It was only a matter of minutes after stepping out of the dugout canoe when our guide, Bishnu came running out of the jungle to say that he had spotted our first rhino.
The irony of the situation was not lost on me. Having spent two weeks in eastern Africa on Tucan Travels Gorillas & Game Group Tour, we had spent days criss-crossing the national parks searching for the fascinating creatures but to no avail. Now, I was here in southern Nepal, much closer to South East Asia where demand for rhino horn was so high, that the rhino seemed abundant.
Bishnu took off into the bushes, ordering us to follow him. He kept close to the river, often breaking in to a run to get us there as soon as possible. The further we walked, the more amazed we were that he had managed to spot the creature from such a distance.
Coming to a stop, we found ourselves peering down at the river from above the bank. There in the middle of the shallow river, munching on weeds and grass with his giant head and horn underwater was a lone adult rhino. It was quite an incredible sight made even more special by being on foot. I could have spent hours looking at him (or her).
Throughout the morning’s game walk and the afternoon jeep safari, rhino was the only mammal we saw (we saw evidence of plenty of other animals) , and we saw plenty of them. From a dark mass wading through high grass to a mother and baby a few hundred metres away, it seemed that they were everywhere.
The success of rhino conservation in Nepal is unsurprising. A religious country comprising of Hindus and Buddists, religion plays an important part in the treatment of all animals and I was surprised at the good condition of most of the animals that I came across. Today, there are over 550 rhinos in Chitwan National Park.
While some people may be disappointed at only spotting rhino on a full day in Chitwan National Park, I was delighted. The poaching going on in east and southern Africa is devastating and the lack of rhino I saw on my trip to that continent only highlighted this but in Chitwan National Park, they are thriving and it is a true success story which can hopefully be replicated for their cousins in Africa.
Jess travelled on the Highlights of Nepal Group Tour.
About the Author: Jess is Communications Coordinator for Tucan Travel. She has travelled independently and on group tours through Central America, Africa, North America, Israel and Europe. You can find her on Google+ or read her other contributions here.