October 6, 2012 - Sauhara (Chitwan)
Having only one day by Chitwan National Park, the hotel had made sure to set up a busy day for us. First activity of the day was canoeing, followed by a jungle walk and a visit to the elephant breeding centre.
While getting into the wooden canoe, the guide calmly explained that you’re fine in the canoe about 99% of the time. Since the canoe before us, got some issues with the current and keeping everything totally dry, it felt good to know that they’ve already used the 1% for today. We should be fine thus. It didn’t take many minutes before we spotted a crocodile on the river bank, and even if it wasn’t the biggest one, it was really cool to see one in the wild. After a peaceful float down the calm river, we were supposed to get off on the river bank to go for a rhino hunt. By foot! How smart does that sound? Not very. To make things even better, the guide was eager to tell us that the group with German bikers he’d been walking with yesterday had been lucky enough to see no less than six rhinos. Hm… “Unfortunately”, we didn’t see any at all though. Sort of disappointing, but it turned out that we were going to get to see one later on to compensate a little bit.
The visit to the elephant breeding centre was interesting with lots of facts about the Asian elephant and both the wild and domestic population. A curious baby elephant, which was keen to talk to the tourists, also made it very worthwhile.
When we got back to the hotel we decided to walk down to the river in order to see the daily elephant bathing. Still not feeling clean after the hike Ulrika decided to take a bath as well, although the river might not have been so clean. She learnt that standing on an elephant is not so easy but showers provided by elephants are refreshing.
For the afternoon, an elephant safari had been booked for us. When we arrived at the centre for the safaris, we feared the worst. It all looked like we were going on some kind of jumbo pony riding set-up. It literally looked like all the elephants were walking along a trail on an open plain after each other in a big loop. Kind of skeptic to the set-up, we got up on the elephants, two on each to split the cameras. And man, we were wrong about the pony riding. Following a track was the last thing we did. Both our elephant drivers preferred the freestyle off-trail version in their hunt for a rhino. Muddy swamps, trees, bushes, we went through it all. At times one of the drivers also trained for the annual elephant race in Sauraha – elephants are quite fast even in thick jungle… Anyway, the off-road tactic proved to be successful. Suddenly, a big male rhino was standing there in a clearance between the trees. Think most of us were even more relieved that we didn’t walk into one by foot, when we saw the size if the rhino. Also quite amazing how we could walk up to just a few meters away from it with six elephants, without the object for our cameras was too bothered.