This is not a zoo, this is the real thing! We encountered rhinos, crocodiles, wild boars and a plenty of other wildlife.
The five hours bus ride from Pokhara was uneventful. When we arrived the bus park in Sauraha (the village next to Chitwan National Park), there were twenty or more touts who wanted to bring us to their lodges. We just chose one of them by random, in order to get free transportation to the riverside where most of the lodges are located. The driver took us to Jungle Wildlife Camp, which is conveniently located next to the river. We inspected a couple of rooms, before we decided that the one with balcony and a nice view was perfect for us, also money wise.
Shortly after checking into the room we headed for the dining hall, where the lady in the hotel tried to sell us a package. Normally I don't like packages, but this offer was simply too good to reject. For 7500 Rs per person we got:
-3 nights of accommodation (2 nights in the lodge and 1 night in the tower)
-All meals included (4 days)
-Trip to the elephant breeding center
-A guided jungle walk
-Bus ticket back to Kathmandu
I figure it would take a lot of effort to shop around for all this activities, and even then it would not be much to save. So the decision was easy, we signed on the affordable package, which would make our life much easier.
Day 1: Elephant Breeding Center (4:00-5:30pm)
The hotel pickup drove us to the nearby breeding center. There were a small museum and plenty of elephants in the vicinity but we were not allowed to get close to them, because the mother elephants are aggressive when they have cubs. The guide also took us for a short hike into the forest behind the breeding center.
Day 2: Canoeing and Jungle Walk (7:00-11:30am)
The guide took us down to the river where a canoe waited for us. During the canoeing we saw a lot of birds and even a crocodile sunbathing on the shores. After 45 minutes in the canoe, we were being dropped off on the western shores, and ready for a walk into the jungle. If you are lucky, you may see rhinoceros, deer, monkey, bear, birds, wild boar and even a tiger. The guide instructed us what to do if we bumped into any wild animals. The most dangerous encounters (also based on likeliness) would be in this order: Wild Elephant, Rhino, Bear and Tiger. The guide did not bring any weapons, only a stick.
During most of the walk we saw nothing else than trees, some birds, fresh dung from rhinos and some not-so-fresh tiger scratching on the trees. After a while we came across some spotted deers. We followed them, but then something surprising happened. Two rhinoceros were blocking our way, hidden in the bushes only 5 meters away from us. That was a nerve-racking and stomach-churning event. Time stood still for 10 seconds, before the rhinos noticed our presence and ran away. We felt the ground shaking because of their heavy weight. What a day!
Day 2: Jeep Safari (1:00-6:00pm)
We were taken across the river where a jeep was waiting for us. The first thing we saw along the jeep trail was tiger footprints. Then we drove further into the jungle (30km+) and saw rhinos, deers, monkeys and plenty of birds. We also visited a crocodile breeding center with hundreds of crocodiles in all kind of sizes. At the end of the day, we saw a total of 6 rhinoceros. We didn't see any tiger though.
Day 3: Elephant Safari (8:30-10:30am)
We were taken to the communal forest where the elephant safari is taking place. Hence it's not exactly within the national park, but there are wildlife also here. We lined up, and climbed the stairs to the elephant loading platform. At first, you may see it very interesting and comfortable to sit on top of the elephant with 4 persons. But when the elephant starts walking, it's torture for the body. During the almost two hours ride, we saw rhinos, wild boars, spotted deers and monkeys. The elephant trail can be quite narrow some places, so it is a good idea to watch carefully for your dangling legs so they not get stuck in some branches.
Day 3/4: Tower Night (4:00pm-6:30am)
After the elephant safari we went back to hotel, where we had lunch and checked out of our rooms. In the afternoon the guide drove us to the communal forest to spend a night there. The room in the tower is fairly ok and the bed is comfortable enough with mosquito net. The guide took us for a short walk in the forest surrounding the tower. We saw a lot of deers, especially at sunset when we sat in top of the tower watching for wildlife below. After darkness the guide served us the dinner, which we had brought from the hotel.
In the morning we were taken back to the lodge, where we had our breakfast and soon after they drove us to the bus park where we boarded the bus to Kathmandu.
We would like to thank the staff at Jungle Wildlife Camp for a perfect holiday in Chitwan National Park. Their food was excellent too !
Warning! Back in Kathmandu (3 days after the visit to Chitwan), I noticed a tick feeding on my leg. It was stuck really hard under my skin. I got it out after several attempts using a tweezers. Days and weeks later, the rash started to grow bigger, and looked like a bullseye which is so characteristic for Lyme-disease. There are mixed information whether Lyme disease is present or not in Nepal/Terai. In any case I'm taking 200mg of Doxy every day now, and finally the rash seems to fade away.