Searching for Rhinos in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Our guide was guzzling water like there was no tomorrow. I was thirsty, having severely underestimated how tiring searching for rhinos in Chitwan National Park would be. The guide started to morph into one of those good looking college kids from a Coke commercial — you know, the ads where everyone is drinking Coke and having the best time ever, making you really want a Coke. I really wanted water. “I would let you have some of mine but it isn’t safe for you to drink” the guide finally said, sensing my desperation. The likelihood of getting a stomach churning parasite almost seemed like a fair trade-off (travelling with locals is all the rage anyway, right?) but I resisted the temptation.
Rewind 24 hours, and we had just arrived in Chitwan, a small town on the edge of the national park. I saw a big crowd gathered near a fence, so after checking into a cheap guesthouse we headed over to see what was going on. It turned out there was a massive rhino on the other side of the fence (just inside the national park), munching away happily while stunned tourists snapped photos. It was humbling to be so close to such an imposing animal in its own environment. This was by far the closest we would get to a rhino in Chitwan National Park, but the full day walk we had planned for the next day would still turn out to be memorable.
Walking through the turf of tigers
“See those scrapings over there? Tigers made those recently”, our guide informed us, just after giving us a safety lesson on what to do in the event that we encountered any dangerous animals. There was a different method for each animal that might cause us harm, which I forgot almost instantly, but I still really wanted to see a tiger. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, and the heat and humidity were starting to get to me. We ended up walking for hours through the park, passing thick jungle, open grassland and an army camp. It felt like we’d never see another rhino, and with my water supply dwindling, I started to regret the decision to opt for the full day tour.
Further reading: Around a thousand soldiers patrol Chitwan National Park, where they have almost eradicated the poaching of rhinos and tigers – check out this article about it over at National Geographic.
Finally, a rhino
“Rhino, Rhino, over there” whispered the guide. I think he was relieved; I’m sure most tourists complain if they don’t see one. We got as close as we could to the majestic creature without making it angry. We didn’t get anywhere near as close as we did the previous day, but it was nice to finally see one after all those hours of walking. I’d like to write something more insightful about this rhino encounter, but the thirst had taken over control of my mind.
The return journey
These are always the worst. You walk for hours, see something amazing, and then walk all the way back. I was out of water, but somehow I made it back to town for a well earned drink. I probably didn’t look as glamorous as the college kids on the Coke ads, but I was just as happy.
How to search for rhinos in Chitwan National Park
We stayed at a cheap guesthouse (I can’t remember the name) and organised the tour through the owner. It cost around $30 each and included a boat ride to the start of the national park. It was a tough day but definitely worth it— it’s not every day that you get to walk through the stomping grounds of rhinos and tigers!
Have you seen rhinos or tigers in the wild? What has been your most memorable animal experience?
I visited Nepal late last year and had planned to write this post earlier, but then the earthquake happened. The country has recovered and is desperate for tourists to return — it’s an amazing place to visit, so get there as soon as you can! Also, I took all of these photos on the first day, close to town — I’m not sure what happened to the ones I took on the tour but I’m pretty sure they weren’t great anyway.
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