Watching the sunset over the Terrai in Nepal the day before had made me eager to want to get out and explore Chitwan National Park. I awoke to a foggy morning in my jungle lodge, where I sat and had a wholesome breakfast in their little restaurant. I had a full day of activities ahead of me, starting with a ride in a traditional dugout canoe on the river, in hope of seeing some of the wildlife.
After a short jeep ride to the National Park entrance, we made our way to the banks of the river, where our dugout canoes were waiting for us. The air was crisp and fresh, with a fairly thick layer of fog beginning to slowly disappear as the sun began to heat up the morning. There were only three of us on the tour, along with our guide, and they decided to fit us all on one canoe, with the driver standing up on the back.
These canoes are traditional of the people of the area, the Tharu, and are carved out of a single large tree trunk. I was the first to get on, and I had no idea how sturdy the little canoe would be. I ungraciously managed to make my way to the back of the canoe and sit down, while the other two people had an ever tougher time as the canoe wobbled, almost sending us all off for an early morning swim.
Once we were all in, we pushed off the bank and began making our way down the river. With the five of us in the one canoe, the top barely sat above the water, and it seemed that every time someone shifted positions, moved to take a picture or scratch their nose we would almost end up in the river. I have no idea how the driver at the back of the canoe could stand up and keep his balance while steering us along. I guess it’s all about the years of practice that he would have.
Once I had come to terms with the fact that I could end up in the river at any moment, I sat back and enjoyed the ride through the peaceful river. Along the way our guide pointed out all of the wildlife that he spotted, and I was quite impressed that he seemed to know the names of every bird that we came across. Along the banks we came across rhesus monkeys and a couple of different types of deer, including the tiny barking deer. I also soon found out about the crocodiles as we passed right by one lurking just under the water on the bank of the river. At this point we were determined to stay as still as possible to avoid ending up in the water.
Eventually we pulled up to the river bank, where we stumbled our way out of the canoe to begin our hike through the jungle. I wouldn’t exactly call it jungle as Chitwan National Park is predominantly sub tropical forest, dominated by the ancient Sal trees, though I noticed that most Nepalese refer to all forests as jungle (even in the Himalayas), so that’s what I’m going with.
The walk through the jungle was easy going and peaceful, and our guide continued to point out the different species of birds and animals that we came across. There was the ever present thought that the King of the jungle, the Bengal Tiger, lives in these forests, and though I would love to have seen one in the wild, now was not the time.
Our guide had never seen a tiger in the wild, as it is a rare sighting even in this habitat of one of the largest populations of tigers in the world. He did however show us the location of a recent tiger sighting, and I could only imagine how amazing that must have been to witness.
As we walked through the jungle of Chitwan National Park, I felt privileged to be in such a beautiful place. I have always had a love for the forest, and as I wandered in silence, I felt the familiar feeling of the forest coming alive, as the birds and insects sang in the morning sun, while in the distance monkeys made their way through the trees looking for fruits to eat. I was happy to be here, and I took my time to take it all in as I walked my way to my next destination on my trip in Nepal, the elephant breeding centre.