Elephants and rhinos: The Chitwan National Park experience
CHITWAN National Park is a 932-square-kilometre wilderness in Nepal’s Terai lowlands with rhino, elephant, tiger, deer, crocodiles, wetlands, forest and plenty of adventure activities to experience.
Located some 180km from Kathmandu, it’s usually one of the must see-places in an itinerary of Nepal and suitable for people of all ages.
The vegetation in this area is Himalayan subtropical and features the Sal tree, wetlands, savannah, grasslands and riverine forest.
In these areas you can find more than 700 species of wildlife including the King Cobra, the Rock python, mugger crocodiles, beautiful kingfishers, one horned rhinoceros, sloth bears, sambar beer, wild boars, antelopes, langurs, hares, foxes, mongoose, squirrels and elephants. There are also various insects, butterflies and spiders to see.
Most people take a package tour offered by their hotel which will include things like a canoe safari, jungle walk, a visit to an elephant breeding centre, an elephant bath, an elephant safari and possibly a jeep safari.
All are worthwhile although the chances of ticking off animals increases the further you go into the park and the more days you spend there. The guides are very knowledgeable and seem to take personal enjoyment in getting you as close to the wildlife as is possible and safe.
A highlight for us was tracking a rhino on foot through the jungle with our guide indicating when and how to get closer. We saw a rhino later from atop an elephant but it was quite different from the adrenalin charged rush of finding one on foot in the thick undergrowth.
Some hotels also offer a cultural program that includes the nightly performance in Sauraha village of dancing and costumes, plus a village walk to learn more about the local culture of Tharu people.
It can be warm on the Terai and avoiding the heat of summer should be foremost in your plans coming here.
Images by Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com