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The tiny country of Nepal is home to a large number of mammals and more than 800 species of birds. The wildlife is scattered throughout national parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas. One such region is Chitwan National Park, located in southern Terai.
In the past, the forests of Chitwan were the hunting grounds of the kings and the elite. With increase in human activity and poaching, the first half of the 20th century saw a great decline in the number of animals and their habitat. To counter the negative effects, Chitwan was declared a national park in 1973. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site protecting over 932 square kilometers of forests, grassland, and marshland.
A home to several endangered flora and fauna, Chitwan is recognized for its unique and diverse ecosystem. These dense forests of Chitwan are some of the best preserved conservation areas in Asia.
This sub-tropical national park shares its eastern border with Parsa Wildlife Reserve. Its northern borders are marked by the majestic Rapti and Narayani Rivers. The protected area has several water bodies such as rivers, lakes and pools of varying sizes. These act as sources of water for the wildlife in and around the park.
Flora and Fauna
Although small in size, Chitwan National Park is densely packed with a wide variety of animals. It is also one of the last homes of the one-horned rhino and Royal Bengal tiger. Some common animals found here are elephants, leopards, monkeys, and swamp deer. Ghadiyal crocodile, recognized by a snout, is the most common aquatic mammal. You can see them lying in the morning sun out on the river banks.
There are some animals that are shrinking in population. Yet, you can see animals like antelopes, gaurs, sloth bears, and striped hyenas. Common reptiles and mammals found in the park are lizards, pangolins, pythons, ratels. An endangered freshwater dolphin, the Gangetic Dolphin, is frequently spotted in Chitwan. However, such sightings are getting rarer due to segmentation of their natural habitat. Reptiles and amphibians commonly seen here are the marsh crocodile, cobra, pit viper and many frogs and tortoises.
Every year, this park attracts people by the thousands. Many of them are bird-watchers who return to take amazing photos of our avian friends. Common birds found here are peacocks, egrets, herons, kingfishers and woodpeckers. Some endangered birds such as the Bengal florican, giant hornbill, lesser florican, black stork, and white stork call it home. Every year, Chitwan gets some visitor birds well. Red-headed trogon, waterfowls, pintails and bareheaded geese are aplenty in the park’s rivers. Summers are for nesting migrants such as paradise flycatchers, pittas and parakeets. Winters are for traveling Siberian birds.
Outdoor activity here is akin to a thrilling experience of exploring dense sub-tropical forests. Customize your program with your operator and discover some of Nepal's best-preserved wildlife habitats.
The one activity you can't miss is going on an elephant safari, where you ride on an elephant's back accompanied by a mahout. This early-morning adventure might let you see rhinos taking a bath in group. If you are into tiger-tracking, you need to go deeper into the jungle. An easy activity, going on a safari (elephant or otherwise) lets you explore the forest in a short time.
For the ultimate jungle experience, take a walk in the dense forest for the pleasure of it. You might encounter a one-horned rhino amid old trees or their clearings. Finally, top off your exciting stay with a canoe ride in rivers teeming with mugger crocodiles.
An important place you can visit is Devghat. It is a major pilgrimage site at the confluence of Trishuli and Kali-Gandaki rivers, some distance away from Sauraha. This holy site is lined with a number of temples, shrines and ashrams. Optionally, you can spend the afternoon in the elephant and ghadiyal breeding farms and learn about their life-cycle. At the end of the day, unwind beside a huge campfire in a village of the hospitable Tharu.
The Visitor's Center at Sauraha and the museum at Kasara will help you enrich your Chitwan experience. Learn about the wonderful wildlife, people and culture of Chitwan and recount those experiences.
Nature lovers and wilderness explorers can visit Chitwan any time of the year. Make sure to check the climate charts as some days in summer can get as hot as 42 degrees. You should carry cool clothes and sunscreen. If you're visiting during this time, please bring some mosquito repellants. In late summer and monsoon, the rivers are heavily flooded, restricting some activities. In winter, you will enjoy pleasant climate where the park once again becomes livelier.
You can fly to Bharatpur and drive to Sauraha, or take the road all the way to Sauraha from Kathmandu. When you get there, stay in one of the comfortable jungle lodges, bungalows or modern hotels of your choice.
Chitwan National Park is the place for you to savour wildlife. Often called "Heart of the Jungle", Chitwan has earned its reputation for dense forests and thriving wildlife. Chitwan is indeed the best destination for experiencing an up-close view of wildlife in their natural habitat.