Flying across the Nepali skies, it is endless blankets of hills holding dense forests and blending into the Tarai plains. The sub-tropical Inner Tarai lowlands in south-center Nepal are bordered by the Chitwan National Park, a space where you can feed your curiosity by diving deep into the wonders of the Nepali jungles and wildlife. The National Park is located in the Sivalik and Mahabharat ranges. The 952-kilometer square of land touches the landscapes of Chitwan, Makwanpur, Nawalpur, and the Parasi districts of the region.

Also known as the land of the Rhinos, the park is located towards the south-west part of the bustling Bharatpur city. It neatly aligns with the Narayani River and Rapti River, some of the largest and deepest rivers in the country that flow through it from the north to the south. This picturesque town is built in the foothills of the Himalayas, offering a view of all three geographical regions at once. At present, the park is home to more than 50 mammal species, 525 birds, and 55 amphibians and reptiles. One-horned rhinos, Royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephants, four-horned antelope, Gharial, golden monitor lizard, gaur, pangolin, sloth bears, and python snakes are some of the rare species that are conserved in the national park.

In the past, the area was a dense forest and heavily inhabited by wild animals. In the small safe areas, Tharu communities had set up their village and been residing in the forest until the 1950s. They had named the forest ‘Chitwan’, where ‘Chit’ refers to ‘heart’ in Nepali and ‘wan’ means ‘forest’, making ‘Chitwan’ to mean ‘the heart of the forest’. On the other side of the legend, the community believes that this land of wildlife was once ruled by the Tharu God Chitrasen Baba, whom the local Tharu people worship. He had named the forest ‘Chitra van’.

Also popularly recognized as the first national park of Nepal, the Chitwan National Park was established in 1973. In its first decades, it was a hunting reserve, welcoming locals and tourists in for a hunting adventure. But as the hunter’s favourite animals and birds started cutting short in population, it was then turned into a National Park that works to preserve those endangered species. In 1984, the national park was listed as one of the World Heritage Sights because of the rare and exotic species of flora and fauna present here. The Rapti River, Narayani River, and Reu River meet amidst the jungle area. Devi Tal, Lami Tal, and Bis Hajaar Tal are some of the hidden gems of the park–lakes that offer a serene jungle experience as an ideal spot for birdwatching.

Reaching Chitwan is a breeze, with daily flights from Kathmandu to Bharatpur, followed by a short and scenic journey by car or bus. Buddha Air offers six direct flights daily, ensuring convenient access to this natural paradise. The best time to visit here is between October and March when the weather lies at its best and clearest. However, if you are looking to witness the wildlife particularly, there is a better chance of that from January to March when the 8-foot tall grasses are cut down. On the upside, the Monsoon season here also holds its beauty with the lush greenery circles and the abundant Sal trees covering the Jungle. There is a high chance you will be able to spot rare species of plants and flowers.

One of the tourist favourite activities to do in Chitwan is the Elephant Safari. Roaming around the jungle from the back of an elephant is, sometimes, all you need to get away with everyday chaos and embrace the depth of nature. You will even get a top view of the forest with a higher chance of spotting more wildlife. The elephants will stop by the river where you can witness them bathing in the Narayani and Rapti waters. There also may be Gharials peacefully sunbathing in the riverside. As you look closer, notice how some visitors are canoeing through the Rapti River. It is another spontaneous experience where you get a newer perspective to lurk into the tall grasses and taller trees in the distance.

Many also prefer to follow a guide and take a walk through the jungle. For all the adrenaline seekers and wildlife enthusiasts, this one hirs right at home. While the guides will be taking all the safety measures, it is a great opportunity to look for animals from the ground view in their natural habitat. Many reminisce about Chitwan Jungle walks as an experience of a lifetime indeed. A fun tip is to ask your guide to take you across the river but choose broader, easier trials. If you are in for a shorter visit to the park, Jeep Safaris are a great option to go much deeper and witness Rhinos and gharials from up close with maximum safety. 

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