Chitwan National Park is in south-central Nepal.
Chitwan National Park was established in 1973, and today covers an area of 932 km2 (360 sq mi). It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The protected area consists of Sal forest, and riverine grasslands in the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu and Narayani Rivers. The Churia hills rise towards the south from 150 m to more than 800 m. The western portion of the park is comprised of the lower but more rugged, Someshwor hill. The park shares its eastern boundary with the Parsa Wildlife Reserve.
More than 540 bird species have been recorded in the protected area. Reptile species include gharial and mugger crocodiles, monitor lizard, rock python and king cobra. Mammal species include rhinoceros, sloth bear, tiger, leopard, langur and rhesus monkeys, sambar deer and chital. Most elephants are domesticated and used for taking tourists on sightseeing excursions.
It is quite hot and humid most of the year.
Most visitors travel to Sauraha and then day trip into the park. Through intentional removal or natural disaster, all the bridges crossing the river into the park near Sauraha have been removed so visitors must cross by canoe.
Bharatpur is the nearest airport, about 10 km away.
Fees and permits
For all activities inside the park, visitors must pay Rs. 2000 per day for a permit.
Additional charges apply when visiting the Community Forest (Park Buffer Zone). It's difficult to get tour operators to commit to a price, but quotes range from Rs. 300-500.
- Pony & trap Pony rickshaws for 2 people
- Ox cart Bigger groups can be pulled by 2 oxen
- Elephant safari
- Gharial Breeding Centernear Kasara, 1 km.
- Lake Lamital
- Lake Devital
- Bikram Baba', a religious site.
- Local native dances - quite interesting and usually included in your "hotel package". Stick dancing is very loud as they hit sticks together to form a rhythm.
- Valmiki Ashram. A small temple and ashram or hermitage just inside Chitwan National Park. Valmiki is named after the sage Valmiki, who is said to have written his epic Ramayan in a retreat that is located in these rolling hills many thousands of years ago. Walk around the large ghat area in the morning and evening to see locals performing their religious as well hygienic duties. In around the 15 February is Surya Puja a celebration of the solar god Surya on the 1st of Magh, of the Nepali calendar. Years past there was a huge mela or fair with over 100,000 people with circus rides, zoos, dramas, and other cultural programs. Devotees from both India and Nepal attended but due to the Nepal conflict is has been reduced to only a few thousand. With the New Nepal it may grow again.
The primary activity in Chitwan is wildlife viewing by foot, jeep, boat, or elephant. There are numerous travel agencies in Sauraha that can arrange a tour or you can organise one through your hotel. Packages vary greatly both in cost and what's included (meals, accommodation, transportation, park permit) so confirm the details, preferably in writing, before any money changes hands.
Be skeptical of anyone who is too enthusiastic about your chances of seeing wildlife; as the guides say, "this is not a zoo," and many visitors leave without spotting the park's large mammals. Maximize your chances by visiting in March or April when the elephant grass is short and by planning multiple excursions into the park over several days. Tigers are especially rare; a guide may only catch a glimpse once or twice per year.
Permits and at least two guides - even for a single visitor - are required for anyone venturing into the park. Everyone must leave the park at sunset. If you have planned an overnight excursion you will sleep adjacent to the park in the Community Forest (Buffer Zone).
Take a leisurely float down the Rapti river as the boatman steers you past flocks of birds, crocodiles, gharial, monkeys, and, if you're lucky, large land animals drinking from the river. If you want to be sure to see some kind of wildlife, a canoe trip is a good choice as you will certainly see several species of bird and crocodiles are very common.
Dugout canoes depart from Sauraha at 7AM or 1PM, take 1 - 2 hours, and usually form the first stage of a jeep safari or jungle walk. You'll be asked to tip the boatman when he drops you off so consider bringing some small bills. Prices range from Rs. 800-1,500 (+ park permit) per person (2018) depending on the duration and number of passengers.
Several agencies actively discourage elephant rides on the grounds that it is cruel to the animal. However, if you ask around you'll find agencies willing to book you a tour. Prices are around Rs. 2,500 for an hour.
Jeep safaris offer a good alternative to Jungle walks for those who want to see more of the park or don't want to spend the day bushwacking on foot down narrow paths.
Jeeps depart across the river from Sauraha at 7AM or 1PM - ensure the tour includes crossing by boat as there is no bridge. Half day (4 hr) and full day (8 hr) tours are available, but half day are much more common. If you are interested in a full day, you may have to rent the entire jeep if the operator can't find enough passengers for the trip. A jeep seats 10-12 people depending on the configuration, some with side-facing bench seats and others forward facing. Expect to pay around Rs. 1,500 (+ park permit) per person for a half day (2018).
Jungle walks are a great way to experience the park up close. A guide will lead you down jeep tracks, paths, and along riverbanks in search of wildlife while teaching you about the flora, fauna and history of the park. Most agencies recommend a full day jungle walk (with canoe) to allow visitors to go deeper into the park. Visitors should be moderately fit as you will have to cover 10 km (6.2 mi) to 15 km (9.3 mi) on foot; however, smaller groups will have more control over the distance.
- Pants and a log-sleeved shirt of dull, earthy colors
- Backpack for your gear - if you have a bright pack but have a dark rain-cover consider using it
- Lunch and snacks, if not provided as part of your tour package. Restaurants in Sauraha have "boxed lunches" on their menu for this purpose
- 2L of water per person per day
- Sunscreen and DEET-based bug spray to repell mosquitoes and ticks
Half day (4 hr) jungle walks start from Sauraha at 7AM or 1PM. Full day walks depart at 7AM and return at 5PM with a 1 to 2 hour lunch break. Some agencies and hotels will arrange tour groups which can greatly reduce the per-person cost.
Prices are dependent on what's included (meals / transportation / canoe) and how many people in a group. Expect to pay from Rs. 4,300 (inc. park permit) per person (2018) for a large group with no meals, to Rs. 10,000 (inc. park permit) for a personal tour with meals included (2018).
Those wishing to venture deeper into the park may embark on a two day jungle walk. The first day is much the same as a single day walk, but instead of returning to Sauraha you will spend the night in a village in the buffer zone. The second day is spent exploring the farther reaches of the park before returning to Sauraha via bus or jeep.
Your accommodation and dinner are typically not included in the price quoted by agencies and you will be responsible for paying them when you arrive in the village. Depending on your package you may also need to provide breakfast, lunch and return transportation. Ensure you understand what is included before setting out.
Explore traditional Tharu villages per motorcycle. Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club organises tours out of Pokhara, and brings a local nature guide along for the ride. Just amazing.
- Stuff for Bikram Baba if you are religious
There are no drinking establishments in the park. However, there are several bars in the nearby town of Sauraha.
Over the last several years the government of Nepal has declined to renew the licenses of hotels located inside the park. As of 2018 there is no accommodation inside the park and visitors are not permitted to remain after dark.
There are many hotels located in the nearby town of Sauraha and this is where most visitors stay. It is also possible to stay at a camp or viewing tower but these are located in the buffer zone, across the river from the park.
If you want to see more of Nepal, visit any of the tour offices or ask your hotel manager to buy a bus ticket onward. Nearly everyone supplies these so shop around and sometimes you can save a maybe 50-100 rupees on your ticket. The tickets will most likely be for the local bus and not the standard tourist bus like you may have arrived in.
If you want to go to India from Chitwan, you can buy a bus ticket the same way to the border (tell them you want to go to Sonauli). Sonauli is the border town and is about 4 hours from Chitwan. When you arrive, you should be let off at the last stop (after Lumbini, which is only a few minutes apart). Your bus will be swamped with touts wanting to take you the 2km to the border in their bicycle rickshaws. It should only cost NPR30-50 so bargain accordingly (and remember to be clear that you are both talking about Nepalise rupees and not Indian rupees!). Note that some drivers will take you to a money change office just in front of the Nepal immigration office and then demand extra payment for the unscheduled (read: commissioned) stop. Just pay the formerly agreed upon amount and walk away. The immigration office is on the left side of the road. After getting your exit stamp (don't let them try to charge you a fake exit fee), walk through the large "Welcome to India" arch and proceed straight ahead past the first grouping of police guards on the left and on to a small "office" that is a long table with 3-4 men sitting with entrance forms. The sign is small and so a bit difficult to see and is also on the left side of the road. After filling out your entry form and getting stamped you can either get a taxi to take you onward to your intended city or you can walk approx another 200 m ahead to the bus lot (on right side of road) and ask around for your intended destination.