Rapids and Rhinos

Traveling in Nepal, we have found more thrilling activities than just trekking in the Himalayas. After a week of rest and recuperation in Pokhara, we navigated a turbulent river in a rubber boat and viewed some of the world’s largest and most dangerous animals in the wild.

Guide Robbie, Esther and Claire whitewater rafting on the Seti River

The first leg of our adventure was a two-day whitewater rafting trip on the seething Seti River into the Terai lowland region of southern Nepal. Rising from the snow fields and glaciers of the Annapurna massif, the Seti River drains some of the world’s highest mountains, recently inundated with a deluge of late monsoon rainfall.

Seti River Paddle Crew (L-R: Joe, Heather, Maria, Esther, and Claire)

Our flotilla included two lifeguard kayakers and an inflatable raft, large enough to hold our gear, food, and entire crew. Piloting the blow-up vessel was our experienced Nepali leader Robbie, who guided our five paddlers, comprised of Claire, Esther and me, and Heather and Maria, two lovely ladies from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA.

Dining and camping at sunset on the Seti River

Tired and hungry after an adrenaline-filled first day of riding the rapids, we camped overnight on a peaceful grassy sand bar along a sweeping bend in the river. As the sun set in the flaming western sky, Robbie and the kayakers served up a hearty and delicious dinner, and built a blazing campfire on the river bank.

Dugout canoe safari at Chitwan National Park

The next day, we reached our river take-out destination and travelled overland to Chitwan National Park for the second half of our southern Nepal adventure. Chitwan is Nepal’s first national park and a World Heritage Site, famous as one of the best wildlife viewing locations in Asia.

Gharial and marsh mugger crocodiles on Ladhari River, Chitwan National Park

On the slow and meandering Ladhari River, we had our first wildlife encounter with a pair of cold-blooded reptilian killers. On the river’s edge, just a few feet from our unstable shallow-drafted dugout canoe, a broad-snout marsh mugger crocodile and an endangered long-snout gharial crocodile eyed us hungrily as we drifted by.

Esther feeding Lucky Kali, 65 year old female rescued elephant, Chitwan National Park

Also roaming Chitwan National Park are herds of Asian elephants, the largest land animals on the continent. At an elephant rescue facility, we had an opportunity to learn about these large and docile animals, and to hand-feed an older resident a portion of her daily intake of 300 pounds (135 kg) of fruits and vegetables.

Jeep safari with new friends Michael and Jill from Yorkshire, UK, Chitwan National Park

In pursuit of more wildlife, we boarded a jeep for a half-day safari deep into the park’s interior. Our knowledgeable guide pointed out dozens of bird species, rhesus macaque monkeys swinging in the trees, and four species of deer. Lurking just out of sight, we could only sense the presence of the park’s one hundred wild carnivorous Bengal tigers.

Wallowing male one-horned rhinoceros, Chitwan National Park

On our safari, these stealthy and nocturnal tigers failed to show us their stripes. Instead, as our jeep crept through the marshy grasslands, we spotted a four-ton armor-plated giant wallowing in water up to his belly button. Certainly, the high point of our visit to Chitwan National Park was watching this greater one-horned rhinoceros from a very respectful distance.

Another large male one-horned rhino, near park entrance, Chitwan National Park

On our whitewater rafting and wildlife safari adventures, we discovered that Nepal has more exciting endeavors than just trekking into the world’s highest mountains. On the rip-roaring Seti River and inside the lush and prolific Chitwan National Park, we experienced many more inspiring moments, with none quite as spine-tingling as the rapids and rhinos.

Rescued elephants grazing freely, Chitwan National Park (Himalayas in the background)

Feature Photo: Two-day Seti River whitewater rafting trip with Paddle Nepal, Pokhara

20 thoughts on “Rapids and Rhinos

    • It was a really fun week, JaNann! Esther and I have talked about trekking in the Himalayas for several years now. Since we have two months here, we wanted to find some other things to do besides hiking. The whitewater rafting and wildlife safari activities made for a thrilling and interesting diversion. With four weeks remaining, we still have another long trek and other compelling pursuits before we head home. All together, this has truly been a trip of a lifetime. Hope all is well with you!


  1. Wow! What an amazing recap of your adventures! We really enjoyed reading all about it. Chet commented to me that he was tired just hearing about your trip 😂 The pictures are great! We hope you continue to have safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Connie. Esther and I really appreciate your comment. It is good to know that Chet got in a tiring workout reading the post. In reality, the rafting and safari activities were relatively easy physical challenges compared to the mountain trekking. The hardest part of the rafting trip was helping to pump up the raft and sleeping on the hard ground along the river. The only thing between our sleeping bags and the ground was a thin and flimsy yoga mat! Hope all is well with you both, and see you back in AZ in November.


    • Hey Neil! As you know, Nepal is an exciting adventure destination. The elephant feeding and wildlife safari at Chitwan NP are just a couple of examples. Hand feeding the retired old elephant was Esther’s favorite part of our Nepal trip so far. As for me, I really liked seeing the crocs, rhinos, monkeys, and birds in their wild and natural habitats. I’m just happy that we didn’t get gored and trampled to death or eaten alive.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am excited that I am in the running for blog post of the month, Marty. I would be so honored to have my picture hanging in the blogger break room next to yours. The trip was my first experience with whitewater rafting. I will admit that I was petrified, but tried to put on my best game face. The rapids really toss the raft and its contents around. At one point we got stuck between underwater boulders and one of our paddlers Maria fell out of the raft. When she didn’t immediately pop back up, we all panicked. When I glanced back at Robbie our guide, he just had a big relaxed grin on his face. Once she surfaced, the rescue kayakers scooped her up, and we all breathed a big sigh of relief.


  2. Joe – Maria and I are so thrilled we got to share the rafting adventure with you, Esther and Claire! We just got home late last night and wish we were still there. I hope you keep having more exciting adventures on your trip, and that you enjoyed the cave near Bandipur as much as we did. Safe travels!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We feel the same way, Heather. You and Maria were a joy to travel down the river with. It was also such a pleasant surprise to re-unite with you in Bandipur. We really enjoyed the Siddha Cave below Bandipur. Thanks for the warning on the leeches and trail conditions. I only fell once, but received three significant blood-lettings. We are so happy that you made it home safely and that you had such a wonderful time to Nepal. Thanks for keeping in touch!


  3. Hey Joe – what a collection of fantastic experiences. In one of your comments the other day, you said that we were “more intrepid” than you guys – I think this post blows any such suggestion right out of the water! The rafting must have been incredible and exhilarating, and it is wonderful to feed elephants in a good environment. Fabulous post from an exciting journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are just trying to live up to your example, Phil & Michaela. The more we travel and grow more comfortable in unusual places and situations, the more “intrepid” we have become. Little by little we have begun to seek out the more challenging and far-flung adventures. Our earlier style of sightseeing travel in more conventional locations just doesn’t carry the same excitement for us. It has been interesting to look back on the evolution of our travel style and preferences, and look forward to wherever it takes us in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an adventure! We love hearing about your travels. You write so beautifully we feel like we are right there with you. Great photos of your smiling faces! Wow, you still have a few more weeks! Thinking of you! K, S and Pia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you K, S & P! Posting about our travels has been a fun and creative outlet for me. It is also a nice way to keep family and friends up-to-date with our whereabouts. Perhaps my favorite part of blogging is the regular correspondence I can have with the commenters, like yourselves. Thank you for taking the initiative to leave us a message. It is wonderful to hear from our friends back home.


    • Nepal is a diverse and beautiful country, Janis. We came for the mountain treks, but have been pleasantly surprised by the other adventures and cultural opportunities. Visiting Nepal has been unlike any other travel destination I have experienced. The people are extremely friendly, especially in the smaller towns and villages. Their Hindu religion, ethnic background, and caste strongly affect their way of life. The cities are jam-packed and crazy, but vibrant and full of interesting activity and amazing people-watching. Despite the poverty of the country, we have enjoyed some wonderful accommodations and restaurants. Overall, it has been much more than we ever expected.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I gotta admit, while you could have convinced me that you tacked on rafting onto a Nepal trip, I’d have never dreamed it might include a wildlife safari where the wildlife included rhinos, elephants, and crocs. You certainly don’t live a boring life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have found nothing boring about Nepal, Dave. With an area about the size of Iowa, it includes congested and polluted large cities and numerous small ethnic villages as well as raging rivers, wild animal sanctuaries, and the highest mountains on earth. In addition, the local people are polite and welcoming, and their Hindu culture imparts an exotic atmosphere throughout the country.

      Liked by 1 person

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