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From Kathmandu to Chitwan

Nepal day four

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On the Narayani River

After breakfast at the Nepali Gaur we waited in the lobby for the driver who would take us to the airport. We had a bit of a mix-up because when he arrived he didn't think to ask for us or check if we were among the people waiting. So we continued to wait, increasingly concerned by his non-appearance (as we thought). But after a series of WhatsApp messages to Ayush at the tour company we were able to sort the confusion and got to the airport in time for our flight.

Our plane was a tiny Beech 1900D, with about ten single seats either side of the aisle and no overhead storage.

Boarding the plane in Kathmandu

On the plane

We had good views over the Kathmandu Valley after take-off, and could just see some of the Himalayas above the clouds. We were in the air for just twenty minutes before starting our descent, by which time the land had flattened out and conventional farming had taken over from terraces.

Soon after take-off

The Kathmandu Valley

Mountain views

Just before landing in Bharatpur

Arriving in Chitwan

The airport at Baratpur was tiny, and baggage claim basically a table! We were met and escorted to a car, then set off on the approximately 90 minute drive to Chitwan and our lodge there, Tiger Tops.

The road was dusty and bumpy, with several stretches of even dustier and bumpier roadworks. But I attempted a few shots of the colourful houses with distinctive painted gables and of the equally colourful passing lorries.





On the road to Chitwan

We were surprised to be welcomed to the lodge by a young Norwegian girl. We learned later that her family were friends of the owners and she was here on work experience. She told us a little bit about things like meal times and how the activities programme was run. Our options for this first afternoon were a jeep safari, elephant trek or boat safari. After realising that the elephant trek may not be as good as the one we did at Manda Lao we decided on the boat safari. We have two more days to do lots of the activities!

Lobby/dining area

Our tent

In our tent

Outside dining

Meanwhile we were shown to our tent which was smaller and more basic than I'd expected from the website but had everything we needed it seemed. We went back to the communal area to check messages (no WiFi in the tent) and then had a good lunch, served outside under the trees.

Back at the tent we settled in properly. Later I sat outside watching a small bird who was clearly nesting in a nearby tree, trying pretty much in vain to get photos of him.

Boat safari

Then it was time for the boat safari. We met up with our guide and the others joining the outing, a Belgian couple and a guy from Michigan. Some steps led down from the property to a track below, where a jeep was waiting. I was surprised to see quite a few local houses. Although I knew we weren't in the national park but in a 'buffer zone', I had expected it to be more remote. We climbed into the jeep and drove along the track. At one point we forded a small river and the driver stopped so we could photograph the buffalo and cows coming down to drink.

Fording the river

Buffalo and cows at the ford

Farmer and buffalo

We continued some distance, stopping again at one point. Here the guide, Danny, led us down to the river bank and a short way along to see a crocodile, a gharial - one of two species found here. He was a bit far off to get good photos; most of us were more excited by the tiger footprints nearby!

Gharial by the Narayani River

Tiger footprint

Later, when I read more about this species of crocodile, I realised why Danny had been so keen to show him to us. This critically endangered species once thrived in all the major river systems of the northern Indian subcontinent. But by 1976, according to Wikipedia, fewer than 200 gharials were estimated to survive. And by 2003 the Chitwan population had declined to only 38 wild gharials. Today the population has been partially restored thanks to breeding programmes. Nevertheless fewer than 200 breeding adults survive in the wild in Nepal. We were fortunate to see them here.

The boat, when we reached it, was a smallish rowing one. There would be no engine noise to disturb the peace of the river. We clambered in and set off, into the sun.

On the Narayani River

We didn't see much wildlife along the way. The highlights were a few more gharials and a brilliant blue kingfisher, too fast-moving to photograph. But the chief highlight was the river itself, with beautiful reflections and lovely light.



Sundowners with the elephants

We arrived at the sundowner spot to find a few more lodge visitors and two elephants with their mahoots. Here at Tiger Tops they have stopped the elephant safaris still offered by too many Chitwan lodges. These are the retired riding elephants who clearly cannot be released into the wild, so the lodge continues to care for them.


Elephants at sunset

The elephants clearly enjoyed their time in the water and we enjoyed our drinks. As the elephants left the sun started to set - cue more photos!



Sundowners by the Narayani River

Once it had gone down and we'd all finished our drinks we returned to the lodge in the jeep. There was time to shower and change before dinner, which was served in the central room. It was a set meal with delicious herby carrot soup, chicken with vegetables and excellent fried potatoes, and banana cake. Afterwards we lingered in the room checking emails and football scores, with a brilliant 4-0 win over Aston Villa confirmed just before bedtime (thanks to the 4 hour 45 minute time difference).

Posted by ToonSarah 18:18 Archived in Nepal Tagged sunset flight elephants river nepal crocodiles

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What an amazing sunset. Really beautiful.

by irenevt

It was Irene - and the same the following two evenings as well!

by ToonSarah

What a fascinating trip! Thanks for sharing your great memories, Sarah!~

by Vic_IV

Thanks Victor, glad you enjoyed this :)

by ToonSarah

What a lovely day! But wasn't it cold in the tent?

by hennaonthetrek

Not really cold but a bit damp :(

by ToonSarah

Another brilliant piece Sarah.

I am so sad to hear about the ghariels, I had no idea.

When we were in Chitwan we were washing elephants in the river (an activity that will never lose it's appeal for me)and I joked back home about being in the river with crocodiles. You could see them on the far bank and they looked fairly scary but our guide told us they never attacked humans. I was glad about that! I do hope the breeding programmes work, another species lost is one too many.

by planxty

Thanks again Fergy :) I gather the breeding programme is working well and numbers are improving a little as a result, so fingers crossed! I'm not sure that guide was being totally accurate - we were told they're not a threat while on the banks as they're resting there after eating, but they ARE dangerous when in the water as they're hunting for food!

by ToonSarah

what a way to end a day! It seems I have to go back to Chitwan one day to have a boat safari as well!

by Ils1976

This takes me back over thirty years if truth be told. Glad to see the place still looks beautiful although I was saddened to hear about the ghariels as there were still quite a few when I was there. What happened to them? Was it poaching, pollution, disease or something else?

by planxty

Hey Fergy, lovely to hear from you! How are things?

From what I've read the gharials have been under threat for some time and their numbers are actually higher now than they were. Have a look at: https://tigerencounter.com/blog/gharial-breeding-center-kasara-chitwan-national-park/. According that the main threats are 'eggs stolen by humans for food and medicine; their killing for skins used in fulfilling superstitious beliefs; overharvesting and poising of fish; death from entanglement in fishing nets; industrial pollution of the river; construction of reservoirs and dams in critical habitats; and encroachment of habitats by agricultural farms.'

by ToonSarah

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