The Sun finally shines and we go on a safari!
All guests in the lodge hire a walking tour, but we are divided in three groups. Each one will enter from a different point to cover more ground and if one team spots an animal, they will call each other on the phone. Ram, our guide, takes us across the river towards the park entrance. When we are ready to start, he explains the different dangers we might encounter if we face a wild animal and how to best face them.
- Tigers! Tigers are the most thrilling to spot; they have much better eyesight than ear or smell. If you confront one, it is best to stay put and to not lose eye contact until it usually backs off. In case it doesn´t back off and there are any signs of attack from the tiger, start screaming and make a lot of noise smashing the sticks on the floor. They are usually scared of people, so you might not be eaten alive…
- Rhinos! Rhinos are heavy, huge and extremely aggressive. They have great ears and smell but bad eyesight. If you accidentally approach a rhino from too close without it noticing you, move steady but slowly backwards and away. If it notices your presence, rhinos usually charge in your direction. In such case, run as fast as possible to the nearest tree and climb it. If the tree is too big, hide behind it, as the rhino will probably keep running towards its fixed point of charge and pass along.
- Elephants! Elephants are also quite aggressive if there are babies around. They have very good ear, smell and eyesight, so In case you encounter one from close and it doesn´t like you, it is advised to run away in a wide zig zag and drop your backpack to the ground; most surely the elephant will stop and smell it in detail, so there is time to get away.
“Reassuring!”—we think as we start walking inland among the tall grass. On the mud, there are recent footprints of tigers and rhinos and we follow their direction. I don’t know anything about medicine but I am very sure our heart rate is dangerously fast.
No tigers or rhinos are on sight, phew, so we approach an even more encouraging spot— that of pythons. These guys live in a group of about 6, but only 2 are visible. Surprisingly, they are more scared of us than we are of them, so as our guide puts the grass around them away, the only hiss (they hiss a lot) but don’t attack. They are beautiful but inspire some respect!
We leave these crawling guys and keep moving towards one of the drinking stations for tigers and rhinos. The river branches in several arms here so there are some chances to see something. The other groups join us. A crocodile is sunbathing in the distance, some cranes land near the shore and a cute family of otters swim and run across the river in front of us. We sit down, waiting for a bigger and more exciting animal to appear. About 2 hours later, a rhino suddenly shows up in the water. It is at approximately 30 meters from us but it can still be seen very clearly without binoculars. It moves so elegantly, so calmly, that it is hard to believe how aggressive they can become. It drinks a little, walks through the swallow waters and disappears again in the grass.
The tiger quest goes on! As we enter another tall grass area, we cross another guest from our lodge, who tells us he just saw a tiger! We go try find it, but after some time waiting there’s no tiger to be seen. However, we spot another 2 rhinos in the distance before deciding to start walking towards the entrance where we also see some deer.
Once exiting the park, there is an enclosure where they keep a baby rhino (abandoned by its mother they say) and the domestic elephants that are used to take visitors into the jungle. The two elephants we see have their front paws tightly chained, which barely let them move (if they were chained on just one paw, they would try to escape and oh, that’s not good for business’ sake). It is not allowed to approach them too close but Irene talks a little to them anyway, and they lift their trumps while opening their mouths asking for food. The following day we are supposed to visit the elephant breeding center, but from descriptions of other guests, we decide to save ourselves sad feelings and to not visit.
Being fans of animals and wildlife in general, we are very happy with our visit to Bardia, the staff at the hotel and the other travelers we have met there. Also, because Bardia is farther than Chitwan for most visitors, you don’t cross that many people during your safari, which reduces the noise level and improves your chances of spotting animals even in low season.