The Narayani and Tapti River (Wikipedia Article) in the north and west both act as a natural boundary between the animals and the human habitation of this place.

Sunset
	in the Royal Chitwan National Park - Chitwan National Park
Sunset in the Royal Chitwan National Park. Photo by Jules Henze


During the end of 19th century, the forest was a common ground for the wealthier class of people as a hunting spot of their winter seasons. Nevertheless, in the year 1950, many people started living in the region, mainly because of its arable land. The resulting human settlement in the region led to severe poaching that drastically reduced the wild animal population in this territory. At one time the population of rhinos got reduced to 95 and this finally resulted in the establishment of an officially deputation of an anti-poaching squad in this land. With the progress of time and upon various efforts which has been undertaken to curb the human-animal conflict, the population of rhinos and tigers in this land has increased in the recent years and the park has also, nowadays, become one of the best regions in India and Nepal for watching rhinoceros.

Gharial - Chitwan National
	Park
Gharial - Chitwan National Park. Photo by Graham Canny

Features of the Park

With a vast diversity in the ecosystems, Chitwan National Park is an absolute splendor. You will find the flood plains of Narayani, Reu, and Tapti rivers, as well as the Churia Hills with its ox-bow lake, while you visit this land. For nature lovers, you will also get to see lots of different varieties of flora and fauna, as Chitwan has a variation of both tropical and sub-tropical zonal differences within its territories.

The Sal tree covers around 70% of the area of this wild track while 20% is covered by the grasslands. There are fifty different types of grasses, including the tall elephant grass which grows in this region. As of now, the park is the home to 50 species of mammals, 55 amphibians, and around 525 different varieties of birds. There are even some endangered fauna in this park and the conservation team are doing their best to increase reproduction rates of the endangered animals within this area.

Elephant ride through Chitwan National
	Park - Chitwan National Park
Elephant ride through Chitwan National Park - Chitwan National Park. Photo by Matt Werner

Sightseeing in the Park

Sauraha is the main tourist spot near the park. Most of the hotels and restaurants are located here and day trips are also organized in the protected area of the forest.
Chitwan National Park is an important tourist zone as many travelers visit the area with hopes of catching a glimpse of rhinoceros and the famous Bengal tigers, which roam freely in this protected area. The visitor center of Sauraha provides detailed information about the wildlife and the conversation of this forest. There are even some local handicraft stalls inside this park, from where you can buy souvenirs. These handicrafts are made by the local women and the idea to setup the stall is to enable awareness and promote their ethnic hard-works to the outside world. \

In order to explore the park, you can try the elephant safari. The safari is conducted by the forest department and they take you inside the deep forest for which there is a high possibility of catching a glimpse of the one-horned rhino or the elusive, yet highly dangerous, tiger roaming in the wild.
Alternatively, you can take a car ride inside the forest, but you cannot explore deep within these terrains.
Be sure to visit the elephant breeding center at Khorshor, as the officials offer interesting insights on the nature and breeding of domestic elephants. It is located near the Bhude Rapti River and is around three kilometers to the west of Sauraha.

At Khasara, there is a museum that showcases various information regarding the wild habitat and valuable findings from the forest.
Near the park is also a Hindu temple named ‘Bikram Baba’ Temple. It is said that the shrine has historical significance and the local people often pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva, once they visit this sacred place.
Also, you can take a walk of around one kilometer from the head office of this park to reach the breeding center of Gharial (fish eating crocodile).
If you have an inclination towards ornithology, you can check out the Bird Education Society located here. The society is run by volunteers from the local region and they offer deep insight on the nature of birds found in this park. The society also maintains a library and offers tolerably standard binoculars for rent.
Every Saturday, this society of bird lovers, organize a bird-watching tour from 7 AM – 11 AM.
Once you reach this place,you can also plan a canoe trip in the Rapti River. The canoes are run by the local people and the fee for a ride is approved by the forest authorities.

The months of October, November, February, and March are the best time to take a boat ride in this river, as you will encounter a wide variety of migratory birds on your heart rendering aquatic trip.

Chitwan
	National Park - Nepal - Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park - Nepal - Chitwan National Park. Photo by Rob

Where to stay

Inside the park, there are seven tourist lodges run by the government concessionaires. These lodges offer all sorts of amenities required for living and they also provide dining facilities. Adjacent to the park, there are some budget hotels, which also offers good service and dining facilities to the tourists.
The recommended neighboring hotels in this area are Hotel Parkland, Chitwan Paradise Hotel, Chitwan Safari Camp & Lodge, Hotel Jungle Vista, Rhino Lodge & Hotel, Hotel Seven Star, Hotel River Side, and others.

Festivals

If you end up visiting the park in December, you can reach a quaint village named Meghauli, where they organize elephant polo competition. Meghauli is located around 16 miles from Narayangarh (Wikipedia Article).
In order to promote the park and increase awareness about the its localities known as the Tharu people (Wikipedia Article), most of tourist lodges organize cultural festivals in this area. The show hosts traditional Tharu dance and songs and it is, indeed, a spectacle to watch these events.

Best time to visit

Chitwan National Park can be visited any time of the year. During the seasons of March till June, the temperature rises over here, thereby making the gateway to the monsoon season. During the monsoon, from June till September, the forest turns lush green and the rise of water level offer a splendid view of its dense vegetation.
From October till February, the weather remains cooler and flowers bloom during late winter in this park, which makes the forest look most colorful. In the months of September till November or from February till April, if you happen to visit here, you will find a large concentration of migratory birds in this locality.

Chitwan
	National Park, Nepal - Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park, Nepal - Chitwan National Park. Photo by Gustaw Jot

How to reach Chitwan National Park

Air

To reach the national park, you first need to reach Kathmandu and then take a flight to Bharatpur. From Bharatpur, you need to hire a taxi to reach this park area. During the major tourist season, Nepal’s domestic airline,‘Yeti’, organizes direct flight to reach Meghauli. However, be sure to organize your pick-up from Megahuli as there is no such conveyance to reach the Sauraha area, if you have decided upon your trip in a hurry.

Bus

One of the easiest options to reach Chitwan National Park is via tourist bus from Kathmandu or Pokhara. The bus to Chitwan leaves at 7 AM from Kantipath, near Thamel, in Kathmandu and the Mustang bus stand in Pokahra. The bus will take you to a place named Chitrasali, which is around five kilometers from Sauraha. From Chitrasali, you need to avail of another conveyance like SUVs and local jeeps to reach the national park zone.
Another option for traveling to this place is to avail of the Greenline A/C bus to reach Chitrasali. They operate from Kathmandu and Pokhara and usually depart at 7:30 AM. From Chitrasali, the bus leaves at 8 AM and travels back to their departure cities

Car

Some travel agents offer car services to Chitrasali and it takes around five hours from Pokhara and Kathmandu to reach this wild land.

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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Jan 24, 2015

Pictures of Chitwan National Park

Elephant ride through Chitwan National Park - Chitwan National Park
Elephant ride through Chitwan National Park - Photo by Matt Werner

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