Covering a small area on the banks of the Rapti River in Chitwan District, Sauraha has become one of the over-saturated tourist destinations. As a place having its own distince identity, Sauraha has been a central focus among visitors visiting Chitwan and Royal Chitwan National Park. Many factors have contributed to the present over-saturated condition of this tourist destination. One of the reasons behind it is that it lies in the vicinity area of the Royal Chitwan National Park, one of the World Heritage Sites of the country, which attracts on an average of 100,000 visitors every year. Visitors visit the park for various purposes such as seeing wildlife and making a jungle safari. They can also involve themselves in the activities like sight seeing, jungle walk, trekking to religious areas, bird watching, trip to elephant breeding camp, canoe-riding, jeep safari, elephant ride, among others.
Apart from the attractions of flora and fauna, typical traditional Tharu cultural dances performed in the evening at hotels also lure visitors. As a major doorway to the Royal Chitwan National Park, almost 70 percent visitors of the total figure enter into the park from Sauraha. The Royal Chitwan national Park is a home to one-horned rhinos that are found only in Nepal and India in the world.
Sauraha occupies an important position from the point of view of tourism after Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is second popular destination for the Indian visitors. At present, there are more than 50 small and big resort type hotels that offer accommodation facilities for around 700 clients everyday. Most of the hotels are clustered in the Bachhauli Village Development Committee.
Despite the tremendous efforts of the locals to promote this area as a popular tourist destination, helicopters and other tourism entrepreneurs have complaints that the helicopters outside the RCNP have not been provided equal incentives as hotels and resorts inside the park.
It is one of the major activities. It is conducted in the RCNP, and the community forests lying in the Buffer Zone. The two community forests lying in the Buffer Zone. The two community forests – Kumrose and Bagmara – which are situated near the RCNP, offer the services of elephant ride to visitors. During their 2/3 hours of trip in the forest, they may see different kinds of wild animals like one-horned rhinos and deer grazing in the field, beer, leopard, peacocks and birds of different species and many other animals. From the back of giant elephants, they can be closer to grazing rhinos and take photographs. It they are lucy enough, they can even see tiger and other nocturnal animals in their trip.
Canoe riding in the Rapti River
The lovers of bird watching can go for boating in the Rapti River in the morning with expert guides. They enjoy both bird watching and boating in the Rapti River.
Thise who want to see wildlife in the park can use jeeps. During their five hours of jeep safari, they can take photographs of wildlife. According to the local hoteliers, the government has no clear policy regarding the
permission of running the jeeps. The government used to provide 10 jeeps for the purpose of jeep safari in the past but it has adopted a new policy regarding it. From April this year, only hotels are allowed to run only five jeeps a day for offering jeep safari service to visitors.
Visitors having enough courage can go for jungle walk for short or long time. But the risk has to be taken by visitors themselves.
As the name of Chitwan is derived from two Tharu words – Chit (meaning dense in local language) and Ban (forest) – this place has also become a famous destination to enjoy typical tharu cultural dances – long stick dance (in local language it is called Vajaiti which shows how the ethnic Tharu community spent their life in the past living near the forest), Damphu or Phagui, Thakara and Jhirka. These typical dances are performed in the central part of small city of Sauraha. Dhampu or Phagui is a dance mainly performed on the day of Phagu Purnima, which is a main festival of Tharu people. One has to pay Rs. 50 for enjoying the programme.
Visitors also can experience their ethnic groups’ cultural programmes in the area Chautari Culture Programme is also condcted by a group. People can enjoy both cultural programmes separately. For this, a two-day package is necessary. The Chautari culture is a mixed one. Having seen the Chautari culture, one can be familiar with different ethnic groups like Tharu, Rai, Gurung and Magar.
Chutka is an ethnic cultural dance common among the Gurung and Magar communities and other folk dances like Jhyaure and Bhojpuri are also the items of Chautari cultural programme. Peacock and Yak dances are performed by the groups. Milan Lama, founder Director of Chautari cultural program, says that he has got full support from local people to perform such programmes there.
Lama wants to organize all kinds of cultural program in the same area so that visitors could be able to observe all Nepalese cultural dances together.