Running From Elephants

Truth be told, the Kathmandu post went up after I was already at a hotel on the edge of the jungle. The internet just wasn’t cutting it for posting while I was in Kathmandu.

Ironically, here at a nature lodge a two minute walk to the entrance of Bardia National Park, in other words on the edge of the jungle, the internet is much better.

I came to Bardia to see one of the few remaining populations of a rare crocodilian: the gharial. I’ve ended up spending a lot of time seeing (and running from) other wildlife as well.

To those whose total experience with elephants comes from childhood memories of the circus or elephants in zoos, it might come as a surprise that elephants in the wild can be quite dangerous. Humans it turns out are pretty puny when compared to 4,000 pounds of pachyderm. Luckily for us, elephants can’t run for incredibly long distances due to the stress of moving their enormous bodies quickly. So, there’s actually a chance you can outrun an elephant if it charges at you, especially from a distance.

The first jungle walk we did here, ended with us coming across a female elephant stepping across the path in front of us. Bibek, one of the guides quickly turned back and whispered, “run!” Run we did, luckily she didn’t chase after us, merely trumpeting to gather the other elephants to her. We were able to sneak past her by scrambling along a stream bank below the trail.

On another trek into the jungle, this time in far eastern Bardia, we saw a male elephant from a distance at first but walked past by again scrambling this time along a steep ledge covered in boulders above a river for a ways. Without further incident we made it to a sand bar where I watched gharials for a while. The return trip got a little exciting though when as we started to cross the river, we saw a mother elephant with a baby moving on the far bank. We walked as fast as possible upstream through the river, listening to her trumpeting behind us for ten minutes.

It hasn’t been all fearfully running and scrambling away from elephants. From the safety of a wildlife viewing tower, I was able to get some good photos of a majestic bull elephant walking through tall grasslands. Whether dangerous or not, it’s hard to not feel awe encountering these animals unfettered in their native habitat.

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