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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Inspection visit to Chitwan National Park in Nepal

Photo:  Asiatic rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park
Photo: elephant safari in Chitwan National Park
Last December I spent a week in Chitwan National Park in Nepal where I inspected and reviewed fifteen selected hotels and lodges to determine the best ones available to use for our clients. In the past we used lodges located inside the National Park however all of these properties were closed down in July 2012 because their leases were not renewed by the government. There has been on-going uncertainty about lease renewals and as far as I understand at the moment it is unlikely these will be granted in the future for mainly environment reasons. As a result over the last year there have been several new high quality lodges constructed outside the Park mainly in the area further west along Rapti River around the villages of Patihani and Jagatpur.

Photo: wedding celebration dance by Tharu villagers
Chitwan National Park is a popular place to visit for people who are on a tour of Nepal and also as an extension after a trek in the Himalaya. Chitwan is located on the plains to the south of the Himalaya range on near the border with Nepal and India. This area is one of the few remaining undisturbed parts of the Terai and has a rich flora and fauna including Bengal tiger, single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros, wild elephants, leopards and the rare gangetic dolphin.

The latest surveys indicate there is currently 125 tigers and 500 rhinos in Chitwan National Park showing a healthy increase in numbers over the last thirty years. The size of Chitwan National Park is 932 km2 plus a buffer zone of 766 km2 comprised mainly of sal forest, water marshes and grassland. There is a high diversity of ecosystems from the flood plains of the Rapti and Narayani rivers with their ox-bow lakes and then rising up to 800m in the hills to the east. Chitwan National Park was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Photo: Rapti river in Chitwan
The best time to visit Chitwan National Park is from October to February, this is the dry season when you have the best chance of seeing tiger and other wildlife as they are more likely to visit waterholes in a few concentrated areas. It is also possible to visit Chitwan right through into May however the grasses will be growing longer hiding some of the animals and it will be getting very hot and humid (so best to choose a lodge with air conditioning). It is easy to get to Chitwan from Kathmandu, by car it takes about four hours of course depending on the traffic. It is also possible to fly to Bharatpur airport where we will arrange transport to your jungle lodge.

Photo: elephants in Chitwan
Once you get to your lodge in Chitwan their resident naturalist will meet you to discuss your plans and what activities you would like to do throughout your stay. As part of your package the following activities are normally included: elephant safari, jungle drive in a jeep, bird watching, nature walk, canoeing, ox cart ride, village tours and bathing with an elephant! In the evenings most lodges will organise a cultural show with traditional local Tharu dances and slide shows about Chitwan National Park. 

If you would like visit Chitwan National Park please get in touch with us, we can then suggest the best lodges in Chitwan according to your budget that have all been inspected by us. If you are interested in joining one of our tours of Nepal that include a visit to Chitwan please take a look at our Highlights Tour of Nepal, Classic Tour of Nepal and Luxury Tour of Nepal.

It would also be worth reading our blog article "Inspection visit to Bardia National Park in Nepal" to find out more about how Bardia compares with Chitwan National Park.

Roland Hunter

The Mountain Company