Chitwan National Park
Famously known for being Nepal’s first National Park, established in 1973 and jumping on board the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1984, Chitwan National Park is one of the few remaining undisturbed vestiges of the subtropical Terai region in south central Nepal.
This park is slightly smaller than neighbouring and much more remote Bardia National Park, but still covers an area of 952 square kilometres and extends over four districts: Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Parsa and Makwanpur. It’s vast landscape, dense jungle, grassy plains and rich flora build up the home of 68 species of animals from sloth bears to smooth-coated otters inhabiting the rivulet creeks, to the mighty king of the jungle, the Bengal Tiger. It is however, easier to find tigers in Bardia because there are less watering holes, funnelling them to a few known spots.
When visiting Chitwan National Park we recommend staying at the nearby Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge, and for the most authentic wildlife experience, team up with local and highly skilled naturalists who will carefully take you off the beaten track on open Jeeps, boat safaris or on foot following the elephant’s footsteps for a truly unforgettable experience. Home to over 540 species of birds, including the globally threatened spotted eagle and endangered Bengal florican, Chitwan is a true birder’s paradise. Picking out the individual bird calls with your tracker is akin to deciphering the soundtrack of the forest. From the end of October - May is the best time to visit Chitwan for the birds because the jungle benefits from having both the sedentary species and the migratory species before they head to Siberia for the summer months.
Chitwan is well renowned for its habitable protection of the rare one-horned rhinoceros and if staying at Tiger Tops guests can walk out into the jungle, flanked by three of the resident elephants, allowing extraordinarily close encounters with these immensely secretive mammals. Tharu Lodge has also pioneered a community grassland project run by D.B. the manager, which designates tracks of land for locals to harvest once a year. Not only does this enhance the relationship between the locals and the jungle, it vastly improves land used by jungle herbivores (rhinos, amongst others) and thus sightings of them.
The northern Narayani and Rapti rivers merge with the southern Reu River which looms from the Nepal-India international border, gently carving through the bountiful vegetation to meet with the colossal and striking Himalayan backdrop, making the park’s ever changing views something of exceptional natural beauty. A protected ecological system and healthy climate is what keeps this landscape breathing; located in the central climatic zone of the Himalayas, monsoon season hits around mid-June with 2,500 millimetres of its yearly precipitation fall, which eases off in late September. Come October, once the monsoon clouds have given the vegetation a new lease of life, the humidity drops and the daily temperature settles to average and comfortable 25 degrees Celsius – perfect to relish and explore Chitwan’s exquisite wilderness in its full glory. Ampersands’ favourite month to visit Nepal is April. It has similar weather to October, if a little warmer, and the animal sightings are fantastic, particularly of rhino as the grasslands have been harvested, providing large open clearings.
Chitwan is a must on any Nepal itinerary. Easily accessible from Kathmandu and Pokhara means that it is much more commercialised than its remote cousin, Bardia. However, if staying at Tharu Lodge, the experiences on offer trump everything and the exceptional guides know exactly where to take you to avoid seeing any other safari goers.
Features in the following itineraries
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Anonymous, India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India