When most people think of Nepal, they are dreamily transported to a rugged land of jaw-dropping alpine splendor, gargantuan peaks that seem to poke holes in the firmament, and age-old Himalayan cultures draped in prayer flags and bathed in the sweet aroma of incense. But there’s another side of Nepal that might surprise you.
South of the Annapurnas, the stunningly beautiful terrain drops to the Inner Terai Lowlands and Plains. These are among Nepal’s lowest valleys—some of them at just 330 feet in elevation. Unlike the more temperate mountain climate of higher valleys, this region has a subtropical feel. And its centerpiece is Chitwan National Park, a vast jungle teeming with dense forest and a rich array of wildlife. The park was established in 1973 as a last-ditch attempt to save the wild rhino, whose numbers had dwindled to only 95. Since then, the park’s focus has broadened to embrace and protect all wildlife, including more than 500 bird species and 67 varieties of butterflies. In 1984, the park earned its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it is home to 43 species of mammals.
Its undisputed star is also its most elusive creature: the Bengal tiger. On safari with Discovery Tours, you’ll set out in search of this big cat, but admittedly we’re more likely to see the one-horned rhinoceros, the deer-like chital, the massive gaur cattle, and the black antelope – all of them equally enchanting. Our mode of transportation is as thrilling as the game we seek: we’ll climb aboard the park’s elephants and be led by its skilled trainers. High atop your lumbering elephant’s back, you will witness the dense grassland from a unique perspective, keeping watch with your guides for movement in the bush. It is a thrilling experience unlike any other.
Discovery Tours travelers also have the chance to explore the wilderness at ground level. During a relaxing safari along the Narayani River – by boat or canoe, your choice – aquatic birds watch us drift with the current. We often see mugger crocodiles and gharials, an endangered croc species with an extremely thin snout, basking on the river’s shores. We’ll also have the rare opportunity to explore by foot with a trained, eagle-eyed guide. Treading with such a light footprint brings the glorious details of Chitwan into focus, from its tiny white-throated kingfisher to its mighty fish eagle to its towering broadleaf Sal, the trees favored by the Hindu god Vishnu.
Explore the other side of Nepal with Discovery Tours during our Himalayan Kingdoms: Nepal & Bhutan adventure!