Journey to Chitwan
We travelled from Pokhara to Chitwan National Park (Sauraha to be precise) by tourist bus at a cost of rs.500 per person.
This was our first experience of tourist buses in Nepal, and it didn’t really leave a good impression. The bus company had overbooked the seats on the bus, and thought he could squeeze an additional 8 people in the cab area with him – this was physically impossible and 2 people decided they would get off and take a later bus to Sauraha.
Tip: Avoid the seats in the cab area as these are often tightly packed. These seats will be marked on your bus ticket as simply cabin A or cabin B. The best seats are A 1 & 2 which are next to the door as these have the most leg room.
Chitwan Forest Resort
Location: Elephant Chowk
How much does it cost? Rs.250 for a dorm room bed
There seems to be a lack of budget accommodation in Sauraha, therefore we ended up staying in a 7 bed mixed dorm room paying as much as we would normally for a double en-suite room.
The dorm room itself was clean, and it had lockers and a fan. The toilet and shower room are separate and are located directly outside of the dorm room – I was a little disappointed with the cleanliness of the shower room and the outside sink as the staff did not clean these for the whole of our 3 night stay, despite the hostel being recommended as the cleanest in Sauraha.
The hotel also has a selection of private rooms available, and offers packages which include accommodation, food and tours in the national park.
How much does it cost? Rs.50 – 150 per main meal
There are a number of inexpensive café’s on Rhino Chowk, just off Restaurant Chowk. They all serve similar delicious food, however service is very slow in all of the restaurants along here.
Our favourite café on Rhino Chowk was the first on the right and it served the best veg and cheese momo’s.
Chitwan National Park
Location: The park entrance is located south of Restaurant Chowk
How much does it cost? Rs.1500 park entry per person plus the cost of a guide
We were shocked when we arrived in Chitwan National Park and discovered that the entry fee for the park had increased from rs.500 per person to rs.1500 per person as this blew our daily budget right out of the water. The entry fee is set by the government so it isn’t negotiable. I am sceptical of their reasons behind the increase; my thoughts are that they have increased the price due to the current ban on tiger tourism in India which has shut the national parks in India to tourists until the Indian Court is satisfied that the tigers are adequately protected.
There are many methods of visiting Chitwan National Park, however all have to be done with an official government registered tour guide.
How much does it cost? Approx rs.1200 per person for half a day
Jeep tours only seem to be a good idea when the grasses are short in the period February – April, as for the rest of the year the grass is too high to see anything, unless something literally walks across the road which is extremely unlikely. Even then, Jeep’s cannot go off road and all seem to follow an all too familiar path which means your chances of spotting wildlife is rather low as the animals prefer to hide away from the tourists and all the noise created by the jeeps.
Walking tours (highly recommended)
How much does it cost? Approx. rs 1200 for a full day walk (organised through an agency) or rs.700 for a full day walk (organised with an independent government guide)
We were approached by an independent government registered guide outside the ticket office of the national park and we decided to take him up on his offer of a canoe trip followed by a full day walk. The cost quoted was rs.700 for the full day walk and rs.250 for the morning canoe trip.
Tip: Ensure when booking with an independent guide that there will be two guides on the walk – this is for safety as one walks at the front and one walks at the back of the group.
Within about 30 minutes into our walk our guides pointed out a rhino to us, it was initially only vaguely visible due to the long dense grass, however we were very close – literally only 20 metres away and we could hear it eating and moving around. Being that close to a rhino certainly makes your heart beat faster!
Our guides then took us to higher ground just above a watering hole. After about 5 minutes of waiting, the rhino came stomping through the grass and had a drink and bathe in the water. We sat at the top of the mound watching the rhino wallow in the water for about 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, although as expected, we did not see any tigers on our walk, however we did see langur monkeys, deer and various species of birds (woodpeckers, horn bills, stocks).
Our two guides were very experienced and one, Ganesh Bidari, had been a guide for 20 years. He told us he used to work for a tour agency; however he decided to set up on his own. He spoke very good English and was very knowledgeable about the park and all of its animal inhabitants as well as its history.
If you want to do a walking tour in Chitwan National Park then I recommend you contact Ganesh. His mobile number is: (+91) 9806852416. Alternatively, there are other independent guides that linger on the road outside the ticket office.
Location: At the river near the park entrance, south of Restaurant Chowk
How much does it cost? Rs.250 (organised directly with the ticket office or independent guide) or Rs.500 – 750 (organised through an agency)
We paid rs.250 for a canoe ride and integrated this into a package with a full day walk, organised through an independent guide. We met our guide at 7am to buy the tickets to the national park, and set off on the canoe ride around 7:30am. We drifted down the river gazing at both mugger, and gharial crocodiles, as well as many different birds in a dugout canoe for about 40 minutes before getting off to commence our walk.
If you choose not to combine a canoe ride with a walk, you can just take the canoe to Elephant Breeding Project.
Tip: it is best to take a canoe ride as early as possible (around 7am) as crocodiles will still be sleeping on the river banks – they retire to the water as it heats up during the course of the morning.
Elephant Breeding Centre
Location: 4km west of Sauraha – keep heading straight down Elephant Chowk and you will eventually reach the breeding centre (best visited on bicycle or via organised tour / jeep)
How much does it cost? Rs.50 per person
The breeding centre houses a number of well looked after elephants, kept here for breeding purposes, to be used by the Nepalese National Park’s government authority.
When we visited there were a number of playful calves who were begging to be petted over the rails by the tourists, whom were of course more than happy to oblige.
Elephant Bath Time
Location: Down at the river in front of River Bank Inn – just off Elephant Chowk.
How much does it cost? Free to watch or rs.100 to join in
Elephant bath time is every day from around 10:30am to noon, and all the elephants used by the hotels and agencies for treks get brought down to the river for a wash. Disappointingly I actually felt a little sorry for the elephants as it doesn’t really seem to be elephant bath time, but more realistically, ‘tourist shower time’.
In order to get the elephants to keep showering the tourists with the water, men have to stand on their backs jumping and shouting at them, or tugging their ears – they have to do this over and over again depending on tourist demand.
It’s a shame as I imagined elephant bath time to be just that and that tourists would be able to get in the water and give them a scrub – sadly not.
Hiring a bicycle
Location: Many roadside outlets in Sauraha
How much does it cost? Approx rs.150 for a full day / Rs. 90 half day / Rs. 30 per hour
Hiring a bicycle is a great way to get around Sauraha as the roads are quiet and you seem to pass more elephants than cars. We hired a bicycle for the day to explore the villages just on the outskirts of Sauraha and to go and visit elephant bath time and also the elephant breeding centre.
It was great to cycle through the little villages and we got to watch some local villagers harvesting and threshing rice.