What wildlife can I see in Chitwan National Park, Nepal?

Established in 1973, Nepal's first national park is home to an alluring array of mammals, more than 520 bird species and a host of amphibians and reptiles.

Chitwan_Illustration_Final_Flat_CMYK

Located at the foot of the Himalayas in the lowland Terai region, Chitwan National Park is dominated by tropical and subtropical forests, with substantial grassland and wetland areas (Beeshazar and surrounding lakes comprise a Ramsar site). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this landscape plays host to a particularly wide range of wildlife.

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Greater one-horned (Indian) rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis

Greater one-horned (Indian) rhinoceros. © CORDIER Sylvain/hemis.fr/Getty
Greater one-horned (Indian) rhinoceros. © CORDIER Sylvain/hemis.fr/Getty

Hunted to the brink of extinction by the 1970s, Nepal’s rhinos have since rallied; Chitwan hosts more than 600 – around 90 per cent of the country’s total rhino  population. Head out on a walking or jeep safari at dawn for a good chance of a sighting.

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Bengal tiger Panthera tigris tigris

Bengal tiger hunting © Tom Brakefield/Getty
Bengal tiger hunting © Tom Brakefield/Getty

The world’s biggest cat prowls the sal forests of Chitwan, hunting chital, sambar and barking deer, wild pig and – amazingly – gaur (huge wild bovids). Sightings of the park’s 100 or so tigers are scarce but thrilling. 

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Other highlights

Gharial crocodile warming up in sun. © CREATIVITY HAS NO LIMIT. AN IMAGE CAN TELL MILLION WORDS/Getty
Gharial crocodile warming up in sun. © CREATIVITY HAS NO LIMIT. AN IMAGE CAN TELL MILLION WORDS/Getty
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Critically endangered Bengal floricans enjoy elaborate courtship displays in the grasslands from March to June. Gharial crocodiles Gavialis gangeticus, also endangered, can be seen along with marsh crocodiles Crocodylus palustris in the larger rivers. Big mammals include the Asian elephant Elephas maximus.

Key facts

Area: 932km2 

Annual rainfall: 2,600mm

Maximum altitude: 815m

When to go

October to February is most comfortable and wildlife sightings rise after villagers cut tall thatch grasses in late January. Temperatures soar from March and the monsoon (late June-September) swells rivers and cuts roads.

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Greater one-horned (Indian) rhinoceros crosing a river in chitwan National Park, Nepal. © Jacek Kadaj/Getty