Chitwan is Nepal’s original national park, created to protect the rare Asian one-horned rhino and home to many other species.
When the safari came to an end our guide was told that a one-horned rhino had been spotted and he took us back into the jungle. So apart from great birdlife, various deer and monkeys we also spotted an Asian one-horned rhino and her young.
Chitwan in Nepal’s Terai lowlands is the country’s most famous wildlife destination and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. The name means ‘heart of the jungle’ and the terrain here is sal forest and riverine jungle with areas of grassland, ideal for the one-horned rhino, Bengal tiger and sloth bear among others. Guides lead explorations and help you spot wildlife and learn about the life of the jungle.
- The history: Long before it was a national park Chitwan was a hunting ground frequented by Nepal’s rulers and big game hunters. This coupled with poaching and jungle clearance devastated the habitat and the rhino population was threatened with extinction. In 1973 Chitwan National Park was created with the express purpose of protecting the one-rhino population as it has been doing ever since.
- The wildlife: The one-horned rhino is Chitwan’s superstar but there are plenty of other resident species. The tiger population has grown from the initial 25 or so individuals, leopards, wild elephant, sambar deer, sloth bear, wild boar, gaur and langur monkey are present as well as marsh mugger crocodile and the endangered gharial. More than 500 species of birds have been recorded in the park.
- The experience: Jeep rides are one of the best ways to explore Chitwan and encounter wildlife, enabling you to travel to different areas relatively quickly. Canoe trips offer a different vantage point and are good for bird spotting while guided walks are wonderful for observing plants, insects, birds and animal tracks. Walking through the jungle with an elephant in its own habitat is a real treat.
- Tharu village: Take a break from wildlife and enjoy an ox cart ride to the nearby Tharu village. The Tharu are the largest ethnic group in the Terai region and on this visit you can see traditional houses made of wood, bamboo, grasses and mud. While proceeds from tourism have brought a welcome supply of electricity and water their farming-orientated-lifestyle remains largely unchanged.