WILDLIFE SPOTTING: AN ETHICAL SAFARI IN CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK
I went on a safari in Chitwan National Park in the hope to see a Bengal Tiger, and I’m going to cut to the chase… I didn’t see one. But after a few days of wildlife spotting and soaking up the incredible atmosphere in the heart of the jungle, I left feeling more than satisfied.
Like me, most people come here wanting to see the big glorious tiger, or maybe even a leopard, but there is an abundance of other creatures in the jungle that will leave you just as excited…
This national park is extremely diverse; being the home to 68 species of mammals, 56 species of herpetofauna, 67 species of butterfly, 126 species of fish and 544 species of birds… Seeing a tiger would be amazing, yes, but there are numerous other incredible species to witness in this park too!
Who wouldn’t be excited about that?
And now that I’ve experienced the magic of Nepal’s beautiful creatures, I’m here with all the information you need to ensure that your time in Chitwan is ethical, sustainable, and an experience that you’ll never forget.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR SAFARI ETHICAL
Now, the thing with safaris in Chitwan National Park is that you have a couple of options… Elephant riding is still incredibly prevalent and is one of the major tourist attractions and forms of safari transport in the park. This is mainly due to the fact that elephants can take you further into the jungle where vehicles have no access, giving you a better chance to see animals living their lives.
But the thing is, elephant riding isn’t ethical or humane, and for a number of different reasons, I advise you steer clear of it at all costs.
I’m going to discuss elephant riding in Chitwan National Park in a totally different post, as this a complex discussion that isn’t black and white in terms of tiger and rhino conservation. But for tourism and safaris, there are no 2 ways about it. Some people choose to avoid Chitwan altogether because of the excessive amount of captive elephants in use, but I don’t believe this is helpful…
Chitwan is Nepal’s first national park and relies on tourist dollars to survive. So much amazing work is being done here in terms of wildlife conservation and rebuilding species, and they even have one of the biggest success stories in terms of increasing the population of the Greater One-Horned Rhino. By the end of the 20th century, there were less than 200 in the world, but now there are more than 3500 and Chitwan National Park is home to around 600 of them!
Trust me, they’re doing amazing things here, so please don’t avoid it… Just remember that you always have the option to choose the ethical alternative. Instead of elephant safaris, you can choose to use the traditional safari vehicles, canoes, and walking tours instead!
OH! AND ONE OTHER THING…
Before you enter the national park, you need to show the guards how many plastic water bottles you’re carrying with you, and when you exit, you are required to show them that you still have them with you. This is in place to ensure that no one litters or leaves their trash around the precious reserve.
I told you… They’re doing amazing things here!
THINGS TO DO
Most of the accommodation around Chitwan National Park include the safari tours in the price. When you arrive you’ll be asigned an incredibly knowledgable guide who will be with you throughout the whole experience; taking you through the park, guiding you through the attractions and helping you spot wildlife.
Once you’re inside the 952.6 km² national park, there’s absolutely nothing but dense, luscious grasslands and jungle… But there’s a lot to do around Sauraha and Chitwan itself too. Most of the lodges will include the Elephant Breeding Centre and the Elephant Bathing in your itinerary, but I would skip both of those things unless you enjoy seeing elephants chained up to poles (I certainly don’t).
This breeding centre was established in 1985 for the captive breeding of elephants for domestication… It’s not what you should come to Chitwan to see. You’re here for wild animals after all, right?
But rather than just listing all of the things you shouldn’t do, I’m going to tell you about all the ethical and sustainable experiences you can have in the area instead; where you’ll see local ways of living and an abundance of animals living their best lives in the wild:
Most of these are offered during your stay, but please remember that your itinerary is flexible. If things are offered to you that you don’t agree with, or if you would prefer to swap things out, please speak up and ensure that you make it as ethical as possible. The experience is yours after all, but I do hope you’ll make decisions that have animal welfare in mind.
Ok, enough talking… Here’s a gallery of photographs taken during my incredible safari in Chitwan National Park. Wildlife lovers, this really is a place you cannot miss. Regardless of whether you see a tiger or not, you will be immersed in the heart of the jungle and I have no doubt that you’ll leave with a new found love for the Terai region of Nepal.
Enjoy – XX
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