Chitwan National Park
The Chitwan National Park lies south-west of Kathmandu close to the Indian frontier and is included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites. Protected within the park are remnants of the jungle which once covered the Indian sub-continent from the Indus in Pakistan to the Burmese border. Chitwan is located in the Rapti Valley, largest of the flat "dun" valleys of the inner Tarai separating the Siwalik hills in the south from the mountains of the Mahabharat chain to the north.
The abundant wildlife in Chitwan National Park includes 50 mammal species, 400 types of birds, a large reptile population, and 67 different species of butterfly. Rhinos are one of the main attractions.
Animal Watching from Hides
In addition to safaris on foot and elephant back, hides offer animal watchers another way of pursuing their passion. Known as machans these wooden towers are usually erected in clearings crossed by game paths. Dawn and dusk are the best times for observing red deer and rhinos. Big cats, on the other hand, are seldom seen (ask the game warden whether a night vigil is likely to bring any reward). Until a few years ago it was possible to watch these magnificent creatures from the safety of an observation post at the "Tiger Tops" resort, food being put out every night to lure them into the glare of floodlights. This irresponsible practice, wholly inappropriate for a reserve, led to the tigers becoming spoilt by feeding. Losing the knack of hunting more fleet-footed animals, they came to rely on easier prey such as grazing cows and goats, increasing the likelihood of attacks on human beings. The possibly fatal effects of feeding were eventually realized and the practice was stopped. As a result it is now difficult to catch a glimpse of a tiger. Even so, a night spent in a machan surrounded by the noises of the jungle can still be a uniquely worthwhile experience.
Elephant rides are one of Chitwan's major attractions. Wild boar, red deer and other creatures of the jungle can be observed, in the morning and evening especially, from the back of one of these agreeable pachyderms. It has the further advantage that rhinos can be approached without danger. Quite apart from the animals, the lush vegetation and jungle chorus - a cacophony of different sounds depending on the time of day - make such a ride an unforgettable experience. It is also of course a marvelous opportunity to learn about elephants.A number of Chitwan's resorts have special programs for visitors keen to know more about elephants. Another option is a visit to the Elephant Breeding Center 4 km (21/2 mi.) from Sauruha.
Traditional Tharu dancing is a popular evening entertainment at Chitwan's resorts. The Tharu first became known for their immunity to malaria, which allowed them to settle in the malaria breeding-grounds of the Tarai. Villages where old Tharu customs still survive are found in the vicinity of the National Park. Elsewhere in the Tarai these traditions have largely disappeared, the result of mixing with migrants from the mountains. Performed by groups of young men Tharu stick dancing combines strength, rhythm, skill and grace. Members of the audience are sometimes invited to join in. The dances and traditional costumes provide an intriguing glimpse of Tharu culture.
Canoeing on Chitwan's rivers is an excellent way of observing waterfowl. The park's freshwater dolphins and crocodiles, however, are seldom seen. The high temperatures experienced in the park make bathing in the river an attractive proposition; water-holes are also very tempting for a swim. Watching the elephants showering is a particular treat. A full-grown elephant can suck up about 9 liters of water with his trunk and will spray himself - and, sometimes, out of sheer devilment, his rider too - on command.
Chitwan Park - White-Water Rafting
A combined white-water rafting expedition and jungle safari represents the ultimate adventure. Many travel agents and a number of the Chitwan resorts organize rafting expeditions on the Trisuli River as far as Chitwan. The river trip alone takes two to three days, beginning at or upstream of Mugling and finishing in Narayanghat.
Gharial Breeding Centre
The Gharial Breeding Centre is situated on the banks of the Rapti River near Kasara. Here the long-snouted gavial has been bred since 1980. A 35 per cent survival rate for the young (compared with 2 per cent in the wild) testifies to the success of the operation. More than 300 crocodiles have already been released in the rivers of Chitwan.
Kasara Durbar, Nepal
Kasara Durbar, about 20 km (121/2 mi.) south-west of Sauruha, is the headquarters of the park administration whose offices occupy the Ranas' former hunting lodge built in the 1930s. Nearby a little museum is packed with stuffed animals and animal heads. An information center can be found at the park entrance in Sauraha.
The deity of the little jungle temple, Bikram Babu, is venerated for his gift of fertility. Sacrificial offerings are made to him following the birth of a long awaited child.
Jungle safaris by jeep make it possible to explore the length and breadth of the National Park.
Jungle Walks & Treks
Jungle excursionsThe jungle is best experienced on foot. Although vegetation and wildlife can be observed from the safety and comfort of an elephant's back, nothing can match the walker's sense of excitement at complete immersion in the jungle world. Alert for possible dangers the senses become receptive to a myriad impressions - plants, animal tracks, smells and sounds. Never go without a guide. Their expertise is the surest protection against danger. Their knowledge of the trees, grasses, animal tracks and animal behavior, not to mention their tales of first hand experiences, also enrich and enliven the walk.Jungle treks, generally lasting two or three days, are organized by all the good Chitwan resorts, providing a vivid, first-hand experience of jungle life. Itineraries take visitors into the Churia hills where wild elephants still roam. At Sauruha guides are available for independent hire on a one-to-one or small-group basis. One of the most popular two-day treks goes from Sauruha via the Lami Valley to Kasara. There the river is crossed to Jagatpur for a night spent in a village inn. Next morning the bus is taken to Gitanagar from where the trek is resumed, following the watercourse to the myriad small lakes of the Bis Hajaar Valley before returning to Sauruha the same evening. Trekkers are expected to provide their own food though packed meals can be obtained from the inns.
There are some natural attractions worth visiting which are located outside of the park. There are also interesting towns and villages in the surrounding area.
Elephant Breeding Centre
The road to the Elephant Breeding Center 4 km (21/2 mi.) west of Sauruha passes through a number of Tharu villages. At the time of writing there were 26 elephants and at the center, which is also a mine of information about these fascinating creatures.The Asian elephant, weighing about 5 tons and standing 2.7 m (9ft) high, is a little smaller than his African cousin. Elephants sleep standing up, about three hours at a time; they are simply too big to lie down. Lying for more than an hour would damage their internal organs. The course of an elephant's life is not dissimilar to that of a human being, working from the age of 15 to 55, then enjoying about ten years of retirement. When elephants get old their skin color changes from bluey-grey to pink.
Bis Hajaar Valley
The name of this wetland area means "valley of 20,000 lakes". The small lagoons scattered throughout the sal forest provide a breeding ground for many water-birds.
On the main road approximately 30 km (181/2 mi.) east of the National Park lies the small village of Lothar. Next to the bridge the Lothar Khola tumbles down in a series of little waterfalls, excellent for bathing and for bird watching.
More Chitwan National Park Pictures