Landlocked Nepal is the world's most recent republic, having been a kingdom until 2010. It is a country of highly diverse and rich geography, culture and religions. It has eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including Mount Everest.
Jason Dundas experienced an unexpected side to Nepal a place that is sure to delight nature lovers: Chitwan National Park. In the local language chitwan means 'the heart of the jungle'. The country's first national park, Chitwan was established in 1973. It covers 932 square kilometres in the inner Terai lowlands at an altitude of around 100 metres, close to the border with India.
In a country known for its beautiful mountains, the park has diverse forest, grasslands, rich flora and fauna and offers a totally unique experience.
Once a game reserve for royalty, Chitwan is now open to all. It's home to the royal Bengal Tiger whose roar can be heard up to three kilometres away. The elusive creature doesn't much care for human company they prefer to be on their own.
People enter the wilderness on foot, by elephant or in dug-out canoes to view one-horned black rhinos, sloth bears, leopards, jungle cats, wild boars, otters, langurs, rhesus and macaque monkeys, bison and deer.
There are over 450 species of birds in the park. Among the endangered birds are Bengal florican, giant hornbill, lesser florican, black stork and white stork. Some of the common birds seen are peafowl, red jungle fowl and various species of egrets, herons, kingfishers, flycatchers and woodpeckers. The best months for bird watching are March and December.
More than 45 species of amphibians and reptiles live in the park. There are marsh mugger crocodiles, cobras, green pit vipers and many types of frogs and tortoises.
Many visitors are keen to see the great one-horned rhino, the world's third largest land mammal. It's estimated that up to half of Asia's population of one-horned rhino is in Chitwan.
Chitwan Jungle Lodge was designed as a camp and offers comfortable accommodation in traditional wooden cottages where Nepalese culture is blended with modern facilities. They have solar heating, so there's plenty of hot water.
A spacious dining hall serves Nepalese and international cuisine and cocktails are served in the Jungle Camp Bar. Its location in the rhino zone of the park makes it the best point for wildlife sightings. Experienced naturalists and staff have lots of knowledge to share with guests.
Whilst in Nepal, Jason helped to raise money for the Starlight Foundation
. This year the stakes are high, with Starlight needing to raise $2.8 million in order to deliver on core programmes that help seriously ill and hospitalised children across Australia. Already there are more than 500 special Starlight wishes waiting to be granted, a much higher number than ever before, after the negative effects the GFC had on Starlight's fundraising. You can help by clicking on the link above.
Chitwan, four hours from Kathmandu in Nepal.
World Expeditions has three-day Chitwan Safari Tours from Kathmandu for $540 per person twin share. They include meals, jungle lodge accommodation, activities and transfers. They run between October and May.
Thai Airways International has flights to Kathmandu from:
- Perth $1062
- Melbourne $1163
- Sydney $1182
- Brisbane $1185
For further information
Thai Airways International
Ph: 1300 651 960
Tel: 1300 720 000
Visas: Australian citizens are required to obtain a visa for Nepal. Visa and other entry and conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly.
Electricity: 230 volts (50 HZ)
Time zone: GMT +5.45 hours
Currency: Nepalese rupee
Telephone code: +977