During my stay in Chitwan, my friend Dukhi took me out on a 4wd safari along a route called the 20,000 lakes, or 'Bishajari Tal' to the locals. Would be a lovely route to do on a bicycle i think.
The route is mostly alongside man made irrigation canals, then a couple of large lakes, some vast wetlands, and then there are opportunities to leave the main track and head into the forest/jungle in places too.
Despite there being quite a lot of traffic along the way, mainly locals on motorbikes and bicycles using it as a shortcut to go between villages, we actually saw quite a lot of wildlife.
Lots of monkeys around, all Rhesus macaque, some carrying babies which was quite nice to see. Crocodiles can be seen in the canals, i think only Marsh muggers, i saw a couple of those.
Wild boar and Spotted deer roam around freely in large herds. Also saw Hog deer and lots of birds, peacocks, eagles etc.
A nice way to spend an afternoon!
While in Chitwan, you must go on an Elephant safari. I think most jungle camps and lodges would all arrange one of these for you anyway.
Because the Elephants move quietly through the undergrowth, and the wildlife are relatively used to seeing them, you can get very very close to most of the animals without startling them too much. Some of the Deer, Rhino's and Boar will seemingly happily just let you walk right by them within just a few feet. As you would expect though, there is no guarantee of actually seeing any wildlife at all, as you are not in a zoo somewhere, and the animals have huge areas of jungle to live in so could be anywhere.
Clothing has to be given some consideration though for the safari....
Shorts are not a great idea, as even though it is hot in the sun, you will run into all sorts of branches, thorns and undergrowth in the jungle, all of which could give you some nasty bumps and scrapes on your skin. Long sleeves are not as necessary, as it is easier to move your arms away from the branches, but still would make it easier when pushing through the jungle.
Please consider the colour of your clothing when you go out on the Elephants, as the brighter it is, the less wildlife you will probably see. Natural colours are generally better, Khaki, beige, browns and greens, with grey, navy blue and black all working well too. During my stay, people turned up in red, orange and other bright colours, and unfortunately for them, did not see much..... it may have just been that the wildlife was elsewhere, but i am sure the guides tell you to wear the natural colours for a reason.
I was convinced by the travel agency to go rafting on my way to Chitwan. As it was hot season I'm so glad that I did! The tourist bus dropped me off about half way to Chitwan where the rafting began.
We rafted 30km down the river where we tackled 3+ level rapids (pretty good for a beginner like me!). It was a fantastic experience as there were enough rapids to keep me excited and suitably wet to keep cool as well as calm patches were we could go swimming or just glide along next to the raft.
It cost me US$30 for the rafting which lasted for 4 hours and included all instruction and a huge lunch by the river side.
It's an exhausting day but it's worthwhile, especially when you're able to have a cold beer in a local village shop and watch the world go by afterwards.
The elephant breeding centre is just out of town around 20 minutes by jeep. Once there you are led into an information centre to read the information on elephants and left there for a while. It is interesting, but in that heat you just want to see elephants! I was then offered bananas to feed to the elephants. Unfortunately I only had big notes and couldn't buy them.
This was unfortunate as the elephants are used to being fed and will tend to ignore you if you don't have food! I was able to say hello to a couple of baby elephants though, but not for long.
The breeding centre was a little dissapointing as there were only a few "baby" elephants and all of the elephants were locked up. I also found it amusing that there is no male elephant in the breeding centre. How do they breed then? They let the lucky ladies out into the jungle and they become friends with the local "free" elephants!
I was only there for around 30 minutes. If you are doing other elephant based activities, I'd skip this one unless you desperately need to see baby elephants.
The Elephant Safari is an excellent (although very uncomfortable) was to see the jungle and the animals within it. You ride on top of the elephant on a square wooden box built to fit 4 people, one in each corner. I was unlucky enough to be on one with a large lady so was hanging half way down the elephant clinging on for dear life!
We managed to see 3 rhinos that afternoon at a closer distance than than of a jungle walk as the rhinos are afraid of the elephants. We also fleetingly saw a spotted deer but it ran away too quickly to get a good look at it.
The safari lasted around 3 hours and as the elephants were from the lodge I was staying at, we were able to ride all the way back to the lodge on the streets past farmers homes. Wonderful!
After my canoe ride I went on a jungle walk from the canoe drop off point, through the jungle and back to town. I was surprised at the variety of the jungle as there were dense trees with the sounds of insects and birds piercing the air as well as open savanahs and grass lands. We went through all of it trying to find an elusive tiger (very rare to see) and rhinos. We were extremely lucky and saw a rhino in the open grasslands.
What were were looking for were four different kinds of deer, rhinos, wild bores, monkeys, leopards, sloth bears and the Royal Bengal Tiger. It's very difficult to find through as I was warned and I was very happy to see a Rhino in the wild.
It's a hot activity to do as your more or less in the sun the whole time but to be able to see the jungle and the animals within it is an incredible thing to do.
The first morning in Chitwan I went on a canoe ride along the Rapti River before going on a jungle walk. You leave extremely early (6am) to beat the heat, but it's extremely peaceful listening to the swish of the water and watching all the birds come to life.
If you're lucky, you'll see one of the two types of crocodiles or perhaps even a rhino or tiger. The canoe ride lasts around 45 minutes before you reach your drop off point for the jungle walk.
My lodge offered a slide show presentation which was held in the foyer of the lodge. It explained the history and culture of the local people as well as all of the local animals, how they breed, what species there are etc, and about the local flora and fauna.
It was a very interesting night that lasted for around 1 hour and gave me a deeper insight into the area and what surrounded me.
The Tharu cultural dance presentation is quite a fun night that lasts for around 45 minutes. It consists of all the local dances and is performed mostly by men with the accompanyment of drums and guitars.
If you can put up with the heat of the hall it's a worthwhile experience and the final dance the audience is invited up on stage to dance with them. Prepare to be hot and sweaty and even more so after showing off your dancing skills (or non existant dance skills in my case)!
I arrived late in the day to Chitwan and was taken straight down to the waterside to see the sunset. It was cloudy and hazy when I arrived down there and settled myself down for a drink on a deckchair by the water, but when the set began to set, the clouds cleared and gave a perfect view.
It's a very relaxing thing to do watching the set go down with a cold beer in hot weather. I'd definitely recommend this to road weary travellers looking for a break from it all.
The best activity I did in Chitwan was elephant bathing. What this means is that you go with the Elephant down to the river and you sit on the elephant while it is being bathed by its trainer. This is so much fun as you will get splashed, knocked off and sprayed all while being in awe of this awesome animal and escaping from the heat.
You're in the water for around 20 minutes but it was the most fun I've had in ages and certainly a major highlight of Chitwan.
I believe these bright yellow fields I enjoyed walking through were mustard ones. Serenity and innocence, idyllic views of small houses scattered here and there, like in a fairy tale cartoon, with the snowy mountain peaks at horizon. It was hard for me to imagine what has changed in these landscapes in the last hundreds of years.
The canoe ride during late afternoon was nice, however not as spectacular as expected, not only because I forgot my swimming suit in the main backpack I left in Kathmandu, but because I should’ve brought some binoculars. The bird numbers seemed quite small, although I managed to see many species altogether. As for the crocodiles....well, children did not seem to mind bathing in thier vicinity...and nor did the crocodiles.
Get out of the tourist camps and go explore the surroundings.
A visit to a nearby village was included in the programme. While this was a good opportunity to learn about the social issues since the eradication of malaria and the problems with the growing population around the nature reserve, I enjoyed walking through the fields and watching life in one of its most simple forms – with no need to rush, I took my time to observe the day-to-day scenes – children at play or at school, women cooking or washing in front of the house, local crafts in progress. I witnessed idyllic views of un-historic scenes, with endless fields with the bright yellow of mustard flowers.
I got a taste of the real Nepal in the midst of the nature, far away from cars and noises of cities.
A new hope is born, the first one in Gaida National Park resort. With a domesticated mother and a wild father, this baby had only 28 days during Christmas day. And what a star already…she is the attraction of the worker’s children. Innocent and childish, with her tromp too heavy to carry, but having a lot of energy to play with various sticks, stones and people she knew, I simply watched this baby elephant entire hours. And finally, during one last round of playing before sunset, she gave away any fears and approached me with her tromp. And she made my day!
Unfortunately, cannot remember her name – quite long and complicated, phonetically difficult to reproduce.