Thursday, January 03, 2008

Chitwan National Park

After a few more days in Kathmandu's tourist district, we felt like seeing a bit of nature again. Luckily, Nepal provides diverse landscapes for outdoor activities. Near the Indian border is Chitwan National Park - a tiger and rhino reserve.

We opted for a three-day jungle walk, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive wildlife. About 20 years ago, the jungle walks were only a few hours, with guaranteed sightings, but the animals have now moved further away from the park entrance. We were accompanied by two guides - to show us the way and protect us from rhino attacks...

On our first day, we were able to see some large crocodiles, a small deer and a few monkeys. The second day took us further away from the 'jeep safari' tourists (who scare away most of the wildlife), and we spotted a black bear and two tigers - albeit at a distance of 50m and only for a fleeting moment, but still... Tigers! We continued to search for rhinos on the third day, but the jungle was full of local people illegally cutting down grasses and trees (and scaring off rhinos).

Even without a rhino sighting, the walk was fun. We covered about 20km each day, through constantly changing vegetation - grasslands and 'sal tree' forests. We also saw a crocodile breeding centre, a caged tiger (found as a orphaned 'man-eater' cub and too weak to return to the wild) and petted an elephant (unfortunately not wild...)

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