A trip to Chitwan National Park in Nepal

We had heard that Chitwan National Park in Nepal is a rich habitat of various kinds of birds, animals, insects and most of all the one-horned rhinoceros. Our parents decided to make a family trip to the Island Jungle-Resort at Chitwan in December.

As soon as my vacation started we flew to Kathmandu and from there to Pokhra. The bus ride to Chitwan from Pokhra took 6 hours. When we reached there it was early evening. It was a protected area to ensure conservation of the maximum number of wildlife species. We canoed to cross the Narayani river and reach the main island. Other tourists were also there.

Amidst the fading glow of the sun we could spot many birds in the twilight flying past us; some were still wading in the water at a distance. It was a birds' paradise. We saw cranes, kingfishers, ospreys and egrets. When we reached our jungle-cottage there was the usual unruffled silence. You can only hear the crickets and see the fireflies flashing. Our adrenaline rushed at the announcement that the next day we would be walking around the jungle with our guide, Ramuji.

Early next morning we readied ourselves, had tea and biscuits and set off. We could not wait any longer. The guest-relations-officer had instructed us about the jungle rules and how to carry ourselves. We had to maintain absolute silence. At the same time we had to be very alert all the time and follow our guide. We started walking along the tracks and Ramuji explained to us about different medicinal plants, riverine vegetation, and hardwood sal trees which covered most part of the dense forest. Suddenly we heard a sound and pricked our ears to ascertain from which direction it was coming. Ramuji communicated with us by gestures only. It was none other than the big rhino with a baby! We stared in utter awed silence. Then we started backing out of the place cautiously. We felt like running but Ramuji stopped us. The rhino stood right in front of us for a while and then disinterestedly moved away into the thick forest. It was really a life time experience.

The following day we went again inside the forest but this time on an elephant safari. This jungle is rich in flora and fauna and is famous for Bengal Tigers (about 150), leopards, various types of deer, monkeys, sloth bear and antelope. We climbed the stairs and then sat atop the elephant's back with the help of the mahout. The seat was like a cot with four sides. Only 4 people can sit back to back. We came across the swamp deer that was playing hide and seek with us. There was a pleasant but strong smell typical of a jungle with so many trees, bushes and blooming flowering plants. Beautiful storks atop the trees alongwith their family were busy feeding their babies. Then it was time to go back to our cottage.

In the afternoon we found the elephants in their enclosure after a tiring day of making the rounds with the tourists. We watched them sprinkling water with their trunks and enjoying their bath in the river. All the time the mahout attended to them and fed them as well. In the evening we sat around a fireplace outside the lodge. The weather was a little chilly. We had fun chatting with people and sharing our experience.

On the third day we quickly got ready for a jeep safari in the jungle again!! We were very lucky to spot one rhino with a baby twice. Rhino poaching is usually a menace in a jungle. But the forest officers are taking good care of these animals. These animals have thick armour like skin which even bullets cannot penetrate easily. Rhino poaching is a serious problem since every organ can fetch plenty of money. The driver told us not to talk or make much movement. The jeep was open and we had a full view of the jungle around. There were so many trees - oaks, chirpine, maple, fir, blue pine, hemlock, spruce and various others. We hoped to sight tigers as well, but alas we were not that lucky. We saw one or two peacocks that came furtively and ran away as soon as the car moved in their direction. Time came when we had to return. We were feeling sad to leave but indeed we had a nice trip.

Next morning we had to bid adieu to everyone in the lodge. All of them were very nice and dutiful and took immense care of all the tourists there. We jumped into the canoe with our bags before the gharial crocodiles and marsh muggers got hold of us. Once we reached our cars we waved out to the men waiting on the other side of the bank of river Narayani. Our journey came to an end but the sweet memories of Chitwan will remain with us forever.

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