Wildlife, nature and serenity. It is hard not to be bowled over by Chitwan.

Note: This post is also published in a magazine of M&S VMAG. In order to open the this magazine, you can click here to open page 22 and here to open page 23 of the published article.

A few years ago, as a student in International Tourism Management in the Netherlands, I was fortunate to meet many people from different countries. Among those I met was a guy from Nepal and during the four years in the college we became very good friends. I promised him a couple of times during our studies, to visit him once if he was back in Nepal. After graduation, he went back to his homeland to visit his family and friends. In for a penny, in for a pound, I decided to visit him last month.

Bathing elephants Chitwan

After Indonesia, it was my second time in Asia and my first in Nepal. I started my one-month trip through Nepal with a seven-days trek to Gosaikunda. After the trek I stayed in Pokhara for a while and before long, I was well on my way to Chitwan. After a five-hour bus ride from Pokhara in Sauraha, I reached the small town of Sauraha on the edge of Chitwan National Park. The teeming jungle of the plains of Nepal was a welcome change from everything. While eating my porridge on the balcony of my room in Chitwan Village Resort, I was treated to songs of sunbirds, bulbuls and hornbills. I was already in love with Chitwan, I was in love with the peace, the pollution free air devoid of blaring horns of vehicles I had to get used to in Kathmandu. The resort owner told me about the sightseeing possibilities and how jungle walk and safari are the things to do if you want to spot wildlife in Chitwan National park. And if luck is really on your side, you might just see the ever elusive, Royal Bengal Tiger. To try my luck, I headed for a jungle walk which had me walking through forests of tall sal trees and wide grasslands. The ranger, who was protecting us from wildlife with a bamboo stick, told us enthusiastically about all the different birds species, animals and vegetation in the Chitwan National Park. His knowledge about vegetation, wildlife was exceptional. During the half day jungle walk, we spotted barking deer, spotted deer, monkeys, some beautiful birds like the paradise flycatcher, woodpeckers, crocodiles and as always the elusive tiger remained elusive. Honestly, I was happy to miss out on the tigers, because I was not sure if the ranger could have protected us well with that tiny bamboo stick. At the end of the jungle walk, we visited the elephant breeding centre. Located 3 km west of Sauraha, the breeding centre stablished in 1985 is the only elephant breeding centre in the country. Set up to protect the endangered Asiatic elephants in the region, the centre also has a small museum which has plenty of information on elephants. Apart from the museum, you can watch irresistibly cute playful baby elephants playing with their mothers and older elephants being trained by their mahouts. It is a nice place to spend some time and learn about the gigantic mammals.

The next day, I went to the river to bathe the elephants. Before coming to Nepal while I was researching of all the things I could do in the country, one thing that caught my fancy was the elephant bathing. I put it on my list of things to do in Nepal and was the main reason why I decided to visit Chitwan. Seeing the elephants take their morning bath was a beautiful sight. I could not wait to jump in the water. The mahout gave me a stone and instructions on how to bathe the elephant and massage it while doing so. As soon as he was done, I jumped in the water and started scrubbing the elephants hard skin with the stone, gently. The elephant seemed to be enjoying the experience as much I was enjoying it. At the end, I was sitting on the elephant’s back and continuously being splashed with water from its trunk. Talk about power shower. The fun bathing experience which lasted for an hour or so is definitely something I recommend everyone to do while in Chitwan.

The following morning, along with other guests of the resort, I headed to the Rapti river for another popular activity in Chitwan, river safari. All of us sat in a tall, narrow, traditional wooden canoe, and the canoe gently floated downriver and throughout the forty-minute ride we had forest on both sides and at times tree branches hung above our heads. Pretty soon, we spotted different species of birds mostly kingfishers, storks and ruddy shelducks, a bird migratory that travels from Siberia to the plains of Nepal every year. We also spotted different species of deer who have come to the riverbanks to drink water. The most magnificent sight was of crocodiles lazing by the banks of the river, sunbathing and stretching out and the fish-eating gharials. The river’s tranquility and the air filled with birds chirping, the experience was meditative.

To pack in as much activity as possible, the next on my list of things to do was elephant safari. Riding on an elephant back, we entered the Chitwan National Park and the two-hour wobbly elephant safari revealed five rhinos, birds, deer and monkeys.

By the end of my Chitwan trip, I was so glad that I decided to include it in my travel itinerary and it left me memories to cherish for a long time to come.

Author: Daphne van der Pol

Note: This post is also published in a magazine of M&S VMAG. In order to open the this magazine, you can click here to open page 22 and here to open page 23 of the published article.

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  • Its A Travelful Life (@atravelfullife)

    I was just going to that question Amanda did. A travel blogger that I follow was backpacking through South East Asia last year. One of her stops was volunteering at an elephant reserve near Chiang Mai in Thailand. It’s a place where elephants who have been abused are looked after. No one is allowed to ride them under any circumstances. Lucy seemed to have done her homework, the volunteers are given a video to watch of the horrific conditions elephants go through for tourism. It seems like you had a wonderful time though in Chitwan 🙂

    • Girlswanderlust

      That sounds like an amazing place to do voluntary work. Do you now the name of the elephant reserve? I agree that most of the elephants undergo horrible trainings etc. And that elephant riding should be forbidden worldwide.

  • Amandas_Wanderlust

    The wildlife of Chitwan National Park sounds pretty amazing. But I’m not so sure about taking an elephant safari. It must be a great way to see wildlife, but is there any guarantee of the welfare standards for the elephants used in these treks?

    • Girlswanderlust

      Unfortunately not Amanda. I decided to do it once in my life and that was in Chitwan. In general I think the welfare standards for most of the elephants worldwide are not that good.

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