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Chitwan National Park Elephant Bathing







Two elephants being bathed in the Narayani River, situated on the edge of Chitwan National Park.

Intro: Each afternoon the working elephants of Chitwan National Park are taken down to the Narayani River for a bath, and we were invited to not only watch on, but also participate in this fun (and wet) activity.

There wasn’t much activity to report on during the middle of my first full day at Chitwan National Park. After returning from the morning village visit around 10AM, I had around 5 hours to relax at the Island Jungle Resort. Apart from eating lunch, I just read and watched a few shows on my iPad, waiting for the mid-afternoon elephant bathing session to start.

Looking out across the Narayani River, which winds its way along the edge of Chitwan National Park.

To be honest, the middle of the day in Chitwan was incredibly hot and humid, so doing not a lot was probably preferable to being out on safari in the heavy air. With the sun high in the sky, it was also a less than ideal time for photography, so relaxing in my bungalow was the best option.

Two guests from the Island Jungle Resort climb on top of an elephant during the mid-afternoon bathing session.

Each day at around 3PM, the working elephants of Chitwan are taken down to the river for a bath, and the guests at the Island Jungle Resort are invited to not only watch, but also participate. The Narayan River is located just across the road from the lodge, so it was just a short walk over. It was a really playful experience, with lots of baby elephants involved, and as I watched on from the river bank, taking photographs, I thought about my mom who absolutely loves elephants!

Two Nepalese mahouts sit atop their elephants in the waters of Chitwan National Park’s Narayani River.

The elephants each have their own trainer or mahout who ensures that they behave, but I felt a bit uncomfortable about the metal hook they used to occasionally pull on the skin of the elephant, keeping it in line. I definitely didn’t see any mahouts mistreating the elephants though, and was told that this bathing session only involved female elephants as the males are the ones that can get a bit aggressive!

Travelers from the Island Jungle Resort help to splash an elephant with water during an afternoon bath session.

There was a group of local kids curiously watching on as the families staying at the Island Jungle Resort bathed the elephants. The families were nice enough to include me as much as possible, asking if I would like them to take my picture or hold the camera so I could get in amongst the action. But I was mostly happy just snapping away and watching on.

Two Chitwan elephants lumber out of the Narayani River at the end of their afternoon bath.

After around 20 minutes, it was time for both the elephants and us to return home, and I wandered along the Narayani River to where a couple of local children were swimming. When they saw my camera they started to play up, dancing and smiling, and it was one of those spontaneous moments that I just love when traveling.

Two local Nepalese boys in Chitwan play up to my camera as I walked along the banks of the Narayani River.

But the day wasn’t over yet. Next up was a late-afternoon jeep game drive, and as the light was starting to soften, I was excited about the wildlife photography opportunities that awaited.


  • 1: Wear dirty clothes that you’re planning on washing, since you’re going to get soaked anyway.
  • 2: Follow the directions of the mahout (elephant trainer), you don’t want to annoy these friendly animals!
  • 3: Wear secure sandals or just go bare-foot, and you don’t need to know how to swim as the river is shallow.
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