“There are two types of crocodiles in this River, the Gharial [the ones with a very thin snout and teeth coming out from all directions] and the Mugger [the massive, bulkier ones]”, said our guide Bimita while leading us towards the canoes parked on the margin of the River Rapti.
“Do they eat people?”, asked Francesca.
“Only the Mugger ones”, said Bimita, with a teasing smile, while approaching the canoe that we would take for a morning tour.
When I noticed the thin canoe sinking to water level after 10 people came on board, I hoped ‘the Mugger ones’ would have already had breakfast.
As we started to float through the dark and calm waters of Rapti River, sure enough, we started to see crocodiles on all sides. They were all sunbathing by the river margin, not seeming to care at all about us passing by. Surprisingly (considering the introductory information), this was one the most relaxing activities I experienced in Chitwan. From the slow moving canoe, we could hear all sounds of the jungle. Going with the flow of the mirroring Rapti River was deeply soothing.
approaching the river while talking about people-eating crocodiles that waited for us
at the canoe parking lot, ready to go.
calm and still waters of the Rapti River
calm and still waters of the Rapti River
a Mugger crocodile smiling at us
a Mugger crocodile sunbathing
mirroring waters of the Rapti River
The canoe tour ended at the entrance to the Elephant Breeding Centre. My first impression upon arrival was… disturbing. It was not pleasant to see those enormous creatures restlessly walking two steps back and another two steps forth, countless times, while attached by a thick chain to a wooden pole. The first elephants to live there had been donated from places including Thailand and Sri Lanka, and because of this breeding centre they ‘repopulated’ the park with elephants at the time they were becoming extinct. Later that day, they reassured us, the restless elephants we had just seen would be taken for a minimum of 5 hours walk through the Chitwan National Park, which happened daily.
Elephant Breeding Centre
mother and her 3-weeks old baby
nice shade at the breeding centre
Leaving the Elephant Breeding Centre, we walked for a bit and crossed a small bridge that was filled with interesting things happening around it. A group of buffaloes crossed the waters, stopping for quick dives to cool off from the heat. A group of women carrying heavy loads of what looked like freshly collected rice were crossing the same waters from the other side of the river. Local vendors tried to seduce our touristic eyes to wooden elephant statues, bottles of industrialised drinks and small key chains and souvenirs. Flashes of blue, red and yellow kept on passing by, right in front of me: birds. Endless birds of vivid colours crossed the air, going from the top of the high silk-cotton trees to the river, for refreshments. I took a deep breath and was thankful to be there, away from city noise and smoke, and admiring all this life happening in all possible colours.
silk-cotton: the Nepalese Summer snow
having fun with the newly discovered cotton we collected from the ground
a camouflaged beauty
thankful for al little things around us
After a refreshing jump in the Green Park Chitwan‘s pool and a large lunch (I know, we sound like very spoiled tourists), we were ready for the next adventure: a JEEP SAFARI TOUR.
Within the first hour of driving deeper into the Chitwan National Park, we encountered an angry one-horned rhinoceros (a typical species from this part of the world, also known as Indian-rhino). At an unusually straight stretch of the safari trail, our jeep driver took speed. Wind blowing in our faces, the green horizon in front of us stretching for seemingly endless kilometres and the most beautiful vegetation I had seen so far at this part of the world. It was wonderful. As we came to the first curve, we had a big ‘oh-oh’ moment. Right at the next corner stood an enormous male rhino, eating. And let me tell you, he was certainly not happy to be disturbed by our jeep. One of the downsides of going for a jeep safari is the noisy vehicle, and there was no way to apologise to the rhino for the sudden noisy invasion of his -until then- peaceful meal. We did what we could: stopped and tried not to force him out of his claimed space (the middle of the road, that is). We stood there for what felt like minutes (but were probably seconds), in awe at the unexpected encounter and thinking what to do next (actually, I probably wasn’t thinking at all other than ‘oh My God how beautiful’). Then, it was official: the rhino prepared to attack us. Some adrenaline invaded my blood before I realised that I was looking at the rhino’s sharp horn, and it was looking right back at us, aiming at the very open back of the jeep (where we were standing with our mouths hanging wide open). Rhinos are famous for being incredibly fast. So our driver took the correct approach: instead of taking off (the rhino would have sure caught up with us on those bumpy trails), he drove backwards, showing recognition that the territory was the rhino’s, not ours. After the gesture, the rhino lost interest, turned on his profile (offering us a magnificent view of his beauty), and left slowly.
the most beautiful road surrounded by the most incredible Jurassic Park-like vegetation
a surprising encounter
looking relaxed as we took speed
what our reactions were probably like when we suddenly saw the rhino standing less than 2 metres away from us
Spot an elephant from the Breeding Centre going for an afternoon walk in Chitwan National Park
Many other encounters with rhinos happened during that afternoon, but none from such a close distance (one was enough). Rhinos were everywhere at Chitwan National Park. Eating, chilling at a pond, hiding behind bushes, walking alongside the road. Beautiful and immense creatures. It was always a thrill to see their horn and ears popping out from behind a tall bush or from inside the dark waters of a pond.
Having reached some 30 kilometres deep inside the Chitwan National Park during the jeep safari tour, we took a break and visited a Crocodile Breeding Centre. Some crocodiles were in a sort of ‘nursery pond’ being taken care of with a broken snout, a pierced eye or a missing tale. Others were just born inside the breeding centre and would eventually be released back into the wild. Most of them were of the Gharial type. Again, I never find it particularly pleasant to see such creatures in an artificial environment. But I must give in that it was interesting to be able to admire these thin-snouted ancient animals from a close distance without feeling afraid.
Leaving the Breeding Centre we made our way back to the entrance of the park, stopping every now and then when someone spotted a wild animal in the bushes along the way.
spot the rhino chilling at the lake
peek-spot of a Gharial crocodile at the Breeding Center
a Gharial crocodile
spot the wild peacock!
spot the wild boar!
spot the spotted deer family!
beautiful endless green road
crossing a river during sunset to leave Chitwan Nationa Park after the jeep safari tour
gorgeous sunset sky as we made our way back to the hotel after a long wonderful day into the Chitwan National Park
That night, while having dinner at Green Park Chitwan, we admired the performance of a typical Tharu dance, featuring fire and sticks (it reminded me so much of the Brazilian Maculelê!). The music was beautiful, a combination of drums, sticks and voices of the dancers themselves, who seemed to have way too much control over their breathing capacity. With indigenous rhythms still in my mind, I collapsed early for a well-slept last night in Chitwan, after a wonderfully spent long sunny day into the wild.