When travelers think about Nepal, the first thing that comes to mind is the towering peaks of the Himalaya and some of the best trekking on the planet. The tiny mountain kingdom is the home of Mt. Everest and the Annapurna Circuit, but many visitors are surprised to find that the country has a subtropical lowland area, and that there is an amazing national park there.
Chitwan National Park is found in the south central portion of Nepal and covers approximately 930 square kilometers of classic jungle. The park was founded in 1974 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site a decade later, thanks to its rich flora and fauna, much of which can no longer be found anywhere else on the planet. The park has large tracts of elephant grass broken up by a variety of deciduous trees that line the the Rapti, Reu and the Narayani Rivers all of which run through the region.
The big draw for visitors to Chitwan is the animal life however, and there are some amazing species on display. More than 40 types of mammals call the park home, with another 45 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 450 types of birds. Elephants, Indian rhinos, and sloth bears are amongst the favorites amongst the visitors, while predators such as tigers, leopards, and march crocs wander the jungle.
There are a number of unique ways to explore Chitwan. The most popular is an elephant safari, on which visitors explore the park on the back of a pachyderm. But with three fairly large rivers in crossing through the area, traversing Chitwan by canoe has also become one of the best ways to view the wildlife and the landscapes.
Most adventure travelers going to Nepal fly into Kathmandu and spend a few days exploring that ecclectic city before heading out on their treks or climbs. But anyone visiting the country should do themselves a favor and take a day trip to Chitwan for a safari experience that is as enjoyable as it is unexpected.