Royal Chitwan National Park, in Nepal, is a huge
and beautiful nature reserve protecting 932 sq km of sal forest, water marshes
and rippling grassland. It is one of the last refuges of the endangered
one-horned Indian rhino and there are sizeable populations of tigers, leopards
and rare Gangetic dolphins.
By far the easiest way to visit the park is on a tour,
but this is the most expensive option. To save money stay at the nearby
town of Sauraha. A small but lively
tourist centre has grown up along the river bank about 6km south of Sauraha
Chowk, with hotels, restaurants, bars, money changers, travel agents, Internet
cafes and anything else you might need.
When to visit
October to February are the best times to visit Royal
Chitwan National Park – the skies are clear the average daily temperature is 25
degrees Celsius. Always bring plenty of insect repellent as mosquitoes are
an inescapable part of jungle life, and malaria is present in some parts of the
Inside the park
Chitwan boasts more than 50 different species of mammals,
including monkeys, tigers, leopards, sloth bears, wild boar, hyenas, deer,
elephants and rhinos. There are more than 450 different species of birds,
and some 67 species of butterfly, some as large as your hand.
The park is most famous for the gaida,
the one horned Indian rhinoceros. Despite poaching you stand a good chance
of seeing one on elephant safari.
The park also significant populations of tigers,
crocodiles and Gangetic dolphins (rare, blind, fresh water dolphins).
If you are intent on seeing the animals at the park, give
yourself time for several safaris, as there is no guarantee you will see all of
the wildlife. Two whole days is really the minimum for a complete
experience inside the park. Beware that 3 and 4 day safaris often have a
full day of traveling included at either end of the trip, so check what you are
The Maoists problems in Nepal have led to huge drops in
visitors numbers to the park. This has helped the wildlife, but poaching
has increased, and several smaller resorts have closed.
Outside the park
Careless development has undermined some of the safari
atmosphere at Sauraha, but the setting is impressive – perched beside a wide,
slow-flowing river with a wall of dense jungle looming on the far bank.
There is a massive range of activities on offer here,
probably more than at the big expensive lodges in the park.
Elephant Breeding Centre
About 3km west of Sauraha on the far side of the small
Bhude Rapti River, this interesting breeding centre supplies most of the
elephants for elephant safaris at Chitwan.