Day #38: Elephant Camp
Elephant Camp, Chitwan National Park,
We couldn’t wait to get to Chitwan. Not just because of the animals, the much expected sight of some pure wilderness but also because Mariana & Tiago had prepared a special surprise for us. They had organised our stay in Chitwan National Park as a wedding gift and by the sound of it, it was going to be incredible! They booked two nights in the Tharu Lodge of Tiger Tops, an environmentally responsible tourism company.
Nested beside lush forest, the Tharu Lodge sounded like the idyllic wilderness retreat, where we would eat locally produced organic food, do a National Park safari and better yet, get to spend some quality time with the Tiger Tops most esteemed habitants: the elephants!! Mariana & Tiago picked this place in particular because their last experience with elephants in Singapore wasn’t great in terms of how they treated the animals. At Tiger Tops however, the elephants live chain-free. Still in a confined space but they spend most of their time out in the National Park. The elephants are taken care of and treated with dignity and respect. Guests don’t get to ride them. Instead, they get to observe the elephants in its natural surroundings: we went for a magical walk with them at sundown and finished by the river where we saw them play and get scrubbed by their riders, called mahouts. We were happy to see that the mahouts never mistreated the elephants or used any type of harmful objects while ridding them. In fact, you could see how much they cared for their respective elephant: a bond that had obviously been sealed many years ago.
The elephants were gorgeous! Majestic in every way. Each one was hairy, would weight around 5 tons and had beautiful, big and attentive eyes. I felt like I could see my soul through their eyes and at that moment you could sense how wise these animals really are. They are amongst the biggest and strongest animals in the animal kingdom but everything in them suggested sweetness and playfulness. I have to admit: I fell in love with elephants during those days! We could hug or caress them anytime and they would get ecstatic if you handed them their favourite snack: Kuchis. This is an elephant type of sandwich that was prepared with love by the mahouts made of coarse salt, grains and grass. We learned to do these sandwiches ourselves but it is a hard task!
Nevertheless, the elephants were their happiest in the forest of course! We went for a jungle walk in the National Park with them at dawn for nearly 3 hours. It was misty, quiet and the hotel naturalist seemed confident that we would have many adventurous encounters after spotting some tiger tracks! We walked deep into the jungle with the elephants taking the lead, as they would open the way through the bushes and trees by tearing them down with their trunk so they could eat it afterwards! It was the perfect chance to observe them better. They had a funny way of being greedy with the food they would collect along the way: they hadn’t even taken the bushes to their mouth yet and they were already ravaging another tree! They were so happy! It was heart-warming. We continued our walk through the wilderness where we encountered some deers, various types of birds and even a rare crocodile resting by the river. However, the most memorable experience was being face to face with two rhinos while we were on foot! At first, we all got pretty agitated. Rhinos are known to be dangerous and it wouldn’t be hard for them to take us to pieces as we were standing less than 10 meters away. Nevertheless, we were closely protected by the elephants so the naturalist allowed us to stay where we were while taking in every movement the rhinos made. They were slowly getting closer and closer… Antonio was ready to make a run for it. We all had a pounding heart but we couldn’t help but want MORE!! The rhinos came closer until they were at a dangerous 3 meters away. Even the elephants were nervous. At that point however, they decided to turn around and head back to what they were doing. Phewww! It was an intense 10 minute adrenaline rush that ended our beautiful walk through the forest. We didn’t see tigers but we had enough excitement for the day and we were conscious of the big achievement we had made. :)
After two amazing days breathing in the freshness of this deep forest, spotting wild animals and spending quality time with the elephants we were ready to head to Pokhara for our trekking. We can’t thank Mariana & Tiago enough for this experience! It was awesome and we were glad to share it with them.