We are coming to the end of our 5 day trip to Chitwan and it has been fantastic. There are lots of hotels in Sauraha and around the National Park and we managed to pick a great hotel at a great price. The Hotel Parkside is situated about a 15 minute walk from the main town area of Sauraha. The hotel donates a percentage of it profits to help educate the local
children and train the local women in skills like sewing, so an ideal hotel to visit if you’re thinking about coming to Nepal. The local guide Gopal was also second to none and I couldn’t recommend him more highly.
The first thing that hits you as you come south from Kathmandu, or in our case from Pokhara, is the increase in temperature. It tends to get a bit hot down here in Chitwan. Fortunately the excursions we had chosen all had early morning starts when the heat is a bit more bearable. We had chosen to take a canoe ride & jungle walk on our third day, an elephant ride through the jungle followed by a bath with an elephant (pictures to follow) on our fourth day and today, our last day in Chitwan we planned to visit the Elephant Breeding Centre. All the excursions were enjoyable but the two that stuck out especially for me were the canoe ride & jungle walk and the elephant bath.
We got up early for breakfast and made our way to the Rapti River at 6:45am to tie up with our canoe. Then it was a leisurely punt down the river where our guide Gopal pointed
out many spectacularly colourful birds and provided us with useful information about the National Park. Then it was down to business for our 3 hour walk in the jungle. At this point Gopal got a bit more serious and began advising us on what to do if things got a bit dangerous. It went a bit like this;
“There are many dangerous animals in the jungle – rhinos, bears, tigers and wild elephants. A rhino has poor eyesight but a great sense of smell and hearing. If it charges don’t run in a straight line but zig-zag then either climb or hide behind a tree. If we come across a bear, there’s no point running or climbing a tree as bears can do this better than us. We need to huddle together and shout and scream in the hope the bear will run away. At this point I could see the colour draining from Karen’s face. Now, tigers. Again no point running if we come across a tiger as it will think you are a deer and hunt you down. We need to maintain eye contact (with a tiger!!) and back away slowly. Finally and worst of all is a wild elephant. If we encounter a wild elephant, the only thing we can do is pray! Luckily, there are only approximately 45 – 50 wild elephants in over 900 square kilometers of jungle, so it’s unlikely we will come across one.” You can see where this is going, can’t you?
About 40 minutes into the walk, with Karen startled by every noise, mostly turning out to be wild chickens, there was a great deal of crashing in the forest ahead. Our guides were getting excited and started saying rhino, rhino. As we got closer, the colour started draining
from their faces as they started saying nervously rhino chaina, hati! There it was, straight ahead, the thing we had most dreaded, an enormous wild bull elephant. Luckily it hadn’t spotted us so we managed to make a hasty retreat and selected another route (a wide, wide route) through another part of the jungle. We got to a great spot by a watering hole after wading through the Rapti River a couple of times and managed to see a group of rhinos that look a lot bigger when you are on foot.
After a quick change of clothing at the hotel it was back to the river to meet up with Puja, a fantastically friendly elephant and her handler. We spent the next hour in the river with Puja, getting soaked and sprayed with water from her trunk. Fantastic experience! I’ll post pictures of this part of the trip over the next couple of days when I’m in Kathmandu.