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Chitwan National Park Overview

Chitwan National Park Overview

 

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Chitwan National Park is one of the premier sites to visit in Nepal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is 359.8 square miles. It has forests, marshlands, grasslands, and abundant wild animals. Chitwan National Park is one of the best parks in Asia for seeing endangered animals. It has single-horned rhinoceroses, Asian elephants, gharial crocodiles, monkeys, deer, leopards, sloth bears, Bengal tigers, 544 species of birds, and many others.

In this blog post you will learn about Chitwan’s location and climate, the history of Chitwan, animals in Chitwan, cost to visit Chitwan, and the best time to visit.   I hope this article provides the information you are looking for as well as enjoyment from reading the content. If you have any questions, please contact me or post your question(s) in the comment section.

You can also read my captains log eteries of day 1 and day 2 of my Chitwan Jungle Safari.

Chitwan’s location and climate

peacock and fence
peacock and fence

Chitwan National Park is in the inner Terai lowland in the southern central region of Nepal.  It is 65.8 miles south west of Kathmandu, and 119.3 miles south east of Pokhara.

The Terai is classified as a humid, subtropical climate with an average yearly rainfall of 87.2 inches.  Over 80% of the rainfall occurs within the monsoon season from June through September.  The average high temperature of the area is 87.44o F, while the average low is 61.39o F. You can find a weather graph here.

History of Chitwan

Royal Chitwan National Park was established in 1973. Before that, in the 18th century, the Terai was segregated into small kingdoms in harmony with the jungle.  After the unification of Nepal in 1800 A.D. In the 1920’s jungle areas were cleared for agricultural production and the forest products were sold to India.

By 1955, malaria was removed from the Terai using DDT and other insecticides.  This paved the way for tourism and the development of the park.  The King of Nepal had an advisor that told him he could make more money in tourism than in forest products, so the king stopped the forest clearing, declared Chitwan a national park, and then opened it to the public.

Animals in Chitwan

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Chitwan park is home to 68 species of mammals, 56 species of reptiles, 544 spices of birds, and 126 species of fish. Among the threatened and endangered animals are the Bengal tiger, 1 horned rhinoceros, giant hornbill, gharial crocodile, and the south Asian river dolphin.

Elephant love
Elephant love

Despite their threatened or endangered status some of these animals are quite common in the park! The most commonly encountered animals in the park are alligators, gharial crocodiles, elephants, 1-horned rhinos, deer, monkeys, and birds of various species, which includes the wild chicken.

Alligator in Rapti River
Alligator in Rapti River

Cost to visit Chitwan

The entrance fee into the park is $7.50 with an added $0.98 as a tax.  This fee does not include the any services such as jeep/ elephant safari, elephant sanctuary admission, boat ride, guided hike, or elephant bathing. These services can be purchased individually at a premium, but in a package, they are cheaper.

Package jungle tours come in a variety of classes. The prices range from $150 to $1,3335. In general, you get what you pay for.  Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure offers an excellent tour package that includes food, accommodation, and all available jungle activities for $1,090. Mention this article and receive 10% off the purchase price.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the park for comfortable weather is in the winter, November through January. The best time to visit the park for animals is in the spring season, April and May, which is also the best time to see Bengal tigers.

The park is closed to tourists during the monsoon season from July through September.  During this time, you can book trips to the buffer zone which has a lot of the same amenities as the park.

 

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Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari Day 2

Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari Day 2

Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park

Day 2 of the jungle safari tour is when the real adventure begins.  I’m talking elephant rides, jungle safari, endangered animals, a canoe trip, hiking through the jungle, and a visit to the elephant sanctuary.  This trip captured my attention and gave me memories that I still fondly look back on.  I’m grinning as I wright this blog post. You can read about day 1 by following the link.

Elephant ride and jungle safari

Elephants lining up for tours
Elephants lining up for tours

We woke up at 6:00 and took a jeep to the entrance of the Chitwan National Park.  There was a line of about a dozen elephants waiting for people to ride them.  I was too excited to realize that the elephant drivers and keepers do not treat their animals well, but more on that later.  We climbed up on our designated elephant and waited for more people to arrive.

Elephant love
Elephant love

Our elephant was a sweetheart. I immediately fell in love. I doubt the feeling was reciprocated though, because its hard to love a monkey on your back.

Elephant jungle safari
Elephant jungle safari

We set out into the jungle after a few minutes. Everything was new and thrilling. The elephant swayed left to right as she walked.  Wild chickens and pheasants ran across the trail with each snap of a twig. People were whispering,
“look at that.”

Rhinoceroses in Chitwan National Park
Rhinoceroses in Chitwan National Park

It was like participating in a drama where you keep anticipating some wild jungle animal to come out of the bushes.  We were, of course, safe from unknown beasts on the back of the elephant.  It was still exhilarating and fun spotting chital grazing in an open area of the jungle or alligators and gharials bathing in the sun on the banks of the Rapti river.

Bird on the bank
Bird on the bank

I saw all types of birds and plants, and even a few monkeys.  The highlight of the jungle safari was seeing 2 rhinoceroses grazing on a burnt patch of grassland.  We came within 20 feet of the rhinos, who didn’t seem the least bit concerned by our presence.  One of them even laid down and fell asleep.

Parrot in a tree
Parrot in a tree

Canoe trip down the Rapti river

Bird on Rapti river
Bird on Rapti river

We finished the elephant ride and jungle safari at the bank of the Rapti river.  A dug-out canoe was waiting for us in alligator and crocodile infested water.  I questioned the “sea worthiness” of the vessel but decided to throw caution into the winds and let the sails catch us on our maiden voyage.

Alligator in Rapti River
Alligator in Rapti River

I jumped into the canoe and immediately regretted it when an alligator on the opposing bank darted into the water.

I thought “that’s it. We’re done for!”

Deer in Chitwan
Deer in Chitwan

Fortunately, the canoe didn’t tip, and we remained safe as we paddled down the river.  We saw all sorts of amazing birds as they hunted for fish along the river. We also saw a lot of deer, some elephants, and lots and lots of alligators and crocodiles.

The canoe trip was a lot of fun.  It stopped on the bank about 2 hours after it started.  Everyone got off and we started hiking through the jungle to the elephant sanctuary.

Jungle hike

I was excited and a little terrified of the jungle hike because tigers eat people. The hike was a lot of fun though.  We saw some more rhinoceroses, signs of sloth bears and huge termite mounds.

We hiked for about 45 minutes with each turn of the trail just as suspenseful as the one before it.  Be careful if you go, because there are leaches on the plants near the trail.  They are more of a problem in the rainy season, but they are there in December too.

We hiked a little further then suddenly, the jungle disappeared, and we were in a grass land prairie. The elephant sanctuary was a quarter mile from the edge of the jungle.

Elephant sanctuary

Elephant sanctuary
Elephant sanctuary

We walked in the “sanctuary” expecting a preserve for happy elephants, but instead we found an elephant prison.  It was pretty much a zoo minus the other animals.  The elephants had chains around their legs to keep them in their pen.

Elephant sanctuary
Wild elephant at the elephant sanctuary

The sanctuary’s intentions are good, to keep poachers from killing the elephants. However, they also use the elephants as taxis.

After seeing this, I started to reflect on the jungle safari. I realized how unpleasant the elephant drivers were to their elephants.

I do not recommend the elephant jungle safari and visiting the sanctuary for these reasons.

Concluding the trip

After we visited the elephant sanctuary we went to the Rapti river and watched the elephants bathe and be washed by travelers.  The elephants and the travelers both looked happy.  I highly recommend this practice.

The next day we left Chitwan a little smarter and as more experienced travelers. I recommend Chitwan National Park to everybody, but be mindful of how they treat their animals.

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Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari Day 1

Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari

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Chitwan National Park is amazing!  I thoroughly enjoyed my 2-day tour of the park and Chitwan village.  Some of the highlights were a Tharu cultural dance show, a walk to Rapti River, elephant ride jungle safari, Rapti River canoe trip, hiking through the jungle, and a visit to the elephant sanctuary.

If you would like to visit Chitwan National Park you can book your trip through and number of travel companies in Nepal or Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure, which has an Office in California and Nepal. 2 for the price of 1! All joking aside, mention this article and receive a 10% discount on your Chitwan National Park Jungle Safari tour.

Day 1 Visiting Chitwan

My friends and I were on vacation from our jobs with the Peace Corps. We were all hanging out in Pokhara, when I got the idea to visit Chitwan.  I contacted Ganga who booked my trip for me.  The next day I told my friends I was going to Chitwan in a couple of days, and they insisted on coming with me.

It was me, Saline, Sacha, and Stephanie.  It was an oblong dynamic to say the least.  I could never remember Saline’s name until I associated it with salt, which is unusual because her personality was more creamy than salty. Saline and Sacha were best friends, and Stephanie was my former girlfriends best friend.

How we all ended up in Chitwan together, I have no idea.  But there we were, 2 days later, on a tourist bus from Pokhara to Chitwan.

We traveled for 4.5 hours before arriving to Chitwan.  The trip was entertaining because I enjoyed seeing the country side.  You can see a lot of Nepal by taking the bus to different locations.

Chitwan

Elephants in stable
Elephants in a stable

We were picked up by our travel company when we arrived in Chitwan.  It was a very easy process because everything was arranged for us. They drove us to our hotel, which was beautiful, and we checked into our rooms.

I went out exploring because why stay in a room when an adventure awaits outside the door.  I discovered an elephant stable in the back of the hotel. You couldn’t imagine how happy I was and the amount of discipline that kept me out of it.  Honestly it was also partly fear of being stepped on.  Those are some huge animals.

Next, I walked down the main road, which doesn’t have much in terms of tourists’ interests. I remember being extremely unhappy about the result of my adventure.  The result was me back in my hotel room playing cards with the girls.  I laugh about it now.

Hike to the Rapti River

Alligator in Rapti River
Alligator in Rapti River

Our guide knocked on the door and asked us if we wanted to go down to the lake and watch the sunset over the Rapti River.

The road from the hotel leads directly to the river, but we took a side trail and hiked to it.  We didn’t see much of nature, because it was December.  When we arrived at the river, we saw a heard of elephants, some wild boar, and a lot of alligators and crocodiles.

The sun set over the jungle and it reminded me of a mirage in the Serengeti desert.  It looked a like this Picture from Wikipedia.

Tharu Cultural Dance Show

Finally, we concluded our day by going to the Tharu Cultural Dance Show.  The dance show was housed in a hall in Sauraha, Meghauli, which is right near the river.

The program was developed to introduce Tharu culture and tradition to tourists.  We saw dances like Danda Nach (Stick Dance), Aglo Nach (Fire Dance), and Mayur Nach (Peacock Dance).  The host talks about the dance, when it is performed, and why it is performed before each performance.  The show lasts 45 minutes and is a treat to watch.

YouTube video