“So, if you see a rhino, run in zigzags, throw away anything you’re carrying and climb a tree as soon as possible. If it’s a tiger, look at him right in the eyes and slowly back down. If it’s a sloth bear, we stay together, stand tall, and make scary noises. All good?”
I exchanged a glance with one of the other girls I was taking this safari with. I was clearly not the only one freaking out. Good. Our two guides, looking relaxed and armed with sticks (yeah, sticks, not hypodermic guns. Just sticks.), laughed at our stunned faces. I couldn’t really see the joke.
Fact is, there has been some deadly accidents in Chitwan already. Fact is, I couldn’t help wondering what a stick would do against a two tons charging rhino. Fact is, I’m not a really fast runner, not at all.
On the other hand, I really wanted to see some wildlife and, after all, it’s not a real adventure if you’re not a tiny bit scared, right?
As we started walking into the jungle, I slowly got into the mood. I walked in silence, having fun trying to move soundlessly, avoiding dead leaves and sticks, placing my feet carefully. In half an hour, my fears were forgotten and I was alternating between being a professional spy or a Lord of the Rings ranger (my head is a mess). Every time something moved in the bushes, we would all stop, frozen mid step, listening intently.
The heat was growing, becoming unbearable as soon as we would leave the shade of the trees. The long grass cut red slashes on my arms. I felt constantly dehydrated.
I was having the time of my life.
After a morning of only glimpsing some deers and wild boars, we crossed the river (trying not to think about crocodiles) and headed further off the path.
After a while of silent walking, the guide in front raised his hand, warning us to stop and be silent.
Right there, through an opening in the trees, two rhinos were taking a mud bath. They were quite close, and by the way they moved their ears, I could tell they knew we were there. They stayed still for a few minutes, looking heavy and awkward. We stared, awed. Then, all of a sudden, the one in the mud stood and charged away through the grass. From seeing it move for the first time, it was not difficult to imagine what it would be like if it charged us. The animal was so quick and powerful that we would not have a chance, and I clearly wouldn’t have time to climb a tree.
By the end of the day, we had walked through the jungle and the scorching heat for eight hours. I drank a full liter of water from the first shop I saw on the way back. I was dirty from head to toe, I had minor hurts from insect bites and the cuts on my arms. Basically, I was tired but thrilled.
I would recommend anyone coming to Chitwan to do a Walking Safari. You can even spend the night in the jungle, which I hear is pretty magical. The Park also offers Jeep Safaris, but you won’t see as much if you have to keep to the jeep roads, and it will be a lot less adventurous. Of course, there’s also the possibility of doing an Elephant Safari, and please read this post for my advice on this activity.
I’d like to know, what do you think about having adventures with a bit of danger?
A few more pointers : I payed 2000 Nepalese Rupees for the day. Remember to bring some food and at least three liters of water per people. Wear good shoes, long pants and long sleeves to avoid slashes and bites, and don’t wear any white or red. I started out from Meghauli Village, which I thought was a good option since it was twenty minutes walking from the park entrance and was almost completely devoid of tourists, unlike the most popular entrances. Finally, to maximize your chances of seeing animals, start out as early as possible (around 4 am is best).