Jungle safari on foot in Chitwan National Park. We spent a day in the jungle tracking tigers, rhinos, bears, and wild chickens. Located near Sauraha.
Chitwan National Park
Chitwan national park is the first national park in Nepal founded in 1973. It covers 932 km2 and contains a lot of wildlife: Rhinos, tigers, elephants, monkeys, buffaloes, bears, wild chickens, and much more. This park is popular among tourists as it is quite easy to reach. It is located halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. The park is most famous for the greater one-horned rhino. Which can only be found in Nepal and Northern India. More information on the park can be found on their website.
How to get there:
The main location to visit the park is the village of Sauraha. Which is as said located halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. I would suggest doing this trip while traveling between either city. We did it on our way back from Pokhara to Kathmandu and it takes 4-6 hours, depending on traffic.
From either city, there are tourist buses and lots of local buses going directly to Sauraha. You can book them in advance or just show up at the general tourist bus station. Also, your Hotel or Hostel can book them for you. Which is what we did, booked our bus tickets through our Hostel in Pokhara.
Bus ticket: 700 Rupees (per person) or € 5,30 (04-05-2020)
Same price for Pokhara – Sauraha and Sauraha – Kathmandu.
What to do in Sauraha – Chitwan National Park:
There are many different options (tours) available, ranging from walking tours, canoeing, 4×4 tours, and combined tours. The most common option is the 4×4 jeep tour. However we would not recommend taking the 4×4 tour, it’s busy and the jeep makes a lot of noise, scaring the animals away. Kind of defeats the purpose in our opinion. At one point we saw 5-10 jeeps driving in a queue through the jungle.
What to do then? A jungle safari walk! Yes on foot, exploring the dense jungle tracking wild animals. It sounds scary and it definitely was at times. But it is an experience in itself, walking around with 2 guides trying to track rhinos, tigers, and bears. It is very exciting and probably one of the coolest things we have done.
Read our story below to find out why!
A full day of jungle safari on foot, including 1 hour of canoeing: 3750 Rupees (per person) or € 28,4 (05-2020)
Note: bring some small notes to tip the canoe guys, it is included but they always ask for a small tip.
Where to stay:
There are many hotels, guesthouses in Sauraha, which can be found on booking. All of them offer roughly the same activities. However, we stayed at a place called Hotel Rhino Land. We don’t get a commission for this, but we had a great time at this hotel, nice owner and nice facilities. They offered a free walking tour in the evening and took us on an exciting jungle safari the day after. Their guides doing the safari are great guys and very knowledgeable. Also, the local Rhino shows up quite frequently in the field next to the Hotel.
We arrived by bus from Pokhara on the 25th. Since it was Christmas eve the day before we partied a bit too much in Pokhara and had a rough bus ride to Sauhara. Jim and Ewan who we met on the Annapurna Circuit decided to join us on this adventure! As soon as we arrived in Sauhara we grabbed some lunch in the village and laid down to recover a bit.
After about half an hour we heard some shouting in the garden: RHINO RHINO RHINO! A bit confused about what was going on we ran towards the commotion. What we saw was a Rhino grazing in the field next to the Hotel. WHAT! An actual Rhino, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
At first, he was far away and difficult to see. As in the picture above. But not long after he started walking towards the hotel and we got really close to him.
The owner of the hotel told us that they see this Rhino quite frequently. Although he is “used” to people, he is still a 2-3 ton wild animal that can run up to 55km/h. They look quite sluggish but can run you over in no time.
He made his way through the field and took a walk through the village before heading back into the forest. Of course, we had to take a picture of this amazing animal. What an experience, even if we wouldn’t see any animals the day after in the jungle we were already happy coming to Chitwan.
Evening Jungle walk
The hotel offers a free jungle walking tour in the evening. Just a quick walk but sometimes there is a chance to see a Rhino or any other animal and is a nice way to end your evening.
The walk is offered every evening by the hotel and it’s a quick walk around town and into grasslands, to explore the area a bit.
We didn’t see much wildlife other than some crocodiles and a lot of deers. But it was a great evening to walk in a beautiful area. For the next day, we decided to take a jungle safari on foot. This sounded very exciting, just the idea of being on foot, tracking wild animals like rhinos, tigers, and bears made us nervous but very very excited. The chance of seeing animals are much higher while being on foot.
Jungle safari on foot in Chitwan National Park.
We woke up very excited and gathered for breakfast and met with our two guides for the day. Super friendly guys who spoke very good English. Their only defense tool for the jungle safari was two bamboo sticks. No guns or other weapons, just sticks. As we were going into their territory if anything would go wrong, it would be our fault. When walking towards the breakfast room we heard that there was another rhino in the village. As we walked out of the hotel we could see a rhino run away into the forest. Wow, what a great day to start the day.
The jungle safari started with an hour of canoeing on the local river towards the starting point of the walk. It was still very early so it was super quiet, we saw some crocodiles hiding in the river. Also, a bunch of monkeys fooling around on the river banks. Many birds were flying around the river and singing their morning songs. The jungle was waking up!
About halfway we noticed an elephant in the water, being washed by its caretaker. Tomorrow (27th of December) was the start of the Annual Elephant festival. Where they celebrate elephants and play football matches with them and other “events”. Which is very very sad, these majestic animals belong in the wild. By any means, never go on an elephant ride. The animals are not well taken care of and they only obey because they are in pain. The only place to see and experience wild animals such as elephants is in the wild, not in a zoo, not in a circus or any other form of entertainment.
The canoe was made out of a tree and some hard seats. So after an hour, our butts were happy to get out. Time to explore! As soon as we got out of the canoe we heard another guide shouting we had to come quickly. There was a rhino close by. As we walked closer we could see his ears sticking up from the dense jungle. We watched from a distance as the rhino grazed.
The big 5 in Nepal
After this exciting start of the walk, it was time for a safety briefing. The two guides explained to us what we would be doing that day and explained how we should react if we would encounter any of the 5 big animals (tiger, bear, buffalo, rhino, elephant). In case they would attack, which never happens right? Well, apparently it does. They proceeded to tell us many stories of dangerous encounters they and people they knew had. The two of them fought off a rhino last week that charged at them during a jungle walk! During the day more and more of these stories would come up. Exciting! (scary?)
As you can see the jungle was quite dense. They told us an elephant could be a few meters away and we would not see it. But they will see us, haha scary! The rest of the morning we did not see any animals as we walked through the dense jungle. This was super cool and exciting, trying the find wild animals like a proper explorer.
Bears – let’s follow them!
We decided to go out of the jungle into the thick grass area, hoping we would see something there. As we walked up towards higher ground we spotted two sloth bears playing on the path we just walked on. The guides shouted: come on we are gonna go after them: Filled with adrenaline we ran back to the path trying to get another glimpse of them. (What are we doing? Are we really running after a bunch of bears?) There was no time to think just run!
As we sat down on the path we heard them in the bushes 20 meters away from us. Growling and playing. Not sure if it was scary or exciting…. but wow! It seemed as if the bears disappeared so we continued our trip. Still, a bit baffled about what just happened we kept walking.
From here we walked further into the jungle hoping to see some more big animals. We came across a lot of tiger marks. Tiger poop, scratches on trees, and big footprints.
Hopefully, we would see a tiger that day! Imagine that… after lunch, we went into a more open area. On the way there we ran into a big group of monkeys and saw a bunch of wild chickens.
In a more open area of the park, we noticed footprints everywhere: rhino, elephant, bears, and tigers. After an hour we ran into another jungle safari group who found a rhino. A big rhino was less than 10m away from us grazing. It all happened so fast and as soon as he saw us he jumped up and stormed away. Seeing this massive animal move so quickly made us realize how dangerous they can be!
There were also giant holes everywhere. Made by the bears, they dig for termites and other insects.
After some more exploring and tracking it was time to make our way back to the village.
Rhino nr 5.
As we started making our way back to the village, the sun was slowly setting and we were very happy with this very exciting day. But it was not over yet!! The two guides heard something in the tall grass and noticed something moving. It was close by and was probably going to a pool of water to drink. So everyone had to very very quiet and step lightly.
We decided to go up to the water pool to see if it would come out. We could hear it coming closer…. grass moving and slow-moving of a giant animal. Everyone was silent, it was dead silent and everyone was staring at the grass. There it was, a rhino! We could see his pointy ears first. Before he showed himself completely. Coming out of the tall grass, the rhino looked at us curiously wondering what these tiny animals were doing here. He was not more than 10 meters away from us:
He walked around the water pool for a while, always keeping an eye on us. Drank some more water from the pool, before looking at us one more time. He disappeared in the tall grass again, as quietly as he came.
Wow-what a special moment was that. It is so cool to see an animal like that up close in its natural habitat. At the end of a very special day during sunset. Made up for a beautiful setting.
The end of our Jungle safari on foot in Chitwan National Park.
After this very special moment, we headed back to Sauhara and found a nice place for dinner. This is a day to remember for a long long time.