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By Margeret Hampsford, The UK. Chitwan national park is located in south central Nepal and was declared a national park in 1973, later becoming a world heritage site. Meaning ‘heart of the jungle’ Citwan national park is well known for its biodiversity and vast jungle and grasslands which are home to many mammals, birds and insects. I travelled to Chitwan to find out just how special this national park really is.
We started our journey at six o’clock on Saturday morning, and after a long and bumpy journey we arrived in Chitwan in the afternoon. I travelled with three other volunteers, who were all equally excited to explore the jungle.
The heat was intense but the views beautiful as we stepped off of the coach into our jungle resort for the weekend. On arrival to our hotel we were pleased with our wonderful rooms. The terrace outside the room gave views of overhanging trees bearing exotic fruit giving it a true jungle feel assisted by the sounds of the hotel elephants trumpeting next to us.
In the afternoon we took a walk along the river and spotted a number of crocodiles gliding down the water or basking on the banks. On the walk back to the hotel we found a field with a baby elephant being kept, we were lucky enough to be able to feed the baby elephants with biscuits provided by our tour guide, Burma. We all fell in love with the baby elephant and were disappointed to have to say goodbye.
The highlight of the day, however, would have to be the traditional dance performance that we attended in the evening. Both men and women performed traditional Nepali dances to the sounds of a Madal drum; using sticks, fire and costumes to entertain the audiences. A particular favorite was the peacock dance in which a giant peacock costume was used by a dancer to attract the female peacock with his fabulous dancing and display. At the end the audience were given the chance to dance on stage and we all got up and had a great time attempting to copy the brilliant dancers.
The next day we were up early to go on a jungle safari. Though a bit nervous at first, the walk was a great way to see birds and animals up close. We took a narrow boat down the river, passing a few crocodiles on the way, until we reached our destination at the edge of the jungle. We wandered through the jungle seeing many deer and a few monkeys swinging through the trees. After a while walking through the dense jungle we spotted a rhino across the river, Chitwan being home to the largest amount of Indian Rhinoceros in Nepal. At first the shy rhino hid behind the grass, however it eventually emerged and it was incredible to see a rhino so close. Its physic looked almost pre-historic and it moved slowly into the water to cool down in the heat. We continued our safari and saw many species of bird, kindly identified to us by our guide, Burma. The walking jungle safari was a great way to see animals up close and unless you run into a Tiger you are sure to have a good time!
The next activity was the Elephant Safari, in which we were able to see the jungle from a new height. The added elevation meant we could see more birds in the trees, as well as being able to see yet another two rhinos, however this time, with the safety of being on an elephant, we were able to see the two rhinos up close. The elephant safari ended with a walk across the river, and once we arrived at our final destination we treated the elephants to some bananas.
On our final night we decided to explore the shops and bars in Chitwan. We stumbled across a rooftop bar, and were relaxing for a few minutes when we realized we were caught in the middle of a birthday party. We all joined in on the dancing, sang happy birthday and even got some of the cake. Though unexpected, it turned out to be a nice little surprise to finish off the trip.
Going to Chitwan was a great adventure and being able to see so many wild animals was a great privilege. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an daring spirit and a desire to see amazing animals in their natural environment.