A journey through Chitwan National Park will open your eyes to sights you never thought you'd see...
Chitwan, Nepal: An animal paradise to
12 April 2013
Covering more than 350 square miles and filled with an abundant selection of wildlife, the Chitwan National Park well and truly deserves its place as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A trip here will instantly transport you away from the bright lights and mind-crunching technology of your fast-paced lifestyle, and into a more soothing, alternative way of life. The mammoth park is a tropical landscape thick to the brim with animals and an intriguing local culture, which taken together creates a real sense of adventure.
With over 44 species of mammals, lucky Chitwan visitors can enjoy close encounters with a range of diverse creatures within their natural habitats. It is home to rhinos, crocodiles, monkeys, leopards, sloth bears, jackals, to name just a few, and travellers often surprise themselves at how quickly they feel at one with the wildlife.
One mammal that every visitor to Chitwan is guaranteed the pleasure of interacting with is the elephant. Even on the main tourist road in Sauhara it’s not uncommon to see a parade of elephants as they casually take a daytime stroll alongside their mahouts.
Most tourists come to Chitwan to experience the abundant safaris on offer, and there are a variety of different ways to explore the jungle.
The elephant treks are a beautiful way to enjoy a heightened view of other mammals, and the docile giants have a calming, protective aura. Tourists and volunteers in Chitwan also have the opportunity to closely interact with elephants, playing and bathing with them in their local watering hole.
A tranquil river safari aboard a log canoe can be an intense experience. The sudden snap of a nearby crocodile jaw leaves local guides unfazed, but for tourists it can be a little unnerving - or exciting, depending upon each individual's mentality. Beady eyes lurk in thick vegetation, and the casual drift of the dugout sitting just inches above the water level, seems so vulnerable in the crocodile infested waters. It’s the kind of ride you will find yourself raving about - once you're safely back on dry land, that is.
Brave tourists (with the appropiate clothing) can also opt to venture out on guided wildlife walks, which promise the chance to track some mammals. Or, for those who’d prefer the protection of a jeep, there are a wide selection of comfy sit-down safaris.
Some visitors head to Chitwan province with the sole intention of spotting a rare Bengal tiger. The area has around 120 of these stunning cats and the National Park provides a refuge for the dwindling species. Endangered and elusive, catching a glimpse of one of these predators usually requires a long stay in the park, or a hefty dose of good luck.
One of the best things about Chitwan is that the area is simply bursting with life. Everywhere you look some form of wildlife exists, and a quick wander outside your lodgings can quickly result in an exciting encounter. As well as this, locals are warm and inviting, making it easy to become captivated by the relaxed local ethos.
It's little wonder that many believe Chitwan to be the kind of unspoilt, spontaneous destination of which every explorer dreams.
By Hannah Walton