While people flock to Africa to see the ‘big 5’, Nepal has its own awe-inspiring wildlife: rhinoceros, elephants, tigers, gharial crocodiles, deer, and an abundance of bird-life.
In 2016, it celebrated the second consecutive ‘zero-poaching’ year, and has roughly doubled its population of one-horned rhinoceros in the past decade.
Now, there are more than 600 of the enormous animals in the park, and you’re practically guaranteed to see at least one—I saw nine on my last visit!
Other animals and birds live in and around the park, including elephants, gharial crocodiles, deer, and vultures.
While many tourists flock to busy Sauraha, there are some more peaceful and eco-friendly ways of experiencing the park:
Tiger Tops’ Tharu Lodge, on the edge of Chitwan, offers a range of lovely safari options.
Traveling through the jungle on an ox cart is much quieter than going in a motorised vehicle, and it disrupts the wildlife much less.
You are more likely to see shy animals this way. You can also take on-foot safaris.
Stay at the Barauli Community Homestay to learn about the local Tharu people, participate in their daily lives and experience the jungle at a slower pace.
I took a sunset bicycle tour down to the banks of the Narayani River. I also joined the Homestay’s jeep tour within the park, and was the only client. We ended up spending several hours in the park.
The ethics of elephant tourism in Asia are problematic, but the recently opened Tiger Tops Elephant Camp is a good way of getting up close and personal with these animals.
This camp was developed in consultation with elephant welfare experts.
Guests stay in permanent tents close to the animals, and help with feeding and bathing, as well as collect grass for these majestic creatures.
Bardia National Park, in the far west of Nepal, is much less-visited than Chitwan, so offers a more rugged safari experience.
While Royal Bengal Tigers live in various parts of Nepal, and are pretty elusive, you have a chance of spotting them here.
The Karnali River runs very close to Bardia, so a unique way of experiencing this park is to combine it with a ten-day white-water rafting trip down the Karnali.
Bird enthusiasts will love Koshi Tappu, on Nepal’s eastern plains. It also makes for an excellent day trip from Pokhara.
The wetland area is home to over 400 bird species. You can spot various species of storks, ducks, geese, eagles, terns, lapwings, kingfishers…
Tented camps, both luxury and quite basic, have been set up in the area, and cater specifically to bird watchers.
Nepal’s national parks and reserves are a nature and wilderness-lover’s dream. From snow-capped mountains, to steamy jungles, here are our adventure expert’s top picks.
While Nepal has traditionally been known as a destination for trekkers and mountaineers, it’s quickly becoming a “must visit” for mountain bikers too. Our local insider shows you why.