Corbett – Well! Almost

I’ve heard the call of the wild since a very tender age, but never really answered it the way I wanted to (when I say ‘wild’, I mean it in all perceivable senses). When Jim Corbett came calling, it was no different. So, this travel account is not going to be the ideal guide on how to plan a visit to the Corbett national park. Rather, my endeavor is to list a few things you should not do when planning a trip to the legendary abode of the Royal Bengal Tiger. To those who are acquainted with me, this travel account doesn’t involve royal enfields. As part of my office excursion party, I took my wife and eight-month-old son on a trip to the Corbett national park. As it turned out, it was like looking for Kashmir in Kashmere pulao. Bad joke? Can’t help it. There was very little of Corbett national park in the entire trip. The majestic resorts in Dhikuli, the Garjia temple, the Koshi River, the waterfall in Kaladhungi, and a day trip to Nainital, constituted a nice and comfortable 3-day trip, but overshadowed the real thing. Bear with me as I try and stitch all those elements together to produce a moderately readable travel story.

Corebett National park - Bijrani gate

Corbett National park - Bijrani gate



26th Nov, 2009, Midnight

The build up to the excursion was great with everybody expecting to spot a tiger out in the wild. The kind of sensation and thrill that majestic animal arouses is unmatched. The 300 strong excursion party boarded ultra comfortable Volvo buses from various parts of Delhi and NCR. My 8-month old slept comfortably on our laps much to our relief. His first nightlong bus journey and he didn’t seem to mind. With lots of anticipation, we headed for Corbett.

27th Nov, 2009

By daybreak, we reached Dhikuli, six kms beyond Ramnagar. These areas, once frequented by Jim Corbett in pursuit of the legendary Kumaon man-eaters, looked like sparsely populated villages with lots of luxury resorts thrown in between. We had booked as many as 4 resorts. Room allocations etc. were neatly handled and by 7-30 AM we found ourselves comfortably perched in a room with all modern amenities. As wifey and I found the resort’s settings spellbinding, sonny dear relished the broad and soft bed.

The Resort

Tarika Jungal Park

Tarika Jungal Park


We stayed in Tarika Jungal (that’s how they spell it) Park, a newly built resort exuding richness and great taste. Equipped with picturesque cottages, a swimming pool, hammocks, and poolside recliners, Tarika is the ideal blend of comfort, luxury, and security. There are lots of options for kids too with a small pool, a park, and a games parlor. On the flip side, it doesn’t provide you with the ‘in the jungle’ feel (there are a few other resorts that do). All in all, a good option for people looking for luxury in the lap of nature, but not so good if exploring the jungle and tracking animals is the main agenda.

My wife & son soaking up the sun

My wife & son soaking up the sun

The Start of Activities

We spent the morning and noon lazing around in the resort and clicking photographs. We were scheduled to visit the museum and the Garjia Temple in the afternoon. The Corbett museum was something I really looked forward to, but it all went wrong. It’s not easy to control and move a group that is three hundred strong. By the time we got going, it was too late for the museum. The temple, to our dismay, was a 5 km trek in to the jungle. A few, including us, braved it to reach the base of the temple perched on a sharp hillock. On the way, we crossed the river Koshi over a hanging bridge. The river looked impressive even in winters. The walk was pretty taxing on the lazy bones, but the serene environment kept the minds fresh.

That was it for day one. Nothing of Corbett National park yet. We returned to the resort. The evening saw us having fun with drinks, dj, and dinner.

The group had to be divided in to two parts for the jungle safari planned for the next two mornings. My name came up in the second group planned for Sunday. Terrible! It meant another day wasted without a glimpse of the park. In anguish, I took a couple of extra drinks and slept tight.

28th Nov, 2009

Woke up leisurely by 8 or so and went down to the restaurant for breakfast by 9. The safari party returned in parts and feedbacks were not encouraging. One, it was freezing cold early in the morning, two, only a 2-hour safari along man-made tracks, and three, very few animals on view, let alone a tiger. A bit of a damp squib! While animal sightings truly depend on luck, braving the cold with an 8-month-old for just a two-hour ride didn’t seem worth the effort. ‘There won’t be much of Corbett on this trip’, I told myself.

The plan for that day involved a few fun games before lunch and then some adventure activities in the afternoon along the river Koshi. I thought I could do better and booked a cab through the resort for a day trip to Nainital via Kaladhungi (place where Jim Corbett lived).

The Corbett Waterfall

28 kms beyond Ramnagar is Kaladhungi and at Kaladhungi is the famous Corbett waterfall. Need to get entry tickets, which are 20 bucks for the car and 10 bucks each for all adults and kids above 5 years. 3 kms inside the gate, we had to leave the car behind and walk. Spare me the cliché, but that half a km walk was out of this world. Chirping of birds and our own breathing were the only sounds we could hear. My 8-month-old too could sense the unusual and got really excited. Closer to the fall, we could hear the familiar sound of water falling from a height. It’s not the biggest waterfall you’ll see, but it’s well worth a visit. There is a small pool where the falling water gathers before channeling out systematically. Although there is a stern warning not to get in to the water, people do go in for a dip.

The Corbett Waterfall

The Corbett Waterfall


At the Corbett Waterfall

At the Corbett Waterfall

We then made a move for Nainital. From Kaladhungi it’s a 35 km climb. The last time I took that route was last year and there was a lot of work in progress and the results showed this time. The tarmac looked flawless with loads of protective barriers, markers and night reflectors. Of late, I’ve observed that Uttarakhand has better roads than Himachal Pradesh when it comes to hills.

Not many know about the Kaladhungi route to Nainital. The Rampur-Rudrapur-Haldwani route is the more frequented. I have first hand experience of both and I would advise the Kaladhungi route any day. While the roads beyond Haldwani is just as good, the road leading to Haldwani from Muradabad is terrible. It may have improved of late, but the last time I saw it, it was a real pain. The Moradabad-Kaladhungi route is a dream in comparison. It cuts through the Tanda reserve forest and has wonderful views. Kilometers wise both are similar.

Nainital

My rendezvous with Nainital came full circle this time. I had seen it in prime summer, bright, sunny and very pleasant; and I had seen it in monsoon, wet, cloudy and chilly. This time, I saw it in winters, foggy, windy and freezing. The whole town had a sleepy feel to it despite being packed to capacity with tourists. I made sure my son was fully insulated in his pram and set off for a walk.

A huge lake engulfed by fog and mist all the way, colorful boats floating around, tourists in bright woolens, and vendors selling all kinds of colorful stuff, Nainital looked straight out of an artist’s canvas. We were slightly iffy about going for boating with the baby, but the temptation was too strong. In the end, it was great fun. One just needs to be extra careful, that’s it.

The Naini Lake

The Naini Lake


Lovely view from the boat

Lovely view from the boat

Boating was followed by a ropeway ride to snow point. The snow point is 1100 feet above Nainital and people warned us about the temperature at the top. But boy! Was there a surprise in store? In the trolley, halfway up, we suddenly broke out of the layer of fog in to bright sunshine. The mist blocked the view of the Naini Lake from the top, but the distant snowcapped peaks were clearly visible. It’s nothing less than a wonder to see the great Himalayan peaks with naked eyes from a perceived distance of 120 kms.

View of the snow-capped peaks

View of the snow-capped peaks

It was very windy up at the top and with night approaching, the temperature started to dip rapidly. So, we beat a hasty retreat. By the time we got down to Nainital, it was almost dark. We got an eyeful of fully lit Nainital and got back in to the car.

The Return Journey

The return journey was extremely romantic. The crimson western sky provided a few sensational shots and made my eight-month-old let out a big “Ho”. He, even at this age, has a great eye for the unusual. Hope this stays with him as he grows up. As night set in, the moon took over and flooded the forests and mountains with gallons of liquid silver. Poets would have created poetry, singers would have sung their hearts out in such settings. But the unfortunate night had only my wife and I beholding with my son fast asleep on my lap.

Sunset in Nainital

Sunset in Nainital

We got back to the resort comfortably by 7 PM. A day well spent.

29 Nov, 2009

Corbett National Park

Finally, the real thing! I decided to go alone for the safari and later, thanked god I did. Corbett is divided in to four main zones, Jhirna, Sonanadi, Bijrani, and Dhikala. The first one is open round the year, but the rest open for the period of November to June. We entered through the Bijrani gate in a Maruti Gypsey. 6 kms in to the forest is the Bijrani forest rest house and an adjoining tea stall. All the safari vehicles gathered there for a tea break. Till that point, I could only spot a few deers, as I almost froze hard. Holding the hot cup of tea restored mobility in my fingers and things got slightly better with the sun coming out. The forest rest houses are the ideal places to stay if one wants to experience the jungle proper. Multiple safaris with experienced and enthusiastic guides would increase chances of spotting a tiger or other rare animals. In our case, we had to be very lucky to spot anything other than deers and monkeys and unfortunately we were not. The drive through the forest was delightful otherwise, but the animals stayed away from us.

Bijrani Forest Rest House

Bijrani Forest Rest House


Male spotted deer

Male spotted deer


Hog deer

Hog deer

Back in the resort, I learnt that one of the gypsies had spotted a tiger. That’s how it goes. If you are lucky, it happens for you. But people must look to maximize their chances. Corbett National Park is a huge area and there is a lot to explore. Research, planning, and time are the three factors that’ll make the difference between delight and disappointment.

Conclusion

This trip gave me the know-how to plan one of my own in the future. Corbett will see much more of my family and me. I think the best approach will be to not think about the tigers only. The rivers around Corbett are full of fish. One can do game fishing for the legendary mahseer and goonch. Or, one can put a chair on the rest house veranda in the night and hear all kinds of animal calls. I’ll do all of these and more when I am back. Till then, may the animals thrive, amen!

13 Comments

  • ?? ?? ??????? ?? ??? ??????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ???? ??? ??? ?????? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ??? ??????? ??? ??????? ?? ?? ??? ?? ?? ?? ?? ???? ?? ??? ????? ??? ?? ??? ???? ??? . ????? ???? ??? ????? ??? ?? ??? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?? ?? ??? ?? ???? ??????? ???? ??? ????? ???? ?????? ?? ??.
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    ???? ?? ???? ???? ?? ??? ?? ???? ?????? ??????? ???? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ??????? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ????? ?? ?? ??? ?? ‘?????? ???’ ??? ???? ????. ?? ?? ?? ??? ???? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?? ??? ????? ???? ???? ??????? ???? ?? ????? ????? ???? ??? ????? ??? ???? ???? ??. ?????? ?? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ???. ????? ????? ?? ????? ????? ??? ????? ??????? ??? ??? ???? ?????? ???? ??? ?? ????? . ?? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ??? ?? ?????. ?????? ??? ???? ????? ?? ????? ??????? ?? ?????? ?? ????? ?? ??????? ?? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ???? ??? ???? ????? ???.
    ??? ??? ??? ?? ????? seva ?? bina ?? aate ??? ?? ?? jaroor miliyega.

  • My email is
    thejungleguide@gmail.com

    My blog is
    http://www.corbettsafari.blogspot.com

    My contact no. is
    09837092025
    09359363083

    • Anandarup Nandi says:

      Dear Koustubh, I am thrilled to find a guy like you. Your guidance will surely help me fulfil my dream of exploring Corbett. I plan to be there again early 2011. Your contact details I will treasure.

      Yeah, I did meet Ranjitji.

      Thank you so much :)

  • tiger says:

    delightful pictures and a good write up– for my favourite destination. since you went for a day safari, it is not usual to spot tigers in such a short period and gypsy drivers/guides do the usual trip and rush you out.

    but you will be back.

    • Anandarup Nandi says:

      Thanks tiger. You’re bang on. The safari was a real rush and the guide was not the best one out there. I’ll plan it better next time.

  • nandanjha says:

    this one is different, with no Bullet, no Paaji, less of adrenaline plot but still the greatest engagement as a reader.

    Thanks for the Bijrani Pic, it seems that there have been a major makeover for the on-the-skirts FRH. Bijrani and Aamdanda was never a very popular place to stay since one could go in through Dhanagarhi even for day safaris. all that stopped (for good and for good) and now only FRH guests can enter through the Dhanagarhi gate.

    I haven’t stayed inside since last 6 odd years (and probably stayed at all the huts in prev years), everytime thinking that probably I should give a little more time for my 2-3-4 year old but now its time to venture and the plan is to be there sometime late Feb/early March.

    Koustubh – I wont mind a nagging e-mail beginning next year to get through the logistics and I can’t do it without your support.

    Corbett should see more of you Anand.

    • Anandarup Nandi says:

      Thanks Nandan!

      I was slightly skeptic about publishing this one. There wasn’t much to write about I thought. But finally decided to go ahead with it lest my wife would think I value my bullet trips only :)

      By the way, Corbett has already seen a lot of you it seems. Ill definitely talk to you when I plan my next trip there.

      Cheers :)

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Its good to see the family-man Anandarup :-) and till now I used to wonder that you are still living the good-old bachelor life.

    So the lady luck smiled at you moving up at the Snow-point in Naini. I could virtually see the smile on your face, with your faces getting lit just like the sun-shine. Sun-set picture is superb, no wonder that li’l kid was also not able to hide his joy.

    I am sure that the small encounter with Jim is enough to call you again and again … And jungles are jungles, tiger is plus but otherwise as well its such a pleasant experience to roam around in wild.

    I have not yet taken help from Kostubh, as I have not visited Corbett for a long time, but for sure it is a real pleasure to have his contact information and his willingness to help us. Thanks Kostubh.

  • Anandarup Nandi says:

    Sorry for the late reply manish.

    Yeah, if I managed to keep people guessing about my marital status, that’s a decent complement to me :) thank you…
    Actually, I have a very supportive family that allows me to do my own thing from time to time. In return, I just make sure the family is not deprived of anything.

    You’re right about jungles. Tiger or no tiger, Corbett National Park is fascinating. I am planning another visit early next year. Hope to explore the park better then.

    Kostubh will be my advisor, surely!

  • Ranjit says:

    Hi Anandrup,
    This is Ranjit, Resort manager at Tarika Resort. I am really pleased with your feedback for our Resort. I am leaving Tarika Group after serving for 5 years and going to Tadoba also famous for Tiger Reserve. In future if u plan for Corbett or Tadoba pls let me know. My email id is ranjitmandal@gmail.com.

    Thanks
    Ranjit

    • Anandarup Nandi says:

      Hi Ranjit, am really glad to receive this comment from you. I was part of the touring party from InfoPro India Pvt. Ltd. Noida. We visited in the last week of November, you may remember. I’ll surely get in touch with you in future. By the way, can you plz brief me a little on Tadoba? That’s a name I am hearing for the first time.

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