Chitwan National Park is home to the famous Bengal tiger, leopards, sloth bears, smooth-coated otters, Bengal foxes, honey badgers, spotted linsangs, striped hyenas, jungle cats, fishing cats, rhinos, elephants, guars, wild boars, hog deer, sambar deer, rhesus monkeys, flying squirrels, antelopes, and the endangered hispid hare species. The park offers a wide variety of ecotourism activities which includes the elephant safari which we couldn't pass by.
The word 'Chitwan' means 'heart of the jungle' and what better way to explore the jungle than on the back of an elephant (controversial). The safari started early in the morning before the hot temperatures kicked in. A small wooden box with 4 posts was strapped onto the elephants back which we some how, managed to clamber onto. I can't say it was the most comfortable seat in the world but it was worth it!
Sitting with my 3 amigos ( they made it a tight squeeze) the elephant who was named 'Leki-Keli' started plodding along at about 2mph towards the edge of the jungle. As we got deeper in, the wildlife began to appear.Rhesus monkeys began to emerge from the canopy in curiosity, deer and antelope skipped by and the sound of elephants trumping in the distance echoed the thick jungle.
The slow motion of the elephant walking made it more relaxing and enjoyable. Taking in the nature around us helps me develop an appreciate for such an extraordinary planet we live on ( and to think we over-exploit it).
The relaxation phase came to a halt when I noticed that 'Leki-Keli' was approaching a deep, fast flowing river. I was bit on edge and grasping onto the 'sturdy' wooden box I was sitting in. Sceptical whether 'Leki-Keli' would decide to take a shower or not, she slid down the side of the river bank and straight into the river. The anticipation heightened. About 10 minutes later she decided to stop in the middle of the river and the expectations of her rolling over onto her back were high. Luckily, she gave a blow of her trunk, re-hydrated and continued across at her leisure.
At the end, when we had departed, I raced over to buy a banana for Leki however, taking me by surprise the woman in the shack handed me a full bunch of bananas which Leki downed in one - elephants eat 272 kg of food daily and up to 50 gallons of water!!
As we departed they offered us the chance to bath the elephants, where you sat bare back on the elephant while it took you into the river and bathed. Unfortunately we didn't have time to do this or see the breeding sanctuary however that's always an excuse to go back, right?
We had a few hours to spare in the local area so we decided to collect a few souvenirs. A few woollen bracelets and a wooden sculpture/ornament of an elephant for the price of 500 Rupees (£3.77) and I was good to go.
The Tharu community had such a calm, simplistic lifestyle. We had some local ice cream on what seemed to be the main street where locals used elephants as a mode of transport. (I wonder if that would be acceptable in the UK - I mean it's more sustainable than a car.)
We hit the road again and made the long journey back to Kathmandu. Arriving back late and famished, 'pizza' was music to my ears and yes I did eat the whole pizza.
PS. HAPPY EARTH DAY