Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chitwan National Park

We couldn't turn down the chance to do an Nepalese safari to Chitwan National Park, so here we are. My first ever safari! We arrived on Monday afternoon to a surprisingly quiet village of Sauraha, just outside of the park. It's almost monsoon season, so there's very few tourists around, and the hotels and lodges are getting ready to close up shop for a few months. We chose a small budget resort that looks an awful lot like our thatched roof cabana in Tulum last March. There are palm trees everywhere, and the highest humidity that we've experienced yet. But the village is set along a river and is very compact, so we can easily walk around everywhere.

Our first morning here, we woke up at 5:30 am to pouring rain, so our first safari was cancelled. We enjoyed a sleep in instead, and then made it down to the river to watch the elephants bathe. This is quite the experience, because tourists are invited to sit on the backs of the elephants while the elephant trainers shout commands to the elephants. Commands like "spray the tourist with your trunk" or "roll over and dump the silly tourist into the river". Both Adrian and I joined in the fun, while Richard stayed on the sidelines playing photographer. We starteed out going together, but also rode the elephants on our own. Elephant skin is spiky and hairy, but surprisingly smooth. It's fun being thrown into the water, and then grabbing onto the ears to pull oneself back onto the elephant. Elephants also get scratched with brushes to keep them clean and feel better, but mostly this event is about getting the tourist wet.

In the afternoon, we made a safari into the park with a guide, first as sitters in a flat-bottomed row boat, and then as walkers. We saw many small animals like monkeys, a crocodile, deer, some large form of squirrel/rodent, and many. many birds, including a peacock and kingfishers, but not the elusive rhinos or tigers. The sounds and smells of the jungle were enchanting nonetheless.

This morning, we woke up at 5:30 to a overcast but dry day, so we started out on our elephant riding safari into a community forest buffer zone just outside of the actual park. We rode 3 of us in a basket sitting on top of an elephant, with the driver sitting just in front of us. Believe it or not, it was pretty comfortable, except for the frequent tail slaps on my toes. And this time we saw the rhinos, and very close up, only 2 metres away! Because wewere on an elephant's back and rhinos have poor eyesight, it was safe. The rhinos didn't ever try to move away from us as we got close to get photos. First we saw a daddy, mommy, and a baby rhino family, which is appropriate considering our little family of 3. They stayed mostly in the water, but we got very close to them. Next we came accross another rhino, and this time he got out of thewater so we could see how massie he was. Not quite as large as an elephant, but close. We also saw 10 deer, a monkey, and lots of birds again, especially beautiful blue ones. Pretty stunning!

We've got one more afternoon here, and we hope to visit the elephant breeding centre on bikes where there is a pair of baby twins, the first ever in captivity, and another baby only a few weeks old. And then we've been tourist long enough and we pack our bags and head to Pokhara to do some more trekking. It's been fun on this safari!!!

(I would try to upload some of my photos of this part of the trip, but the internet connection is pretty slow here and it doesn't seem to work. I may need to wait till I get home to add the photos.)

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