Our visit to Chitwan National Park has got to be one of the highlights to our Nepal trip and definitely Ava’s favourite place. We saw huge elephants walking down the street, crocodiles bathing in the river just inches away from us on the boat, one horned rhino’s and so many colourful birds. The only downside is actually getting to Chitwan. We took a 5 hour coach trip from Pokhara which was so ridiculously bumpy, at one point Ru’s head was bumping against the ceiling whilst holding onto Ava.
If you want to get a glimpse of what our brutal coach trip was like, here’s a short video.
Our first excursion at the safari park began with a gruelling 6am wake-up call, a quick breakfast and then off to a boat ride across the river. The fog was so dense that morning we could barely seeing a meter ahead. If it wasn’t for the floating canoes that wobbled as you got in, it would have be hard to tell we were even on a river.
This boat ride has got to be one of the most surreal and eerie experiences I have ever had. The fog was so dense and low lying, it was like steam was coming off the water. You could make out the vague outline of trees along the banks, the sound of water ripples as we rode along and every so often the guide pointed out the heads of crocodiles that lay sleeping in the river.
Elephants at Chitwan National Park
Elephant breeding centre
Our boat ride took us close to the elephant breeding centre, but first we had to walk through a massive field where hundreds of cows were grazing. By the time we got there the fog had started to lift and the warm sun began to beat down.
The best thing about visiting the breeding centre is seeing the baby elephants playing together. It is the most adorable sight, they are so friendly and happy, running after each other and hugging like small children. Ava loved seeing the elephants, watching them as they ate with their massive trunks and pointing out the huge elephant poop.
Seeing the mother elephants chained up was actually very sad. We were told that they do get to walk around freely for several hours a day and the breeding centre is one of a few around the world set up to protect endangered elephants. So there is some great work here, but you can’t help but wonder how happy they really are.
We were initially booked in to do elephant trekking, but after seeing them chained up at the breeding centre and knowing a bit about the brutal treatment that’s involved in domesticating elephants we didn’t have the heart to do it. So we ended up doing the jeep safari instead, a four hour ride through the national park. The wonderful thing about the jeep safari is that you are right in the thick of it, there’s not much between you and the wildlife.
Driving along the narrow roads, through thick forests and open grasslands, hearing only the sound of animals, it was a really peaceful experience. For the first few hours we didn’t much more than peacocks, monkey’s, lizards and occasionally seeing people doing the walking safari.
Just when we thought it wasn’t exciting enough, we saw a black sloth bear walking up the path head. Ava was so excited, this was the first time she’d seen a bear walking around and was just memorised. We watched silently as it walked along, then stopped to rub its back against a tree trunk. As we inched closer, the bear started walking again and disappeared into the jungle. A few minutes later we came across another jeep and someone told us that we had just missed the Bengal tiger who was on the same path as the bear only moments before, what a shame!
Top Tips for Visiting Chitwan
- Get a tourist coach – If you are travelling by coach make sure you get a proper tourist coach and not a local one. The local ones are cheaper but they stop off and pick up people on the way, the coaches themselves are very old and the suspension is non-existent.
- Book an organised tour through agency or hotel – Although you can turn up at Sauraha and book your own individual excursions, it’s so much easier and cheaper just to do it with an agency or through a hotel. They provide all the transport, the park permits, activities, food and even drop you off to the coach station when you depart.
- Take warm clothing – We went in February which is their coldest month. The days were very hot but by sunset it becomes cold, especially on the jeep safari, so make sure you have warm clothing with you.