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Old 7th December 2010, 00:07   #1
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Default In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos

Where :

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

When :

Early November, 2010

Route :

Fly into Kathmandu. CNP is about 200km south-west of Kathmandu. There are two ways to reach CNP from Kathmandu : by air or by road. Both are equally reliable (or unreliable if you think that way) and almost equally risky. Air travel takes about 20 mins (if the flight takes off) and road travel takes 6 hours (best case) to full-day (worst-case). Price-wise, both options cost almost the same.

After careful consideration of all pros and cons, we chose to hit the road. We de-risked our itinerary by a night's hault at a beautiful place called Kurinter which is half-way between Kathmandu and CNP. It was funny that for a 200km journey, we had to break it into two days. But it was certainly a good decision as we took 8 hours to reach kurinter from Kathmandu. If you complain about traffic jams and chaos at any place in India, I request you to visit Nepal once. You will never be complaining about India again.

Stay :

Chitwan National Park operates more like Kruger National Park (South Africa) than like Indian parks. There are two ways to explore the park. The forest department operates elephant rides near the park HQ close to a village called Sauraha. This is for all day visitors and for those who opt to stay at lodges in Sauraha. This is the cheapest option to go inside CNP. The other option is to stay inside the park in any of the seven private concessions (very much like Kruger). The forest department has allowed six private operators to set up lodges/camps inside the park and these are the only private operators who are allowed to carry out private safaris inside the park. All other safaris are govt-controlled.

Needless to say, these private concessions are the best ways to explore the park as you don't come out of the forest through your entire stay. So, practically your wild experience is 24x7. A total of seven camps exist (one operator has two camps) inside the park and they are so far apart that everyone of them has an exclusive safari zone. During your entire stay, you will not see tourists from any other place than your own lodge. So, the whole experience is very much private and hence is hugely popular with westerners.

Out of these seven private concessions, only three of them are deep inside the forest. The other ones are close to the forest boundary. So, naturally the demand and price for these three camps are extremely high.

After a lot of homework, I picked up Temple Tiger as our lodging option at CNP. Temple Tiger is one of those three that are deep into the forest. I will share some photos to show you how wild the camp really is.

Temple Tiger is located at the far-western end of the park, an area full of wildlife. Reaching the camp is an experience in itself. We entered the park through Amalgati gate. After completing the park entry formalities with the forest department we drove for about 2 kms through the safari track in our rental car to reach the jetty on Narayani river. Temple Tiger boat was waiting for us. It took about 20 minutes to cross the river. No motorized boats are allowed inside the park - so it was a country boat. A jeep was waiting for us on the other side. We quickly loaded our luggage into the jeep and started our final leg of journey through deep forest which lasted for about 30 minutes.
The camp has no electricity and is very basic in amenities. The whole place is built with minimal damage to the forest and hence blend beautifully with the surroundings. There is no fencing - at night, kerosene lamps are placed in front of each cottage to deter elephants (smell of kerosene keeps elephants away). It is strictly prohibited to come out of the room at night. In case of emergency, we were told to flash the torch so that a guard on duty can come and escort us.


Experience :

The biggest advantage of staying inside park is that you don't need to stick to any specific safari timing. The whole day is available for jungle activities. A typical day at Temple Tiger starts with an early morning (4:30am) knock at the door with tea/coffee. You get 15 mins to get prepared and then head straight for the elephant safari. The early morning elephant safari lasts for about 2-3 hours. You come back and have a quick breakfast and then jump into a jeep for a jeep safari. The jeep safari takes you to a place from where you start a boat safari. The boat safari ends at a point from where you do another round of jeep safari before coming back to the camp. In the evening, you either go for another round of elephant safari or go for a guided jungle walk. Then there is an observation deck where you can spend hours to experience the wild surroundings. Everyday, we saw rhinos, wild boar, deer, crocodiles and a lot of birds from the observation deck itself.

Enough of worded information. Let the visual information take over ...
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Old 7th December 2010, 00:43   #2
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After completing my bookings at Temple Tiger city office at Kathmandu, I asked the booking agent "How much time will it take to reach the camp ?". "4 hours, sir" came a quick reply. I was not convinced, so I asked again "Ok, at worst-case, how much time it may take ?". She smiled - "whole day sir".

With so much of variation in travel time, it is too risky to bet at the best-case. I can't afford to lose a day on road and miss out on jungle activities for which I paid a lot of money. So, I decided to de-risk our journey by splitting it into two equal halves. Kathmandu to Kurinter on day one and Kurinter to CNP on day two. For return, I kept it a single journey as I was not worried about reaching late at Kathmandu.

The plan worked. It took 8 long hours to cover 100km between Kathmandu and Kurinter. The Nepal highways are very narrow and highly prone to accidents and land slides. Once a vehicle breaks down, or meets with an accident, there will be a complete collapse of traffic flow in either direction. The chaos can continue for several hours and there may be several such chaos in every 50 kms stretch. So, time-based planning simply doesn't work on Nepal roads.

Views of river Trishuli from Kurinter Riverside Resort ...
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Old 7th December 2010, 09:51   #3
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Awesome information, let the pics begin, details about the accomodation & costs for the safari would be great.
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Old 7th December 2010, 10:43   #4
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More of river Trishuli ...
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In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos-img_0752.mod.jpg  

In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos-img_0757.mod.jpg  

In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos-img_0758.mod.jpg  

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Old 7th December 2010, 12:17   #5
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Interesting start sabynag. The pictures of the river look beautiful. Please share the costs and tariffs you incurred during this trip.
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Old 7th December 2010, 12:19   #6
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It is now 12:20. Almost two hours from the last post. Next instalment please asap or else you run the risk of a serious infraction.....
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Old 7th December 2010, 13:16   #7
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Initial pics very enticing..high expectations for the remaining pics as well.<br>
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Old 7th December 2010, 22:26   #8
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Awesome start. Eagerly waiting to know more about Chitwan NP. How did you travel? Took some cab from Kathmandu?
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Old 8th December 2010, 12:03   #9
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We checked out early from KRR and headed towards CNP. CNP is in the terai regions of Nepal bordering India. In fact, CNP forest extends into India and here it is known as Valmiki forest (Bihar). Nepal's terai region is known for insurgency and frequent disruption of public life due to violent protests, bandhs etc. We were lucky that we didn't have to face any such problems during our stay except that we had to pay frequent "taxes" on the road collected by locals. In Nepal, tax collection is not government's monopoly.

The drive is extremely scenic with river Trishuli giving us company all along. It took about 3 hours to reach the park gate in Amalgati.

We quickly completed the entry formalities. Our car was not allowed to stay inside - it was allowed only to drop us to the boat pick up point and then it had to come out.

A country boat was waiting for us ...
Attached Thumbnails
In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos-img_0766.mod.jpg  

In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos-img_0765.mod.jpg  

In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos-img_0767.mod.jpg  

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Old 8th December 2010, 12:04   #10
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Default Re: In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos

Nice start Sabynag. Waiting for the Rhinos and travel log, keep posting the beautiful photographs
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Old 10th December 2010, 12:33   #11
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Default Re: In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos

This is called real wilderness, countryboat ride, no electricity & kerosene lamps to keep elephants away. Definately a trip worth taking.

OT: If you don't mind please let know if you talked to the locals of any change in Nepal after the Maoist came overground and joined government. From media reports it seems that their leaders have let them down.

Had visited Kathmandu & Pokhra long long back and remember it specially because that was the first time i saw so many foreigners in my life :-).

Last edited by San Phrangmung : 10th December 2010 at 12:34.
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Old 16th December 2010, 09:44   #12
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Default Re: In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos

No Updates for quite a while..This thread is sleeping.
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Old 20th December 2010, 23:05   #13
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Default Re: In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos

Sorry guys, I couldn't follow up on this thread. Too much pressure on the workfront has taken a toll on my social commitments.

Anyways, going back to Chitwan experience, let me share a few more pictures that would give you an idea of the lodge where I stayed at.
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Old 20th December 2010, 23:14   #14
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Default Re: In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos

More pictures of the lodge ...
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Old 23rd December 2010, 21:10   #15
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Default Re: In search of Indian One-horned Rhinos

The first rhino sighting at CNP ... but where is it ? Can you locate it ?
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