The Chitwan National Park is the first National Park in Nepal and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is an ideal place to see up close the famous white rhinos, crocodiles, elephants, and if you have time/luck the Bengal tiger.
How to get to Chitwan National Park?
The “base” village from which the vast majority of excursions depart to the Chitwan National Park is Sauraha. If parts of the Nepalese border (Bhairahawa -Sunauli) to get to Sauraha have two options in local transport:
From Bhairahawa – Narayangarh – Sauraha .
There is no direct bus from the border to Sauraha, so you have to do some combination. From the Nepal-India border, in Bhairahawa, local buses depart for Naranyargarh . The price (abroad) is about 250-300 rupees negotiable (do not pay more). The route is about 3-4 hours on winding roads, and some unpaved.
In Narayanghat you get off and take another small local bus that takes half an hour and will leave you outside of Sauraha (Tandi Bazaar or Sauraha Chowk). On a main road, right next to the statue of the Rhinoceros. From there, there is a good stretch to the center of Sauraha so it is best to take a small van with about eight seats that will cost you 25 rupees and leave you in the accommodation area.
If you do not have reserved accommodation, the driver will try to take you to a hotel or accommodation of your opinion, so tell him you know where you are going and get off when you want.
From Bhairahawa -Sauraha
From there you go to the bus station and get another bus to take you to Sauraha. I do not know the price, and as far as we know, it also makes a stop in Naranyanghat, so maybe it’s more or less the same. We can not tell you more about this bus because we opted for option 1, but it must be around the same price.
If you leave from Pokhara , there are direct buses to Sauraha (about 6 hours) and from Kathmandu, I know that too (about 5 hours).
What will I find in Sauraha?
Sauraha is a town that lives by and for tourism that visits the Chitwan National Park. In the center practically all the buildings are hotels, lodges, restaurants and tourist agencies.
There is a very extensive accommodation offer . Prices vary widely, from about Rs 500 for a simple double room with a bathroom, to thousands of Rs for a lodge in the Chitwan National Park itself.
We stayed at Jungle Safari Lodge . In relation, the quality / price is a highly recommended hotel. The triple room cost US $40Dollar, with private bathroom, A/C and WIFI. It is the one that offered the best price for a triple with a bathroom. Its Manager Mr. Arjun is very friendly and helpful, and with himself, you can arrange excursions to the park. We did it with him because he was the one that offered the best price.
How to visit the Chitwan National Park?
How is it logical, you can not do it for free, therefore you will have to at least hire a guided tour.
If you go with the right time, the best way is to join any of the visits / excursions offered by all the agencies. The prices between the different agencies vary depending on your negotiating ability, but you will not get more than 100 rupees up or down.
These excursions organized by the Chitwan National Park are mainly:
- Canoe ride and 3 hours walk through the interior of the park. It is done in the morning and costs about 1400 rupees.
- Elephant ride: It is a tour of about an hour on an elephant. You do not go alone in the elephant but you share it with 3 other people. It costs 2500 rupees. Keep in mind that you will not go alone, with you there will be several more elephants, in caravan type. It covers a very small area of the park, but rhinos are usually seen.
- Jeep Drive 4 hours: It’s a 10-person Jeep tour. It is a good option because you cover an extension of 40 km approximately of the park. In the jeep, there is a guide who explains things about the fauna, and warns you when there is an animal. Several jeeps come in stages.
At these prices, you have to add the entrance to the park which is 2000 rupees.
We for time / money, we chose the option of the Jeep Drive, and we could see some deer, crocodiles, wild pigs and three rhinos from quite close. In the middle of the road, they make a small stop where you can visit a crocodile breeding center.
The probability of seeing a tiger in any of these excursions is practically nil, since, according to Arjun, the area of the tigers is the furthest away from the park (west), where the Jeeps do not arrive. On occasion, some clueless tiger had gone astray to the more “touristy” area but it is very unusual.
Some agencies offer Jeeps for the whole day, and yes you can get to the area where more tigers are agglomerated, although the price goes up, above all because if you do not meet about ten people, you have to pay for the whole pack, which comes out for about 17,000 rupees.
If you are very interested in touring the entire Chitwan National Park, including tiger zones, another option is a week’s trek through the park, but this trekking did not give us a specific price.
What other things can be seen and done in Sauraha?
Apart from the visit to the national park, if you have free time you have a couple of interesting activities.
Elephant Breeding Center: It is a center run by the government where they raise and feed elephants. It is about 20 minutes by bike from Sauraha, on the other side of the river. It is open to the public until 10 am, and the entrance costs 50 rupees.
Elephant Bathing:. Between 10:30 and 11:30 a couple of elephants are brought out to the river, and for 200 rupees you get on one and you enter the river up on the elephant and it throws you water with the horn. Then you end up in the river. The elephants involved in this are “private”. In our taste is too focused on the tourist, but to get close to the shore and see them up close is free, so it’s not bad to get some good pictures.
“The nocturnal wait of the rhinoceros” . A kind owner of a restaurant explained that almost every night from 21 hours approx. Some park rhinos cross to the town to look for food or go down to the river. Yes, yes, as you read it. So if you want to venture, you can stay to wait well into the night, when there is no movement of people, and see a rhino walking through the streets of Sauraha.
How to leave Sauraha?
The most common route is Sauraha-Pokhara or Sauraha-Kathmandu. We headed to Pokhara. The bus costs 600 rupees and leaves at 07:30 – 08:00 in the morning. . The bus station is a little away from the town, about 20 minutes walk. You can order a Jeep that brings you for 200 rupees. Or also if you request you hotel then they can offer a complimentary ride to the Sauraha bus station.
To walk you have to go to the entrance of the village and past the statue of the elephant you will find on your right a small road with a red booth on the corner that says “PARK BUS”. You take that road and you get to the station, which is a dirt road.
You can also buy the bus ticket directly there, but it is better to book it because it is a very common route.