Published: April 21st 2012April 20th 2012
Chitwan National Park lies in southern Nepal in the grasslands along the border of India. It is home to several endangered species, to include one horned Rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, Gharial crocodiles, Asian elephants and Sloth bears. The rhinos and tigers have been heavily poached to satisfy Chinese appetites, and the number of animals dwindled to depressingly low double digit numbers during the Maoist uprising in the 2000’s when soldiers were taken from their posts in the park to deal with the instability in the country. However, now there is an impressive presence of Nepalese military patrolling the park, and we were told there is 49 military posts within the park’s 932 sq. km.
In the morning we started off with a dugout canoe trip on the Rapti river to see some of the 450 species of birds here. From the canoe, we went for a jungle walk deep within the park with our two guides. Chitwan is one of the few wildlife parks in the world where you can explore on foot while accompanied by a guide. We were briefed on what to do with each animal in case of an attack, as apparently run ins are quite common. Our guide
said that the sloth bear is the “angriest” of all the animals here, and it is said they first rip at your face with their really long claws because they hate the sight of human faces, and then they eat your genitals. Oh yes and we absolutely aren’t supposed to run if we see one, this only pisses them off more. Our guides were only armed with long bamboo sticks as protection.
We passed several mounds of fresh rhino dung, which is an indication of a nearby one as they defecate in the same place for a few weeks before moving on to a new area. Sure enough within minutes our lead guide stopped dead in his tracks and motioned for us to stay still and be quiet. We heard some snorting through the trees, and were able to make out a large rhino within 100 feet of us. This was incredibly thrilling yet frightening at the same time. We eventually quietly slunk away, and only saw some Langur monkeys for the rest of the morning.
Once the morning elephant safari tours come in from the jungle, their handlers bring them to the river to bathe them to cool them
off. We took the opportunity to get in the river with the elephants and assist with the bathing, and were bathed by the elephants as well! I sat on the back of the elephant, and the handler yelled something in Nepalese, and then elephant dipped his trunk into the water and filled it. The elephant arched his head back and sprayed me with the water, over and over again several times. Elephants are one of our favorite animals so this was really an especially meaningful and thrilling experience for us. To be able to stand and look into their thoughtful eyes while hugging their trunk was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.
In the afternoon we went for an elephant back safari in the park, which is apparently the best way to view any wildlife. The elephants are not seen as a threat to the other animals as humans are, so you are virtually invisible to the wildlife.
Sure enough we saw a lot of animals to include a herd of spotted deer, and two sets of rhinos. Our elephant handler was very gentle, unlike another that was in our group who was constantly shouting at and
beating his elephant. This poor creature bore many scars on it’s head and an open wound from where he was constantly jabbing it’s ear with a hook; how I wished I could have beaten him the same way.
We visited the Elephant breeding center, where they breed and also train the elephants that are used within the park for safaris. There were two 1 week old elephants there that could melt any heart, in addition to twins that were born a few years ago. Elephants are extremely diffcult to breed, and gestation lasts for approximately 24 months, so we were lucky to see such young babies.
We finished the day going to a cultural show for the indigenous Tharu people in this area. The show consisted of male dominated tribal song and dance, and they performed their famous stick dance. This dance was traditionally done before a hunting excursion, and each man is armed with a stick which they rhythmically swing and beat like skilled martial artists.
There are more photos below