Chitwan National Park is Nepal’s first national park, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. While it is remarkable for its beauty and remote location, the big tourist draw is the wildlife- the park is home to hundreds of species of birds, sloth bears, and countless other mammals, but the crowds really come to see the shy one-horned rhinoceros and with hops of catching a glimpse of the ever-elusive bengal tiger. There are numerous jungle lodges scattered throughout the park, each catering to a different budget. Wherever you go, you’re sure to remember the time you spend in Chitwan.
Bharatpur Airport is nearby, and most lodges will shuttle you to and from the airport. There are also buses that run to Chitwan from most parts of the country. Hiring a car and driver is also an option- a safer way to get around in Nepal than the public bus system.
Things to do in Chitwan
Most lodges will have a daily itinerary set for the various activities on offer. These include:
- Elephant safaris- riding on an elephant’s back, searching for rhinos and tigers in the dense jungle in Chitwan- pretty awesome.
- Walking safaris- it is a bit more disconcerting being on the ground than it is being on top of a giant elephant, especially when you’re told that tigers and sloth bears always attack from behind. A walking safari through Chitwan definitely gets your blood pumping...
- Bird-watching- countless species of tropical birds flit here and there- a bird-watchers dream.
- Feed and bathe the elephants- of course, after taking you on all those safaris, the elephants will want some food and will need a bath. Helping their handlers feed and bathe them is an experience you will never forget.
- Relax by the river- there are countless tributaries that run through Chitwan, and in the rainy season, it’s almost more of a marsh than anything else. A relaxing afternoon reading a book on your lodge’s riverside deck is always an option.
- Raft- due to the park’s proximity to major rivers, there are various rafting opportunities, ranging from a calm float trip to a raging whitewater adrenaline rush. It just depends on what you’re in the mood for.
- If possible, it is best to book your trip to Chitwan through an agent in Kathmandu. The lodges a spread out, and there isn’t really a ‘central’ area in the park, so if you just show up, you might be in a tough spot.
- When you’re out on one of your walking safaris, don’t make the rhinos mad. Not a good idea.
- As mentioned above, hiring a private car- or booking one along with all of your other activities in Nepal- is a good way of getting to Chitwan. You’ll get to see the countryside up close, and it is usually safer than taking a public bus.
- Charge your batteries before heading to Chitwan- many lodges and camps shut their power off during the night hours, so charging your camera batteries, etc., overnight isn’t an option. Just make sure everything is topped off before you head to the park.