The Wildlife Experience @ Barahi Jungle Lodge
The ride out of Kathmandu
The alarm goes off and I scramble out of bed hurriedly as I am excited to start our ride in Nepal. We have been in Kathmandu for about 2 weeks now and have covered the city along with Patan and Bhaktapur. The AC has chilled up our service apartment at Cosy Nepal and getting out feels like a crime. But today we are supposed to be at Barahi Jungle Lodge in Chitwan national park Nepal, about 180 kilometers away. Archana and I are soon ready and a final sweep of our gigantic duplex is completed. Nothing left behind and we walk down the stairs to the Bajaj Pulsar 220 we have rented for our 2-week ride.
We hang the keys inside and close the door behind us only to realize that I have left all our riding gear inside the room! Its 6 am and there is no one around. After some frantic calls to Camille, we finally get the door opened. Archana gives me a couple of cold stares but we are finally on our way around 7 am. We take the highway and the plan is to head towards Chandragiri hills from where we take a jungle route towards Bharatpur.
We had ditched the idea of riding on the Prithvi highway since we wanted to explore the Nepalese countryside. After an hour of riding on the 6-lane highway, we hit the countryside and the ascent towards the hill starts.
The roads get worse and soon enough they disappear. We are now riding a fully loaded bike, with a dodgy suspension (I found that out while off-roading) on the county side dirt roads. By the time I get used to the dirt roads, we encounter rocky roads! The bike is now struggling to climb the mountain and Archana has to walk almost 1 kilometer throughout the mountain stretch. The roads take us up and down mountains, with no one around but beautiful landscapes everywhere. Over the next 5 hours, we cover about 60 kilometers.
And for breakfast, we reach a stunning lake, sandwiched between mountains and a café located right on the edge. Some respite to our backs after that horrible yet exciting off-road stretch. It was a relief to be sitting on something that isn’t going up and down!
And we hit the tarmac!
Post breakfast the bad stretch continued till the town of Hetauda, and from there we got something that resembled a tarmac. But the roads were still dusty, uneven and very bouncy or maybe it was the screwed-up suspension of our bike. It gets hotter and the heavy traffic is throwing a ton of dust on us. The off-road stretch has taken a stroll on us and we struggle to ride in the heat.
Around 2:45 pm we reach Bharatpur – this is where we are to rendezvous with a staff of the Barahi Jungle Lodge. He shares with us his location on WhatsApp but now the question is whether we stop or lunch on continue empty stomach. It’s 3 pm so we decide to continue. Over the next hour, we again ride through broken country roads that cut across beautiful paddy fields and tharu villages. Tharus are the locals that live in the Chitwan National Park Nepal and help the army in wildlife conservation.
Touch down @ Barahi Jungle Lodge!
Drenched with sweat and covered in dust we ride into the entry gates and are welcomed by the whole team of Barahi Jungle Lodge! Mr. Varun, who is the GM at Barahi welcomes us and a pretty lady brings in cool wet towels. I swear, that the moment, that cool, wet towel touched my face, I felt like I had achieved nirvana! We apologize for keeping them waiting and sheepishly ask if they have anything to eat. “Don’t worry, says Mr. Varun, “You freshen up and rest and we’ll get you something to eat.” Thankfully a golf cart awaits us, ready to take us to our room. It’s a pretty big property and we were in no mood or condition to walk to our room.
Barahi had put us up in a riverside cottage that overlooks the wildlife reserve. As the key turns and the door opens us, we are hit with a cool wave of AC air! Aaah thank god for the person who invented air conditioning. The staff who accompanied us had kept Barahi updated on our location and the AC was switched on in advance to cool our room! Well, that’s how hotels create a memorable experience for their guests.
The big and soft bed absorbs us as we dive into the bed after a quick bath! It feels as if we are back to civilization after being in the wild! The doorbell rings, the door opens and we get a whiff of our lunch. Barahi special chicken momos! We take our lunch, put on the TV and again sink into our cozy bed. And for the next hour, we just relax. Since we have had a long day, our itinerary is changed and for the day we just have an interactive session with Karan Giri, our naturalist.
At the meet, he explained to us the varieties of wildlife that inhabit the forest and helpful details about the flora and fauna! By the time the session was over, we were already famished! But before dinner, we sat in the restaurant’s open-air sitting area by the pool. The heat had simmered down and the large dessert fans cooled up the area without an effort. Even though July is a low season for Chitwan Nepal, there were quite a few guests at the lodge but because the property is spread out, we hardly saw anybody! Dinner was at their in-house restaurant and we didn’t even have to look at the menu! It was going to be the traditional Nepali thali for us.
Over the last 15 days, that’s what we had been eating and just couldn’t get enough of it! The cool AC air was hitting us almost putting us to sleep but thankfully the food came in a jiffy! A massive brass plate in which they served rotis, rice, pickle, spinach, dal, papad, veggies, and curd! After the long tiring day, we really needed a big meal and that’s exactly what we got! Over dinner, Karan told us that it would be an early day tomorrow since we needed to leave for the jeep safari by 6:30 am.
The Morning Jeep Safari Experience
Now the safari experience is pretty fascinating in Chitwan National park Nepal because apart from the big cats, you also catch a glimpse of rhinos and crocodiles! Barahi Jungle lodge gave us the both their curated safaris – jeep and boat. During the second day of our stay there, we took the early morning jeep safari. They have two tours – a 4-hour half-day tour and an 8-hour full-day tour. If you have time, do the 8-hour safari, as you are in a better position to spot the wildlife there! We opted for a jeep safari and a twilight boat safari on the Rapti river and we covered the area around the park, Sal forest and places where the wild animal are known to be at, such as watering holes.
Spotting the big cats is a rare event, but we did manage to see how they mark their territories or drive away another cat – scratches made by their nails really high up on Sal trees! 15 minutes into the safari, as we were driving through some tall grasslands, we came across 2 massive adult rhinos, enjoying their mid-day bath in a small pond by a stream.
All though we knew that rhinos are herbivorous, yet they look scary and you can immediately feel how strong they are. Especially if there were to ram your vehicle! The rhinos move slowly, almost as if they are in sleep, but our naturalist told us that they can charge quickly if provoked.
There was a level of uncertainty in the air adding to the hushed suspense of watching what they would do. A quick couple of photos and then we were on our way into the jungle again! You have to be really quick with your camera as you will see spotted deer scampering through the forests and wild boars running to safety with their young ones!
For breakfast, we were taken to a clearing in the jungle where the resort is allowed to host us for a quick meal by the river. More about this in our next blog about our experience in Barahi Jungle Lodge.
Something watching us!
For 4 hours, we roamed around in the forest, but sadly couldn’t spot any tigers there! But we did see plenty of rhinos, deer, langurs and countless birds. On our way back, just before crossing a small stream we saw a pair of big eyes looking at us from behind a thick covering of tall grass.
The driver shut off the engine, and we quickly took over the binocular! We saw eyes; blinking yet staring at us with unsettling focus! It was a black bear, enjoying his noon snack and we seemed to have disturbed him. The engine came roared back to life and we were off to our resort!
As we docked near the pool, the staff was waiting for us with the cool towels again! Man, Barahi Jungle Lodge seems to get everything right with their service! The sun was beating down on us and after a quick shower and a short nap, we headed to the restaurant where the thakali thali was again waiting for us. Because of the scrumptious food and the humidity, we decided to head back to our room and spend some time indoors.
The Evening Boat Safari
We’d never been on a boat safari and had actually given this experience a miss during our stay at The Serai Resort in Kabini. But since we were told that we might spot crocodiles here, we jumped on the opportunity! The boat safari was actually on a boat and not a motorboat as we had imagined. But this was better since the human rowed boat is a non-intrusive way of exploring the riverside terrain. The canoe safari is quite relaxing really – well except for the boatman who has to get the boat back upstream all on his own.
The one-hour trip takes you through winding terrain, and the setting sun adds a certain mystique to the experience. The weather was good, bright and sunny and immediately I got a glance of something sticking out of the water. Sitting near some rapids, was a sole crocodile, probably relaxing after a heavy meal!
The Sun Downer
Boat safaris aren’t as exhilarating as jeep safaris due to the slow pace and the lack of an engine roaring. But nevertheless, it gives you a different perspective of the jungle. Over the next half hour, we spotted some mouse deer, and a bunch of rhinos taking a dip. Towards the end of the boat safari, the boat steered downstream towards a point that serves as the confluence of two rivers. At right on that point we saw the sun going down behind a thick array of tall sal trees. On the embankment, on a slightly uphill part, Barahi had arranged a sundowner for us!
So, what exactly is a sundowner? Well in a clearing near the river, right next to the confluence, the hotel had set up a BBQ and a small bar for us. There were 2 more families along with us so it was good to chit chat with them. Over the course of the next hour, we were served fresh, juicy grilled chicken, tikkas and tandoori kebabs! And a chilled beer to gulp down the delicious starters. The water was beneath us, flanked by a small patch of grassland and what looked like white sand. It was so beautiful that it gave us the impression that we were at sea!
The Tribal Dance Experience
Today Barahi had arranged for something special! A traditional dance performance by the local Tharu tribe. As we sat in the open space near the pool, a bunch of pretty women and well-built men walked towards us dressed in their local attire. There seemed to be clear segregation in their duties – there were some who were dancers, some singers and a few of them carrying artistic locally made musical instruments!
Over the next hour, they performed to tribal songs with amazing grace, agility, and stamina! The sun had gone down but it was still a little humid but it didn’t seem to bother the dancers at all! After a couple of performances, they invited a few guests and Archana jumped at the occasion.
It was a fun experience watching the guests trying to match the rhythm and the not so difficult dance steps. The tempo increased and the drums started beating faster as the group danced towards the closing of their performance!
The Jungle Walk – A walking safari
The next morning, our naturalist suggested that we try the walk through the jungle experience. It sounded thrilling because in India we have never had the opportunity to do this! It sounded a little scary since the previous day we had spotted at least 15-20 rhinos and one crocodile! And as usual, Archana is petrified of walking in the jungle due to leeches! Karan got us some leech socks, umbrellas, and took plenty of water to get us through the 2-hour pre-breakfast walk.
The boat took us to the other end from where the jungle walk started. It was quite a different experience – walking un-aided in a national reserve full of wild animals. Karan told us stories of his encounters with tigers and rhinos and it was backed up with GB’s of footage on his mobile phone!
The quiet jungle came alive with the sound of crackling leaves and twigs under our feet, as we heard the birds get busy with their morning chores. A herd of deer, grazing in the distance didn’t seem too bothered by our presence but their ears followed us in the direction we moved. Tiny red beetles moved along the forest floor picking up rhino dung and taking them into their homes! We paced ourselves up and down ravines and the forest terrain as we moved along the Rapti river. With eyes wide open, my heightened concentration was only focused on finding the elusive tiger!
But as I gazed into the river for a quick look, I again spotted a mid-sized crocodile in the water. Probably close to the same spot where I had seen another earlier. Karan picked up speed and moved hastily towards the direction of the croc. With a swift movement, he had already fixed a zoom lens on his DSLR and got in a position to take some quick pics! As we browsed through his wildlife pictures, we didn’t even realize that we had come to the endpoint and were not returning back to our lodge.
The wet towels awaited us, followed by ice-cold juice and then breakfast by the pool! It was a lazy day so we decided to hang around the property, take a dip and sit by the pool doing nothing. The poolside area is a perfect place to take a nap. Watch the river, listen to the birds and enjoy the tranquility as you fall in a deep undisturbed slumber! The staff does move around the place quite a bit but you never see them go about their business! They are like ninjas always in stealth mode!
It was our last night in Barahi Jungle Lodge and we were anxious to see what we could order for dinner! As we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by the chef who told us that they wanted to cook something special, something secret for us! We were asked to come back by 8 pm.
Dining with the Fire Flies
At dinnertime, we were escorted to an open-air area just before their reception. And to our surprise, they had arranged for drinks and dinner outside and the whole place was decorated by thousands of tiny light bulbs! The scene was right out of a fairy tale as it looked like we were dining amongst fireflies! This was totally unexpected and they had really caught us by surprise. Archana loves these kinds of experiences and she couldn’t control her excitement the minute she saw the arrangement. Our chef escorted us to our table and served us some aperitifs along with kebabs!
Wow, sitting under the stars enjoying the open-air dining experience was something we are going to remember forever! For dinner, we were served soup, kebabs, rotis, rice, Peas curry, chicken and the traditional Indian dessert, Gulab jamun! Karan joined us for a while and we expressed to him how happy we were with everything they had done and how great our experience at Barahi was.
It’s not often that you see people going out of their way to do something for others, but at Barahi Jungle Lodge this seems to be the way they treat their customers! And that’s why Barahi is loved the world over for their hospitality. It’s easy to have a beautiful hotel made in a gorgeous setting. But it’s difficult to instill this level of commitment and service to the staff. And Barahi has been spot on!
The next morning when we were leaving, we knew we wouldn’t get such an experience in Nepal or anywhere else. Mr. Varun, Karan and the rest of the staff had become our friends over the last 3 days and our stay here had felt like home! The only thing that motivated us to leave was the hope of coming back again
How to reach Barahi Jungle Lodge?
Barahi Jungle Lodge is located on the Rapti river, which curves around the Chitwan National Park Nepal. This is the quiet and relaxed part of tourist accommodation that allows you access to Chitwan National Park Nepal. There is only one other resort within sight, and you’ll hardly see another tourist around. To get to Barahi Jungle Lodge your best bet is to fly to the Bharatpur airport from either Kathmandu or Pokhara, depending on where you are and arrange a pick-up with the lodge – it’s a 45-min drive from the airport to the lodge.
Or if you want to travel by road from Kathmandu, you can hire a cab and drive down through the Prithvi highway. The drive takes around 6-7 hours and you get to see the gorgeous Nepalese countryside. We wouldn’t suggest traveling by bus since the local buses tend to be crowded and won’t be air-conditioned – something you need if you are traveling anytime except winter. The journey from Chitwan to Kathmandu is the process.
Barahi Jungle Lodge is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Nepal and reconnect with nature, without having to hike in the Himalayas. Whilst I did my jungle experience and then hiked, in hindsight, I would do it the other way around – hike the Himalayas and then take myself to true relaxation and natural bliss at Barahi Jungle Lodge. It’s the perfect place to find your happiness before leaving Nepal and heading home.