Chitwan National Park is a massive jungle that spreads from the Indian border throughout southern Nepal. It’s a hot plain, but the jungles are teeming with animals like boars, deer, sloth bears, rhinos, crocodiles, wild elephants, and tigers. (Though the last two are hard to find).
The best time to visit would be early March. The grass has been cut (elephant grass can grow to nine meters) and it’s not as hot as in April or May.
I saw rhinos, sloth bears, boars, deer, crocodiles and many others. No wild elephants, but that’s okay–it’s not a zoo after all. We hunted a tiger, following his tracks one day, but I will wait to say whether we found him or not.
It was strange having a guide (didn’t have one on the Annapurna Circuit) and in fact I had to hire two of them, to stay safe from the animals. They were armed with sticks in case any animals threatened. But it was good having just the three of us; we were able to see things that a larger group might have missed. (As an aside, these two guys were awesome and from talking to others I think I lucked into some of the best guides in the park. If you are heading to Chitwan, let me know and I can provide you with names and numbers).
The highlight, maybe, happened while sitting in a tall tower, looking for a tiger whose footprints we had followed for a couple of hours. One of my guides was young, but he had worked there for 5 years and knew everything’s name in English and Latin. The other had worked there for 32 years (the park has been open for 35 years) and he didn’t say much, just walked in the back, burping and farting without shame.
The young guide started talking to me about movies. He liked Helloby, Avatar and Titanic, but hadn’t heard of Lord of the Rings. This segued into music, where he pulled out his cell phone to demonstrate that he liked some western songs (though he admitted that he preferred Nepalese music). The first song he played? Barbie Girl. It was unexpected to hear that song in the still jungle. Then something I didn’t know, but it sounded like the Black Eyed Peas. Finally, saving the best for last, he played his favorite. It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t immediately place it.
Then the nasally tones spread out into the jungle. You’re beautiful! It’s true.
James Blunt? Not what I was expecting. I realized with a sinking feeling that we no longer deserved to see the tiger.
Packages to Chitwan are easily available in Kathmandu or Pokhara. But doing it by yourself is always more fun, and a bit cheaper. 2 nights stay at a luxury lodge, including an elephant ride, cost about 250 dollars. Here is what I paid for six days. (You could probably do this for 25-40 percent less, by taking cheaper buses, drinking less soft drinks, and staying at a cheaper place.)
Greenline Bus: Pokhara to Chitwan 1100 RS
2/1/2 day jungle walk, 2 hour canoe ride, 2 hr elephant ride: 6000 RS
2 nights jungle accommodation, food, water: 1510 RS
4 nights in Sauraha: 1800 RS
Meals for 4 days: 2000 RS
Greenline Bus – Chitwan to Pokhara: 1125 RS
Total: 13535 RS or 190 USD