The Chitwan National Park is a wildlife reserve located in southern Nepal and bordering India. From Kathmandu, you take a short 25minute plane ride, or a 9hour bus trip, we chose the shorter of the two.
April 19th, we arrived at a small air field in Bharatpur(spelling?), hoped in the guest house van, and were on our way.
We arrived at the Maruni Sanctuary Lodge, which is owned and operated by the Kathmandu Guest House chain, in the mid afternoon and had a few hours to ourselves to settle in and relax a bit.
The layout is rather unique. We are surrounded by rice farms on all sides, and about a 10minute by car from the nearest town. There are approximately 20 or so cabins, each with 2 beds and a bathroom. There is also a main building which houses approximately 15-20 suites as well. There is a dinning hall located in the center of the property where all meals are served, buffet style.
At around 430-5ish our guide from the Lodge, Mehadev, took us on a nature walk. It took about 45minutes to walk into town through a forested area and down a riverbank. Along the way we saw goats, chickens, cows, and a pair of one horn Rhinos.
The Rhinos were incredible. An elderly male had adopted a orphaned younger male to help him protect his territory, which happened to be the closest to town. They looked like real life dinosaurs. They grazed on grass, and took a little dip in the river we were perched on the side of. I have some great photos and videos from the experience.
The rest of the evening is pretty much a blur past that. It was definitely the highlight of the day.
April 20th. We woke shortly before 7 and the day was getting warm already. We had a fun filled day of adventures planned so everyone grabbed a quick bite to eat and we loaded up the back of a pickup truck and headed off to our first adventure of the day, Elephant riding.
Shortly after arriving at an open field with a couple of platforms, 4 domesticated Indian Elephants came walking out of the bush not far from where we were. They strolled up to the platforms and backed themselves in the same way we would back into a parking stall at home. The drivers sat on the back of their necks and the rest of us sat in little wooden box which was placed on top of Elephants back. The ride lasted about 2 hours. We ventured off into the jungle for some nature watching. We saw a mongoose, many different species of birds, a few different types of deer, and some other random creatures. After approximately 2 hours we found ourselves back at the same platform we started from. The elephants backed themselves in, yet again, and we dismounted. Now the question came, how do you tip a guy sitting on top of an elephant, 12-15 feet above the ground? The answer is easy, you don’t. You tip the elephant. I pulled out a 500rs (rupee) bill and folded it. The elephant reached his trunk out and gently snatched the bill out of my hand. He immediately rolled his trunk backwards and handed it to the driver. Very impressive!
The group stood around wondering what our next event was. Our guide from the Lodge told us we would now be going to a river near by to wash the elephants. He also asked if anyone was interested in riding on their back for the 10minute walk, now that their saddle had been taken off. I was the first to jump on that idea.
We headed to the river where we played in the water with 4 elephants for a good hour. The videos we have are great, and the pictures are damn near amazing!
We returned to the Maruni Sanctuary for lunch and a little nap. The heat in the mid-day sun was passing 35 degrees, and a little break was much needed.
After a few hours of downtime, we set off on a dug-out canoe tour down the river. The purpose of the trip was mainly for some birding, however we saw a number of crocodiles along the way so it was a rather unique adventure.
We finished the afternoon on a river side patio where the group drank beers, Fantas, and a few bottles of water before heading home to watch a Tharu cultural show.
The entire lodge gathered near the kitchen/dinning room for an evening of song and dance provided by a local group of natives known as the Tharu. They are native to southern Nepal, and showed us the song/dance they use to keep the Rhinos and Elephant out of their crops. Using fire, sticks, and loud chants, it was very easy to see how this would benefit the local farmers in keeping their crops protected.
Our evening was finished off with an authentic Nepalese meal, then we headed off to our cabins. It was a rather late night or us, not getting to bed until around half past 9 ;)
We are currently waiting in the Kathmandu Airport on our way to Bangkok.
This chapter of our adventure is now complete, but I am sure there will be more to come.