Royal Chitwan National Park , Nepal
Located 165 Km from the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, the Chitwan National Park is one of the most enchanting wildlife sanctuaries in the Indian Subcontinent. It is also a World Heritage Site.
History of the Chitwan National Park
The Chitwan Forest used to be the exotic hunting grounds for the Ranas of Nepal (1846 to 1950). The morbid and ruthless sport continued unchecked until 1950 before nature finally took her revenge. A virulent form of malaria nearly wiped out Chitwan's human population resulting in the downfall of the Ranas. It took almost a decade before the Chitwan region was declared a malaria free zone in 1960.
In 1962 a small portion of the Chitwan Forest was declared a rhinoceros sanctuary before it was upgraded to a 544 square kilometer National Park 11 years later. In 1979 the park was expanded by an additional 388 square kilometers and in 1984 Chitwan National Park was declared a World Heritage site.
Location and Terrain of the Chitwan National Park
The park is nestled in the tranquil foothills of the Siwalik Range of the Inner Himalayas at an altitude of around 600 m (1970 feet). A large portion of the park is made up of riverine planes partially including the basins of Rapti, Reu and Narayani Rivers. The Rapti and the Reu meet on the western boundary of the park before merging with the Narayani, a major tributary of the Ganges. Numerous ox-bow lakes, marshes and swamps have been created by the various seasonal rivers. The lakes are locally called tals. The largest and most beautiful of the tals is the Devi Tal.
Vegetation Found in the Chitwan National Park
Dense Sal forests account for nearly 70% of the vegetation of the Chitwan National Park. The Sal forests are interspersed with tracts of open grassland. The grassland is diverse and consists of over 50 species ranging from the 8 m tall elephant grass to much shorter species like Imperata which is used for thatching roofs. Chir Pine is found on the crest of the Churiya range, whereas Silk Cotton is present in the riverine forests.
Wildlife in the Chitwan National Park
The prime wildlife attraction of the Chitwan National Park is the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and the tiger. Another exotic mammal is the Sloth Bear which is frequently spotted by visitors. A much more elusive site is that of a mother Sloth Bear carrying her young on her back.
The forest also harbors Indian elephants, leopards and Indian bison (Gaur). Five deer and antelope species including the Chital, Sambhar, Chausingha and Barking and Hog deer inhabit the Chitwan National Park.
The rivers are home to the Gangetic dolphin and two crocodile species -- the marsh crocodile and the endangered Ghariyal.
The reptiles include Vine Snake, Rat Snake, Common Indian Monitors and of course the king of all reptiles -- the King Cobra.
Chitwan National Park is also home to around 450 avian species including a large variety of kingfishers, parakeets, fouls and Floricans.
Advice for Tourists Visiting the Chitwan National Park
The best time to visit the Chitwan National Park is between September and May.
The closest metropolis to the Chitwan National Park is Kathmandu (165Km) from where regular bus services are available to Saurah. And from Saurah the Chitwan National Park is just an elephant ride away!
Source: Natural Wonders of India and Nepal by Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, Buroshiva Dasgupta and Indira Bhattacharya
Image: Rhinoceros by FreeDigitalPhotos.net