The Wilderness of Chitwan National Park

baby rhino in chitwan

The road to Chitwan National Park might be a little bumpy “, warned Narayan, our driver. “Last month’s floods have caused quite some damage”. 
I didn’t mind the long ride from Pokhara to Chitwan. Chitwan National Park, known for it’s Terai landscapes and sightings of the One Horned rhino and the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Chitwan National park
The landscapes of Chitwan
The nature lover in me was happy with simple joys of timely stops in green pastures, field hopping, having a meandering river for company throughout the journey and watching the sun rays flit in and out of trees as we whizzed by.

Chitwan welcomed us with an inviting silence and a room that opened up to greenery. 

As the guide explains the program for the next day, my interest is piqued when I hear a 45 minute canoe ride.

I picture myself in a narrow canoe, rowing to my heart’s delight under tree canopies and with these happy thoughts, I drift off to sleep.

Next morning the delighted me is walking with a spring in her step as our guide Deep leads us to the canoes.

And suddenly I stop.

I can’t believe what I see.

Six wooden canoes are stacked together. Obviously this wasn’t to be done solo.

Tiny wooden stools were stacked in each wobbly canoe and it couldn’t get more rustic than this.

Canoeing in Chitwan
Our canoes in Chitwan and how I did not imagine them!
It was a wooden canoe made by villagers to cross the river. Raw, basic and a tad bit leaky!

“Err, Lifejackets? ” I stutter and Deep laughs. “The river has no flow“. Hesitantly , I balance precariously and manage to squat on the stool ( laughing in my head recalling what I imagined last night).

And then it began. A little bit of adventure, but lots of calm. A little bit of intrusion and so many rewards.

Six of us, led by Deep in the front and the boatman at the rear, sat in the rickety wooden canoe which slowly cruised into the heart of the Rapti river.

canoe chitwan
The very happy me!
Approx 5 feet away, we spotted a Gharial, gliding on the parallel side.

My heart was now beating faster. This was the first time I saw a crocodile in such proximity!

Gharials in Chitwan national park
The long snouted Gharial

Sitting in the low canoe gave a surreal feel to the experience as we saw our second crocodile, a Mugger crocodile, nonchalantly eyeing us through its glistening  marble eyes.

crocodiles in the Asia
The Mugger crocodile
Ten minutes later I lose count of the Gharials and the Muggers.  

The muddy waters of the Rapti river were flanked by forests where spotted deer scurry playfully and monkeys scout for fruits.

Imagine how nature welcomes its intruders. With impeccable silence, punctuated by the sounds of the oar and sights like these!

Chitwan national park mammals
Look who is here

The birds weren’t to be left behind. (There are 544 species in Chitwan National Park!)

Among the list of feathered beauties were a bunch of restless Sand Martin Swallows, a majestic Asian open billed stork, a gorgeous white throated Kingfisher perched on a branch, a Rufous treepie, A common greenshank, a white browed wagtail , a couple of Spotted Doves and a a lone little Heron.

It was quite a private tete a tete, with almost no other tourist canoe and occasional passing canoes of villagers.

The feeling of gliding alongside crocodiles was something else. Adventurous? Maybe. But to my surprise it was both exciting and calming.

Rapti river Nepal
The painting
I was in awe of the beautiful scenes and lush landscapes on either side!

As the canoe reached the bank, it seemed unfair. I wanted this silence to linger, for a little more time. As I sulked, Deep grinned. “You have to see the elephants right?“. On the way Deep pointed out to a tree, identifying it as the Silk cotton tree.  The bark of this tree is used to make the wooden canoes.  

The next stop was the Elephant conservation centre but little did I know what awaited there.

I saw them at a distance. My favourite animals: swinging their trunks and tails in all possible directions. Chitwan National Park is also known for its elephant safaris but to be honest, I never had the heart to ride one. Nor will I ever. As I approached the shelter, I saw them paired : Mothers with their kids, one as young as 10 months.

These are mostly captive elephants used for safaris and the chain made my heart sink. It always does.

Standing on the fence I called out to Appu, trying to initiate a conversation.

elephants in Nepal
In conversation with Appu

He responded my desperate queries with a fervent shake of his trunk and we talked like this for 10 minutes till I heard Ami calling.

“Hornbills!” She gushed excitedly.

I had never seen a hornbill and as I turned to see in the direction of Ami’s fingers, my jaw dropped. Two majestic beauties sat on the topmost branch. By the time I focused my camera, one of them flew.

hornbills in Chitwan National park
The majestic Oriental pied Hornbill
I wasn’t going to give up. So I chased it from tree to tree till it nestled itself in the foliage and found me right underneath and gave me an exasperated look as if asking” what do you want, lady?!”

Birds of Chitwan
Yes? Looking for me?
I walked back to our jeep slowly, not wanting to leave this green paradise. And Deep understood it. “There’s the afternoon safari!” My face brightens up waiting eagerly for 3 pm.

4 hours later I find myself squeezed into what seemed the the most uncomfortable jeep. Rattling and shaking we cross paddy fields, thatched homes and the Nepali countryside to reach the entrance of the Chitwan National park.

chitwan safari
Jeep safari
First a fleeting ride through a thick canopy of trees, at a neck breaking speed.

forest-chitwan
The road to wilderness
Then amidst tall grasses and into the open meadows, it traversed all along the mud tracks only to find another jeep stuck in the mud.

An adventure ensued, with everyone trying to get the wheel out while we roasted in the Chitwan sun.

Everyone almost gave up a rhino sighting when suddenly, I blurt out without thinking,

(Just like in Kanha and in Ranthambore. )

“I am sure we will see a rhino with its baby”.

Deep winks at my optimism.

The trees hear this perhaps and the forest whispers in acknowledgment!

We spot a plethora of birds perched on trees, some enroute home and some flitting from branch to branch.

With no rhinos in sight, we are almost nearing the end of the safari when Deep stands up excitedly!

“RHINO!!!” Before he can even complete it, camera shutter sounds fill the air. We see the majestic creature eating, chewing the grass slowly, not battling an eyelid.

rhino in chitwan
The majestic one horned rhino
And behind it, snuggling close is none other than a baby rhino!

rhinos in Chitwan national park
Snuggling close , making the prophecy come true!
I am stunned. Not that the prophecy came true for a third time, But the fact that forests indeed have a secret grapevine, passing messages from trees to leaves!

 

We watch these beauties for almost 15 minutes till they decide to show us their backs and scurry home.

There’s a smile pasted on my face now: my first ever rhino sighting! The forest celebrated it in its own way, as dusk set in , birds chirped in harmony and forest fragrances engulfed the air.

chitwan sunsets
The sunset
We were in Chitwan after all. Literally translated to “Heart of the Jungle”.

The bumpy ride didn’t feel bumpy anymore.

The uncomfortable jeep didn’t seem so anymore.

And I am so sure that when the jeep exited the gate of the park, the Chitwan forest was abuzz with stories of the strange intruders they saw and their insane excitement.

All you need to know:

Where to stay: Most of the lodging is at Sauraha, the town at the outskirts of the Chitwan National Park.

Landmark Forest Park Hotel is a great option with modern amenities, yet scenic views.

Comfortable rooms with attached balconies, a state of the art pool and lush green gardens are a definite plus point.

The food and the service is outstanding and a double thumbs up to the guides they provide.

How to reach:

Chitwan can be reached by air, nearest airport is Bharatpur 10 kms from Sauraha the main town. The flight duration from Kathmandu and Pokhara is about 25 minutes.

By road it is connected to Kathmandu (4-5 hours) and Pokhara (5-6 hours).

Chitwan things to do
A green paradise
Important points: 

Like for any safari and jungle visit, it is advisable to wear earthy colours (No bright coloured apparel). Birders can carry binoculars and it’s best to carry ample of water and a hat during the safari.

Park entry fee for a foreigner in Chitwan National Park is Rs.1500 per day. For SAARC nationals it is Rs. 1000 per day. Elephant safaris cost Rs. 1000 per hour per person for foreigners. For SAARC nationals it is Rs.400 per person per hr. Jeep safaris are best done through your hotel.

Best time to visit: 

Chitwan National Park is open year round. However during the end of the dry season in October to December there is a greater chance of seeing tigers and other wildlife as they come out to the waterholes.

Local guides also mention November and December as being good times though it’s not that hot.

From June – to September it is Nepal’s Monsoon season, making it unfavourable to sight wildlife.

Activities in Chitwan National Park include: Canoeing , Jungle walk, Elephant breeding centre visit, Jeep safari, Elephant Safari, Elephant washing with locals.

chitwan boating

Disclaimer : I was invited by Nepal tourism Board and Explore Himalaya to discover the wilderness of Chitwan. Views, prophecies and experiences are of course my own. 
This blog has been verified by Rise: R5162fbe66d3f329609fcb42f89f7cec5

51 thoughts on “The Wilderness of Chitwan National Park

  1. Wow, such amazing photos! There is nothing quite like Chitwan for spectacular wildlife… I’ve spent months in Sauraha (most recently last year), and can never get enough of the rhinos, kingfishers and all the rest. Looks like you scored BIG 😉

  2. Wow you managed clean shots of the croc and the hornbill! Two wildlife wishlist items that have been eluding me so far!

  3. WOW, double WoW even! I’d be the same if I was you too…. those low slung wooden boats with stools to sit on and crocodiles eyeing you off… Shudder, but WOW! These photos are amazing and really managed to transport the reader right there. As efficient as it would be to travel by air, I’d go for the slightly uncomfortable, bumpy and close encounters by land too. Great post, thank you for sharing.

  4. This is nicely complied. When I went there we missed out chitwan National Park but went to Pokhara. Great pics and excellent narrative. Someday we will go out on a tour together. Great one divsi.

  5. This park looks glorious, and so peaceful too. I love all your photos of the animals, love those elephants, and the landscape of the park. The hotel you recommend is stunning! I’d love to spend a night or two there.

  6. Rhinos and elephants are enough to draw me to Chitwan National Park but the border in me perked up when I read about the 544 species of birds! Your pictures are stunning(love the hornbill and rhinos especially) as well as the practical info of where to stay and how to get there.

  7. Wow! This makes me want to go back to Nepal. I’ve only been to Kathmandu and Pokhara. I will definitely include Chitwan in my itinerary should I have the chance to go back to Nepal. That crocodile sighting was intense, to think that you’re aboard that rustic canoe. 🙂

  8. I would personally never ride an elephant either. Seeing rhinos would be cool, but I know that I would just lose my cool if I saw a crocodile that close. I’ve done a swamp tour before in New Orleans and couldn’t handle it!

  9. Wow! That was certainly an awesome and hard-to-beat adventure! Though I would be freaking out when I see alligators swimming so close to my boat like that. You took some really great pictures here. I specially love the rhino and her baby 😀

  10. Your chit chat with the hornbill got me laughing loud. And I must confess, the flora and fauna of Chitwan is beautiful. While the wildlife might seem the highlight, one can’t ignore the beautify of the forest that houses them. Your love for wildlife though, I can imagine how happy and fulfilled you were to have seen the rhino.

  11. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous and the writing is fantastic too! I managed to see a rhino and its baby, some gharials, boars and some birds when I visited few years ago, but I don’t have such stunning photos of them like you do! Glad that you had a great time there.

  12. This was so different from your Kanha adventure, wasn’t it? The landscape itself looked so different. I never knew maggers and gharials were different species of crocs. And 544 species of birds….woah! You’ve caught quite a few prize shots. The sunset and the river cruise in the quaint canoe sound amazing. Quite a serene trail!

  13. Wonderful pics, Divsi! Lovely experience indeed.
    Best is you managed to click the pics seated on that canoe with a crocodile in close proximity 🙂

  14. Chitwan – Heart of the jungle. So true to its name and you brought it live for me with your pictures. Such fantastic clicks. Loved them all and you know what? Your positivism brings you what you want. <3
    I would love to visit Chitwan one day 🙂

  15. Such beautiful pictures ! You always take the best photos and it makes me want to visit even more. Chitwan has been on my radar for a while because nothing makes me happy like a safari does 🙂

  16. First of all I am enamoured by the name of the National Park itself. Chitwan, sounds so romantic and blissful. The place looks like a veritable Eden, a place of beauty and joy forever. The flora and fauna are really impressive and what I liked best was the fact that everything seems so untouched and pure. Your visuals tell a lovely story making words redundant. That however does not at all detract from the quality of your narrative which is riveting and interesting as always.

  17. What an amazing experience at Chitwan. Your photographs do a great job of bringing me on your experience with you 🙂 The rhino and baby rhino is adorable. Thanks for bringing this part of Nepal to life 🙂

  18. Oh my, what an incredible experience at the heart of nature’s best work! The crocodiles looks scary, I wonder how frightening it is, when you encounter it closely. I never considered Nepal for a safari destination, but your post just changed my opinion. All of your pictures are so stunning, tempts me to plan a visit soon to Chitwan National Park.

  19. What an incredible national park! I’m in love with wanting to stay and visit all of the incredible wildlife you enjoyed at Chitwan National Park. I can’t believe that this is in Nepal, I would not have thought it such a place for an animal safari, but obviously it is!

  20. Really loved this post. You narrated it so well, I could feel the bubbly tingly feeling you had and the excitement around wildlife. I’m glad this was an experience you would always remember even with those bumpy rides. As usual the pictures speak a thousand more words and left me speechless. Impeccable! My favorite line, “the trees hear this perhaps and the forest whispers in acknowledgement!”.

  21. I am stunned you were able to see a rhino with its baby! What an awesome opportunity! SO cool to see all of these animals in their habitat, though I’d have been a little nervous seeing all of the crocodiles!

  22. It’s funny how when people say they’re going on safari, they automatically think of Africa, when in reality Asia has just as incredible wildlife experiences on offer. Chitwan National Park is very high on our bucketlist ,I’m hoping to make it next year. Such beautiful landscapes and scenery, and you saw some great wildlife during your adventure – love the mix of adventure though peaceful serenity. We’re big bird nerds so would love the chance to spot some of these. So sad to see the elephants chained though – my heart sinks when I see that too 🙁 It’s like, is it really a sanctuary if they’re chained?

    How incredible that you saw rhinos – we didn’t even see these in Africa!

  23. Beautifully Captured Divsi… That Canoe ride was just so funny and fun at the same time. I could barely hear the guide and had to rely on your knowledge of what birds we were spotting. Hornbills were amazing indeed, glad you at least saw them. And your prediction!!! Man! I am coming with you for every safari

  24. While reading your post on the Chitwan National Park, it took me back to my experience of exploring the wilderness a few months back. I had great time meeting the rhino , Kingfisher birds , crocodile and what not. I loved that boat ride a lot early in the morning. You have captured the forest beautifully. I loved specially the Hornbill shot.

  25. Wow! This post has got me like I visited the place already. it features all the angles that feels like I have experience the place. Thanks! You also pointed out some useful tips on not wearing vibrant colors.

  26. I had no idea there were rhinos in this area – how beautiful! It’s a shame that they have tourists riding elephants (and so many of them on one too…), but the river safari in the canoe looks like once in a lifetime! I love seeing animals in their wild habitat – it’s so peaceful!

  27. This is a great post. I loved how you captured your journey and I traveled with you while reading. It looks like an amazing place, must visit. Beautiful and serene. In the end we only remember the discoveries on our travels and forget the hardships. Lovely pictures

  28. Your photos are gorgeous! I can’t believe you spotted a rhino and its baby, what luck! That canoe ride looks thrilling. I’d be holding my breath seeing a croc so close but so excited, too! I just love spotting wildlife in their natural habitats. I definitely need to make it to Chitwan National Park for an experience like this.

  29. Wow! That’s one gorgeous way to explore a national park on a rustic row boat like that. I feel this is much more authentic than on elephant back! Appu is just super cute, super adorable. You got to see a wild baby rhino?? Now, I envy you.. Lolz..

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