Far from the mountainous Nepal of popular imagination, Chitwan, the country’s first national park, is a beautiful, subtropical world of forested hills and oxbow lakes, flood plains and elephant-grass, all spread out luxuriously at the foot of the Himalayas. The elusive tiger stalks the land here, but sightings are rare; the real stars at Chitwan are the elephants. This is a haven for the grand animals, and riding on elephants as they walk through the jungle is a spine-tingling treat, the ultimate in exotic safari experiences. While you’re up there, you’ve got the perfect viewpoint: keep your eyes trained to catch some of the park’s abundant birdlife – giant hornbills for example, or red jungle fowl and woodpeckers. Sloth bears and leopards, civets and rhesus monkeys are all found here as well, and, perhaps most impressive of all, you’ve a good chance of seeing the endangered one-horned rhino. And once your safari is over, there’s only one way to thank your elephant – help bathe it.
Leave the lodge and jump in a canoe – on water is a great way to see some of Chitwan’s finest scenery and wildlife. Kingfishers and flycatchers are the river’s companions, chirruping as canoes drift past. Marsh mugger crocodiles can occasionally be seen, lazing the afternoon away on the banks, waiting for sunset to begin stalking their prey. Keep your fingers crossed for a sight of the rare Gangetic dolphin. But even if you don’t see them, the lush tropical surrounds, waterfalls, and even the odd swimming hole more than make this is an experience that lives in the memories long after you’ve left Chitwan.