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Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
January 9, 2002
SPECIAL NOTE:The elephants we are on today are privately owned. Painted with cool designs, these guys look so much happier than the government-owned elephants of our first trek. The owners sang to them during our trip, letting them stop regularly to drink and graze on the juicy forest.
Our route took us to the northeast, along a corridor of jungle and grassland, punctuated with the occasional Tharu village of mud brick houses. The opportunity to interact with the villagers along the way was a highlight. Smaller river tributaries cut through open grassland fringed with forests. We observed rural village life in all its glory, eventually congregating at a large field where around six elephants and their passengers stopped to watch an intense inter-village volleyball game in progress.
We spotted countless peacocks, more deer, mongoose and noisy monkeys, before coming across some rhinoceros sunbaking in the afternoon heat. It was almost dark when we returned, a happy band of intrepid travellers indeed, but I swear my bum ached for a week afterwards.
FOOTNOTE:Padam, our guide, tells us that each year the area "loses" many people to the wildlife. Last year the figure was close to 50 and more than a few tourists have had close shaves. Most are killed by leopards and tigers with the occasional injury by a rhino. The animals wander freely through the villages and even some of the hotel properties, so you don't want to go wandering too far at night!
From journal Nepals Wild Kingdom
1. Prepare yourself to be uncomfortable. You'll be riding in what is basically an upturned table. Anything longer than a couple of hours and you'll have trouble walking again! Try and convince the elephant's owner to le tyou ride on the neck for a while - it's much more comfortable.
2. Bring fast film for your camera and a telephoto lens. 400-speed film minimum, and try and use a lens longer than 210mm. We also had some success "pushing" 400 film a couple of stops to 1600 for more flexibility.
3. Watch out for overhead branches - you're a lot higher now.
4. Take plenty of water, it gets pretty warm.
THE FIRST TREK
This was a late afternoon trek of around two hours - one of the better times to view wildlife. And with the sinking sun glowing gold, the atmosphere was wonderful.
The "boarding station" is at the park entrance adjacent the hotel. We climb on, four to an elephant, and head southeast, through neighbouring grasslands and across the Rapti River to the thicker jungle.
Along the grasslands we saw many waterbirds, jackal, mongoose and peacocks, as well as the odd water buffalo. We'd both forgotten how much fun riding an elephant could be - it had been many years before in Thailand and Myanmar when we had last trekked through the jungle on these pleasantly plodding pachyderms.
Into the jungle we plunged and our guide circled, skilled in the art of tracking our quarry which was, of course, rhinoceros. Before long we were on the trail but not before we stumbled across some barking deer deep in the undergrowth. Beautiful, nimble creatures, they scattered but not before we got a picture to prove it. Soon after, in a small clearing, we spotted the rhinoceros. They were adults, resting in the afternoon heat. What we didn't know was that they are so used to their elephant-friends we could approach within only a few metres. Exhilerating stuff!
Our journey back was uneventful, apart from the misty pink susnset and distant views of the Himalaya over the grasslands.
Now check out the entry for trek number two.
by Linda Hoernke
St. George, Utah
March 21, 2013
dundee, United Kingdom
November 29, 2002
The main reason for Chitwan's status as a haven for wildlife is that it's one of the few places in Nepal that isn't mountainous - actually it's almost totally flat, with much of the area around the Gaida Camp being an extremely large flood plain (miles wide) - just before our visit the monsoon had caused the river levels to rise by over four metres - big rises are expected and housing is built with this in mind - either on stilts, on high ground, or from easily replaced materials such as mud brick. The main river is the Narayani which for our time there was a fairly shallow but wide river - the deepest point we became aware of was probably only two metres deep but this recent flooding had been more sustained and higher than usual so much of the ground had been covered with a layer of mud - this is good and bad.
The mud is brought from upstream and is very fertile so helps it the forest to regenerate, unfortunately by covering everything it reduces the food supply for the animals in the short term and had the effect of altering our plans for moving around the area as jeeps were having trouble negotiating the deep unstable mud which existed in some places.
We still had a great time and there were plenty of animals to be seen, the mud sometimes making it better as it was easier to identify the animal tracks. Still, it's probably best to leave a fair bit of time between the end of the Monsoon and coming into the park - one of the best times being at the start of November.
Things to bring - you should certainly be wary of your clothing, long sleeves and long trousers are an advantage when riding the elephants as otherwise you could get scratched a bit by tree branches as the elephants plough their way through the forest. Darker plain colours are also best in order to avoid scaring off animals or attracting unwanted attention - so avoid reds, yellows and whites, also in the same vein of thought you should avoid strong perfumes as this is nothing short of heaven for the mosquitoes.
Lastly a checklist of equipment should include, a torch to see around camp at night, cash - as it's often difficult to exchange cash when you need it most, a padlock for your valuables and decent footwear for walking safaris
From journal Wildlife encounters