Chitawan (National Park and Wildlife Preserve), Nepal
27° 35' N 84° 20' E
Sep 29, 2009 10:00
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A Day with The Elephants of Chitwan National Park

I'm afraid no Lions or Tigers to speak of.... but a fabulous day getting to know elephants and their personalities.  Woke up early to get onto the 8am Elephant ride into the Chitwan jungle.  Unfortunately Jeep safaris out of the question owing to the rivers being flooded post monsoon season.  Different experience to Thailand where there were only two of us and we were able to sit across the elephant neck.  On this ride there were 4 of us atop our elephant hemmed in with no-where to move.  I guess this was so we didn't end up falling off into the jaws of a Royal Bengal Tiger or being trampled under a Rhino---- hmmm, not that we saw very much of anything in the jungle except trees, leaves, branches and LOTS of spiders as the elephants created their own paths through the jungle vines!  To be fair, we did spot some barking deer and a large samba deer with a gorgeous red coat, so its not like we didn't see any game - plus a few birds.  

 After our 2 hour elephant ride experience we dashed off to 'bath the elephants' after their hard morning's work down by the river.   Well, it actually turned out that it was more the elephants' bathing us!  This was definitely the highlight of my travels so far!  Everyone was a little concerned after the hotel host had told us to be careful as some tourists had experienced broken hands or legs from elephants rolling on them, but I was dead keen... you couldn't have kept me a away for a million dollars (ok,,,, maybe a million).  Kirsten wasn't so sure, but the Commander of the Mounted Police NSW soon plucked up the courage to join me.  However, our first elephant was a 'dud' - in the sense it was a baby and didn't yet know how to use it's trunk to shower water on its back.  So we spent a good 15 minutes getting dunked several times into the extremely strong flowing river and attempting to climb 'gracefully' back on our 'baby'.  I was disappointed not to have been showered, so decided to go on a large elephant male who had been 'showering up a storm' so to speak.  Nothing quite like getting hit in the face with a fast-flowing torrent water... definitely cleans out the sinuses!  However, I was in my absolute element bare-back riding a great male!

After our elephant bathing experience and post lunch siesta we set off on an evening canoe ride in a 'dugout' similar to the Okavango 'mokoros'.  Again, this tourist experience was fraught with health and safety issues as the river we were to gently be canoed down was apparently filled with crocodiles:   the 'less harmful' Ghadiyal crocodile (which is on the endangered species) and the man-eating Magarmach crocodiles (or 'marsh muggers' as the locals call them in English).  We did spot plenty of these man-eating crocs along the river banks, waiting for a local buffalo or deer to wander down to the river edge and needless to say we were all too terrified to even move a muscle for fear of capsizing. 

The canoe ended up in a short 'nature' walk where we spotted a rhino footprint - the closest we were going to get to a rhino - and lots of 'sal' trees (see Lumbini entry in a few days).  Our end desination however was the local elephant breeding centre, where they keep Female Elephants with young or new-borns and young elephants up to the age of 6 or 7 before they can start to work (ie elephant rides for tourists).  On arrival at 4:30pm we saw two 5 year olds already chained up for the night after spending a day out grazing in the jungle with their drivers.  It all seemed very harsh that the elephants had to be chained up for the night, but we were given to understand it was for their own safety so they didn't wander off and cause havoc during the night while their drivers were enjoying a soundless sleep.  At about 5pm the mothers started to arrive with their young trailing behind and getting under their feet as all toddlers and young kids would do.   The really young babes under 1 year were left free to wander amongst the hoard of tourists that had gathered.  Of course the youngest were too adorable, we all rushed to pet them and get our photos taken. The very youngest, a 4 month old, kept close to mum suckling an evening meal and there were two twins, approx 5 months, who were also fabulous to watch - full of joie de vivre. 

We left for our evening meal and festivities at about 5:30pm... having queued for a good 20mins to cross the crocodile infested waters in the two boats laid on for an army of tourists.  Poor Womble got the short stick and was left stranded on the opposite bank to fend his way onto the next tourist load.... ah shame!  We all rejoiced joyously when Womble was reunited with our troops as we passed a group of Japanese tourists with camera zooms the length of a man's arm!

Photos / videos of "A Day with The Elephants of Chitwan National Park":

Kirsten, Womble, Peter, Christina & Jess in jeep off to elephant riding - Gary in the front (add further descriptive detail here) Me with Elephants getting to know them before our ride Another great shot of the Himalaya range on a clear morning Kirsten with elephants waiting for their passengers Kirsten with elephants - she's a great lover of animals Elephant takes a snack for the road All Aboard please! Artistic shot of our elephant shadow We enter the Jungle where elephants are totally at home crashing through the undergrowth Womble and Gary on their elephant ... comfortable boys NOT Womble, Gary and Kris on their elephant rid Me and Kirsten obvious self-portrait Example of jungle surroundings Gary ponders if this is such a good idea Jungle Canopy of trees Crossing through a river on our elephant ride MOVIE Elephant Chilling Out Mum and her teenage elephant son Tourists all experiencing  elephant bathing Smile for the camera ---- although we're all nerves! Me and Kirsten on our first elephant - a baby Hold on for your life... unlikely when an elephant is dunking you No choice by a dunking by our baby elephant Being rescued with a stick from the strong current... baby elephant doesn't seem to be having much trouble Attempting to get back on to the elephant...not as easy as you think Graceful is not the word that comes to mind climbing back on an elephant Having been thoroughly dunked we end our watery experience Me atop a very large male adult... elephant Getting ready for a shower ...ooooo can't wait! First shower is a little half hearted Aahhh cool and refreshing ... Shower elephant style - seriously invigorating My male takes me back onto dry land after a thorough going over Christina and Kirsten on their elephant Kirsten and Christina getting a shower elephant style MOVIE Kirsten and Christina getting an elephant shower Group shot all thoroughly soaked from elephant bathing An elephant strolls through the town off to the river after a hard  mornings work.  Note shops all closed for festival holidays Centre of town with Rhino statue and makshift Durga temple for the festival Statue of Durga with various offerings from the local Hindus The group all ready to go in our dug-out canoe on crocodile infested waters On our way... row row row your boat Elephants crash through crocodile infested waters with Japanese tourists on board Waters are deceptively calm in Chitwan National Park A gharial crocodile lies in wait at the banks of the Rapti river for its dinner - or is simply trying to warm up A 'marsh mugger' rests on a log on the Rapti River Christina and Kris disembark Peter shows how to climb a Sal Tree Five year old female elephant at the breeding centre Five year old male elephant MOVIE Five year old elephants also play with their food MOVIE Five year old male throwing up a dust storm... Various mother elephants arriving at the Elephant breeding site to settle down for the night after a day working and grazing in the jungle Mum elephant arrives with her two twin 'toddlers' MOVIE The elephants start to arrive back from the jungle... carrying a stick each, don't ask me why - playing go fetch perhaps Me getting to pet baby elephant Me with baby elephant Three elephants, one of them the youngest in the park at 4 months nestles in the middle Baby elephant suckles at his mother Twin baby elephants share a meal with their mum MOVIE Elephants doing the elephant pop... Deeply dippy about the way you look... etc etc (Right Said Fred tune?) Sunset over Chitwan Grass reeds on the river bank provide a beautiful forefront to the looming clouds over the mountains Sun setting over the river bank Sunset from the riverbank at our hotel Elephants bathing in the river at sunset Elephant rider and his best friend leave the river after bathing at sunset The sky turns a gorgeous pink as the sun sets behind the horizon