Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Days 62-65: Jess is a Wanderer travelled to Chitwan in South West Nepal in order to do some wildlife spotting - rhinos, crocodiles and insects galore!
We took a bus from Kathmandu city centre - on a road called Kanti Path (outside the Yellow Pagoda Hotel) - easily booked from any travel agent in the city centre and costing 600-800RS for a one-way ticket. The buses leave each day at 06:45-7:00 and the journey is supposed to take around five hours but be prepared for more like seven or eight due to the terrible road conditions!
The bus bumps along like there's no tomorrow on the edge of some river-side cliffs but it's all worth it once you get to the national park! The wildlife spotting opportunities are endless with plenty of animals, insects and birds to be seen. We were lucky on our first afternoon to see a rhino taking a bath.
There are a couple of controversial points to the park - that being that the army have a lot of checkpoints within the protected area. Its job is to lookout for poachers but they ride elephants around delivering goods to the bases and such. I get that animals are used for work but it wasn't nice seeing it taking place in a national park...
Anyway, if you visit Chitwan, there are a range of activities to take part in. Canoe rides are 1000RS (£7) and last for an hour. It's not your traditional canoe, you're loaded onto a wooden boat (with as many others as won't sink the vessel) and sent off along crocodile-infested waters for an hour! To enter the park it costs 1695RS (around £12) per day.
There are also jungle walks which you can do. This was an amazing way to get up close and personal with all things natural. Including leeches! Those bloodsuckers hung onto Wolvo and the guides gave her some traditional, holistic remedy consisting of spit and leaves. It was hilarious. She was so brave! We also saw ginormous spiders, tiger claw marks (and poop), crocodiles, birds and more rhinos. A half day costs 1500RS (£11) and a full day - 8 hours of walking and covering around 22km 2500RS (£18). Absolutely worth the money and by far our favourite activity of the four days.
You can also do a jeep safari which lasts around four hours and costs 1800RS (£13). We did this but regretted it almost immediately as everyone was so noisy and the guide didn't tell people to be quiet - even when a person's phone was ringing next to a rhino! It was really quite disappointing and I made sure the guide knew my thoughts to which he replied, 'Everyone is like this...' I think we were spoilt on our safari in South Africa as there wasn't a sound to be heard from any vehicle in the plains! Perhaps I set my expectations too high for Nepal?
Additionally, there are other activities such as elephant riding and monkey feeding. We didn't do these as it's not really our thing but each to their own. You can hire bicycles and go for a jolly around the village of Saruhar but it's terribly dusty and at night there are lots of bonfires so beware of thick, smelly air filling your lungs! However, the area is very beautiful and worth exploring.
Here's a picture of a rhino farting, because, why not. Except it's not really, it's just the dust she's making as she goes along!
Be warned that most places do not accept cards and the ATMs in the area are a little dodgy. Make sure you arrive from Kathmandu with plenty of dollar in your pocket as things do add up in price. The four ATMs in Saurhar didn't work so I was driven (by motorbike) to the next town 6km away... it was an eventful journey that saw me going head-on into four lanes of oncoming traffic of which one lane was elephants. Yep, actual elephants!!
All in all, we ended up paying £150 for two of us to do a jungle walk, jeep safari, accommodation, food, drinks, transport and entry permits to the park for four days. It was excellent value for money. If you're buying a package from a travel agent, double check the details as you might end up paying for things you don't actually want to be involved with - like face-painting elephants...!! Yes, I saw this happening! Also, lots of companies offer 2-nights-3-days trips but with the state of the roads, two of the three days would easily be spent on a bus and that's no fun!
Overall, I do recommend a trip to Chitwan but if you've done an African safari, it is a rather different, somewhat more 'chaotic' experience! However, to see rhinos (especially as they have such a hard time) roaming freely, was really special.