Often overshadowed by the towering Himalayas, the Terai subtropical grassland region in south-central Nepal harbors some of Asia's most celebrated wildlife, much of it protected in Chitwan National Park. The Nepalese government established Royal Chitwan, once the favored hunting grounds of Nepalese and British royals, as the country's first national park in 1973. It gained international status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Safari-style lodging in the park caters to an upscale sporting crowd, though modern hunters take their shots with cameras.
Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge
The oldest and arguably most fashionable resort in Chitwan National Park, Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge combines private bungalows, whimsical treehouses and a tent camp with a strong sustainability ethic. Nepal's largest photovoltaic solar plant powers the lodge, and the sophisticated kitchen serves an array of organic produce. The lodge's website claims 57 tiger sightings by guests in a five-month period. As with most Chitwan resorts, Tiger Tops includes meals and wildlife safari activities with the price of lodging.
Island Jungle Resort
Located on an island called Bandarjhola in the Narayani River, Island Jungle Resort sits surrounded by abundant riverine forest, tall grassland and marshland fed by numerous inlets and oxbows. On this "Isle of Eden," guests encounter wildlife in what the resort website calls "probably the best natural habitat in the park." Naturalists lead elephant safaris into the nearby jungle, home to 450 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 50 mammal species, including the endangered one-horned rhinoceros.
Machan Wildlife Resort
Located in the east where Chitwan meets the Parsa Wildlife Reserve, the Machan Wildlife Resort invites guests to come realize their childhood fantasies of living among the animals like Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli. As to be expected this far beyond the reach of civilization, kerosene lanterns light the night and the sparse electricity used at the resort comes from generators. Timber-framed bungalows reflect local architecture, and the walls display paintings by women descended from the ancient kingdom of Mithila.
Gaida Wildlife Camp
The Nepalese-owned Gaida Wildlife Camp maintains a reputation for exceptional service and prolific rhino sightings. In its position on the bank of the Rapti River, Gaida, which means rhinoceros, borders the Rhino Zone. Staff naturalists and field guides escort guests on wildlife-spotting expeditions from the backs of trained elephants, in dugout canoes and by jungle jeep. The adequate but basic accommodations send a subtle message that the natural experience matters more here than material indulgences.
Chitwan Jungle Lodge
On the River Rapti, the Chitwan Jungle Lodge touts itself as a pioneer of environmentally sensitive tourism in Nepal. Thatched-roof buildings blend into the jungle scenery, and the individual bungalows include attached baths with hot solar-powered showers.
Chitwan Tiger Camp
Located at the park's entrance, Chitwan Tiger Camp offers air-conditioned rooms along with a generous list of amenities, including stargazing and yoga facilities, a small river "beach" and, by Chitwan standards, a rollicking rooftop beer garden. It's possible to watch elephants bathing in the river without leaving the property. But lest their guests become too complacent, Chitwan Tiger Camp arranges the requisite elephant rides, river trips and deep-jungle treks.
- Hotel Nepal: Wildlife Resort in Chitwan National Park
- Travel Guide: Chitwan National Park
- "The Rough Guide to Nepal"; David Reed, James McConnachie; 2002
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