Lying on the southern border of Nepal is Chitwan National Park a heavily protected ground known primarily for its One Horned Rhinoceros (population approx 450) and the Royal Bengal Tiger (population approx 125). Entering the park each day will set you back RS1500 (AUD$15) which is pretty expensive given that that is the cost of breakfast, lunch and dinner here!
We’re staying at ‘Chitwan Gaida Lodge’ a so-called ‘wildlife resort’ which is run and owned by a man called Tikaram Giri. He is a senior field Orinthologist who has dedicated his life to discovering the birds in the Chitwan region.
We arrived here by a 5-hour bus ride from Pokhara (with only 1 other tourist on the bus) and were met by a blast of humidity and a frenzy of employees from a variety of lodges hoping to get us to come stay with them. Thankfully we’d pre-booked so were able to hop on a jeep and head straight to the lodge. We hired bikes for RS40 (AUD$0.40) per hour and cycled through the town of Sauraha. The town centre was dead, not a tourist in site yet so many places open for business, it actually was quite a sad sight to see. The night was spent watching a traditional ‘Tharu’ dance which I thought was going to be incredibly boring but turned out to be really interesting. There was an even split of male and female performers who demonstrated acts such as their harvesting or war dance. Really worthwhile watching, especially to see a 6ft man stay in a squat position for 5 minutes dressed as a peacock!
Saturday afternoon was spent on a 4 hour Jeep Safari through the National Park (which in my opinion is far to be long to be sitting on your arse in the hope that an animal will jump out). We managed to see 6 Rhinos, deers, monkeys and chickens but unfortunately no tigers. The park itself remains relatively untouched which is great to see. Halfway through the safari we stopped by at an Crocodile Breeding Centre which was very interesting as there seemed to be quite a large population from different age brackets. I’ve gotta say, we were pretty relieved when the safari was over, I think the sight of another tree which resembled an animal was going to make me go nuts!
Had an early start to Sunday morning. By 7am we were on a narrow , wooden canoe packed with 10 people in total. About 10 minutes in the guide announced “So the boat is leaking a bit, just make sure you hold your belongings”. Great, we are going to capsize in a crocodile infested river. To our relief, we didn’t, instead we got to see wild crocodiles and a variety of Chitwan bird species. After an hour on the canoe, our sore butts were more than happy to get up and get moving. The walking jungle safari was going to begin. We had 2 guides with us each armed with bamboo sticks. Before we started walking our main guide explained to us what to do in the event that a Rhino charges us, a Bear sees us or if an Elephant chases us. At this point I was shitting myself a little bit because I’d earlier read in the Lonely Planet guide about how a tourist was mauled by a Tiger.
It was a very humid morning, but the shade in the jungle somehow managed to cool us down quite a bit. We were literally walking through the shrubs looking for animal footprints, territorial marks and poop. It felt very Jurrasic Park-esque which made it seem more like an adventure. At the sound of rustles in the bushes all four of us would instantly become deadly silent in the hope of sighting the wildlife. We were fortunate enough to see a Rhino bathing, a couple of Deer, a wild Boar with a remarkable resemblance to Pumba from the Lion King, and quite a few monkeys up in the trees. The walk lasted for close to 3.5hours during which time the humidity spiked. We were drenched in our own sweat and water couldn’t even cool us down. We eventually made it out of the jungle and into open air which was probably even worse as there wasn’t any shade! Overall a great experience though. We would highly recommend the walking safari over the Jeep safari as the guide gives you a much greater insight into animal behaviour as well as teaches you about the vegetation (even got to eat some non-poisonous wild berries…at least I hope they were safe….)
Rested for the rest of the day in the hammocks back at the lodge as it was far too hot to be doing anything.
Back in Kathmandu now then onto Tibet in the morning!
Until next time
Ann & Jason