With good transport links and a selection of excellent lodges the Chitwan National Park is the most comfortable place in Nepal to see animals in the wild, and one of the country's main highlights. Once a private hunting reserve of the maharajas, the Chitwan area saw huge population growth in the 1950s when the monarchy was restored. Poaching and deforestation followed, and in 1962 the government designated the area a sanctuary to protect the Asian one horned rhino from extinction, and in 1972 Chitwan became Nepal's first national park. Chitwan is on the World Heritage list and protects over 932km² of Elephant grass savannah, sal forests and marshlands supporting healthy wildlife populations. There is a good selection of wildlife lodges located on Chitwan's boundaries that offer a range of wildlife activities in the National Park that include river cruises, jungle walks and jeep safaris. The most frequently sighted animals are the one-horned rhino, deer, monkeys, wild boar, and some of the 500 bird species. The man-made Lake Lamital on the Rapti River provides some excellent bird watching opportunities, attracting migratory water birds and marsh mugger peckers. Less common wildlife encounters include those with wild elephants, leopards, sloths, and Bengal tigers. The Chitwan area is now heavily protected from poachers and loggers, and with animal numbers on the rise it is one of Asia's best national parks for wildlife viewing.

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