A totally different side of Nepal from my previous post. After our hike in the Himalayas and a couple days of much needed rest in Pokhara, I extended my trip for 3 days in Chitwan National Park. Using the same tour company as I did for our hike, Earthbound Expeditions, I was picked up in Pokhara and had a long, hot, and bumpy four hour bus ride to the park. We checked into our lodge, where I had a simple/clean private room with ensuite bathroom. Our first activity was a sunset walk around the park, where we got out first taste of the biodiversity in the park. Chitwan is the first protected National Park in Nepal, and hosts a huge collection of mammals, bugs, and birds, including 22 species of globally threatened birds. One of the major draws for tourists is the chance to see Rhinos in the wild (which we did!) and the elephant safaris. Having now done an Elephant safari, I regret it and can say I disagree with the use of elephants for a tourist attraction. I was pretty shocked to see the treatment of the animals in front of us tourists, which gave me a bad feeling about how they are treated when we aren’t there. Read more here.
Anyway, on our sunset safari we saw birds, bugs, deer, and our first crocodile – eeee! Arriving back at the lodge we had yet another meal of Nepalese Dahl Bat (not complaining) and went to bed early.
After the safari in the evening, we had the chance to attend a performance by some local school children, of traditional Nepalese dances, songs, and theatre. It was really interesting and totally different. The night was another early one, since we were getting up early to go bird-watching. Me, being not much for birds, dragged myself out of bed with a fair amount of disgruntlement at 4:30 AM and we proceeded to go for a two hour walk around the park. After my initial annoyance subsided I have to say, it’s a pretty magical time that early in the day, with a heavy mist hanging in the air, dew clinging to everything, and almost complete silence all around you. It feels like another world. We saw quite a few birds, some of which apparently were quite rare, but again, I’m not much for bird species 😉
After a quick breakfast at the lodge, we were off again, this time to get in a canoe and travel down-river to where we would try to see the elusive Rhinoceros. The canoe trip was an adventure in itself, as this time we were basically eye level with several crocodiles, and this is not somewhere I really want to be.
Once out of the canoe, we started walking deeper and deeper into the jungle with a Park Ranger. The Rangers keep a close eye on the movements of the Rhinos so they generally know where they may be hanging out. However as we were told several times, these are not creatures which like to be seen or be friendly. Therefore, it’s usually quite a challenge to catch one. But the stars were aligned for us, as our Ranger excitedly whispered that he had spotted one just up the river from where we were. We made our way as silently as possible along the river and low and behold, there was actually another Rhino in the water even closer to us! We spent a good hour sitting and watching the Rhinos, making almost no noises except for the occasional camera snap. To see a Rhinoceros up close, with no fence between you and him, is pretty amazing. These guys were Indian Rhinos, being second in size only to the Asian Elephant. They can grow to be as large as 4000 kg. Their skin looks more like metal upon close inspection, and their horns are terrifying. The Nepalese government has taken steps towards conservation and protection, however poaching is still an issue – 37 rhinos were killed in 2002 alone for their horns.
After our exciting Rhino encounter, we went back to the lodge for one last Nepalese dinner, and the next morning I was back on a bus to Kathmandu and eventually back to Germany.