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