Here comes another travel memory from when I visited Nepal in 2011. We decided to visit the national park Chitwan to get a chance to see some wild life and to see another side of Nepal than the cities where we had spent most of our time so far. We went there together with two close friends.
We stayed in a nice small town, Sauraha, close to the national park. We hadn’t booked any hotel before arriving so we spent the first hours looking around at the different options. Most of the hotels seemed quite nice though. After settling in we walked down to the river side to eat at one of the small restaurants with a view of the national park. The only thing separating us from the park was a river.
The next day we booked an elephant riding tour. The people we booked with said it was within the national park but we found out later that elephant riding in the park is not allowed for some reason. It didn’t really matter though, we still got to ride in the jungle next to the park and saw some animals. We had to take a car to the elephant camp before we could start our small adventure. We got one of the biggest and oldest elephants, a female, and she was very nice and it felt a little safer to be on top of a big elephant in case we met a tiger or something!
During our jungle tour on elephant back we experienced different surroundings. We had to cross a river, walked on grassy fields, through dense jungle and on small trails. One of the downsides with being on a big elephant was that even though others passed on the same trail before us we still got lots of spiders and spider webs in our faces since we sat higher up! Not so nice really, started to pay attention to searching for the webs in front of us instead of focusing on the jungle and finding animals to see.
We saw some different animals, like crocodiles, peacocks and other birds, as well as several species of deer. But the main attractions, rhino, tiger and elephants, were nowhere to be seen. Sure it was a nice experience and fun to see the other animals, but it was my third time on jungle safari by elephant (just in another country now) so I wanted something more special to happen. Then when we entered an open area with a pool of water surrounded by jungle, we finally saw a rhino family! It was two adults and one calf, all standing in the water. We circled around them up on our elephants, only a short distance away, stayed for a little while to take pictures and them moved on. One funny thing that happened here was that the girl friend we were travelling with dropped her handbag on the ground, and since we couldn’t go down to pick it up the elephant driver called another one of the elephants to come and help. The elephant picked up the bag and handed it to his driver and gave it back to us. Nice and helpful elephant! 🙂
We still wanted to see more of the area and especially the real national park, so we decided to go on a jeep safari as well. To get there we had to cross the river in a small boat and walk a short while to where the jeeps were parked. At first sight I felt a little sceptical about the cars, they seemed very old, small and not very safe. They also wanted to put quite many people in on car so it would be a bit crowded.
The first, and last, bit of the drive was through very high grass in the fields on both sides on the road. It was so high that if we were standing up on the seats in the back of the car we could barely see over the top of the grass. We were told it’s called elephant grass because the elephants like to eat it. It was a bit scary to not be able to see much beyond the road since we knew that there are both tigers and wild elephants (especially a male that’s sometimes aggressive) in the national park. I don’t know if they like to hang out in that kind of environment but it still felt a little scary.
Since I often think about safety issues in all kind of situations, the topic came to mind here as well. I was thinking about things like what would happen if we met a tiger or the aggressive elephant. Would they be more scared of us or could they possibly attack? If they came charging at us, would we be able to drive away from them? How could we protect ourselves if that would happen? Since the car was open in the back and not even the driver would be 100% safe (since there was nothing behind the seats), I was thinking what to do. It was a crowded car and we were standing in the front, so at least if something happen we could try to throw ourselves inside the car to perhaps get a little protection, but there’s not room for everyone, maybe only 1-2 people can squeeze in. I’m not even sure if the driver or guide had any weapons for protection, probably not since it was a protected area – we even met some soldiers guarding the park.
We made it safely back in the end and didn’t see any tiger or wild elephants. I think it was unfortunate since it would have been my first time, better luck next time! (perhaps from a safer place than an open car) At least we got to see more rhinos in the jungle, as well as wild pigs, peacocks dancing, many kind of deer etc. All in all it was a nice national park and I would definitely like to come back! We were told that there’s a house in the jungle that you can stay over night in but unfortunately it had been a fire there so it was under reconstruction when we were there. Apparently the chance to see tiger was much higher from that spot since the name had something to do with tiger as well, perhaps it was Tiger top, do any of you have more information about this? I heard that people also go on guided walks in the national park, especially for bird watching. I am an adventurous person but I’m not sure I would dare to do that, I think I would have to get more information about how common the tiger is in the area before!