There is something incredibly special about waking up to the sounds of nature, instead of traffic and alarm clocks. I opened my eyes in time to the cockerel letting everyone know it was time to start the day, the sound of the goats on their way to get breakfast, and the sun lightly shining through my window. The first task today, in order to spot wildlife, was a canoe ride. When we arrived at the river a baby elephant greeted us. Now, seeing a baby elephant in the wild has always been at the top of my wildlife wish list so, for me, this moment was like waking up on Christmas morning to discover Santa had been and left you a room full of presents. I literally jumped out of the car and ran to the elephant to get a closer look, but I soon discovered that this beautiful baby had come from an elephant breeding centre in the jungle. He had been born so that one day he could carry hordes of tourists on his back as they explored the jungle looking for wild animals. The irony of this certainly isn’t lost on me. I took some comfort in the fact that he would never have known what life was truly like in the wild, therefore never experience a longing for it. I just hope and pray that he would never be mistreated. Elephants, when taken from the wild, are beaten in cruel ways in order to get them to perform, but the elephants in Chitwan, as far as I could see, were well looked after by the people taking care of them. There was never any sign of mistreatment. I just hope my observations were true and behind closed doors it isn’t a different story. After leaving the little baby behind we wobbled into our wooden canoe, the water was nearly level with the top of the boat, and I slowly and nervously sat down hoping I wouldn’t topple the boat over. We ventured down the river, the boat being manoeuvred by the local man stood at the back rowing with his giant piece of bamboo. We were surrounded by jungle at all sides, the bright blue of Kingfishers zooming across our eyes, and eagles and peacocks perched on the branches of the giant trees watching over us. It wasn’t long before the bamboo stick was pointing towards something in the water to my right. ‘Crocodile, crocodile,’ he cried. Seven heads swung around in the direct of the end of the bamboo stick, and sure enough, there right beside us in the water were the eyes of a crocodile. Its jaw was level to the top of our canoe. Cameras clicked away trying to collect evidence of our first glimpse of a crocodile in the wild, just in case we didn’t get that lucky again. We didn’t need to worry; the further down the river we sailed the more and more crocodiles came out to greet us. Soon we had lost count of the numbers and we made it out of the boat, and onto dry land, without accidently falling in the water and becoming crocodile breakfast.
After spending the rest of the morning learning how to basket weave in the village with the women it was time for part two on our wildlife mission, a jungle safari. This was when we were hoping to see the big animals, rhino’s and tigers and bears, oh my! Seated in the jeep, cameras at the ready, and our eyes focused on the vegetation surrounding us, we set off. Or should I say, we zoomed off, because we appeared to have the Nepalese version of Lewis Hamilton driving our vehicle. Our jeep safari, where we were trying to spot animals in the wild, was more like flying around a Formula One race track and the jungle surrounding us turned into nothing but a green blur. ‘Are we supposed to be going this fast?’ I asked. Being a safari novice I wasn’t sure on the protocols or speed limits. My travelling companions, however, had been on safari’s in Africa and they looked at me worried in response and shook their heads. A few times en route we managed to spot, and I can only assume it was by a miracle, a few deer and wild boar, but there was no sign of any of the big animals we were desperate to see. There is never any guarantee of seeing animals in the wild, and all in the jeep knew that, however we had been so excited about the potential of seeing these glorious and endangered animals that we couldn’t help feeling deflated after four hours of hoping and praying. It was only on our way out of the park that Hamilton decided to slow down and just when it seemed all hope was lost a girl in the group whispered, ‘Rhino.’ The engine stopped and we peered over to the right, following the direction of her finger, and found a patch of grey hidden in the bushes. ‘Rhino,’ repeated our guide. We crept further up the path giving this giant, one horned, marvellous creature room to cross the path without being in his way. We stood, the hairs on our arms standing on end, in complete silence. We watched as he came out of the bush to stand straight in front of us, giving us the perfect view of him, with no jungle obstructions. I am pretty sure he was thinking ‘go on, take a look, get your pictures and then leave me to eat in peace.’ So that’s exactly what we did and as we left the park behind, filled with a huge sense of happiness and relief, I said a silent thank you to God, the rhino and to the girl who spotted him. We may not have seen a tiger, but I am pretty sure that hidden somewhere in the deep, dark bush, a pair of yellow bright eyes had definitely seen us.