Having just completed the Annapurna Circuit we were looking forward to treating ourselves with some proper luxury and down time as we decided on Chitwan National Park. Situated in the south of Nepal it is the most visited national park. It is a designated UNESCO site and the park is a must on any trip to Nepal. One horned rhinos, Bengal tigers, leopards, deer, crocodile, bears and many species of birds call Chitwan home. The thought of seeing a rhino or tiger in its natural habitat intrigued both of us.
Nepal is a developing nation and having spent about 4 weeks in the country our hopes were not too high with the promise of 5-star resort accommodation. Nepal has just recently passed a new constitution in which India is in disagreement with. This has caused India to block the border causing food, fuel and gas shortages. We had seen the impacts of this in Pokhara where many food items were not available and long queues for petrol.
After spending hours looking at reviews of the various hotels, resorts and lodges we decided to go with a Nepalese friend recommendation, especially after seeing their photos from a recent visit and booked a 2 night / 3 day package at Barahi Jungle Lodge.
We left Pokhara at 7:30 AM on an overbooked bus and after a 4 hour bus journey we were welcomed by our assigned naturist, Jiru, and driver with cold drinks and a cold towel to refresh ourselves. From this point on we were in the attentive care of Jiru and the Barahi Jungle Lodge family.
After a further one hour drive taking us away from the heaving towns to the remote national park we came to the entrance of the resort. We were welcomed by the ever joyous Varun, the hotel manager. We were offered holy grass, a refreshing lemongrass drink and cold towels to refresh again.
Varun patiently gave us a briefing of the property, amenities and an overview of our program for the next two days. The lodge is the first eco lodge in the Chitwan area. Everything in the building construction is sourced locally and the majority of the staff are from the communities around the lodge. Staff are given six months of training before they work at the resort. A great initiative for the local community and it give staff the training and opportunity to work at an international level resort.
We were both extremely impressed by the hospitality provided by all staff. They anticipated our needs and were attentive but without making us feel uncomfortable. Having been to many resorts in the Caribbean and North America we would have to say that Barahi Jungle Lodge stacks up with the 5 star international resorts.
After our briefing we were driven in a golf cart to our jungle bungalow. A beautiful stone hut with no detail spared. The air conditioning was alr
eady on and the bags delivered. A great feeling to walk from 30 degree weather into a nice cool room after a long bus ride.
The beauty of the Barahi Jungle Lodge package is that a program has been arranged (and can be modified to suit your needs) and you do not need to think much. Just sit back and relax and enjoy what is on offer. All guests are assigned their own naturist that knows the national park inside out.
We sat outside of the dining area overlooking the beautiful pool situated next the Rapti river. We were served a 5 course meal enjoying every moment. This would be the beginning of a wonderful couple of days of delicious meals. Having been in Nepal for four weeks this was the best food we had tasted and we could enjoy fully knowing we were not going to succumb to poor food hygiene. The flavours, presentation and service were exceptional for our whole stay.
With the pool just steps in front of us we couldn’t resist, we changed into our swimmers and took a dip in the 1200 square meter pool. It was just we needed as we relaxed in the pool and looked over the Rapti River looking into the national park.
Our first program started at 4:00 pm giving us plenty of time to relax and unwind after lunch. We were scheduled on an Elephant Safari and took a 5 minute jeep ride where met our elephant, Sunderkaile and elephant handler Jung.
We started the trek into the thick canopy of the jungle. Having never been on an elephant it was an experience. Every few steps the gracious elephant would grab a huge branch off a tree with her trunk and devour it. We had never witnessed anything like it. After a few minutes we started seeing the wildlife. We first encountered a beautiful spotted stag. Then more spotted deer which are extremely graceful. They were everywhere and quite relaxed with our presence. Jiru excitedly pointed in a direction and said
“Rhino!” and we could not believe it, we were beyond excited. We were a few meters from a one horned male rhino and he looked respectably to Sunderkaile, we had not to worry on her back. Seeing such a magnificent creature their natual habitat is quite humbling. What was even more amazing was that this 2 tonne rhino looked small from on top of an elephant. We spen
t another 1.5 hours going through the jungle watching the sunset over the riverbed and reeds and looking at more rhino, deer and a boar.
Back at the resort had some free time then met at 7:00 pm for a slide show presentation on the national park and it’s inhabitants. We ordered some delicious pre-dinner cocktails and sat back for the presentation which was quite informative and gave us an opportunity to ask questions about the national park.
The Nepalese dinner was both what we were looking for, nice and spicy and lots of fresh vegetables. We had to go back for seconds the food was so delicious, even though we were stuffed.
Having had a long day we took some wine back to our room and chilled out on the verandah listening to the night. The staff in the meantime had turned down our bed and put slippers out for us.
That night we had the best sleep we have had in weeks in a proper bed and the best pillows in Nepal.
Waking the next day at 5:30 am the entire jungle and river was covered in fog, it was quite magical. We met Jiru at 6:00 am for our jungle trek and took a short canoe ride to the entry point of the national park. We were warned of the leeches as it was post monsoon so tucked our trousers into our socks and off we went.
Within a few minutes we encountered tiger footprints and claw marks raking a nearby tree and it was thrilling but scary to think tigers roamed this area and we were on foot with only a big stick for protection. Jiru explained the behaviours of the tigers and how they mark their territory and we continued on and occasionally stopping to flick off leeches. Deer and various birds. Popped their heads up for us to see and after about an hour we came to a water hole where we sat down to have a quick snack and wait for the animals to come to drink. Herds of deer came to the waterhole shortly after we settled and it was quite beautiful. Jiru spotted a fresh tiger track and explained how there were two of them, a male and female and you could see in the mud where they had lay to escape the heat.
Back at the resort we noticed that Soheil’s trousers were covered in blood from a leech that had made its way up to his thigh. We went to the room to stem the flow of blood and we found the leech shortly after tumbling out of Soheil’s trousers. We applied bandages and went for breakfast but still could not stop the bleeding. The staff were very nice and administered antiseptic and bandaged his leg again.
Breakfast was huge, I am not sure how people could eat it all, juice, selection of fruits, fresh bread, cheese bites and a choice of pancakes or hot breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon).
We had some free time as our next program started at 10:30 am for an elephant briefing and bathing. Excited we got up and met Jiru at reception where we had a small walk to meet Sunderkaile who had been decorated for a guest’s birthday celebration last night.
They are a majestic creature and it is humbling and slightly daunting experience standing in front of one, especially after hearing how strong they are. After an informative briefing on the
Bathing time! We had been looking forward to this after speaking to a fellow guest the prior day. Soheil was brave and climbed up the elephants trunk holding on to Sunderkaile’s ears for support. After successfully climbing to the top they went into the shallows of the river. Sunderkaile can hold 4 litres of water with her trunk and with this she totally soaked Soheil with her trunk. Chelsea’s turn next and she opted to mount astride and not climb the trunk. Thoroughly getting drenched too it was the best fun and didn’t want to get off.
We both came back from the Elephant briefing extremely happy. It was an amazing experience. The resort does an amazing job taking care of these magnificent creatures.
We washed off the river water and met Jiru at the reception where we were to a have lunch by the river. Driving through the communities we felt like royalty as the little kids were running after us screaming and giggling. Everyone of all ages were welcoming. On arrival a beautiful table had been set, with cold beverages and hand towels waiting for us. We enjoyed a cold beer and then indulged in the delicious Nepalese food. We were both in a food coma at this point.
Driving back we were introduced to local communities as Jiru explained the various trades that the community did.
Nap time before our next adventure was needed! Not even the pool could tempt us today.
Our next program was a canoe trip down the river at 4:00 pm. We saw crocodiles, a rhino wallowing in the river edge and more spotted deer. After about 30 minutes we arrived at the drop point and then walked to a jeep that was waiting for us. We were not sure what the next part of the program was but to our surprise we were driven to another river for a sunset viewing. When we arrived we noticed that they had brought the wine that we had selected the night before. We opened the bottle and shared a glass with Jiru as it was his birthday.
The sunset was absolutely breathtaking. We spent about an hour there watching the sunset, drinking wine and enjoying more delicious snacks.
There was a cultural performance by the Tharu people that evening and we were told all the performer were from one family. They had us up dancing in no time at all and huge smiles were seen all round. During the performance Varun joined us and explained the ways of the Tharu people.
We also met the owners or the resort as they were staying and congratulated them on such a well run and relaxing resort.
Dinner time again and we had a delicious Nepalese dinner. At that point we were so full that it was hard to eat but the food was so delicious that you couldn’t resist. Needless to say we went into another food coma and strolled our way to the room.
We had an early day the next day as we needed to catch the bus back to Kathmandu. The lodge arranged our transport to the bus and the tickets.
We were sorry to say goodbye to the resort. The Barahi Jungle Lodge exceeded all our expectations. They are a prime example that great hospitality is possible anywhere. They provide a service that anticipates your needs. A rare example of 5 star service in a country where it is still developing. Considering all the difficulties of the shortage of food, fuel and gas, they were able to provide world class service. What was exceptional was that the lodge is completely eco friendly and the staff are from the local community.
We both highly recommend this lodge to anyone visiting Chitwan or just looking for a relaxing escape.