They must be doing something right at the Elephant Breeding Center because there were quite a few little elephants running around….some of them a little naughtier than others.
The Elephant Breeding Center is a short bike ride from “downtown” Sauraha and it’s a pretty bike ride too…through rice paddies and traditional villages. A glimpse into Nepali life.
And there is a fun bridge you get to cross too.
If you’re planning on going to the breeding center make sure you go at feeding time. During the day the elephants head out to the fields to eat, collect feed, etc. I don’t even think they’ll let you in to the center outside of feeding time, so ask around about the schedule. I feel like we went in the late afternoon. It’s pretty fun to watch the babies eat….they get food everywhere.
A bike rental for a couple hours should only be a dollar or two (remember to bargain) and the entrance to the center is pretty cheap too…just a couple of bucks, but I don’t remember the exact amount.
For some reason I thought being on a “safari” meant sitting on your ass with binoculars in hand…..”safari” in Nepal means something completely different…it means getting close to dozing rhinos (don’t worry if you’re upwind or is it downwind?), chasing after sloth bears (why are we running?) and napping in head high grass (are we baiting tigers with our own bodies?)….somehow I lost my ability to keep my own safety in mind. I’m sure our guides were perfectly capable of protecting us with their walking sticks.
Well…we picked the worst day of the year to go on safari….it poured, and I mean poured. We were soaked within minutes, maybe even seconds… and this was within the first hour. Apparently when it’s cool the animals don’t like to come out. Fortunately, this “friendly” rhino caught our attention when we were on our 2 hour canoe trip…we also saw a couple of spotted deer, a crocodile, and a handful of peacocks.
Between storms we took breaks at a couple of different places….one was a viewing platform set high above the grass complete with sloth bear scat!!! Maybe it was from the same sloth bear we saw in the forest. Anyway, the sky eventually cleared and we were able to walk through the grass plains in search of animals.
Although the Terai grasslands started to heat up in the afternoon sun, the animals weren’t coming out…and we searched high and low.
With no luck in the grasslands we headed back into the forest to search some more….then we went to the river to search some more….no tigers, but I was pretty thrilled to see all the other cool animals in the wild: rhino, sloth bear, peacocks, crocodiles and spotted deer.
I wish I could have gotten a picture of the sloth bear. Unfortunately it is hard to focus a camera while running though the forest at a moving target. Sloth bears are even more rare than tigers in the park…in fact, there are so few and they’re so elusive that they aren’t sure how many are still around. (NOTE: Sloth bear does not equal Sloth)
Note: Headed to Royal Chitwan National Park? All the accommodation within park bounds is now closed. There are TONS of places for EVERY budget in Sauraha. We stayed at a cheapie called Wendy’s on the road into town for about $5/night for 3 people. Our room was definitely spacious, but was unbearably musty, but we didn’t spend much time in our room anyway.
Also: We booked our guides through the guide cooperative. We had two guides, both were very knowledgeable and the younger of the two had great eyes. He could spot animals from really far away.
Also, bring some money for a tip….the guides will suggest you tip the boatman (a couple hundred rupees will do) and if your guides do a good job, they’ll appreciate the extra money too.
Also, pack your Rain Jacket and make sure it is actually waterproof, my Nepali made “North Face” that I picked up in Pokhara after a mouse chewed through my Patagonia jacket held up surprisingly well, while Steve’s Columbia Jacket was soaked through within minutes. Be prepared for mud and puddles too. All of our boots held up pretty well….our feet got wet, but it was from the rain running down our legs and filling our shoes from the top….wish I had rain pants too…lol.