It was pitch dark when we checked into our hotel. Little did we know in which area of Jungle we were. Lights were dim in the resort but the sound of River Rapti in Nepal was quite inviting. Immediately, we rushed to sit near it and after a few minutes, we heard growling noises. Hotel staff came rushing with a huge white torch, shouting there is an animal and after spotting it, he showed us a huge mother-daughter duo – One-horned Rhinoceros drinking water from the River Rapti. In the white spotlight, they looked shiny white. We were completely amazed upon seeing them near the resort. Now the curiosity to see Rhinos for real in Chitwan National Park in Nepal had increased several folds.
About Chitwan National Park
The Chitwan National Park is the first National Park of Nepal, established in the year 1973. It spreads over an area of 952 km2 and its altitude ranges from 330 feet in the river valleys to 2674 feet in the Shivalik hills. In 1984, Chitwan park was granted the status of a UNESCO world heritage site. Chitwan Park also contains a Ramsar site – Beeshazari Tal in its buffer zone. The Park extends into four districts Nawalpur, Parsa, Chitwan, and Makwanpur.
History of Chitwan Park
Until the end of the 19th century, Chitwan used to be the favorite hunting ground for the royals of Nepal.
- In 1950, the Chitwan forest and grasslands expanded over 2600 km2 and were home to about 800 rhinos. After that when poor farmers from the upper hills moved to the Chitwan Valley in search of arable land, settlement happened and poaching of wildlife began.
- By end of 1960, the jungle was cleared, malaria was eradicated and thousands of people settled there and only 95 rhinos were left.
- The dramatic decline of Rhinoceros prompted the government to deploy guard posts and army patrolling all over Chitwan Park
- To prevent further extinction, National Park & Wildlife Conservation act was enacted and Chitwan National Park was declared the first National park of Nepal in the year 1973 with an area of 544 km2. During this period, Tharu communities were forced to leave the land.
- By the year 1977, the park was enlarged to its present area, 952km2.
- In the year 1984, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site
- 1996, the buffer zone of 766 km2 was added
- 2003, Bishajari and associated lakes were declared wetlands under Ramsar Convention
- Now, in the year 2022, Park has more than 700 Rhinoceros.
Note: One-Horned Rhino is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. They have been listed on the IUCN red list of threatened species in the year 2018.
Just like Ranthambore National Park and Sariska National Park, Chitwan National Park is also divided into the main Jungle area and a buffer zone. There are 12 entry gates to the park. It has a diversity of ecosystems – The Churia hills, Ox-bow lakes, and the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu, and Narayani Rivers.
Chitwan National Park consists of tropical and subtropical forests. Sal forests cover 70% of the jungle land, whereas 20% is grasslands. There are more than 68 different types of grasses and the most common one can see during the jungle safari is Elephant grass, known for its immense heights, (which can grow up to a height of 8 meters).
The park is home to more than 700 species of wildlife, 68 species of mammal, over 546 birds, 55 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 120 species of fishes. Some of the endangered fauna found in the park are – One-horned rhinoceros, Gaur Bison, Royal Bengal tiger, Wild elephant, four-horned antelope, Pangolin, Golden monitor lizard, Python, Bengal florican, Lesser florican, Giant hornbill, Black stork, While stork, etc. Park also has the highest population density of sloth bears with an estimated 200 to 250 individuals.
The Narayani Rapti River is home to magars and gharials. Every year gharial eggs are collected along the rivers to be hatched in the breeding center of the Gharial Conservation Project, located within the Chitwan National Park, where gharials are reared up to an age of 6–9 years. Then every year these young gharials are re-introduced into the Narayani-Rapti river system, of which sadly only very few survive.
Interesting Facts about Chitwan National Park
- Word Chitwan means “Heart of the Jungle”
- Chitwan Park is considered Asia’s Best National Park for viewing wildlife
- Park has the second largest population of one-horned Rhinoceros in the world
- Earlier the park was known as Royal Chitwan National Park. In 2006, the word Royal was removed
Safari at Chitwan National Park …. – Continuing the Story
The night was long and the next morning was gloomy. It was pouring heavily. There was a doubt, about will we be able to go on Safari. If not the same day, then the coming day was no option, as we were traveling with our baby (1 year old) and the next day our parents had their Safari booked.
Tenzin, said mam, do not worry. It happens almost every day. Rain will stop surely, but we were scared. Till then, we enjoyed Elephants crossing River Rapti from the balcony of our room. Around 10 am, the rain stopped and he informed us to be ready by 12:00 pm (Nepal Time). However, our curiosity to see Rhinos was too high and we were ready by 11:00 am itself.
Around 12:00 pm, he sailed us in his Bolero crossing Sauraha, to the main entry point. There we could see boatmen making their canoes ready on the Rapti River. Within the next few minutes, Tenzin handed us tickets and asked us to walk down to the bank of Rapti River to cross River by Canoe.
Crossing River Rapti in Canoe
I asked Tenzin if we would cross-River in this. He said yes! It will be fun. Don’t worry it will not sink and we will cross this in the next 10 minutes. Tashi was first to enter and I followed him. He took out a small stool hanging on the side and sat on it. Then he was instructed by the guide to keep the next one for the next person and so on. Almost 10 people followed us in the canoe. The boat/ canoe was full and it started sailing. Almost half of the boat was inside the water. Fear of boat tilting was still on our minds.
There, the man in front with a blue hat shouted, look crocodile. We thought he was joking but actually, he was there, looking around with those popping beady eyes. We all got scared, seeing him that close but the guide was like -“No worries”. It comes close to the canoe but is not interested in humans, and the next minute he went down into the water.
Exactly after 10 minutes, we were on the other end, which means in the jungle area (River Rapti separates Chitwan town from Jungle. Animals do come around River to quench their thirst) and their Jeep driver was ready to take us inside the jungle.
Jeep Safari at Chitwan National Park
The Jeep started sailing. The jungle was lush, with thick green forest and elephant grass-covered tracks on both sides. Looking at the height of the elephant grass around, we were wondering, would we be able to see any animal here and there only the guide asked the driver to halt. It was time to give way to wild Elephants coming from the front.
Tracks were too rough and just ahead we saw spotted deer with big antelopes. First, he was trying to hide, but then came in the middle of the road and gave us a wonderful pose.
Every here and there, things looked moving in the jungle. After a few minutes, I shouted at the peak of my voice, something is moving there. The driver stopped his vehicle immediately and the guide with his binoculars showed us the huge sloth bear. Not one but two of them were running one after another.
Further, the rough Zigzag trails lead us to Lotus Lake or Kamal Lake. As the name says, the Lake was decorated with lotus and there Rhinoceros was beating the heat in the lake. We waited patiently for him to come closer and show his face. However, he did not.
Ahead, we saw mother-daughter Rhino both standing in the opposite directions. Looking at the jeep arriving nearby, one-horned Mother Rhinoceros came in front of the vehicle to protect her child. Remember, Rhinos are peace-loving animals. They do not attack unless they feel threatened.
Advice as given by our guide, If you see a rhino – stay behind or on the side. Rhinos do not turn their heads. If you stand in front of them, they will surely attack you.
It was almost halftime. Time for a break as well as time to visit Gharial Conservation Breeding Centre.
Gharial Conservation Breeding Center
The Gharial Conservation breeding center was inaugurated in the year 1978, to enhance the population of Gharials. The entry fee is NPR 100 per person. Under this program, gharial eggs are collected from the riverbank. Then hatched, reared, and released in the main Rivers of Nepal to increase their population in the wild.
After a break of 15-20 minutes, it was time to head to another zone of Chitwan National Park. Fingers were still crossed as we wanted to see more animals. However, there too, we could only see – Rhinoceros bathing, Sambhar, monkeys, Langurs, and Peahen. By now, it was almost 5:10 and we were at the exit gate. Along with all this, we too spotted a variety of birds and Kingfishers.
From there again we took a canoe boat ride to cross the Rapti River. The river was glowing during sunset. Just there, we saw an alligator on the River bank. He opened his big jaws and grabbed a fish, in a single shot. Wow! That was too quick.
That was the end of Jeep Safari. From there we climbed uphill and the hotel boy was waiting to drive us back.
Types of Safari in Chitwan National Park
There are 4 types of Safari options in Chitwan National Park and the park is divided into 4 different areas too.
- Jeep Safari – Private or Shared (There will be 8-10 people in a shared jeep)
- Elephant Safari – Up to 4 people can sit
- Safari on Foot / Jungle Walk
- Boat Safari / Canoeing
Areas in the Park
- Amaltari – The Western sector is one of the preferred entrances by the tourists to the Chitwan Park as it is closer to the Mahendra Highway. This region has the Rapti, Narayani, and Reu rivers and is considered the right spot to see animals. Jeep safari and other safaris cover this region.
- Kasara – The Mid sector holds the museum and the park headquarters. You can find a famous religious site, Bikram Baba here. A little away from the headquarters, is the Gharial breeding center, where crocodiles, turtles, and muggers are bred. This region is covered on foot, usually.
- Madi-Bagai – The Southern sector is the deep forest region. Tourists usually are not taken to this part of the jungle.
- Sauraha – The Eastern sector is another important entrance to the park. This region covers the Churia hill regions. We stayed in this area of the park.
Safari Timings at Chitwan National Park
- Shared Jeep Safari Timing – 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm (Rest timing changes with season and availability of vehicle)
- Private Jeep Safari Timings – 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Elephant Safari – Happens in the morning, mid-morning, and evening and is for 1.30 hours
- Canoeing – 7:30 am – 9:30 am
- Elephant Breeding Centre Visit Timings – 6:00 am -6:00 pm
Safari Cost at Chitwan National Park
Park Permit Fee
- Cost of Entry for Foreigners 2000 NPR
- Price for Locals – 150 NPR
- Entry For SAARC Citizens (Indians)– 1000 NPR
- Children Below The Age Of 10 – Free
Jeep Safari Fee
- Cost of Shared Jeep Safari – 2500 NPR per person
- Cost of Full Day Safari – 4000 NPR per person
Elephant Safari Cost
- Elephant Safari For Foreigners– 2500 NPR Per Elephant (2 People)
- For Locals – 200 NPR
- Cost for SAARC – 1000 NPR
Elephant Breeding Center (Timing – 6 Am To 6 Pm)
- Entry Cost For Foreigner – 100 NPR
- For Locals – 25 NPR
- For SAARC – 50 NPR
- Cost For Bathing Elephant – 200 NPR
- Half-Day Canoe Ride – 1400 NPR
- Full-Day Canoe Ride – 1800 NPR
Documentary Filming Fee / Drone Fee
- For Foreigners – USD 1500
- SAARC Nationals – 50,000 NPR
- Locals – 10,000 NPR
How to Book Safari at Chitwan National Park
There are several safari tour operators in Chitwan as well as Sauraha. We suggest you do some research before booking safaris to make sure, to get a good deal and experienced guides.
We had a limited no of days (3 days) and had no know-how about the best tour operator. Online research too did not provide us with much detail on how to book a safari at Chitwan Park, except for the various tour packages. So, without wasting much time, we opted to go with the deal our resort (WAR – Wildlife Adventure Resort) offered. They charged us NPR 2500 (Jeep Safari) + NPR 1000 (Permit cost) + NPR 100 (Crocodile Breeding Ground) = 3600 NPR per person per safari.
The best part of the deal was hotel people ensured dropping and picking us up at the Safari entry-exit point. In addition, he made sure we had an experienced guide with us.
Where is Chitwan National Park?
Chitwan National Park lies in south-central Nepal. It lies at a distance of 170 Km from Kathmandu, 150 Km from Pokhara, and 1019 Km from Delhi by road.
How to reach Chitwan National Park?
We, AllGudThings did a road trip by car to Nepal from Delhi, covering the golden triangle of Nepal i.e. Kathmandu, Pokhara & Chitwan.
Our itinerary was Delhi – Pokhara – Kathmandu – Chitwan National Park. Chitwan lies equidistance from Kathmandu, Pokhara, or Bandipur and we opted to go after Kathmandu. However, it is directly reachable too from Delhi by car, air, or local transport.
From Kathmandu / Pokhara
By Air (Duration – 20 minutes)
There is a direct 20 minutes flight from Kathmandu as well Pokhara to Bharatpur. Afterward, one can hire a cab, and reach the Sauraha or Baruli side of the National Park, which is approx. 20 km and can be reached in approx. 40-45 minutes.
By Local Transport / Private or Shared Cab (Duration – 6-7 hours)
The other option is to take a daily tourist bus or private/shared cab from Kathmandu / Pokhara and it will take approx. 6-7 hours to reach.
Note: For going from other parts of Nepal too, one will require to go through Pokhara or Kathmandu by taking a private transfer, or riding local buses.
How to Reach Chitwan National Park, Nepal from Delhi
Chitwan National park lies 1019 km from Delhi and can be reached via air, train, bus, and shared or private vehicle.
From India, there are direct flights to Kathmandu and Pokhara and further from, there is a connecting flight to Bharatpur (the nearest airport to Chitwan National Park).
The nearest railway station to Nepal, in India, is Gorakhpur or Raxaul. From Gorakhpur, one can travel to the Border area Sunauli via road taking the bus or shared or private cars. The travel time is approximately 3 hours. From Sunauli you can cross the border on foot and can further continue the journey from the other side of the border in Bhairahawa in private or shared cabs or by bus to reach Chitwan.
There is a direct bus service from Delhi to Kathmandu. The air-conditioned Volvo buses commence the journey via Agra and Lucknow to the Sunauli border. While Sunauli is the most popular entry point, the other border crossing is at Banbasa in Uttarakhand.
We did a road trip to Nepal from Delhi NCR via Gorakhpur in our own private vehicle and our route ahead in Nepal to Chitwan National Park was from Kathmandu.
Road Conditions – The Chitwan National Park lies 169 kilometers from Kathmandu and it took us about 6-7 hours to reach. There are road works going along the Prithvi Highway, leading to slow down of traffic movement and sometimes traffic jams happen for many hours. Otherwise, the roads ahead are good and it is a scenic trip, through the Trisuli Valley with steep forest-covered hills and farming villages. The road turns south at Mugling and heads towards the Terai.
Best Season to Visit Chitwan
The best season to visit Chitwan National Park is from September to March when it is pleasant and the temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius.
April & May are the hottest, with the temperatures going around 40 degrees Celsius but the chances of wildlife too are higher as wildlife gathers more at waterbodies to quench their thirst and beat the heat. We visited in mid-may when days were hot but it too use to rain every day.
June to September is the monsoon time and safari becomes inaccessible if flooding happens. During this time, one can still visit the buffer zone.
November, December, and January are the coldest month. The weather is clear and offers good clear views of the Himalayas.
Other Activities to Enjoy at Chitwan National Park
1. The Elephant Safari, Jungle Walk, or Canoe Ride at Chitwan National Park.
Elephant Safari / Elephant Jungle Tour (Timing – 1 – 1.30 hours)
The Elephant jungle tours usually happen in the early morning, mid-morning and late afternoon. They cost around 2500 rupees (NPR) for Foreigners and 1000 NPR for Indians and SAARC. People who either own or have hired out Elephants, usually run these tours.
Four people can do a safari together on an Elephant. It is a good option but we were not comfortable doing it.
Walking Safari / Jungle Walk, seemed quite risky to us. Therefore, we did not opt for it too, although we saw some people doing it with two guides. Half-day jungle walk is for 3 hours and it costs around 2800 – 3000 NPR.
On returning, we enquired about it and the hotel staff shared some interesting tips for Jungle Walk at Chitwan.
- Never stand face to face with a rhino or elephant. If you feel they are coming towards you, run zig-zag into the jungle and not in a wide-open space.
- For a sloth bear act like becoming big, shout loudly, be intimidating and if possible hit on their nose
- After all this, I asked him for a tiger. He laughed and said run. Rest will be your luck.
Canoeing at River Rapti / Canoe Ride (Timing – Half day / Full day)
While canoeing on the Rapt River, you get to see the popular Marsha Mugger and Gharial Crocodiles in their natural habitat. Also, you can spot rare species of birds, reptiles, and more in the wetland.
2. Enjoy Tharu Cultural Show
Tharu people are recognized Nationals and indigenous to the Himalayas. The Tharu Cultural show takes place in the evening between 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. It is a wonderful show to learn about the Tharu culture and traditions. The show includes various types of songs, dances, and Peacock dances.
3. Visit Elephant Breeding Center / Hattisar
The Elephant breeding center is located in Saurha and is open from 6:00 am – to 6:00 pm. It was established in 1985 for the captive breeding of domesticated elephant trapping for domestication. The Entrance ticket is 100 NPR for a foreigner, NPR 50 for SAARC, and NPR 25 for Nepalese.
4. Bishazari Tal / Beeshazar Taal / 20,000 Lakes
Bishazari Tal, a Ramasar site is an oxbow lake system in the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park. This wetland covers an area of 7,900 acres at an altitude of 286 m (938 ft) and is situated in the Siwalik range to the south. The Lake is a wildlife corridor and does not need any special park permit for visiting. Bishazari lake can be visited on its own or with the help of a nature guide and it is open throughout the year. While driving to the Lake, you get to see some exciting landscapes as well you can spot animals, wonderful birds, butterflies, and mammals.
Way to Bishazari Lake
On the main East-West Highway heading toward Bharatpur, there is big signage. Further, there is a sign for Twenty Thousand Lake Farm Resort off to the right, just follow the canal. Just after their sign next to the canal, stop and buy a ticket. You need to show this ticket to the Army stations at two points along the canal.
What all to carry for Safari at Chitwan National Park
At Chitwan National Park, mornings and evenings are pleasant in summer but days are hot and winters are cold. So, dress and carry stuff accordingly.
Clothes – For a safari in the summers, do wear fully covered cotton clothes. For Safari in winters, wear clothes in layers (inners/ sweaters), so it is easy to remove one if required. Please avoid dark/bright colors for Safari. Neutral colors are best for Safari.
Sun Protection – Do carry sunglasses, cap, hat or visors, and sunscreen of high SPF value.
Toiletries & Medicines – Keep the prescribed medicine as well as an emergency kit. Mosquito repellants are a must.
Eateries – Also, carry some eateries in your bag. You can eat them during halftime, around Gharial Breeding center, when they stop jeep for around 20 -25 minutes. To stay hydrated carry a water bottle too.
Note: Please don’t litter in the jungle and bring back your bottles and wrappers.
Overall Safari Experience at Chitwan Park
The Chitwan national park is completely different from the national parks we have visited (till date) in India. Chitwan Park is huge, lush green, and has plenty of flora and fauna. Trails are narrow here and on both sides, you will find elephant grass reaching almost 7-8 meters. Chances of seeing wildlife are plenty but do not go with the expectation to see tigers only. Tigers here can be spotted occasionally only.
The park is to protect endangered one-horned Rhinoceros, and you will spot a few of them in different ecosystems. We saw around eight rhinos. Apart from that, we saw multiple crocodiles, bears, sambhar, deer, wild boar, etc. Safari lasted for 5 hours, so do carry water and eateries along.
Accommodation at Chitwan
Chitwan has plenty of hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and homestays. We stayed in Sauraha at Wildlife Adventure Resort (WAR).
Wildlife Adventure Resort lies on the Rapti River Bank. It is a lush green resort surrounded by rice fields, Tharu Village and Rapti River. The resort has around 14 rooms and each room has two balconies. From these balconies, you can easily spot animals coming to the river.
All rooms are absolutely neat, clean, and spacious but the washrooms are just average. The staff is helpful and courteous. The restaurant by the Riverside is a plus and the basic food is good.
Food at Chitwan
Sauraha has plenty of great restaurants in the market. Do try local Nepal food here. Apart from this checks out the Greasy Food Restaurant. They serve local as well all other cuisines at quite a reasonable price. Do try their Nachos salad, pizzas, and biryani. They were yummy and good quantity-wise.
Some Important Pointers
- The Indian currency is widely accepted in Nepal. For small shops, keep some amount of Nepal currency.
- There are few ATMs in Chitwan.
- Wear full-sleeved clothes while doing Safari at Chitwan, to protect yourself from getting scratched in the jungle
- Washroom facility is available at Gharial Breeding Conservation Centre
- Respect local traditions and culture
- Don’t litter anywhere
- Animals do not attack unless they feel threatened
- Spend at least 2-3 days in Chitwan to enjoy wildlife
- Why Chitwan National Park is famous?
The Chitwan National Park is considered the best national park in Asia for viewing wildlife. Here you can spot endangered one-horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger, Spotted Deer, bears, Monkeys, Wild Boar, and a variety of birds and mammals.
2. Is Chitwan National Park worth visiting?
Chitwan National Park is worth visiting as you can see endangered One-horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger, Spotted Deer, bears, Monkeys, Wild Boar, and a variety of birds and mammals in their natural habitat. The Safari experience here is completely different from the other safaris.
3. What is the most famous thing about Chitwan?
Chitwan is famous for Chitwan National Park Safari. Here you get to see plenty of animals, birds, mammals, reptiles, etc in the jungle. Apart from this, a canoe ride in the Rapti River of Nepal is also highlighted here.
4. Which is the best time to visit Chitwan?
The best time to visit Chitwan National Park is from September to March when it is pleasant and the temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius. April & May are dry and hot months but chances of spotting wildlife too are higher this time. December to February are the coldest months.
5. What we can do in Chitwan?
At Chitwan, you can go on Jeep Safari, Jungle Walk, Canoeing at River Rapti, and visit Elephant Breeding Center and Tharu Cultural Village.
6. How many days do I need in Chitwan?
At least 2-3 days you should spend in Chitwan National Park. The more time you spend here, the higher the chances of spotting wildlife.
7. How long is the drive from Kathmandu to Chitwan?
The Chitwan National Park lies 169 kilometers from Kathmandu and it approx. took us about 6-7 hours to reach. There are road works going along the Prithvi Highway, leading to slow down of traffic movement and sometimes traffic jams happen by many hours. Otherwise, the roads ahead are good and it is a scenic trip, through the Trisuli Valley with steep forest-covered hills and farming villages. The road turns south at Mugling and heads towards the Terai.
8. What is the climate of Chitwan?
Chitwan has a tropical monsoon climate with high humidity all through the year. Here monsoon starts in mid-June and eases off in late September. From October to February Temperature lies around 25 degrees Celsius whereas in summers i.e. from April -to June it can go as high as 40 degrees Celsius. From July to October, it lies between 30 -35 degrees Celsius.
9. Are there tigers in Chitwan National Park?
There are almost 93 tigers in Chitwan National Park but the chances of spotting them are very rare.
10. How many Lakes are there in Chitwan National Park?
There are around 56 Lakes in the Chitwan National Park. The most famous one is Bishazari lake / Beeshazari or 20,000 lake which lies in the buffer zone of the park. Anyone can visit this lake on their own and, does not need a special park permit for visiting.