How to go on safari in Nepal

Nepal is a country more recognized for the towering Himalayan mountain peaks of the north, and less for the lowlands of dense jungle and wildlife habitats of the south central. But down in the tree-lined river valleys is a safari haven filled with rhinos, tigers and elephants, oh my!

Here is how to get the most of the park.

Jeep Safari for Tiger Spotting

Credit: Rachel Kristensen

Keep your eyes peeled between the fields of elephant grass for a glimmer of the Bengal tiger’s orange tail or the spotted hide of a leopard. During the day the cats are more likely found sleeping, but come dusk they can be spotted stalking prey between the tall grass.

The jeep ride takes riders down dusty roads deep into the jungle, stopping off at the crocodile hatchery. Located between the twisting vines that grow within the towering sal tree forest, the hatchery breeds thousands of crocodiles before releasing them into the small creeks that feed the large rivers of the jungle.

Guided Walks for Bird Watching

Credit: Rachel Kristensen

In the misty morning, follow a guide down to the river to walk among the sweet chorus of warblers, babblers, eagles and kingfishers. Over 500 species of birds migrate and reside in Chitwan.

But for those not as interested in the birding possibilities, the walk along the riverbed just after dawn can also provide a little excitement.

Watch for pythons and cobras at your feet. Stay alert and downwind of sleeping rhinos that also rest in the grasslands near the river. You may come for the birds, but there is a chance you’ll leave with seeing all the animals.

Canoeing for Crocodiles

Credit: Rachel Kristensen

On the muddy banks of a calm Rapti river, long dugout canoes set sail from the shoreline. Pointing downstream, you’ll pass crocodiles patiently waiting for their mid-morning snack. Be on the lookout for monkeys and langurs that hang from the forest above.

Elephant Safari to Find Rhinos

Credit: Rachel Kristensen

Boarding from an elephant platform, resting high on the elephant’s back, the uncomfortable ride sways above the grasslands, rivers, lakes, meadows and jungle in search of the rhino. Meadows and lake shores are littered with packs of dear and the occasional sloth bears, and boars lazily search for food. Despite the endangered status, spotting the elusive one-horned rhino is actually very easily done within the first hour.

Credit: Rachel Kristensen

Unfortunately, it should be noted that elephant riding is not the majestic experience some might hope for. The boom of tourism has caused widespread mistreatment of these beautiful creatures so before you ride, carefully inspect the elephant and its habitat. If there are any scars or fresh wounds on the head, ears or trunk, this animal has been abused. Between rides, elephants should also have ample time to rest and roam and the company should not have any infant elephants.

There are many companies that operate tours with elephants in an ethical manner, so do your research beforehand.