The next morning was our long awaited elephant safari through the jungle in search of the rhinos and other animals. Amazingly, the elephants came to pick us up at our lodge which isn't surprising after the fact because most of the lodges in the area have their own staircase used to mount the elephants. Ben, Nora, Josh and myself all got on the same elephant, Maya, a 12-year old – rather young in comparison to the others. We were the last group to mount but thanks to Maya’s youthfulness, she whizzed past several others on the way to the park to Josh's competitive amusement.
Our safari continued through the shaded forest and then out in to a clearing to cross a river! Slow and steady, Maya stepped down the bank and waded across the river. Even despite the strong current she just took it in stride! Well done Maya.
At the beginning of the safari, the lack of wildlife was overshadowed by the sheer fact we were riding an elephant but unfortunately, the rest of the safari was about the same – sauntering through the forest with not many wildlife sightings, only deer…and no rhinos!
Below is a fun series of me tipping our Elephant who passed the money up to the driver. That sure is one cool party trick!
In one hard-not-to-laugh-at-moment, this poor sap found himself stuck in knee deep mud trying to take a shortcut. A little later we snapped a great shot of him trying to clean his laundry like the locals. I think his jeans are going to take a little longer to dry than the ladies' saris. Classic! Having taken a load of pictures, we went back to grab a simple, ahem – 2 hour, lunch before our afternoon canoe trip and visit to the Elephant breeding center later that afternoon.
Hopping into open top jeeps we had a few minute ride to the canoe launch site. The canoes were old style, carved straight out of a giant tree. It was an laid back cruise down the river. Along the way we saw the same gharial crocodile as on the elephant safari and some birds along the banks. The most stunning was probably the kingfisher – the namesake of the 5 star airline we took to India. However, we were expecting more!
Now, I will be brief about the elephant breeding center because we all were quite emotional about it. It was actually more of a training center. Here in Nepal they use elephants in all forms of industry, including tourism. This center breeds elephants, training them to have handlers, instead of taking elephants from the wild to fulfill the industrial needs. That is the beneficial part. But, the emotional part was that they endure harsh training and are chained by one leg and sometimes 2 legs for the majority of the day. They can roam the forest between 10am and 4pm, but that doesn’t seem nearly enough. We all left this center with heavy hearts and mixed emotions.
On our way to dinner we randomly found a cute little bat hiding in a archway which we promptly flashed awake with a few photos. I'm sure to him it was like our alarm clock in the morning - annoying!
We had a fairly good chicken tikka masala dinner and some horrible cocktails. We should have known – alcohol is mainly there for the tourists and when they also have Mexican food and “American chop suey” (whatever that is!) on the menu then you should realize they are just trying to please the western visitors and they truly have no idea how to make cocktails (or any non-Nepalese food)! Fair play, lesson learned!
Elephant Safari Photos