Chitwan National Park: Asia’s Serengeti
By: Mike Jerrard
Africa is famous for its incredible parks such as the Serengeti, Kruger, Okavango, or Etosha and it is where most people start when they are thinking of taking a safari. There is however another place where one can view wild elephants, rhinos, hyenas, and crocodiles and it lies in Asia.
Although very much known around the world, Chitwan does not receive nearly as much attention as its African counterparts in terms of travel safaris. This is surprising when it is quite easily accessible. Tours to Chitwan can even be taken from Kathmandu, making it a nice addition to those doing Everest Base Camp.
Chitwan used to be a prime hunting ground for royaly, but thankfully they realized how quickly their richness of fauna was dwindling. Now it is listed as a UNESCO site and is a safe refuge for leopards, sloth bears, Bengal tigers, king cobras, gharials, Indian rhinoceroses, Indian elephants, and much more.
A safari through Chitwan will take you through grasslands, wetlands, and jungles. You will also have the oportunity to visit indigenous Tharu villages.
It is best to avoid the monsoon season occurring around June-September. You will have much more luck spotting wildlife in the period of January-March. For those not wanting to suffer through a very long adventurous seven hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Sauraha( the gateway to Chitwan National Park), you can take a flight from Kathmandu to Bharatpur. From there it is just a half hour taxi ride into Sauraha.
There are accommodation options suiting all budgets, but I advise placing yourself outside of the main tourist hub of Sauraha and splurging on a luxury lodge just outside the actual park. You can arrange safari tours with more ease from these lodges and they are rather reasonable as far as luxury lodges go.
A visit to Chitwan will have you feeling like Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. The book may have been based on his travels in India, however Chitwan is the place where all his characters seem to come together much like during the water truce.