The name ‘Chitwan’ has several possible
meanings, but the most literal translation of
the two NEPALI words that make it up: chit or
chita (heart) and wan or ban (jungle). Chitwan
is thus ‘the heart of the jungle’.
At the beginning of the nineteenth
century, cultivation in the valley was deliberately
prohibited by the government of Nepal in order
to maintain a barrier of disease-ridden forests
as a defense against the invasion of diseases
from the south. Then for the century between
1846 and 1950, when the Rana prime ministers
were de facto rulers of Nepal, Chitwan was declared
a private hunting reserve, maintained exclusively
for the privileged classes. Penalties for poaching
were severe - capital punishment for killing
rhino - and the wildlife in the area thus received
a measure of protection.
From time to time great hunts
for rhino were held during the cool, mosquito-free
winter months from December to February. The
Ranas invited royalty from Europe and the Princely
States of India, as well as other foreign dignitaries,
to take part in these grand maneuvers, which
were organized on a magnificent scale, often
with several hundred leopards.
The Park has a range of climatic seasons each
offering a unique experience. October through
February with average temperatures of 25oc offer
an enjoyable climate. From March to June temperatures
can reach as high as 43oC. The hot humid days
give way to the monsoon season that typically
lasts from late June until September, rivers become
flooded and roads are impossible.
In late January, local villagers
are allowed to cut thatch grasses to meet their
needs, which offer a better viewing of wildlife
for visitors. Also, between September and November
and February and April, migratory birds join
the residential birds and create spectacular
bird watching opportunities. While the monsoon
rains bring lush vegetation, most trees flower
in late winter. The palash tree, known as the
"flame of the forest' and silk cotton tree
have spectacular crimson flowers that can be
seen from a distance.
The Park consists of a diversity of ecosystems-including
the Churia hills, Ox-bow lakes, and the flood
plains of the Rapti, Reu and Narayani Rivers.
The Churia hills rise slowly towards the East
from 150 m. to more than 800 m. The western portion
of the Park is comprised of the lower but more
rugged, Someshwor hill. The Park shares its eastern
boundary with the Parsa Wildlife Reserve.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The Chitwan valley consists of tropical and subtropical
forests. Sal forests cover 70 percent of the park.
Sal leaves are used locally for plates in festivals
and religious offerings.
Grasslands cover 20 percent of
the Park. There are more than 50 different types
of grasses, including the elephant grass (Saccharum
spp), renowned for its immense height. It can
grow up to 8m in height. The park is home to more
than 50 mammal species, over 525 birds, and 55
amphibians and reptiles. The endangered fauna
found in the Park are: One-horned rhinoceros,
Gaur. Royal Bengal tiger. Wild elephant, Four
horned antelope, Pangolin, Golden monitor lizard,
Python, etc. Bengal florican. Lesser florican,
Giant hornbill, Black stork, White stork, etc.
The Park offers interesting sites and activities.
The display at the visitor centre at Sauraha provides
fascinating information on wildlife and conservation
program. The women's user groups' souvenir shop
offers a variety of handicrafts and other local
products for gifts and souvenirs.
Elephant safari provides opportunity
to get a closer view of the endangered one-horned
rhinoceros. One may also get a glimpse of the
elusive Bengal tiger. The Elephant Breeding Center
at Khorsor, Sauraha gives you information on captive
elephant and the calves born there.
The museum at Kasara, the Park headquarters,
has informative displays- near the HQ visitors
can see Bikram Baba, a Hindu religious site of
archival value. A short walk (1km) from the Park
HQ will take you to the Gharial Breeding Center,
which is also a home to the Marsh mugger, gharial
crocodiles and other turtles.
Inside the Park, there are 7 resorts
run by Park concessionaires that can provide lodging
and access to wildlife activities. Various resorts
and lodges situated outside the park also offer
variety of services.
HOW TO GET THERE
Chitwan is linked by public buses, tourist coaches,
and air service. There are eight entrance gates
to the park
- Kasara via Jagatpur
- Ghatgain via Patihani
- Bhimle via Maghauli
- Khagendra mali via Bhandara
- Sunachuri via Sunachuri
- Sauraha via Tandi (Ratna Nagar)
- Laukhani via Pragatinaggr
- Amaltari via Danda
- Kujauli via Rajahar