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The Sunshine Journey: Nepal

By Eva Bouwer, The Sunshine Journey

As part of my journey to travel & volunteer around the globe, I traveled off to Nepal this March in search for adventure. To experience the unique beauty of Nepal’s nature, I chose Chitwan National Park in the South of the country. I traveled to Nepal from India, but another good option is to fly to Kathmandu and then drive 5 hours to arrive in Chitwan. Wherever I go, I always try to pick my accommodations wisely considering sustainability, volunteering & giving back as part of social responsibility. In my opinion volunteering and traveling is the best way to experience a country. Thankfully, the offer of these accommodations is growing so I’m a happy traveler these days!

SAPANA VILLAGE LODGE

If you consider going for adventure to Chitwan National Park, I would recommend you book your stay with the Sapana Village Lodge. This eco-lodge is adjacent to a small river and a grass area, which gives you amazing sights and pure relaxation. Once you arrive you will find a dream garden, full of flowers and cute yellow bungalows – where the rooms are situated. In the morning, waking up with birds singing and looking over the beautiful garden, is a daily activity to embrace. Your breakfast is served in the restaurant where you have views over a misty field, where elephants are grazing through the mist. One of the magical sights at Sapana Village Lodge. At night, you are able to have your dinner under the stars. Their food is organic and vegetables come from their own vegetable garden. Did I mention this lodge is exceptional yet? The same can be said for service in the entire lodge: It’s a special treatment. The people working here are so friendly, relaxed and personal.

A SUSTAINABLE STAY AT SAPANA

Sapana Village Lodge offers a responsible stay for its guests. As an eco-lodge they work hard to switch fully to solar energy to provide electricity and to heat the showers. They implemented responsible alternatives throughout the hotel (such as water cans instead of plastic bottles). The lodge is active in multiple social responsible business, which means they invest their profit back into society. They focus on poverty alleviation and preservation of local heritage and culture. The Sapana Village lodge supports its own school: Sapana School. This school provides 600 children with education according to 21st century standards. Sapana Lodge also supports the Sapana Women Skill Development, a project that aims to teach local women a skill and help them provide for themselves and their families. They make fashion accessories, toys, living accessories and decoration of textiles and new items from recycled materials. These products are sold locally in the shops but also worldwide through their wholesale channel. The lodge also offers cooking lessons, crafting or sewing workshops and dance classes for guests to interact with the Tharu tribe Рthe indigenous tribe of Nepal. In this way, the lodge supports local heritage and preservation. They hired many Tharu people in the lodge to support their development and independence.

The Sapana Lodge is open for possibilities to volunteer, short and long term. Have a look here if you are interested.

The positive energy of the jungle, the dreamy garden, the sunset, the elephants surrounding the lodge, the sound of birds surrounding your room and the best bed to sleep in: it’s with no doubt amazing. It’s the perfect lodge to stay a bit longer: to find creativity, to write, to paint, to meditate, to focus on self-love. The positive vibe will help you achieve your personal goals.

ON SAFARI IN CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK

In search of adventure, visiting the Chitwan National Park is a must-do and you have multiple options how to experience your adventure: by boat along the river, by Jeepsafari or by walking tour. Even a multiple day trip with a stay-over in a local village is an option to experience life around Chitwan National Park. The river banks are filled with crocodiles and incredible bird species (try to find the kingfisher!) and you’ll definitely not miss the mysterious way the river wakes up at dawn when you choose a boat tour.

A jeep safari will bring you through the park at a higher speed, allowing you to chase wildlife such as rhino’s, elephants, monkeys, bears and even tigers – if you are lucky! The population of tigers in Chitwan is expanding so this might be the ultimate chance to see one. You will see multiple deer species, see and experience the sounds of many birds and will definitely spot the peacock – as it’s an icon of Chitwan National Park. On a walking safari you will be hunting paws and footprints of the multiple inhabitants of Chitwan National Park and will learn more about their nutritions, how they hunt and where they stay during resting time.

My personal experience was a full day jeep safari arranged with Sapana Village lodge and it was incredible! We left at 6:30h with a guide from the lodge who was experienced and very personal. We woke up with the park and the sun which gives you magical views. Sapana had their signature breakfast arranged inside of a conning tower with sight over the fields: breathtaking! During the day we drove through a big part of the National Park and were able to spot multiple rhino’s, monkeys, crocodiles, deers, peacocks, eagles, owls, birds and lizards.

We learned a lot about different behavior of these animals as well as how nature coops with its inhabitants here. My most favorite moments of the safari? Stopping in the middle of a dense forest, staying incredibly silent for 20 minutes, waiting for wildlife to show up. The excitement, the curiosity, the silence in contrast to sounds of nature: an exceptional experience!

THE ULTIMATE GEAR FOR CHITWAN

The area of Chitwan National Park is known to be humid and warm, yet it can turn cold at night. You are advised to be very protective of mosquitos and insects. My Nosilife gear of Craghoppers made me feel confident to stay out all day, knowing mosquitos and insects won’t be easily finding their way, as the insect-protection treatment will be able to reduce bites by up to 90%. The shirt (Adventure IILS Shirt in Seashell Pink) and pants (Pro Il trousers in Mushroom) are super light and therefore comfortable to wear and to move in. Both fabrics are breathable and stretchy, but also kept me warm enough in the early morning and at night. Both items protect me from harmful UV rays and come with multiple safe and useful add-ons. I loved the small add-on which makes it possible to clean my sunglasses and camera lenses throughout the day! During the safari I went out of the jeep multiple times and I felt confident and safe enough to do so with my sturdy and comfortable Jacara Shoes. This light colored, aquadry and insect repellent footwear fit as good as comfortable sneakers, but with the protective add on we need in the jungle.

People may underestimate the essence of good gear, but it protects your health and therefore increases your experience: joy, excitement and wonder! There is no time to feel worried about danger or spending time adding deet on your body – you may miss a glimpse of a Sloth Bear passing by. With this outfit, no way any bugs or insects were able to get me and I could enjoy Chitwan as I wanted too.

HOW TO TRAVEL CONSCIOUS AND RESPONSIBLE

When you plan your next trip, consider a sustainable accommodation and request for their Social Responsibility program. It gives you a satisfying and complete experience when you know their involvement in society and their responsible attitude towards the community. Your money gets spent very well and that’s something so incredibly valuable.

Pack light, bring a reusable water bottle and avoid using any plastics. Travel, shop and eat locally to support small businesses. Give the gift of time by volunteering during your stay. Donate to organizations you visit as part of your holiday-budget. And share your story! Our reach on Social Media can make a big difference for small businesses operating locally.

With Love, Eva – The Sunshine Journey

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