Chitwan National Park (CNP) or Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP) is the oldest national park of Nepal. The park, which covers an area of 932 square kilometres, was established in 1974 and has been granted with the status of the World Heritage Site in 1984. The wildlife park is located at the Terai lowlands of Chitwan district in Couth-Central Nepal. Scientific and research studies on various flora and fauna types are conducted in the park.
The CNP area comprises Tikauli forest extending from Rapti river to the foothills of the Mahabharat mountains, extending over an area of 175 sq. km. was declared.
The place where the CNP stands today was earlier known as the Chitwan Valley which was a favourite hunting reserve for the Ranas, the erstwhile rulers of Nepal till the 1950s. In 1963, a rhinoceros sanctuary was set up in the south of the Rapti River. In 1970, King Mahendra approved the idea of setting up a national park in Chitwan. CNP today stands as a favourite destination for ecotourism. In 1996, an area of 750 sq. km surrounding the park was declared a buffer zone which consists of forests and private lands. The park is close to the Parsa Wildlife Reserve (in the east) and the Bara Hunting Reserves in Nepal while in the south it has the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in India.
Geography of the CNP
The park consists of elevated terrain (Churia Hill or the Siwaliks in the southernmost Himalaya), ox-bow lakes as well as the flood plains of Rapti, Reu and Narayani rivers. The Churia Hill rises gradually from 150 metres to over 800 metres in the east. The lower and rugged Someshwor Hill areas occupy the western and south-westren part of the park. The flood plains of the park are rich in alluvial soil. The Narayani and Rapti rivers mark the park’s boundary in the north and west,respectively while the Reu river delineates it in the south.
Seasonal conditions at CNP
The park experiences tropical monsoon climate with high humid conditions. Winter lasts from October to February which is followed by spring in March. Soon spring gives way to summer. Monsoon starts in end-June and continues till September. Mean annual rainfall is about 2,150 mm. The region often experiences monsoon floods which lead to closing down of the roads.
Nepal is a small land-locked country located in the southern Asia. Nepal is sandwiched between the two biggest Asian countries, China and India. Nepal is the only Hindu state in the world. National currency is Nepali rupee. National capital is Kathmandu.
Nepal is a land of contrasting geography and climate. The country’s topography ranges from lowlands with sub-tropical jungles to the arctic vegetation in the Himalayan highlands. The land terrain rises steeply from south to north within a meare distance of 150 km. This added with the high monsoon has made Nepal a perfect setting for great flora and wildlife diversity to flourish.
CNP mainly consists of moist deciduous forest of which, Sal is the predominant type. Pine trees are mainly found in the terrain of the Churia Hills while the plains of the rivers Rapti, Reu and Narayani feature elephant grasses (about 8 metres high) and riverine forests comprising Simal, Khair and Sisoo trees. The grasslands feature over 50 species. Shorter grasses like Imperata also grow here and are useful for making thatched roofs.
The CNP comprises of great fauna diversity. Besides 43 mammal and 45 amphibian and reptile species, the park is also home to over 450 bird species. RCNP is one of the few remaining habitats of the one-horned Indian rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger. Besides elephants, gaur, sambar deer, Indian muntjac, hog deer, wild boar, chousinga (four-horned antelope), Asian wild buffalo, golden jackals, sloth bears, leopards, marbled cat, fishing cat, pangolin, yellow-throated marten, ratel, smooth coated otter, flying squirrel, rhesus monkeys, langurs, mongoose, porcupine, Indian hare, Gangetic dolphin,striped hyenas and wild dogs can also be spotted in this national park. Marsh mugger crocodiles, gharials, frogs, tortoise, green pit viper, cobra and Indian pythons are also seen.
Of the bird species found in the CNP, common are giant Hornbill, Bengal florican, lesser florican, Impeyan pheasants, black and white storks, peafowl, egrets, herons, kingfishers, babblers, orioles, koels, woodpeckers and flycatchers. December through March is the best season for birding here.
How to reach
The CNP is located just 10 kilometres away from Bharatpur airport in Nepal. Air services are available from Kathmandu to Meghauli and Bharatpur.
The capital city of Kathmandu is 200 kilometres from the national park. One can reach the park either by Kathmandu-Mugling-Narayanghat highway (Kathmandu-Narayanghat is 6 hours drive) or Mahendra-Rajmarg highway from Hetauda. Six km walk or bullock-cart ride from narayanghat brings one to Sauraha, entrance to the CNP. Buses are available from Narayanghat to kasara, the park headquarters.
Activities at the CNP
- Elephant ride
- Guided jungle trail
- Enjoying Terai culture
- Viweing animal life from view towers
- Viewing crocodile and elephant breeding centres.
- 4 WD safari
- elephant ride
Enrty fees and other charges in the CNP
Rs 20 for Nepali nationals
Rs 200 for nationals from SAARC countries
Rs 500 for foreign nationals
Free entry for children below 10 years of age
Rs 550 for elephant ride for about 2 hours (Rs 100 for Nepali nationals).
Rs 300 for fishing permit (Rs 20 for Nepali nationals)
Rs 300 for camping per night (per person) (Rs 20 for Nepali nationals)
Rs 250/400 for half day/full day respectively for guided jungle trail
Rs 230 for canoeing
Rs 650 per head for 4WD safari
Other attractions in Nepal
- Langtang National Park (32 km from Kathmandu)
- Langtang Valley
- Gosainkunda Lake
- Sagarmatha National Park
- Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve
- Dhorbahara: a Hindu religious place
- Mustang Conservation Area
Sapana Village Lodge
Unique Wild Resort
Maruni Sanctuary Lodge
Eden Jungle Resort
Baghmara Wildlife Resort
Park Village Hotel