On the Indian border, in the south of Nepal, is the country’s oldest animal reserve, the Royal Chitwan Park. Along with the extremely rare Indian rhinoceros, around 400 animals live within the confines of this fascinating nature reserve.
One of the park’s fertile valleys is crossed by the rivers Rapti, Reu and Narayani. Due to monsoons, the rivers frequently change course and constantly transform the appearance of the landscape. The rivers are home to a large assortment of fish. Even the rare Ganges Dolphin, that is threatened by extinction, has found sanctuary in their waters. An area of 932 km˛ is encircled by the impressive profile of the mighty and majestic Himalayan Mountains and in 1973, the Royal Chitwan was officially designated as a national park. Today, it is one of the country’s most important tourist destinations.
More than 70 percent of the park is covered by forests of Sal trees, the remainder being divided between river valleys, woodland and tall elephant grass. With its 800 metre high hills, the park accommodates more than 40 species of mammals, around 550 varieties of birds and 70 species of butterflies. The subtropical climate also supports the growth of numerous exotic plants, the magnificent blossoms of which are often obscured by dense undergrowth. The name ‘Chitwan’ means ‘Heart of the Jungle’, a name that could not better describe the large variety of fauna and flora to be found in the park.
A slow drive on bumpy, natural roads travels past the tall trees of the jungle. From the tops of the trees there is the screaming of monkeys, as well as a confusing cacophony of birdcall. The park is a paradise for birds and among the 450 species that live here, there are rare hornbills, cranes, peacocks and birds of prey such as falcons, hawks and white-tailed eagles.
The Royal Chitwan National Park was once the hunting ground of kings and noblemen. Today, it is the most treasured nature reserve in Asia and a final refuge for numerous animals threatened by extinction.