South-west of Kathmandu lies the jungle area of Chitwan – a world heritage site. It is renowned for its National Park, which boasts 952 sqkm of sedimentary grasslands and deciduous forests. Chitwan offers a warm climate, beautiful flora and dangerous fauna, and the cultural knowledge of the Tharu communities. Until the 1950s citizens travelling to Chitwan faced an arduous journey riddled with rocks, steep hills and narrow crossings which took weeks to walk. Today, travelling from Kathmandu to Chitwan is very convenient with large main roads and no speed limits, tourist buses make the trip in 7 hours with rest stops provided. Or you can even fly to Bharatpur from Kathmandu in mere 20 minutes. Chitwan National Park offers a wonderful array of flora and fauna.
The Cheeky Elephant Safari
When visiting Chitwan, an elephant safari is a must do for tourists and locals who wish to explore the National Park. Riding on an elephant is a relaxing experience, as it offers a quiet trek through the jungle from an otherwise unattainable height. Discreetly marching through the wilderness, the elephant safari offers quick, precious glimpses of peaceful animals as they wander in their natural habitat. One can expect to see plenty of birds, deer, and monkeys – and on rare occasion predators including the one-horned rhinoceros and Bengal tigers as they stalk through the native grasses.
The Magic of Rapti River
For bird lovers especially, a trip down the Rapti River is a must and what better way to travel than by canoe? The ride lasts for almost an hour. The canoe floats down the Rapti River where bird lovers can view over hundreds of species of wetland birds as per the season. Chitwan is renowned for its relaxing and surreal canoe safari treks – sitting on a rickety, wooden seat in a hand carved wooden log made from a single silk cotton tree trunk, it is impossible not to feel lost in the wilderness and water around you. Feeling like you are far away from civilization, you can sit and marvel at the beautiful nature around you while your boatman and guide stands at the rear of the canoe on a small platform, his feet millimetres from the water as he uses a long bamboo pole to slowly push the canoe downstream. A simple, natural and rustic experience; a true Nepali experience.
Tharu Cultural Dance
The Tharu are an ethnic indigenous group that reside in villages (mainly in the Chitwan area) and one of their traditional customs is to present cultural dances to the locals and tourists. Each night a cultural demonstration is held at the New Sauraha Tharu Cultural House, where Tharu dancers will perform numerous dances including the popular highlights: Danda Nach (Stick Dance); Ago Nach (Fire Dance); and Mayur Nach (Peacock Dance). The dances are performed by both men and women as they represent the strength, culture and dedication of the Tharu community. This immersive experience allows a small glimpse into the culture of Nepal; of its military strength and resilience and its dedication to protect its people.
Mason is an Australian Journalism student doing a photojournalism internship with Internship Nepal.