20.04.2012 - 22.04.2012
Chitwan is a nice, small town to go visit if you are trying to find some calm away from the bigger cities of Nepal. It is a tourist-centric town, meaning that all of the stores, hotels, and tours are geared towards tourism. Therefore, it should not have been a surprise when we arrived at our hotel and were offered “package deals on tours” before we were even shown our room!
Chitwan’s biggest appeal is its National Park for walking and jeep safaris, and elephant rides. And perhaps an even larger appeal is bathing with the elephants!
There are 2 types of elephant rides in Chitwan:
1) Privately-owned elephant rides – 1000 NPR for the ride itself and 500 NPR to enter the park. This park is right outside Chitwan’s national park and IS NOT the same thing. The ride lasts for about 2 hours but you’re squished into a small compartment with 3 other people and the park itself is unimpressive. It seemed as if the 1 rhino in the park was placed and there were a few frightened deer. The elephant drivers hit the elephants in the head on occasion in order to control them. We talked to other tourists who seemed very disappointed with this ride as well. Here are some pictures:
2) Government-owned elephant rides - 1500 to 1700 NPR for the ride itself and 500 NPR to enter Chitwan’s National Park. The elephants here are owned by the government but cared for by the locals. These animals seemed much more happy! Had we known the difference, we would have opted for this elephant ride instead!
The privately owned elephants are also the same elephants involved with the elephant bathing. We decided not to do this due to fear of acquiring a strange, water-borne disease. But in retrospect, this is one thing I sort of regret not doing. However, after watching some elephant drivers pounding the elephant’s heads with large sticks, I was glad that I wasn’t contributing to it.
The next thing tour we did that day was the half-day jeep safari into Chitwan’s national park. The tour was 1400 NPR per person. We were EXTREMELY lucky during this tour because not only did we get to see rhinos up close, we saw families of spotted-deer crossing the road, crocodiles, peacocks, and a King Cobra!
The king cobra was the most scariest and most remarkable sight – you know something is quite out of the ordinary when your guide is freaking out and taking pictures of something along with you! And he’s been a guide for 17 years and had never seen a king cobra in the wild! It was about Derek’s height and completely black in color. It seemed that the snake was trying to cross the road but the we had surprised it, and it surprised us! It was almost comical as the guide was excitedly telling the driver to back the jeep up while fumbling with his camera, the girls on the jeep were freaking out and asking why we needed to get closer to this humongous and deadly snake, and the guys on the jeep were happily clicking away with their cameras! Here is a picture of the snake “running away” from us, and a picture we found on the internet to provide you with some sort of scale:
The park and its animals are stunning. More animals came out of hiding during the evening and it was during this time we saw the most animals.
After the jeep safari, a bunch of us on the tour enjoyed watching the sunset and headed for dinner at a local restaurant. My dinner was good, although it looked sort of like donkey or elephant feces. The company and conversation we had was entertaining, sobering, fun, and funny. We did all this in one day then happily set off for Pokhara the next day.