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Chitwan Travel Guide

Chitwan is the oldest, best known, most developed, and most frequently visited of Nepal's National Parks. At the heart of the Terai, it lichitwanes 120 km southwest of Kathmandu and a similar distance to the southeast of Pokhara. The park itself covers 932 sq km and consists of the swamp, tall elephant grass and dense forest, often referred to as jungle. It is a natural habitat for the tiger, great one-horned Indian rhinoceros, leopard, gaur, sloth and wild bear, sambar, hog and barking deer, civet, mongoose and otter.

Best Time to Visit Chitwan:

The months between October and March when it is pleasantly warm and it is little or no rainfall have the best weather. However, elephant grass that covers significant areas of the park grows high from the onset of the monsoon and provides cover for many of the park's animals.

Beginning in late January, a fortnight is given over to local people to cut the grass inside the park - this is used for thatching and fodder. Your best chance of sighting rhinos, tigers, leopards, and other animals is therefore from mid-February onwards.

Background: the Chitwan basin embraces an area of 3,800 sq km and is surrounded by hills, the shiwaliks to the south, and the Mahabharata range to the north, while the Narayani and Rapti rivers flow through it from west to east. The park now occupies the area between the Rapti Rivers and its tributary, the Reu, with the center rising to 738 meters. Mount Manaslu and Himalchuli can be seen on clear days. There is an airstrip at Meghauli on the north bank of the Rapti.

The topographical boundaries of the Chitwan Valley provided natural demarcation within the traditionally forested Terai belt. Following an agreement with the British East India Company. Nepal's borders were extended to include the area nine years after the country's unification under King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768. It was populated by indigenous Tharu peoples, agricultural communities whose long-established presence here suggests a remarkable resistance to malaria in what was, until the mid 20th century, a zone heavily infested by mosquitoes.

The huge program of malaria eradication across the Terai in the 1950s led to mass communication of people from throughout the country and the deforestation that accompanied it resulted in the reduction in the numbers of many animals and their natural habitat. Concern about the dwindling numbers led to the official establishment of the Royal Chitwan National Park in 1973 and in 1986 it was declared a world heritage site, events which are themselves indictments against the ecological degradation the area has witnessed during the later half of the 20th century.

The declaration of Chitwan as a National Park in 1973 and the imposition of strict measures against poaching and unauthorized conversion of forest to farmland saved the dwindling wildlife. Conversation measures have succeeded in increasing the numbers of some endangered species, with rhino and tiger populations rising to about 500 and100 respectively.