Chitwan National Park is situated in south central Nepal in the sub tropical lowlands of the inner terai of Chitwan, Makawanpur, Parsa and Nawalparasi districts. It lies between 27°16.56’- 27°42.14’ Latitudes and 83°50.23’-84°46.25’ Longitudes. The altitude ranges from 110m to 850m above sea level. The park is bounded by the Rapti and Narayani River in the north, Parsa Wildlife Reserve in the east and Madi settlements and India border in the south. The physiography of the park consists of the Terai and Siwaliks. Three major rivers Narayani, Rapti and Reu, and their floodplains; and several lakes and pools are the major water sources of the park.
Being the first protected area of Nepal, it has a long history of over three decades in park management and rich experiences in nature conservation. Chitwan was a big game area for the royal families, Rana rulers and their guests. The area comprising the Tikauli forest from Rapti River to the foothills of the Mahabharat extending over an area of 175 km2 was declared as Mahendra Deer Park in 1959. The area south of the Rapti River was demarcated as a Rhino Sanctuary in 1963. It was proclaimed as Royal Chitwan National Park with an area of 932 km2 in 1973. After the peoples’ revolution in 2006, the park’s name was changed to Chitwan National Park.
In recognition of its unique biological resources of outstanding universal value, UNESCO designated CNP as a World Heritage Site in 1984. In 1996, an area of 750 km2 surrounding the park was declared a buffer zone, which consists of forests and private lands including cultivated lands. The buffer zone contains a Ramsar Site – Beeshazari Lakes.
The park and the local people jointly initiate community development activities and manage natural resources in the buffer zone. The government of Nepal has made a provision of plowing back 30-50 percent of the park revenue for community development in the buffer zone.
Habitat Types: The Chitwan valley is characterized by tropical and subtropical forests. Roughly 70 percent of park vegetative cover is Sal (Shorea robusta) forest, a moist deciduous vegetation type of the terai region. The remaining vegetation types include grassland, riverine forest and Sal with Chir pine Pinus roxburghii. The later occurs at the top of the Churia range. The riverine forests consist of Khair (Acacia catechu), Sissoo (Dalbergia sisoo) and Simal (Bombax ceiba). The grasslands are mainly located in the floodplains of the rivers and form a diverse and complex community with over 50 different types of grasses including the elephant grass (Saccharum spp.), renowned for its immense height. It can grow up to 8 meter in height.
Species Diversity: A total of 68 species of mammals , 56 species of herpeto fauna and 126 species of fish have been recorded in the park. The park is especially renowned for its protection of One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile. The park harbors not only the world’s largest terrestrial mammal (wild elephant) but also the world’s smallest terrestrial mammal (pygmy shrew). A total of 544 species of birds has been recorded so far including 22 globally threatened species including critically endangered Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture and Red-headed Vulture.
Regulations of Chitwan National Park:
There are certain rules and regulations of the Chitwan National Park that the visitors of the park are supposed to follow in order to visit the park. The regulations of the park are outlined here below:
- An entry fee of NRs. 1500/- (Foreigners), NRs. 750/- (SAARC), and NRs. 100/- (Nepalese) per person has to be paid at the Park’s Entrance Gate.
- Flora and Fauna of the park are fully protected and must not be disturbed at any cost.
- Do not purchase illegal animal or plant products. The purchase of illegal animal or plant product may bring you to the legal prosecution.
- The visitors of the park must respect the religious and cultural sites all around the park.
- The visitors are required to place the trash in the rubbish bins and should care about the cleanliness.
- The visitors are strictly prohibited to walk within the park between sunset and sunrise.
Facilities at Chitwan National Park:
The park offers interesting sites and activities. The display at the Visitor Center at Sauraha provides fascinating information on wildlife and conservation programs. The Women’s User Group souvenir shop offers a variety of handicrafts and other local products for gifts and souvenirs.
Elephant safari provides an opportunity to get a closer view of the endangered One-horned Rhinoceros. One may also get a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger. The Elephant Breeding Center at Khorsor, Sauraha gives you information on domesticated elephant and the baby elephants born there.
The museum at Kasara, the park headquarters, has informative displays. Near the HQ, visitors can see Bikram Baba, a Hindu religious site of archival value. A short walk (1 km.) from the park HQ will take you to the Gharial Breeding Center, which is also home to the Marsh mugger and a number of turtles.
How to get from Kathmandu to Chitwan/Sauraha
Fly from Kathmandu to Chitwan: The nearest airport to Chitwan National Park is Bharatpur Airport, in s (10km away). A taxi is easily obtainable from the airport. You will need to bargain hard. Prices start at 500rps but vary depending on fuel strikes etc.
Plane tickets to Chitwan are available from nearly all travel agencies in Kathmandu. Flights run daily depending on numbers. Off season and flights are frequently postponed until the next day. Prices are approximately USD $100.
How to take a bus from Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park
There are several options. The two most popular are to take a local bus or to take a private tour bus.
The Kathmandu bus to Chitwan is actually to Sauraha. The first bus leaves from Kathmandu from just outside Thamel along Kantipath Road (first right after Garden of dreams and outside the USA Embassy leisure center). There will be buses here for several destination including Pokhara. Most leave at 7am (prompt).
You can buy a ticket to Sauraha in advance from a travel agency or your hotel. Tickets cost 400-500 rupees. 400 approx is you buy in person at the bus stop that morning. You will have to bargain a little.
Journey time to Sauraha is about 4-5 hours. Please read the section further below on getting from Sauraha bus stop into the town as it’s important.
Private buses to Sauraha
Private (air-con) buses vary but the two most popular are Greenline and Rainbow tours. Off season they don’t often run. During peak season expect to pay USD $12-20.
Mini vans to Sauraha
Kalanki bus stop has mini buses (microvans) running to Sauraha. It’s cheaper than all of the above but there are many dusty stops along the way ending at Tadi Bazaar Sauraha. You’ll then need to take a rickshaw/taxi to the town itself (4km).