The next couple of days were spent relaxing and enjoying the local area. Cecilia, one of Mr B's staff, took us on a tour of the local village which included a trip to an elephant sanctuary where we watched the elephants (including an adorable baby) crossing the river after having been taken for a walk in the jungle and were then able to get really close to them as they were fed which was really great.
Monique even wrestled with the baby elephant who seemed to enjoy the attention.
We briefly met Cecilia's grandmother on the way to see the elephants, and she insisted that we stop in for tea on the way back. It was really lovely, and she seemed genuinely happy to have us in her home despite her not speaking any English.
We also went on a birdwatching trip with Krishna, one of the guides. We didn't get as far as planned due to a torrential downpour not long after we set out, however we still got to see quite a few different types of birds, and Krishna was able to demonstrate his impressive knowledge which included being able to identify the various birds by their call alone.
We had originally planned to stay only briefly in Bardia, and to visit Chitwan National Park later in our trip. However, we had enjoyed our time at Mr B's so much, and were so impressed by Mr B and his staff, that we decided to stay longer and go on another tour. This time we went on a walking tour through more accessible parts of the jungle.
First we had to cross the river to get into the National Park. Although we had been lucky on our rafting tour there had been a lot of heavy rain during our stay (mostly in the evenings) and so the river was extremely high and fast. Our mode of transportation across the river was a dug-out boat (i.e. a boat made out of a hollowed tree-trunk) which could take 2 people at a time. We were accompanied by two guides, and given their reactions to the river crossing there was quite a lot of luck (along with no little skill) required to get us across without getting wet.
|This is actually from the crossing back at the end of the day - I didn't start the day looking that rough!|
After a couple of hours or so of walking we reached a look-out point where we waited for a while without any luck. We then walked a bit further to a spot which Mr B refers to as his favourite because it is where three rivers join and is a favourite spot for tigers to drink (apparently during the dry season they went 30 consecutive days of seeing a tiger there!). Once there we waited, and waited … and waited some more. Hours passed without seeing anything of interest. Thankfully our guides were really nice and good humoured (and a little more relaxed without Mr B calling the shots) and so were good company.
Our lego explorer friend passed the time by exploring a nearby mushroom forest.
We hadn't really expected to be staying in one spot for so long on a “walking” tour, and so were getting a little restless. However, our patience paid off when a rhino casually walked out of the undergrowth before crossing the river and disappearing into the undergrowth on the opposite side. It was much closer than the three we had previously seen, so much so that we could really see the amazing creature in much more detail.
That sighting made it easier for us to continue to wait at that same spot – perhaps to see if the rhino would make a return trip across the river. Another hour passed before we heard a commotion from our side of the river – a group down at the lookout point had briefly seen a tiger heading into the jungle in our direction and were rushing towards us. After scanning the distance we spotted him bathing in the water with just his head out. We moved further down the riverbank to get a better look, and watched for a couple of minutes before he dashed out of the water and back into the privacy of the undergrowth. It was all a bit surreal, and only after the event did it really hit home that we had seen a wild tiger – one of the rarest large animals on the planet. He was probably around 250m away from us, but even so it was incredible, and incredibly lucky at this time of year.
|Spot the stripes|
After the tiger left we walked back to the lookout point on the off-chance he would return to that area. Unsurprisingly he didn't come out again; however we weren't too disappointed because we were able to watch four rhinos on the other side of the river, as well as catching glimpses of three more elephants as they passed between the trees further away. It was beyond all our expectations to see rhinos, elephants and a tiger all in one day. There are some zoos that don't have that sort of collection! Even looking back on it now I can't quite believe it.
It could really go without saying that our stay in Bardia was one of the highlights of our trip, and may possibly be the highlight. Our final animal count was 3 crocodiles, 5 elephants, 7 rhinos and a tiger. Before we left we had already started talking about returning to Nepal and to Bardia and Mr B's. If we could have such a great time and see so many amazing animals at the worst time of year to be there then it would be absolutely incredible if we could go back during the dry season.