Another early start (an acceptable part of such a trip) for a hearty breakfast. After we head to the river and jump in a canoe we float downstream with our very knowledgeable guide, pointing out many of the birds and habitats. The river water is so warm that is steams. but this will not help us spot a crocodile, as the weather this morning is less than ideal for croc spotting.
We float for about an hour, watching the local villagers collecting grasses and bamboo from around the national park. Today is one of the few days the people are allowed to freely collect resources from within the restricted areas of the park. We are about to shore the canoe when our guide spots crocodile eyes, looking just like a twig floating on the surface. The croc surfaces, takes a look at us and glides away. We were lucky to spot a croc today.
Once on shore we get briefed about what to do if we meet dangerous animals. The guides advice is a little worrying, although in the end we see nothing more than a few monkeys, large animal droppings and a chicken! The walk through the jungle is great nevertheless.
After lunch is what everyone has been waiting for – safari on elephant back. We walk down to the elephant centre, along the beautiful river bank. Our elephants arrive and we climb aboard. The ride is much smoother than it looks. Our elephant takes us through some stunning areas of the national park – along tracks, through undergrowth (which the elephant clears with its trunk), and across streams. I’m amazed at the steep gradients that the elephant can climb and descend.
After an hour or so we haven’t seen any rhinos or cats. The elephants have taken us to watering holes, and tracked the rhinos from there, but no luck so far. The ride is great and nobody seems at all disappointed. And then, just as we seem to be returning we see a rhino, with a calf, grazing in a clearing. The mother is cautious because of her baby, and they retreat into the undergrowth. The elephant drivers decide to leave the animals.
As we are making our way back to the centre one of the elephant drivers whistles, and the others come over. A male rhino is sat feeding away on grasses. It looks at us, and carries on eating, unperturbed by the elephants, or us on its back. Cameras click as everyone enjoys the moment. After a few minutes the rhino gets to his feet, takes a big mouthful and wanders off.
We return to the lodge, with a few of us stopping for beer along the way.
I never imagined on this trip that I would ride on an elephant, or that an elephant would take me so close to rhinos. It’s been a great adventure, and I, and everyone else here, loves Chitwan National Park