INTO THE WILD TEMPLE TIGER: AN ADVENTUROUS GETAWAY
Animal Rights is a topic of grave concern in our contemporary times. Whether we are the incarnations of god himself or are on top of the food chain, we are not entitled to belittle other creatures that inhabit this planet with us. Up until the 20th century, our race has been employing inhumane methods to tame animals; essentially breaking their spirit to domesticate them.
In Nepal, there have been reports of unethical means being used to tame elephants. However, these reports were put to an end in 2006 when positive reinforcement was introduced. This method rewarded the gentle giant whenever it did the right trick rather than punishing it for doing something wrong; making it far more ethical and humane.
The problem here is that activist groups have urged to ban any sort of animal taming. This is disadvantageous to us as elephant safaris are the major attractions when it comes to tourism; and tourism contributes largely to the national economy. Thus, recognizing this issue, we along with other media groups were invited by Temple Tiger Green Jungle Resort to witness how properly the elephants are trained. The experience we had truly did present a strong argument against the ban.
Temple Tiger has been at the forefront of nature and wildlife tourism in Nepal for almost three decades now. The resort is located in the buffer zone area of Amaltari Ghat, Nawalparasi and has the combination of the best of jungle wilderness, and yet it is in close proximity to various Tharu and Bote villages.
The town of Kawasoti is a mere 20 minute drive and the nearest airport at Bharatpur is an hour’s drive away. The resort offers 20 exquisitely appointed deluxe and suite villas which are traditionally built by wood and are on stilts. However, these villas are equipped with all amenities and a private balcony to see the breathtaking view of nature. Their dedicated team of expert naturalists and experienced staff are eager to serve the guests and ensures that the guests have an unforgettable experience of the
highest standard with excellent wildlife sightings. Be it the river boating experience on the rapids of Narayani River or the unique experience of lunch in the National park, the time spent at Temple Tiger is promised to be a cherished memory; which we testify to be far from just empty words.
On the first day at the crack of dawn, we went to the Temple Tiger office in Kathmandu where we were served breakfast with other members of the media. After a wholesome morning meal, we started our journey at seven. Introductions and small talk were on order in the bus itself, making the journey immune to boredom. However, there were some delays on our way to Chitwan because of the sorry state of the road and the long traffic. Then again, we were fortunate to have likeminded people on this trip, and we took it upon ourselves to help manage the chaotic traffic. It did take a while to clear it, but as long as it meant that we could continue our journey, the sweat was worth it.
After a few hours, we reached Chitwan. Upon arrival, we talked to a media officer who ushered us to the resort directly. The time was already 6:30pm and all we wanted to do was ease our tired bones, so even the small transition from the reception to our rooms seemed tedious. Then again, it was made pleasant by the welcoming and courteous staff. After freshening up, we had to do something about the marathon going on in our bellies and that’s when some delightful Nepalese food came in. After the satisfaction of being stuffed, we went to see a Tharu Dance which was choreographed by the hotel for us. The dance itself has many forms, such as the Bhajayati which is performed with long sticks, and the Thakera which is performed with short sticks. We even had the chance to dance ourselves as the dancers pulled us onto the dance floor. It was definitely one of our favorite moments and something one has to experience first-hand. For that instant, we had forgotten our fatigue, but when we got to our bedrooms, our eyelids were the heaviest.
The next morning, the hotel staff woke us all up with a lovely cup of coffee at 7:30 in the morning. The morning view from our hotel room was absolutely mesmerizing so we took a moment to soak it all in. After that, we all gathered in the huge and ornately decorated dining hall. In the middle of the hall was a fireplace where other media members were huddled around to warm up. At 9:30, we had our breakfast and went on the bus set for Chitwan National Park.
To get to the National Park, we had to cross the Narayani River by boat and the only sound we could hear was that of the water flowing and the birds singing; making the moment serene and peaceful. Finally, we reached the Park and were greeted by a mother elephant and her baby which was being taken care of by Temple Tiger. We were pleasantly surprised by how friendly these giants were. They shook our hands and hugged everyone with their trunks; another memorable moment for us. This really showed that the caretakers and the Resort were investing a lot of effort to socialize the elephants.
When we got on our guided jeeps for the safari, we were reminded that it requires a lot of luck to be able to see the elusive tigers on safaris like these. Although they had done their part to soften our disappointment, it is most unfortunate that luck didn’t accompany us. However, the park is filled with varieties of species and just trying to keep track of each one occupied us. The deers stretched out their curious necks and the rhinos exposed themselves from the tall grass; all of these were satisfactory compensations for the hidden tiger.
After the safari we visited the old Temple Tiger Jungle Resort which was inside the park; and is now banned by the government. It’s a shame as it would have been a more authentic experience if people had got to stay here. Not diminishing the current resort location, but this would have been the perfect spot; pity they had to give it away.
We eventually went back to the hotel and had our lunch. At 3 in the afternoon, we had a meeting with Mr. Basanta Raj Mishra, Executive Chairperson of the Temple Tiger Group. According to him, if elephant rides are to be banned in Nepal, the move will hit the tourism industry hard. He added, “If elephant riding is banned, the tamers, elephant riders, as well as other people assigned to take care of elephants will lose their jobs. However, keeping elephants is also an expensive task. It costs about Rs 50,000 per month to sustain an elephant and a mahout. In comparison to other countries, we don’t use our elephants for circuses or other activities. And during the rainy season, jeeps aren’t any good for a safari ride due to muddy roads. So elephant rides are a suitable option in the context of Nepal.”
After the meeting, we actually got to ride the gentle giants. Apart from feeling like the Emperors of the World when we were on top of them, we also got to learn about how they are trained and how important they are to the tourism industry of Nepal.
With our minds full of memories and education of the safari and the ride, we returned back to the hotel and had our dinner. After that we had a party with the other members of the press which was real fun.
On the last day we were greeted by a warm fix of coffee again. The weather was still beautiful and it was sad that we had to leave. We sat on our balcony and talked about all the things we had done for the past few days and how it was such a memorable trip for us. It was finally, and dreadfully, time to go back home.
We had our breakfast in the great hall and then exchanged our visiting cards with each other. We had become friends in this short span of time; maybe because we shared the mutual feeling of loathe towards the bus ride back to Kathmandu, or because we had one of the greatest times of our lives together. But what we are sure of is that memories of the trip still populate us. And for that we extend our deepest gratitude toward the Temple Tiger Group. We can’t wait to visit again.
Words: TNM TEAM