Chitwan National Park

Sauraha Travel Blog

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With Christmas fast approaching, time for a holiday within my holiday and go to Chitwan National Park for a bit of wildlife spotting. 75% of the journey to Chitwan the same as Pokhara and bumped along the half made road.  However road split after a few hours and we continued following the river to Chitwan.  The river looking its ever attractive bright blue, but not many rapids to justify why so many people raft their way to Chitwan.   The guy sat next to me on the bus really chatty clearly wanting to practice his English but offering plenty of advice on Chitwan along the way.  On arrival guy behind me on the bus offered me his hostal card and initially hesitant but happy to accept his free lift from the bus park.

  It turned out his hostal (a joint Swiss/Nepal venture) was not only cheaper but much nicer than the one I'd picked from guide book.  Settled in for Christmas.

Sauraha immediately feels relaxing and perfect for Christmas.  The town surrounded by rape seed fields in full bloom and straw huts. Only one dusty main street full of laid back shop vendors happy for tourists to come to them.  More cows, buffalos and elephants walking the street than people.  The taxi rank was a row of 6 elephants with drivers waiting for custom. Changed in to shorts and t-shirt for a very welcome change from the cold of Tibet.  After checking out tour prices, established my hotel manager who speaks very good English was competitive and booked my trips direct starting with piggy backing on a pre organised hotel trip to the local elephant orphanage.

Joining 2 US, 2 Dutch and 1 French, the trip started with a quick stop at the local village (Tharu) where we were introduced to how food is produced and a little bit of the culture and utensils used in daily life.  Pretty interesting and worth a 10 minute stop.  However moved swiftly on and made it to the river in time for the daily migration of water buffalo and elephants crossing the 3 foot deep river.  Great site with the sun starting to go down.  We all had to cross the river as well but made it across in a very rickety long boat that felt like it was going to capsize at any moment.  Thankfully we made it across without getting wet.

The elephant orphanage trip starts with an information centre about Asian elephants on lifestyle, diet, numbers in wild, but starkly frank about how elephants are trained to carry humans with training of "massaging to de-sensitise the skin" from the age of 1.

  The orphanage itself which I had been really looking forward to seeing was equally worrying with all the adults chained up.  Thankfully the young elephants were free to roam and most happily stayed close to mum.  However 1 went on the rampage whilst we were there and took about 8 staff to try and pull it back to where it should be.  Not entirely sure about the methods adopted to treat the elephants, but with numbers of elephants rising again, the orphanage are a key player in this success so must be doing someting right.  The 2 sets of baby twins (of which only Sri Lankas orphanage can equal were very cute and seemed very happy with life).

In the evening, we all went to a culture show where the Tharu village display a variety of traditional dances used for weddings, funerals, scaring wildlife or simulating fights.

  It was actually very good and excellently choreographed that included several stick dances and a couple of fire dances, plus one bizarre peacock dance. 

For my 1st full day, I'd booked a full day trip comprising of a 2 hour canoe ride and a 4 hour trek within the national park boundaries.  The weather lived up to predictions being very foggy and visibility down to 10 metres making the canoe trip very eerie as our group punted its way down stream rotating between banks to get close to the birldife.  Plenty of chirping and quacking going on in the midst without seeing anything.  Not a particular ornithologist I was quite happy to take in the tranquility of a slow cruise down the river without seeing any birds.  However as we moved further downstream, the birds untroubled by our passing and we started to see an impressive range of different types of kingfishers, cormerants, egretts, wagtails, peacocks and an eagle, plus dozens of other more common bird species.

  Came across a 6 foot crocodile relaxing on the bank.  Assured that the crocodile wasn't a maneater and turned around to get a closer look.  Got to within 3 metres when it darted underwater and unable to see where it went.   I was quite happy to swiftly move on. 

Still quite misty for the start of the trek.  After a brief run down of safety instructions if animals charged (generally climb a tree - of which I have never done - great !!).  Walk started down a path of 10 foot high elephamnt grass.  Very pretty, but not good for wildlife spotting.  However we were quicklly rewarded with close views of wild deer and a family of macac monkeys jumping around the trees overhead.  With our guide and two trackers in search of bigger game, we moved off the main jeep road in to wildlife tracks and after they thought they heard movement, completely off the path and walking through untouched trees and pushing branches out of the way to make progress.


We hit a section of open savannah and a view over the top of the elephant grass to get our 1st glimpse of the endangered sought after one horned rhino. Able to see the top of its back and flapping ears as we passed around the binoculars.  Excellent to see the primary objective of the trek but would be good to get a closer look. 

With lunch in a tree house overlooking the plains, by the time we started for the afternoon, the mist had left and the weather was stunning with clear views.  Continued on a pretty walk through elephant grass, forest, savannah and along river banks.  Plenty of monkeys and deers before hitting upon another crocodile sunbathing on the opposite bank.  Managed to get within 3 metres and it still remained frozen despited the provocations of our guide throwing mud at it.  It succumbed though after it got hit in the eye and launched directly towards us in to the water.  I bolted !!

At the end of the trek, I left the others for a 2nd day whilst I headed back to Sauraha for alternate plans for Christmas day.  Went to KCs as one of 2 recommended restaurants.  With a craving for fish, ordered lgrilled emon fish.  I did not expect to get a fillet of fish the size of a 12 oz steak.  More of a pepper sauce with a lemon twist.  Found out it was locally caught catfish.  Absolutely fantastic. A real contender to Baramundi as my favourite fish. 

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photo by: sandra_s021