Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Saturday 14th January 2006.
Royal Chitwan National Park:
I slept quite well last night although I needed to get up to go to the toilet several times. I didnâ€™t think I had drunk that much late in the day. I woke at 7:30am, showered and dressed ready for breakfast at 8:15am. The rooms here are really good and are of a high standard. The beds are comfortable (especially when compared to those we endured on the trek) and the bathroom is decorated with marble tiles. According to the Lonely Planet Guide these rooms cost about US$20 (about A$28) per night so they are good value and very affordable. I have just asked the manager if it would be possible to extend my stay by an extra night.
There is a very real possibility that we could be fog bound tomorrow, necessitating a four and a half hour drive back to Kathmandu. There were no flights to Bharatpur today as there was heavy fog all day. It is now 6:15pm and the fog has come in very thick again. I am thinking now that it would be very risky to go to Tansen to visit the McArthurs as I might be stuck in Bhairawa and not be able to get back to Kathmandu on time for my flight home. I need to decide by 10am tomorrow. I would rather spend extra time here going bird-watching for a few extra days perhaps. Getting back to Kathmandu from here would be far easier than in Tansen or Bhairawa.
Another Elephant Ride
Today after breakfast we drove for 15 minutes to another section of the national park. We again had an hour and a half elephant ride through the park. During our elephant ride we again had great views of a rhino. We also saw Spotted Deer (chital) feeding its young and a brief glimpse of a Hog Deer. Later research shows that it might have been a Barking Deer. We also saw what I think were rhesus monkeys in the distance.
Birds of Chitwan NP
Because of the dull and foggy conditions we didnâ€™t see or hear many birds while on the elephant ride but we did see another Indian Peafowl. We also had good views of a Red Jungle Fowl which is native to this area. The common chook is descended from this species. We also saw some Lesser Whistling Ducks and heard a few other birds. We didnâ€™t dismount from the elephant where we had got on at the National Park Head quarters but continued on a back road towards the hotel. Along the way we passed some very basic living conditions in the local village. Many around here live in quite small mud and bamboo huts. I was able to get some good photos of life here as we went along. Eventually we went down the main street of Sauraha to the hotel, trying to duck under the electricity wires drooping over the road.
After a short break we had lunch and then we had an hour free, so I did some bird watching in the hotel grounds and along the nearby river bank. In the hotel grounds I identified Jungle Babblers, Black Bulbul and Yellow Billed Blue Magpie. These are all “lifers” for me. (The first time I’ve seen this species in my life, hence a “lifer”)
At 2:30pm we were driven in the hotel mini van up river for a dug out canoe ride downstream. The boat operator stood on the back gondolier style and guided the boat downstream with a long pole. The current was strong enough not to need any paddling. The journey took about half an hour and was definitely the birding highlight of the trip so far. Our guide Kamal is a keen birder and he pointed out all the different birds we saw. The list of â€œlifersâ€ I saw is impressive:
Black Crowned Night Heron
White Throated Kingfisher
Lesser Adjutant Stork
Red Wattled Lapwing
White Tailed Stone Chat
Stork Billed Kingfisher
Blue Bearded Bee-eater
White Bellied Drongo
Olive Backed Pipit
We also saw several Mugger Crocodiles on the sand bars as we drifted along. I did a rough count in my notebook and over the last 24 hours I have seen here at Chitwan about 29 species for the first time. Wow! And a rough count for the whole trip has added about 40 new species for the trip. While this is good and quite exciting, it is still far short of my initial expectations. I have come to the conclusion that one needs to seek out dedicated birding sites and spend quite a few days with a bird specialist guide to get anywhere near a significant total in the hundreds. I just didnâ€™t have the time on this journey. Maybe on the next trip to Nepal….
Elephant Breeding Centre
After the canoe trip we visited the Elephant Breeding Centre. We saw many trained elephants coming in from a day in the rainforest followed closely by about 8 or 9 baby elephants. I took many photos. It was sad to see the adult elephants being tied up for the night. They do this to prevent them from raiding the nearby crops, such as corn and rice. They would probably do quite a deal of damage if left to themselves. They have recently installed electric fences around the perimeter of the centre in an attempt to stop the wild bull elephants coming in and mating with the females. They can cause other problems as well.
Before dinner we were treated to an hour of local cultural dancing in the grounds of the hotel. Most participants were male and they were accompanied by drummers. The dancers used sticks to beat the rhythm of the dance. One dance featured a traditional fire dance.
Traditional Nepali Food
Dinner was traditional Nepali food; rice and dhal bhaat, spicy chicken, spicy vegetables followed by fried banana. Yummy! After dinner Kane and Jade retired early while I spent some time talking to a Nepali man who was sitting with a German lady. A few minutes later I was joined by the hotel manager as I had requested of the waiter. I am thinking of staying an extra two nights and not going to Tansen at all. There is a general strike and demonstrations in Kathmandu on Monday. It will only cost me an extra US$20 per night and meals average about $6. That is far cheaper than in Kathmandu. I can also hire a guide to go birding for about $10 for three hours. That seems to be great value.