I’m so excited about this post because it’s the first guest post to be published on this blog! I never really considered having guest posts before, but my friends Kelsy Rushing and Ben Feinberg told me the story of their Bardia National Park safari one evening, and it had me laughing so hard that I wanted to share it with my readers. Luckily, Kelsy agreed to write a post while Ben provided the beautiful photos. I can’t thank them enough for sharing their awesome story!
It was dawn, and we finally arrived at Bardia Jungle Cottage after a long and stressful bus ride from Pokhara. This is where we would stay for the next few nights as we explored Bardia National Park. There was plenty of other wildlife well worth making the trip for, but we came for one thing. The elusive tigers. Anything else was a bonus. At this point, it was just after six in the morning when we met Prem and Suas, our guides for the walking safaris.
Bardia National Park Safari – Day 1
We ate breakfast at 6:30 am at our cottage which was right across from the Bardia National Park entrance. We were told to wear dark clothes and to order a packed lunch since we’d be in the jungle all day. Then, a safety talk was given about how to evade an animal attack. This included running in zig-zags, throwing a rock as a distraction or climbing a tree to get away from a rhino. Back up slowly while keeping eye contact with a tiger. And, “run like hell” if an elephant is coming.
At 7:00 am we stepped foot inside the park covered in dark or neutral colored clothing with our bamboo sticks, sun hats, binoculars, and packed lunches. We were ready for a day of exciting wildlife sightings. We sat along a disappearing river, hoping to see some of the only wild tigers left in the world. What a special treat that would be, a dream! Except, we saw nothing. That’s why they call it wildlife, it’s not always going to be where you think it is. Our guides took us to another spot where we had our lunch. From here, we saw some kingfishers, hog deer, and spotted deer.
At this point, we were getting a little antsy to see some of the larger animals that roam the park such as Bengal Tigers, Asian Elephants, or Indian Rhinos (greater one horned rhino). We started walking deeper into the grasslands when we heard loud grunting noises right next to us hidden behind the high grass. Then, the grass started to rustle and sway. Now, what are we supposed to do?! I looked at our guides and their faces turned to us with a look of fear. “RUN!” they whispered loudly.
There was no tree to climb, so we were stuck running through grasses trying not to lose each other as they swung back into place behind each person. My heart was beating fast. Dying from a rhino attack would not be the way to go! Every little noise freaked me out, and I did not want to be the last person in our small line. Eventually, we stopped and listened, reevaluating the situation. Did we need to keep running? No, we didn’t. We put distance between the mother and baby rhino, and they didn’t notice us. I don’t know if I was more excited or worried. We could have died, but we didn’t and that was amazing. In what life do people actually get to run away from rhinos?!
We continued our jungle trek while following tiger prints in the hardened mud. They were here. They were just hiding. As we made our way to the next spot, we saw a couple and their guide climbing out of a tree. They told us there were rhinos near them on either side, so they had no choice but to go up. The last location we visited was perfect because we had a great view of two rhinos from a safe distance. What a turn of events from the boring morning the day started off to be.
Bardia National Park Safari – Day 2
Wildlife doesn’t like to be out in the heat of the day, so it was crucial to be back in the park early since most of the activity is in the mornings and evenings. The first spot we visited was the watering hole which is a river that slowly dries up after the monsoon season. It was the same one we went to the previous morning. After only sitting there for a short time, we spotted something peaking it’s head out of the grass. Tigers!!
Being weary creatures, they were seeing if the coast was clear before heading further down the river. The mother was barely visible laying behind some grasses, but her two cubs lay in the sun alongside the river. To get a better view we went back to the path, and then sprinted further down the road. Hiding in the brush, we managed as many good looks as we could before they decided to move. The cubs were the cutest, and seeing them in the wild was incredibly special. Unfortunately, there were a few people down the path who made too much noise and scared them off. After ten minutes, the excitement was officially over.
At one point, a sleeping rhino was in our path, so we had to resort to crossing a river twice to get around it. Before crossing, we decided to sit and watch the peaceful rhino. While there, we saw a crocodile in the same water we needed to cross. As if running from a rhino wasn’t enough, now someone might get attacked by a crocodile. Nothing in the safety talk mentioned what to do if we saw a crocodile, but I’m pretty sure not getting in the water would have been the first step. Out of eight people, half decided to take off their boots and trudge through the crocodile inhabited water that was up to their thighs. Yeah, no thanks!
The rest of us walked further down and crossed at a more shallow point. From there, we could see a second group of tourists with a guide unknowingly sneaking up on the sleeping rhino. Prem, began to resemble a flagger on an airstrip more than a wildlife guide. He was jumping in the air, waving both arms frantically in an effort to warn the group. Success, another group saved from potential danger.
At the second hangout spot of the day, we saw another spotted deer and then two peacocks standing next to it. The peacocks were actually larger than the deer. It was a neat size comparison. Afterwards, we all ate lunch, and then, everyone laid down on the ground for a nap except me. Someone had to keep a lookout for the animals, right?!
What an amazing two days it was. The long terrible bus ride in order to get there was extremely worth it. Bardia National Park is probably one of the only places left in the world where you can see Bengal Tigers in the wild.
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This post was written by Kelsy Rushing and originally appeared on www.fulltimeexplorer.com