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When I visited home the last time, we also took time to spend a few days outside of Kathmandu, to escape the crowds and pollution as well as to show my boyfriend some places in Nepal. It was mid-September and just after monsoon, but we still received rain here and there. Today I am sharing some of the activities and sights we enjoyed in Chitwan (Sauraha is a town in Chitwan area), which you can too should you find yourself in Nepal.
Kathmandu, Chitwan and Pokhara are a part of classic Nepal tour. Kathmandu – the gateway and the historic capital city know for its unique culture and architecture, Pokhara – a picturesque lakeside town also a base for trekking/hiking activities and Chitwan – on the Southern plains of Nepal known for its wildlife and national parks.
Sauraha, the central town near Chitwan National Park can be easily accessed by local or more modern tourist buses in a 5 hour journey from both Kathmandu and Pokhara. There are myriads of hotels and resorts in the area to choose from, so you can choose one to your liking. If it’s low season, you won’t have to pre book.
This is undoubtedly the most common activity that you can enjoy in Sauraha. You can choose a jeep safari or the more popular elephant safari for going deep into the jungle to see the wildlife. Your hotel/resort will likely arrange it for you on your request, if not you will see many counters advertising elephant/jeep safari in Sauraha town. We were arranged the tour by our hotel, and after paying the national park fees and setting date and time with the hotel, we were good to go.
On the morning of the tour, we were ushered to the entrance of the park where we’d be starting a tour on elephant’s back.
During the 3 hour safari, we saw the rare one-horned rhinoceros (which is the highlight of the park) and its baby, some boars, plenty of deer, variety of birds and monkeys. Tigers are present in the park too but they are known to be elusive creatures. Most of the park that we toured was just thick forest with swamps where there are said to be crocodiles, and some of the area was open grassland. After the tour, we treated the elephants with bananas.
This is another popular activity in Sauraha that you can enjoy. The caretakers take elephants in the nearby river where they wash them everyday around noon. We unfortunately missed it because by the time we went out on the hot sun to inquire about elephant washing, it was already done that day. We missed it by 1 hour or so. So make sure you find out what time they wash the elephants so you can take part in it. I regretted it very much as I really wanted to give the elephants a good scrub and get showered by their trunks.
It was too hot during the afternoon, so we waited out in a riverside restaurant enjoying our cold drinks until the sun got milder. Practically everyone in some form of business is in touch with other businesses, so we could easily find a canoe person from asking at the restaurant we were sitting at. This was just a few months after the earthquake with little tourist activity, so it might have been easier for us. It’s always better to not plan things at last-minute.
At about 4 pm or so we set out on a traditional wooden canoe on the river Rapti. It was very serene and we enjoyed the green lush environment around us. We spotted a crocodile on the river bank but it quickly swam back into the water after it detected our incoming boat. We also saw plenty of birds while canoeing. It was very relaxing to enjoy the nature to the sound of the river flow on a narrow, wooden boat.
Elephant breeding center
This one might be a little controversial depending on your stance on animals in general. There is a breeding center for elephants in Sauraha and a small museum showing the history of elephant domestication in Nepal. The elephants are kept in fenced enclosures and the adults are often tied with chains on their feet. We were told that the elephants are taken out to the forest regularly. The little elephant calves were so lovely and it made my visit worth it.
Shopping, eating, Tharu culture
One of the major ethnic groups living in Chitwan area are Tharus. Many hotels organize Tharu cultural dance evenings for their guests to see a part of unique Tharu culture. You can also go to nearby Tharu villages to see how locals live. There are decent eating and shopping options in Sauraha town. I bought many souvenirs for my friends back in Poland and for myself while I was there. Since my boyfriend was the only non-Nepali in our group who actually really loves Nepali food, we drove a bit further from Sauraha and enjoyed cheaper, local Nepali food.
Sauraha is a beautiful place to unwind and enjoy the variety of wildlife and scenery in Chitwan National Park as well as see the Tharu culture surrounding the area. There are plenty of activities that can keep you busy in Sauraha which you can make use of.