On the second afternoon during our stay at the Royal Chitwan National Park we were driven a short distance over a very rough track in a rather dilapidated old 4WD vehicle to an upstream section of the Rapti River. A canoe, together with a canoeist, was waiting for our small group to take a half hour trip down river.
The man operated the canoe with a long pole along the same principle of a gondolier. The river in this section was flowing quite rapidly and so he only had to guide it along. This section of my overseas trip was the best birding of the whole trip and it only lasted half an hour. I managed to add no less than 19 new species to my life list. (A ‘life list’ is a list of all the birds I have ever seen in my life.)
Our guide for the afternoon was Kamahl, also a keen birder. He was able to point out and name the birds we saw as we went along. My list would have been much smaller if he hadn’t helped me.
Although the trip was fantastic, there were a few problems. Too much, too quick and all too soon the boat trip was over. I had to juggle the following:
- Looking at the birds
- Looking at the scenery
- Looking at the field guide to identify the birds
- Taking photographs
- Using my binoculars
- Writing a list of birds seen in my notebook
- Trying to keep my balance in the canoe
- Trying not to be scared of the man-eating Mugger Crocodiles on the sand bars just metres away!
I found that using an elephant to travel through the Royal Chitwan National Park was an excellent way to safely cover some of the national park. I say some because it is rather slow, but perhaps no slower that walking. It has other advantages too. It gives one an elevated view of the surroundings and the wildlife, decidedly advantageous when meeting a rhinoceros (which we did – twice) and tigers (which we didn’t). It is also great when crossing rivers; the elephants don’t mind getting their feet wet. (As an aside, the elephants we travelled on preferred to use the river as a toilet stop.)
There are disadvantages of course. The platform they provide as a seat is rather uncomfortable after an hour or so, and rather cramped. The seating we had was designed for four people. We only ever had three on board and it was still crowded. The constantly lurching animal beneath you makes good photography something of a challenge.
By the way, the woman next to the elephant is Jade. She and her husband Kane had also been on the trek with me. We were the only ones to add on the Chitwan leg to the trek, so we got to know each other quite well.
As we travelling on the back of the elephant from the national park to our hotel we went past many humble, basic farm houses and buildings. From our elevated viewing platform we looked down on the homes, their small garden plots growing a range of vegetables and the animals they kept. There were many cows, goats, ducks, chickens and dogs. I didn’t see many cats; they may have been inside. In fact, I didn’t see many cats in all the time I spent in Nepal, but there were many dogs.
Instead of dismounting from the elephant at the National Park headquarters our guide continued the ride along the roads through the nearby farming land and then through the streets of the village near our hotel. This gave us an excellent view, from an elevated platform of village life in this part of Nepal.
I was amazed at the pride taken by the farmers in their humble dwellings and the courtyard by their houses. We saw several of them sweeping the yard clean. There were animals everywhere, but not much seemed to be growing in the gardens or fields except for corn. It was the dry season when we visited so that would account for it.
On our second morning at Chitwan National Park we woke to find that the foggy conditions had worsened. After a relaxing breakfast we travelled a short distance by 4WD to another part of the national park. Here we found about a dozen elephants waiting to take us on another walk through the park.
Animals and birds
The foggy conditions made photography rather difficult. After a short distance we managed to find another rhinoceros and it posed beautifully for my camera. We also had brief views of a mother Spotted Deer and her baby, a Hog Deer (it might have been a Barking Deer) and distant views of some monkeys, possibly Rhesus Macaques. The birding was rather disappointing but I did get good views of another male Indian Peafowl, a Red Jungle Fowl and some Lesser Whistling Ducks.