Elephant ride into the forests of Chitwan, Nepal

An afternoon encounter with six elephants, a single one-horned rhino and a stampeding herd of spotted deer.

One-horned rhino, Chitwan National Park, Nepal

One-horned rhino, Chitwan National Park, Nepal


Well, this was my afternoon… Four people packed into a wooden cage (little resemblance to the howdah in which maharajas and memsahibs rode in style) on each of half a dozen elephants, with a young Nepali mahout perched on the animal’s neck. Under a sky so hazy that the sun shone like a red ball, we plodded through an open monsoonal forest, following paths to nowhere in particular in search of likely hiding places of other creatures. Peacocks spread their feathers and called for a mate, a large stag or two fled from the grasses, and an entire herd of spotted deer stampeded through the thickets. Sometimes Mayakali, our mount, would pause, extend her trunk and wrap it around a tasty-looking vine or branch; on one occasion this almost brought down a shower of deadwood on our heads.

Towards the end of our forest ramble, the mahouts motioned their charges all more or less toward the banks of a waterhole: we had encircled a huge beast with a hard, shiny blue-black hide, a one-horned Asian rhinoceros, the signature animal of the Chitwan National Park.

Gliding along in a dugout canoe this morning, we nearly slid right over the top of a huge crocodile, according to our guide, who was motioning frantically to the fellow poling from the rear.

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

But as for the tiger, the most prized bag of all, we saw only the evidence of its passing: pawprints in the mud, sometimes the scattered bones of its last prey.

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