Sauraha in Chitwan wears a slightly different look nowadays since the boom has returned to Nepali tourism after the end of the insurgency in Nepal. In typical Nepali style uncontrolled tourism growth, it is a mess of lodges and resorts, elephants, souvenir shops, touts, and unruly tourists. But hey, its a spot where tourism is happening - hitherto uncontrolled!
Nothing comes without positive sides -
- a good growth of tourism has meant that the roads have gotten better and the access to Sauraha is excellent now. For those who remember, one had to wade inside a river to cross over and then either walk or catch a ride from one of the resorts before. Thats no more.
- as a traveller you have a huge option of stay, and a large variety to choose from - gone are the days when each resort looked almost exactly the same
- of course these also come with various options of costs, so you can either choose to stay at somewhere like Sapana Lodge, slightly upscale, but well done, a bit away from the humdrum, and pay a higher price, or choose a moderately priced Park Side, again away from the humdrum, but not as exclusive, but still with strong social impacts - or go completely away from all this and choose a property totally exclusive, and out of the area completely but still touching the national park - Kasara, probably the most upscale property in this area. There are many examples like this, just mentioning a few
- the money thats is being made from this tourism is doing wonders are anti-poaching, and Nepal till recently ran a pretty impressive zero poaching stretch of two years or so, until a recent rhino find.
- newer sustainable practices are coming in, specially with elephant handlers, with chain free times for the elephants, better training practices - all these come with growth no doubts
On the downside however
- the mess is a bit hard for the eyes, especially one who had experienced the idyllic laziness before
- lack of controls and too much greed means that there are over 45 elephants catering to the tourists daily, from six to eleven and from one till five or so, on the rides. Agreed that walking that much for an elephant is nothing much, but the crowd is crazy
- the sunset point at the river beach is an eyesore and such an exploitation of space, crowded, illegal and dirty, it really hurts
- the jungle seems to be no place for such crowds
Anyways, so whats the verdict?
The growth of tourism in Sauraha has its advantages and also comes at a price. Thats the truth. While people might decide to completely ignore Sauraha because of the downsides, there are amazing places still there, quietly working towards a better tomorrow, and proving to be examples of how to do it right. Research well, and select one of these players. Given more business, their strength and success will pave the path and become role models of the future.
Engage, be aware, and let your travels make a positive difference!