Wildlife tourism lures Indians to SaurahaChitwan National Park drew 80,223 tourists in the first four months of the current fiscal year, including nearly 7,000 Indian visitors.
Sanjay Patil, an Indian tourist, hanging a camera around his neck, is seen telling his friend about the place they were going to visit.
Among the few to-do things in Nepal, it's time for a jungle safari.
Patil came to visit Nepal from Mumbai, India, with a team of 150.
After visiting different places, they stayed in Sauraha on Thursday.
“I have a dream to do a jungle safari,” he said.
Most of the tourists arriving in Sauraha go for elephant safari in the Baghmara Community Forest.
Bikash Gupta, another Indian tourist, came to Nepal for the first time.
Gupta from Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, too is part of another Indian group of nearly 150.
Nowadays, jungle safari has become a prime attraction for Indian visitors, after destination weddings.
Gupta is one of the guests at a wedding ceremony in Sauraha, Nepal.
Indian tourists are coming to Nepal in droves.
According to the latest data released by the Nepal Tourism Board, the country’s tourism promotional body, Nepal received 287,244 Indian tourists as of November this year, the highest number on record, who came to Nepal via air transport.
Sauraha, a wildlife tourism destination, used to teem with Americans and Europeans since it became popular first in the 1960s.
Today, it is a major destination for Nepalis.
Tourists from India have also increased their footfall in Sauraha lately. They are coming in huge groups, according to the hoteliers. Indians now are top visitors to Chitwan, barring Nepalis.
Ganesh Prasad Tiwari, information officer of Chitwan National Park, said that 80,223 tourists visited the park in the first four months of the current fiscal year.
Among them, 6,752 were from India.
Before the earthquake in 2015, around 14,000 Indian tourists visited Chitwan National Park in a year.
Indian tourist numbers started to rise again after the earthquake but the Covid pandemic put a damper on the growth.
Tourists visiting the park hit almost zero during the Covid. Now, after years, visitors are making a comeback, said Tiwari.
“The number of Indian tourists has been increasing steadily. They used to come for a night’s stay. Now they spend 2–3 nights and visit all the places here,” said Damodar Regmi, proprietor of Nature Heritage of Sauraha, one of the hotels mostly preferred by Indian tourists.
In recent times, according to Regmi, there are a group of students coming from India on their exposure visits.
Suman Ghimire, former president of the Hotel Association Nepal Chitwan Chapter, said that most Indian tourists are from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, and Kolkata.
The number of Indian tourists coming in the summer season is high. October is also a busy month.
“Indians prefer elephant riding and boating,” said Jitu Tamang, president of Baghmara Community Forest, which also operates elephant riding and boat safari.
Indians are also fond of local food, Ghimire said.
As Patil knew that a visa was not required to visit Nepal, he planned to stay 11 days.
His group entered Nepal through the Sunauli border point and reached Pokhara via Siddhartha Highway.
The group then went to Kathmandu from Pokhara and arrived at Sauraha.
The bus driver in which Patil’s group came to Nepal said Indian tourists were coming to Nepal in a large number this year.
Kuldip Giri from Banaras, India started driving a bus in 2012. He often brings tourists to Nepal, mostly via Sunauli.
Tourists from his bus visit Lumbini, then go to Palpa and Pokhara. The tourists do not forget to visit Manakamana near Kathmandu. After returning from Kathmandu, they go to Chitwan and head home via Sunauli.
“Some tourists even go to Janakpur,” said Giri.
The road conditions in Nepal are frustrating, but that doesn't stop them from visiting Nepal.
“If the road construction is finished quickly, more Indians may come to Nepal.”
Patil from Mumbai finds Nepal very good, and thinks infrastructure is lagging in this country.
For Gupta, the cost of the Jeep safari was high.
He is also not happy with police checking on various points on the road.
“Many Indians will come to visit Nepal if there is hassle-free travel. We know Nepal is beautiful and safe[st] too,” said Gupta.