In Nepal, hiking in the jungle, observing tigers, and discovering an isolated ethnic group’s rich culture is possible. In the south of the country hides a natural area preserved, which has unforgettable memories in store for you. Do you want to know more? Embark on a safari in Chitwan National Park!
Traveling in Nepal means crossing very different landscapes. Steep mountains, dense forests, mountain villages, or even a scorching jungle. As soon as you arrive in Narayangarh, a crossroads town where the bus drops you off, the air seems to have changed. The heat is heavy; a tropical atmosphere already emerges from this big city’s urban jungle where multiple roads cross. Here you are in the heart of the Terai region , in the extreme south of Nepal and on India’s border.
Protected since 1973, the region has long been a popular hunting area. In the face of the imminent extinction of tigers, leopards, rhinos, and even bears, the national park was created. Today, the premises are under close surveillance and a permit is required to enter the park NPR 1,500 per person
Thus, exploring the jungle is not possible without a guide and a permit. So you have little choice but to follow the guidelines of your lodge or hotel, which will certainly offer you activity packages (or provide you with the information you need to complete your visit). The title of national park condemns the independent traveler to rely on an organization that is not his own: it must be said that it is about his own security and the park’s protection. It’s a good time to let go and enjoy the moment.
An indigenous tribe of Chitwan, the Tharu had to flee their land when agriculture developed in the region and the jungle, victim of poachers, was closed into a national park. The surrounding villages are very poor and the income generated by the lodge makes it possible to come to the aid of the inhabitants, in particular by building schools.
The lodge employs locals, promotes their culture, cooks their production. The decoration of the rooms reflects the Tharu style and, in the hotel shop, you can find mainly objects made by the women of the surrounding villages: cups, embroidery, keyrings, small sculptures and others, we are far from made. in China and the proceeds from the sale go directly to the community.
The protection and development of this indigenous ethnic group also go through the link with travelers in the region. Many activities are offered with the locals, in the heart of the villages, io share their traditions and tay of life. This ethnic group is truly a people apart, on the fringes of Nepalese culture; the Tharus speak their own language, practice their own religious rites ,and live to the rhythm of specific festivities Exciting people to discover and support!
The lodge’s sustainable tourism policy appealed to us and we did not hesitate to spend a little more than usual, knowing that part of this money goes directly to the development of the locals.
You can buy toothbrushes (adult and child) and toothpaste before arriving in Chitwan to redistribute them to the locals. Indeed, these are everyday objects that are sorely lacking in the village. Basic school supplies such as notebooks, pencils and pens, as well as clothes and shoes are also welcome.
As everywhere in Nepal, avoid offering candy to children (especially when toothbrushes are lacking!) And money to adults. This practice encourages begging. Instead, turn to the local business or, if in doubt, talk to your tour guide who will be able to describe where to invest effectively.
The Terai enjoys a hot and humid tropical climate. The equipment to bring in Chitwan is basically no different from what you will need to visit Nepal. Bring your:
There are plenty of activities available to you in Chitwan National Park or the surrounding villages. There is something for all tastes and all budgets; encounter with Tharu culture, a bike tour of the villages, cooking lessons, massage, jeep safari, trek in the Chepang Hills and its waterfalls, night hike, traditional dance, making food for the elephant or even organizing your wedding in the Tharu tradition!
We chose an activity package modified according to our convenience and the vagaries of the organization. Indeed, some activities require a group of a minimum number of participants. That said, don’t worry, there is always a way to work things out or to choose another activity, just as interesting.
Our day program consisted of:
In Chitwan, the heat is heavy and the days start early. From 7:30 am, the descent along the Rapti river takes place aboard a superb wooden canoe. There is no question of the engine: a rower gently slides the canoe over the water.
Accompanied by one or two guides and a few more visitors, you just have to let yourself be carried away by the waves and admire the lush nature around you. Birds, vegetation and crocodiles await you, but rest assured, the tour guides know how to manage an unexpected attack. The place is very peaceful and the moment is calming.
The guides do not hesitate to name the birds and explain the natural phenomena that can question you. In particular, you will learn that the pretty flowers on the surface of the water are the result of the proliferation of invasive algae. Man’s big clogs do not spare water pollution and a decrease in the aquatic population, Chitwan’s waters.
The hike that follows this canoe trip lasts between 2 and 2 and a half hours. It presents no difficulty and is accessible to all. The hike goes up the path traveled by canoe and reaches the starting point by land. We discover a jungle with 1000 faces, the environment changing very quickly. We cross voluntarily burnt areas to help renew the flora, fertilize the arid soil and thus provide more food for the animals, whose population is under close surveillance.
Giant termite mounds, quirky trees, intertwined lianas, cries of birds, the immersion is total. During a detour through a superb water point, a strategic area for seeing animals that have come to quench their thirst, breakfast is served. In Chitwan, everything is a question of luck: no luck for us, neither tiger nor rhino on the horizon. Only a few do deign to show up.
The guides supervise the hikers, attentive to the slightest movement and ready to draw their deterrent stick against a possible large animal. On the way, we come across a few fresh tracks that a rhino left in the mud. A little comfort!
It was a detail of the program that initially made us. We are starting to know each other, and you know that we are closed to any activity that includes animals and call for a boycott of the exploitation of elephants in Asia. Therefore, we took the time to talk to the Manager of our trip organizer about the living conditions of the pachyderms.
He explained to us that his residents were former working elephants. They have been taken out of their miserable living conditions but, domesticated from birth, cannot be released into the wild. At the lodge, they are pampered, fed and cared for. Their sympathy capital attracts travelers and is exploited for much more pleasant purposes: daily swimming, walks in the park (in respect of the animal, no more than two people per elephant), the involvement of visitors in the preparation and distribution. Of their meal.
If the story is beautiful, it is difficult to take your eyes off the big marks of the chains that damaged the animals’ skin around the neck. Admittedly, the bath is a moment of pleasure for them, vital in this scorching heat, but the experience leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth. Despite the pleasant living conditions, the ropes are still there, the trainer and his bamboo are still there. It’s hard to know where the truth ends in this lovely story and what the real conditions are.
However, our skepticism should not detract from the lodge’s laudable intentions. A park for retired elephants has been opened, where animals deemed too old to work are free to go on semi-liberty. Care and food are granted to them without compensation. A nice gesture that shows that mentalities are changing. Are we heading towards the end of the exploitation of elephants in Asia? Let us give ourselves a moment to dream of this sweet utopia.
This activity takes up the second half of your day. It is aboard a large open-top jeep and accompanied by about ten people that you will cross the dusty tracks of Chitwan National Park for a few hours. To avoid suffering from sunstroke that would spoil your stay, bring a hat or a cap. Several hours in an open-air jeep, it bangs.
If the jeep makes a terrible noise, the animals are used to it and do not run away when it arrives. A guide scans the trees and tall grass in search of the small and large inhabitants of the place, the driver slows down and stops so that the passengers can strafe photos of the slightest curiosity. Everything is done not to disturb the animals and interfere as little as possible in their lifestyle. The number of jeeps that roam the park is regulated to limit traffic on the environment.
By forgetting your fellow travelers’ fat laughs in the back of the car, the ride has all of a pleasant visit, where protection of animals and awareness of the local ecosystem is at the heart of the attention.
Monkeys, birds, warthogs, hinds, crocodiles, rhinoceros … Here again, it is luck that will allow you to see large animals or not. That said, in a jeep, the covered area is much wider than on foot and your chances are clearly increased tenfold.
Perhaps, like us, you will stop by a crocodile and caiman breeding center. You will find ponds where the reproduction of animals is controlled to revive the population. These little beings already have beautiful jaws and if they are very cute, they are even more so behind a thick fence.
We cross some military roadblocks on the road, where the jeep is stopped for control—classic protocol to fight against the illegal entry of poachers into the park. The guide shows the armed and awkward guards the entry permits to the park of all visitors, the driver’s license and the driver’s identity are verified. This sad step demonstrates the extensive surveillance from which the park benefits and, unfortunately, the illegal acts of poachers still committed today.
The Chitwan National Park is a great stopover on your itinerary in Nepal before heading back to the capital to visit Kathmandu for example. Spending a few days there allows you to discover one more facet of this fascinating country. Immersing yourself in a jungle atmosphere with tropical scents is an unexpected experience, radically different from the high air you would expect to find in Nepal. It’s up to you to enjoy the region as you see fit!
Do you know the Chitwan? Tell us about your experience!