Chitwan National Park is the first step that Nepal took towards protection of the wildlife and nature at large. Located in the subtropical inner Terai lowlands of south-central Nepal, the national park covers an area of 952.63 sq. km. over the districts of Nawalparasi, Parsa, Makwanpur and Chitwan itself. The place was granted its long-due status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, and ever since its inception 11 years before that, Chitwan National Park has been getting the footfalls of the nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Wildlife at Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park shares borders with Parsa National Park in the east and Valmiki National Park of India in the south, and together they represent a 3549 sq. km. wide Tiger Conservation Project over the alluvial grasslands. The wide range of vegetation in Chitwan is home to more than 700 species of wildlife, and there are more yet to be labelled.
From reptiles like a king cobra, rock python, monitor lizards and mugger crocodiles to rare mammals like the Royal Bengal Tiger, leopards and rhinos - Chitwan has a variety of species. The numbers of some animals like the rhino and the gharial crocodiles have fluctuated over the years, but the authorities have so far successfully maintained a healthy ratio.
Other common animals include lots of sloth bears, otters, Bengal foxes, badgers, jackals, fishing cats, civets, mongooses, martens, sambars, barking and hog deer, chital, langurs, wild boars, Indian pangolins, flying squirrels, common Indian monkeys and red muntjac. Occasionally, Gaurs from the Churia hills region and wild elephants crossing Indian borders get into Chitwan as well.
A paradise for Bird Watchers
The population of avian creatures in Chitwan National Park makes it a heaven for the bird-enthusiasts. It is the home for many native, as well as rare and migratory species of birds. The grasslands of the national park are a breeding ground for birds like Bengal Florican, adjutants, grey-crowned prinia and several species of grass warbles, almost-threatened Oriental darter along with regulars like egrets, storks, kingfishers and bitterns. The globally threatened spotted eagle can be spotted here sometimes.
Among migrating species, the eastern imperial eagle and goosanders are common visitors. Parakeets, flycatchers and sunbirds are also widely spotted. Another species, which we don't usually consider while looking at birds - vultures - are protected here.
Chitwan National Park Tours & Safari
Most national parks are only open for jeep safaris, but not this one. In Chitwan National Park, you can pick and choose from many exciting and fun activities. While jeep safari is indeed there and it takes you to the Gharial Crocodile Breeding Centre at the headquarters in Kasara, that is not all that there is.
Elephant back safari is almost synonymous of Chitwan. Riding the largest mammals alive and taking a tour of the forests, as the smell of the wild surrounds you and the anticipation of a wild animal peeking out anytime, is quite inexplicable in words. However, many people are becoming conscious of animal rights and denouncing elephant rides since the animals are not treated well in many places.
The Chitwan National Park is striving towards making the forest a safe space for the big mammals. The Elephant Breeding Centre here is one of the best in Asia. When you visit the place, you will see how carefully the elephants and their calves are kept and fed in a friendly, safe environment. In another place called Sauraha, you can feed the elephants and bathe them in the water of Rapti River - a completely new and gratifying experience.
Bird-watchers can take a walk through the jungle, and hire a professional so that he can take you through the routes which are safe and have more chances of spotting birds. Another fun and exciting thing to do is take a canoe ride. A slow ride down the river stream is an experience you had not anticipated when you came here for sure, but it will leave you spellbound with the beautiful riverside scenes.
It would be really unfair to come to Chitwan National Park and not visit the village of Tharus, the original residents of this place. The village can be explored on foot or on you can go traditional and take the famous ox-cart ride. You should take a guide along to explain to you all the nuances of everyday Tharu lives, their past and present and their culture.
After being relocated, they have settled up in this village. The usual jeep safaris include the cultural program that the local Tharu people perform for the visitors. The Tharu girls and boys, in their bright and colourful traditional costumes, dance to folk music and urge you to join in their lovely beats as well.
At a distance, there is the Tharu Cultural Museum to serve the community. It houses the evolution of the Tharu people from the olden days to the present - a tale told through old and new photographs, documents, weapons, potteries and other things they have used over the years. There are handicraft shops outside, from where you can buy small souvenirs to remember the lovely trip by.
Bish Hazaari Lake
Do visit the Bish Hazari Taal or the 20 Thousand Lake while on a trip to Chitwan National Park. The place got this name because of the numerous divisions of the water body present here, and it looks like many small and big lakes, separate but clustered together. This place is mostly frequented by the veteran bird-watchers. The lake is a nesting and breeding ground for many native and migratory birds that you have never seen before.
If you are on tour to Nepal and if you are a nature-lover, Chitwan National Park should definitely be on your itinerary.