As we got off the bus we were greeted with the usual heard of taxi drivers all bidding for our business. Except instead of them hassling us as we stepped off the bus, they were 5 meters back in a special area just for them. I almost agreed to let a guy take the 4 of us for 20 rupees until Kristi pointed out a guy holding a sign for our hotel: Chitwan Gaida Lodge. Free ride, bitches! Just saved our group of four 20 cents. Boo Yaa!
At the Lodge, the staff were awesome. Incredibly friendly and eager to make us comfortable. They showed us that they had 2 barn owls that they were trying to rehabilitate. Both had wing issues and though one’s wing was better, he has lost his eyesight so unfortunately they can’t release him.
We agreed to book a tour through our Lodge because their prices seemed to beat what we had read online. We booked a full day on the Jeep safari with plans to stay overnight inside the park. Then hike out the following day. Overall it was going to cost us 4945rn ($50usd) per person. We leave first thing in the morning.
That evening before the sun had set, we were offered a free tour of the village with our guide, Ishwori. At first I could barely understand him when he spoke but as I listened more I started to pick up what he was saying. He is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic mostly about the birds in the area.
Just walking around we saw a bunch of elephants and some crocodiles hanging out in the water.
The following morning we were up at 5am to get ready for our 5:30am breakfast. As we were waiting, a few hornbills flew in. Ishwori explained that every morning at this time, they would hang out in the tree for about 20 minutes.
We were into the park by 6am and Ishwori seemed to be rushing us a bit. Turns out he really wanted to be the first Jeep out so we had a better chance of seeing more wildlife.
We started out by seeing peacocks… Enough that we stopped taking pictures pretty quick.
Then we saw some deer.
Then it happened. Ishwori announces: Rhino! But all we can see is it’s butt in the tall grass. Somehow I think this may be the best we see.
Kristi spotted an eagle eating something in the bush, so we hopped out and searched the book for which kind of eagle it was.
We came across one spot where there was blood on the road. Ishwori and his assistant, Krishna believed it was deer blood from a tiger’s kill this morning. Seeing a tiger is both exciting and terrifying to me. On their last count, they figured there are about 120 tigers in the 900 square km area of Chitwan National Park.
You drive slowly so you can see things. Then out of nowhere, our driver kicked into gear and gave’r forward. We see up ahead a rhino crossing the road!
After that it seemed like an endless stream of rhinos
One even decided to drop his head and charge at us. My first thought was “Stupid rhino. We’re bigger than you.” But then, Krishna, who was sitting in the back ducked under his chair and I immediately thought, “Shit!” Turns out he was just reaching underneath to get a big stick out and he wasn’t actually cowering under the seat. We backed up and moved towards it 2-3 times until it gave up and retreated.
We came across 2 rhinos that Ishwori told us were making fighting sounds which just sounded like a bunch of snorting. They didn’t end up fighting though.
Around noon, we stopped under a tree and had lunch.
After noon there wasn’t much going on as the animals are like the Mexicans and enjoy siesta. We drove around for a couple hours seeing very little so we headed to the crocodile farm.
The cost into the farm was 100 rupees ($1usd) and the ticket thanked us for making a “donation” to the park. I giggled at the fact that if they just asked for donations, they would probably get more money.
Later that evening we were dropped off and had to walk to our accommodation for the night. However, before that, they wanted to show us a tower where we might see some animals from. They decided to walk us through the tall elephant grass. This of course, is only a few hours after they told us a story of issues with tigers attacking locals a few years back. I hope I look the least tasty in this group.
At the end of the day, we’ve spotted 29 rhinos! That’s a big number considering during the last census there were only about 75 in the wild. That night we slept in average accommodation, ate average food and had an average nights rest. If the worst part about this tour is a shitty bed, I’m okay with that. We get to trek out of the jungle today.
There were few highlights to our trek. We started with a safety talk. On this addition of “Things that can kill me”: The jungle has some pretty hostile and aggressive animals. If we encounter an angry rhino, we need to hide behind a tree. If there’s no tree, we need to run in a zigzag as they have poor eyesight and agility. If we encounter the sloth bear or a tiger we need to huddle together and make ourselves look big and make lots of noise. Calling it a sloth bear doesn’t make sense. It’s not lazy or docile. It’s actually angry, aggressive and supposedly the most dangerous animal we can encounter here. There are also King cobras and pythons.
Now that we are briefed and terrified, it’s time to walk! Ishwori was good at spotting tracks and pointing out things to us that we would otherwise just walk past. Including fresh tiger tracks. We knew they were fresh because a jeep drove past us 5 minutes ago and these tracks were on top.
Ishwori and Krishna say to us, “We are going to go this way, but we’ve never been this way before”, as they point away from the tiger tracks. I ask, “Sounds good. Why this way?” and Ishwori tells me “We think we can see buffalo!” Kristi looks at him and asks, “It’s not because the tiger tracks are going the way we’re currently walking?” Ishwori smiles and says, “That too.”
We stop for lunch near a river where there’s a good chance to spot wildlife. Other than a rhino bathing, it was pretty quiet.
We managed to see a rhino with her baby.. which is awesome and terrifying because they are very protective. Just as it realized we were there, Ishwori and Krishna made a bunch of noise and managed to scare it away. No need to run. But Kristi still pooped her pants.
As we were heading out of the park, the rain clouds rolled in. Then it rained. When I say rained, I mean it poured. Not only did it pour, it hailed. We have an hour to go. Kristi and Jacqui embrace the bad weather and start dancing and puddle jumping.
When we returned it Chitwan Gaida Lodge, we had some coffee to warm us up before going for a hot shower. We thanked Ishwori and Krishna for a great tour. At the end of it all we saw 33 rhinos, an eagle, paradise birds, languors, mongoose, macaques, elephants, deer, peacocks, and crocodiles. We also saw sloth bear, tiger, elephant, rhino and deer tracks. This tour just may have been better than the Kinabatangan River! Kristi thinks it was a pretty awesome way to spend her birthday!
We are very fortunate to see so many rhinos. They are still on the brink of extinction despite the work going towards saving them. We are headed to Pokhara tomorrow where we plan to do something fun. Paragliding, bungee jumping, zip lining, we’re not sure yet.