KATHMANDU: The number of foreign sightseers visiting the jungle safari destination of Sauraha, Chitwan reached an all-time high this fiscal year.

Nepal’s first national park—Chitwan National Park located in the southern Tarai—received 185,644 foreign tourists in 2018-19.

Arrivals recorded a 56.50 percent growth, marking a tremendous recovery from the disastrous years of 2015 and 2017 following the earthquake, the Kathmandu Post reported.

The national park is home to 125 tigers and 605 one-horned rhinos, making it a must-see destination for wildlife enthusiasts. The rich flora and fauna attract hordes of adventure seekers which has turned Chitwan into the most profitable park in Nepal.

Bed Kumar Dhakal, chief conservation officer at the park, said it was an all-time high number this fiscal year after 2014-15 when 178,257 foreigners had visited the park.

Following the earthquake and economic blockade in 2015-16, the numbers dropped to 87,391. Again in 2016-17, foreigners dropped Chitwan from their tour plans due to the disastrous condition of the Narayanghat-Mugling highway, the main overland route to the wildlife sanctuary.

Chitwan National Park was established in 1973. There are 10 entry points to the park with Sauraha being the most popular one. Apart from Sauraha, a large number of tourists visit Patihani, Meghauli and Amaltari in Nawalparasi, and these areas have witnessed a boom in luxury resorts and hotels.

Suman Ghimire, president of the Regional Hotel Association, Chitwan, said visitor numbers were satisfying, but not enough. “Resorts and hotels built around the national park can accommodate at least double the number of arrivals,” he said. “With the proliferation of luxury resorts, it’s essential to increase the number of visitors too,” he said.

Jeep safari, elephant safari, boating, and bird watching on the banks of the Narayani and Rapti rivers are the major adventure activities that attract visitors.

Elephant safari in the thick jungle is the main attraction, but the park does not provide this service. Elephants belonging to private hotels are not allowed to go inside the national park. Elephant safari is available in the community forests only.