Chitwan National Park Safari, Nepal

Did you know you could do a safari in Nepal?

Chitwan National Park is located in the Southern Central Terai of Nepal, near the border of India. It’s at the foot of the Himalayas and covers 93,200 hectares. Here you can see one of the last populations of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros, and if you are really lucky even the Bengal tiger. It was declared a national park in 1973 and made an official UNESCO world heritage site in 1984. This is actually Nepal’s first national park and first protected area in the country.

We decided to do this as a package tour to make things easier, so with that came a bit of a scheduled itinerary. There were a few options for this tour, being a 4 day/3 nights or a 3 day/2 nights. We went with the first option which allowed us to have two jeep jungle tour days, but the second option would be plenty if you have minimal time to do this.

We took a taxi to many awaiting buses that got us to Sauraha from Kathmandu. This was a slow going bus that made many random stops before we finally got outside the city. Then the road became extremely windy and slow for quite awhile. A few quick bathroom/food stops and we finally arrived at the bus station drop off point. This took us SEVEN hours to go the 165 kms.

There was a minibus waiting for us at the dirt bus terminal to take us to our hotel, Safari Club Resort. Here we were greeted with a welcome drink and lunch followed by checking into our room and getting settled in. Next, our guide took us for a walk through town down to the Rapti River to observe the sunset and wild animals emerging from the jungle. We were lucky enough to see a wild elephant meander through, down to the river and across. We also observed multiple crocodiles, deer and peacocks all while taking in the sunset next to the river. After this we returned back to the hotel for dinner followed by a short walk to take in a traditional culture dance.

The morning of day two had us waking for breakfast by 8:00. We were joined by a few others and took a short drive through town where we pulled alongside some traditional dug out canoes along the river bank. Once loaded up we started our silent float down the Budi Rapti River. The guide was amazing at spotting and naming all the birds both colourful and camouflaged resting in the trees. The shores were lined with multiple crocodiles, and we would all see who could spot them first. Being in pre-monsoon season the shallow waters were a peaceful 45-minute float as we wound our way along the edge of the jungle.

Once back on dry land we had a prompt briefing about the next leg of our morning. We were now taking a 1.5 hour jungle walk through rhino country. Apparently it is best not to wear bright colours and if we find ourselves in a rhinos sight we are to climb a tree or at least stand behind one. We felt so much safer now. But the jungle presented us with no opportunities to get involved with these situations, however there was evidence of both rhino and elephants nearby with means of oversized droppings. We did stumble across a group of spotted deer, many more birds and a wide variety of hardwood trees and climbing vines throughout the canopy.

Once we emerged back out into civilized lands we found ourselves at an elephant breeding park. With the help of generous funding the Nepalese government is trying to grow the elephant population as poaching of these amazing creatures is a problem here; like many other places. With elephants producing one calf with a gestational period of 22 months and babies staying feeding off their mothers for a further three years, the natural reproduction curve is dramatically slow without elephant protection. Here they had over a dozen mothers with their young ones in tow. The elephants were kept chained up, which we didn’t exactly enjoy seeing. But once they had all eaten morning brunch (around 10:30 am) they were let loose to wander through the jungle along side their human trainer (driver who sat on the mom’s back). They always return back to the park late afternoon for protection and an easy supply of stocked food.

We returned back to the resort for a bite of lunch and a relaxing break where we could swim in the pool and cool down from the now 30 degree heat. By 2:30 however we were back out for more adventures. This time we found ourself in the back of a covered pickup truck and bouncing around the lowland of the park. Spotted deer were scattered all aver the place while the peacocks were putting on their traditional mating season display of feathers. The truck would cross through thick jungle with trees towering over head then open up to low lying grass lands and prime grazing grounds for the one-horned rhino. Our guide spotted two grey figures across the way and his binoculars were a necessity to view these breathtaking creatures. They walked the tree line and slipped back into the forest before we could get any closer. Once rounding the corner we came across a rhino partially submerged with the top of its head and backside out of the water. Before leaving the area no jungle trip would be complete without a visit by some monkeys. The tree tops were full of them as they leapt from branch to branch eating leaves and fruits.

Close to four hours had passed now as we made our way out of the park, through the rice fields and returned to the resort. After a quick cleanup, dinner was served by 8:00 and the rest of the evening was our to enjoy however we pleased. 

Waking in the morning of day three was the same as before. Today was a flex day if you want to call it that. We were free to chose what we would like. We decided on taking another safari truck tour in hopes of spotting a rhino up close or even one of those elusive tigers in their scarcities. By 8:00 we were back in the park heading for another round. This time however we were the only guests on the now private tour. There was deer a plenty grazing the fields, crocodiles lying still on the shoreline, peacocks dancing tall and multitudes of birds flying overhead. As for the two main features…. no luck. We did however come across a couple of mongoose rolling around. We heard an elephant in the distance and drove around to locate it. Turns out it had a trainer on its back and didn’t want anything to do with him. The elephant would race around the field in all directions and even charge the truck. We were never that close to feel the threat but our guide and jeep driver seemed quite panicked and called some others for help while we quickly left the area in hopes that the big boy would calm down. I guess these giants have been known for knocking their trainers off their backs then chasing them down as they try to run away. With elephants top speed of 50km/h many trainers lives have been lost in the past this way.

By 12:30 we were back at the resort and free to do as we pleased for the rest of the day. For us this meant a swim in the pool along with another trip to the riverside after dinner for a closing sunset and wildlife watching.

Our forth day was a simple one, 6:30 alarm for breakfast before packing our bags and catching a ride to the bus station. By 7:30 we were back on our large but dated coach bus and returning back the way we came on that ever so winding road to Kathmandu. The final 25 or so kilometres was the worst stretch as the construction of a tunnel through the mountain had us at a standstill on a few occasions. Dropping us off at an unfamiliar location, a taxi and RS 600 returned us back to Thamel and our hotel by 2:00.

With the jungle safari complete without a tiger sighting and only distant rhino views I would not say it was a failure at all. When most people think of Nepal they only picture towering mountains of 8000m with snow and ice and not the 100m lowlands with the tropical heat that comes along with it. The tranquil experience that comes with a canoe ride and jungle walk is often left in a shadow or not even spoken of. To see herds of deer look up at you then continue to graze, watch monkeys bound from branch to branch with such confidence and ease, not to mention the prehistoric crocodiles lying motionless and waiting for the perfect moment to strike, these amazing situations are just another piece of the puzzle that makes Nepal such a breathtaking country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s