…. but again without any success although to be honest in Chitwan National Park (where we spent three nights), we did not expect to see any tigers (sightings are very rare). Our guides were quick to point out tiger prints and tiger poo, both of which were immediately declared “very fresh” and “new”: I have no idea if that was true or not but we did not meet their maker at any point.
Mind you, I was not exactly disappointed as we did two walking safaris and given our two guides were only “armed” with wooden sticks, I wasn’t exactly disappointed not to come face to face with the beast from Bengal.
While walking through the long grasses in the jungle, you would often hear some rustling from one side or the other at which point you could let your imagination run wild and start wondering what was about to charge out at you from the undergrowth – only to realise that the rustling noise invariably was coming from one of our party (i.e. us plus the two guides).
We did however see two rhino while on foot – one from about 150m away; a safari jeep had stopped nearby so our guides suggested we headed towards the jeep and take cover there, only for the jeep to move on and us to tentatively get closer to the rhino. The rhino then “disappeared” into the long grass which was a little disconcerting until we had walked on a while and put some distance between us.
Our other sighting was even closer: we were only about 50 metres away. We were all quite relaxed until the rhino (who up until that point had peacefully been sitting down) decided to get up and turn towards us. Given they are notorious for charging, we were happy to get back to the safety of our canoes.
As well as walking, we did a long canoe safari down the River Rapti. Our canoe was dug out from one tree trunk and you sat low in the water trying to keep as still as possible to avoid capsizing it, especially when we were going over the small rapids in the river. In spite of the foggy start, we saw heaps of birdlife especially colourful kingfishers, large storks, cormorants, darters, eagles and ospreys etc.
We also saw a large number of crocodiles – some in the river and some sunbathing on the banks. Some of these were gharial crocodiles which have very long snouts but only eat fish and therefore are not dangerous to humans. The other ones were marsh-muggers which are meat eaters and therefore very dangerous. They only have small snouts but frankly if I happen to have a crocodile coming towards me (be it on land or in the water), I’m not sure I will ever have the composure to assess the size of the snout. In any event, fish eater or not, the gharial’s teeth still look like they can do some serious harm and are to be avoided in my view. Fortunately, this did not become an issue for us.
Gharial and Marsh-Mugger crocodiles
As well as the birds and crocodiles, we saw lots of monkeys, wild boar, spotted deer and some more single horned rhinos (so 5 in total which was a good haul) plus a green viper (snake). Also we saw a lot of holes (“very fresh” of course) dug by sloth bears searching for termites to eat but no actual sightings of the hungry bears. Nor did we see any wild elephants but overall and especially when considering this is not Africa, it was a pretty good safari trip and was fun exploring in all the different ways – on foot, by canoe, on bicycle and by jeep.