Chasing Tigers. Chitwan National Park Nepal
I am off to spend my last few days in Nepal at the Chitwan National Park. My wish is to see the elusive tiger. My fingers are crossed!
I get to Tribhuvan International Airport, which also serves as Kathmandu’s domestic airport. There’s a kind of organized chaos at this airport, but I weave my way through and get onboard.
Twenty minutes later I am at the Bharatpur Airport.
I check in to the Chitwan Tiger Camp, a carefully laid out chalet-type accommodation right opposite the slow-moving Rapti River.
The view from here is marvelous.
The Chitwan National Park is one of Nepal’s draw cards. Home of the One-Horned Rhino, leopard, elephant, sloth bear, deer, monkeys, many varieties of birds and of course the majestic Bengal tiger, the park is quite an attraction. Spanning more than 932 sq km of forests, marshlands and grasslands, this park is listed as a World Heritage Site, one of many in Nepal.
I hop on a safari jeep for a day tour around this park. On this hot day, it’s hardly likely that I will spot much as animals tend to stay deeper in the forests to keep cool.
But having said that, I got some truly up close and personal moments with several One-Horned Rhinos.
One of the pitstops on this safari is the Gharial Breeding Center in Kasara. Since 1978, this center has been involved in reestablishing the Gharial population from natural egg laying sites in artificial conditions to rearing young until they are old enough to be released into the rivers. The Gharials bask like statues in the hot sun, quite unconcerned by the peering humans around them.
The evening is long and as the sun sets, I jump on a dug-out canoe for a ride down the serene and life-giving Rapti River, spotting various birds and a couple of Muggers lazing along the water’s edge.
I have decided not to go back into the park as I want to avoid the unruly tourists (from a certain country) who have pervaded this park. They are loud, noisy and totally uncontrollable and have absolutely no regard for the sanctity of a national park. Instead, I hire a bicycle from a shop close by and ride out to the Elephant Breeding Center (about three miles from the hotel). This center is apparently one of two breeding sites in the world. Well, if that’s so, I am the lucky one!
It’s a beautiful evening and the older elephants are back from their daily chores. The babies are in top form. My heart melts! Elephants are treated with much respect in Nepal and they are also very actively involved in conservation against poaching.
After spending two days in Chitwan, it is time to head back. I did not see the tiger but I believe there was a tiger watching me.
With Jet Airways cancelling operations, I have had to reroute through Malaysia on Malindo Air and arrive back home (Sri Lanka) only to be met by a grieving nation post the Easter Attacks.
THINGS TO DO
Thamel, in the center of Kathmandu is the place. A pot pourrie of souvenir shops, bars, bakeries, curry houses, tattoo parlours, fake products, incense, people, pets and lights and noise, this is a must visit place.