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Chitwan National Park in Southern Nepal spans over 930 sq km and is home to elephants, crocodiles, deer, bears, rhinos and tigers. Through it runs the Rapti River. Visitors to the park can take canoe rides, jungle walks, elephant safaris, jeep journeys or even overnight treks.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando is the company’s most recently constructed park. It is home to wildlife from around the world, alongside Disney character favourites decked out in safari gear. Visitors can enjoy zoos, rapid rides, 3D movies and oodles of Disney magic.

So how do the two compare on some key battlegrounds?

Chitwan: A straight 6-9hr journey from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, takes adventurers through winding mountain paths high above rolling rivers; an experience in itself. You can stay in the charming town of Sauraha.
Disney: Once you’ve sorted the USA visa, it’s an easy trip to Orlando. Staying nearby, or in the World itself, there are busses, cars and monorails to the park.

Chitwan: Authenticity remains intact here, with local people sharing their traditional ways and experiences. That said, it’s a gamble whether your experience will be a positive one, or whether you’ll be stomped to death by an elephant (which happened to a Chinese man in 2008).
Disney: Guaranteed Disney magic ensures that every visitor leaves with a smile on their face. You’ll see everything, enjoy a few thrills and leave with a smile on your face. Don’t expect anything close to true experience though.

Chitwan: Anybody with an ounce of sense will taste the delights of Nepali cuisine – Dahl Baat (rice with soups, vegetables, curry, curd and endless amounts more) or perhaps some fresh catfish. Expect giant portions. Those without sense can play safe with pizza and pasta or some ‘finger chips’.
Disney: Those with an ounce of sense will eat outside Disney World. Local restaurants and buffets gorge customers with standard American food fares. Those without sense will eat standardised set meals with fries at the hideously priced park stalls.

Chitwan: Aside from your flight, it’ll cost you 25USD for a Nepali visa, £4 for the coach from Kathmandu, about £18 for a full day’s activities in the park, and £5 for an astounding full meal. On the extreme budget, like me, you’ll find a bed for £1 and a meal for £2.
Disney: You’ll probably want to buy a multiple park ticket, setting you back a few hundred dollars. Food will be available at perhaps 15-20USD, then you’ve got transport, drinks and all the essential Disney paraphernalia. Not cheap by any standards.

On price, there’s no comparison. On authenticity too, Chitwan – obviously – wins effortlessly. However, the mere fact that my time in Chitwan took me back to my Disney trip says something for their achievements. For what it’s worth – which, to Disney, is bucketloads of cash – The Animal Kingdom doesn’t do a bad job of transposing Chitwan-esque experience to the American market of low-daring and high-wealth.

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