When an elephant roars you feel the vibration all the way through its body like a small earthquake. And it begins as a low rumble before the sound makes its way out the mouth. And I wondered to myself, perhaps this type of sound is a different sort of Buddhist meditation.
We had taken an open-air jeep drive to get to the elephant area on the edge of Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal. There were two elephants with sedan saddles strapped on top. One elephant at a time is backed up to a large platform so riders can step off the edge with one foot on its hind end and into the sedan. Our poor lumbering giant also had a mahout on his neck in front of the sedan and a spotter or guide standing on the back behind the sedan making a total of six humans riding the safari.
As I had read, the mahout uses his toes on pressure points behind the elephant’s ears primarily to move forward while commands to stop or turn one way or the next were strong and vocal. And the creature listened and responded. It also began a low tremble at one point just before we heard a distant but distinct low growl sounding a bit like a growly muffler a couple blocks away. It took a couple seconds to get my acoustic bearings, but it didn’t take her that long to recognize a tiger. We didn’t see it, but they had sighted one in this area of the park most recently three weeks ago.
We did, however, see multiple rhino. We probably came as close as 50 feet to the first and stayed for several minutes with our mahout turning the elephant a couple times to allow all cameras a clear view. Zooming in from that close gives every opportunity for eyeballs and hind legs and detailed armour shots. The rhino finally decided enough was enough and lumbered in front of us into some dense underbrush where he startled a wild boar. I don’t know who was more scared – the rhino or the boar- but they went different directions rather quickly. Pretty cool to see a rhino run.
It was late afternoon with the sun either creating a lovely glow or a bright mist depending on which direction one pointed. Late afternoon on the savannah with tall, whispy grasses – they call it elephant grass as it’s as tall as an elephant’s eye to be sure – swaying in the breezes. We would come in and out of forested dense jungle where the mahout used a stick to hold back branches from swatting us in the face on right or left as the path narrowed. Then we’d lumber through the savannah grasses with periodic small watering holes.
In one such hole we found a mother and baby rhino half submerged and hanging out. Wonderful photo opportunity as we were within 20 feet of that pair. We spent a solid hour or more comfortably bouncing along on our cushioned elevated platform. We were surprised not to see more birds and other than the boar, rhino and deer can’t say we saw much. But we saw everything.
We’re taking a small group to Nepal in October 2019. If you’re interested, please send us a note and we’ll send you some details.