Trip to Corbett – My Annual Pilgrimage

The “call” was typical. Less than 500 yards inside the Dhanagari Gate, in the dense forest, everything seemed  to stand still on this warm morning. For once, even the wind seemed to have stopped. Tearing through this deafening silence were the repeated shrieks of the monkey warning the miles of dark jungles. It is on the prowl, Akram whispered. Engine of the Gypsy shut, we waited in nervous anticipation… nothing was moving, the trees, leaves, as if in fear… Our chase for the Tiger had begun!

With my exams over and the school shut, I hit the road with my Dad, Mom and Dadi. The trip was long – Noida to Corbett, Mukteshwar, Nanital and back to Delhi.


We left home (Noida) at 4.30 am for Ramnagar in our hardworking Maruti Swift. Our rooms at Camp Dhikala in Corbett were already booked. We had to meet up with Akram and his Gypsy at Ramnagar. We crossed Moradabad Bypass at 7.30 am but the  village traffic on Bazpur-Ramnagar road slowed us down – we finally reached Ramnagar some time after 9.30 am. It took us another 30 minutes to shift our bags to the Gypsy and park our Swift at ‘Jungle Lore,’ a picturesque camp on the banks of the Kosi river, for two days.

At the Dhanagari Gate, while my Dad went to make the necessary entries at the gate office, mom, dadi and I went to the gift shop alongside it. The shop is well-stocked and which sells Corbett Tiger Reserve souvenirs like caps, T-Shirts and coffee mugs. I was very hungry as we had started off without having breakfast, and had a pack of potato chips from the dhaba across the gate office.

All set, we started on what is like an annual pilgrimage for us now. The drive from Dhanagari Gate to Camp Dhikala is 32 kms into the jungles. This two-hour long safari is one of the most facinating and takes one through some of the densest forest patches of Corbett, dried-up monsoon rivers, some very steep climbs, and finally the Core Area, alongside the beautiful Ramganga River into the sprawling Dhikala Forest Rest Houses.

Most people with night stay permits, enter Corbett early in the morning by staying overnight at Ramnagar, or at the tent camps around the Reserve. At 11.30 am, we seemed to be the last to enter. Just 500 yards into the Reserve, we heard a monkey’s ‘call’ from the woods ahead of us. Moments later, we spotted a frightened Barking Deer among the trees little away from our Gypsy which by now Akram had parked. He had shut off the engine. Dad, mom, Akram and me, were all standing in the open Gypsy.

It seemed the world had come to a standstill. Nothing around us moved – the trees, the leaves… even the wind seemed to have stopped. Breaking this absolute silence at regular frequency was only the monkey’s shriek that tore through the miles of dense jungle and hills, warning other animals that the King was on the move!

For half an hour we maintained sharp vigil from the point where we heard the monkey’s call. We watched the path ahead of us with bated breath, in case the Tiger came down the forested hillside to cross the road to descend into the valley, into the waters of the Ramganga. After a tense 30 minutes and no luck, we decided to move on. Akram’s guess was that it could also have been a Leopard which is even more discreet than a Tiger and most difficult to spot. If it was a Leopard, it could have been resting on a tree, Akram said.

We proceeded to Dhikala, the innermost camp in the CTR. On our way, we stopped at the Crocodile Point. It is the  edge of a hilltop from where you can look straight down into the crystal-clear blue waters of the Ramganga River. At this point the water, some 100 feet below, is collected into a pond-like corner and we could see four huge crocodiles taking an afternoon nap. On the way we also saw a variety of deer – cheetal, sambhar, numerous birds, termite hills upto 10 feet high and a group of grazing elephants.

We finally arrived at Dhikala at 2 pm. We were alloted Cabin 3 A and B in a duplex overlooking the green, pebbled valley and the river. Beyond the Ramganga, which was broader here, lay the even more mysterious, silent, innermost Core Area. Only forest officials visit that part of the Reserve for a Tiger count from time to time. We rushed for the buffet lunch at the Canteen – mom, dadi and I had Indian food, while dad had Chinese. The fare was all vegetarian and there were about 7 items on the menu. The food was delicious, to say the least. There is a dhaba across the parking area, where one can order eggs, apart from a variety of regular vegetarian food. Buffet meals at the Canteen cost Rs 200 per head, so my dad decided to try out the dhaba food for dinner, which was supposed to be cheaper. The claim turned out to be pretentious because dad paid Rs 180 for a fried rice and egg curry – he might as well have enjoyed the dinner buffet!

The lawns in Dhikala are sprawling and inhabited mostly by gangs of monkeys. While my dadi and mom went off to a post-lunch sleep, dad and I spent the afternoon sitting on the wall looking onto the Ramganga with our heavy-duty binoculars that we had hired before we entered Corbett. Both of us were booked for an elephant safari in the evening and all three female safari elephants were taking their afternoon bath in the river with their mahouts in attendance.

In the two-hour safari, our elephant took us to the Ramganga riverbed which, right now, at the peak of summer, is miles of grassland. The landscape changes as soon as the rains come in June. Torrential rushing rivulets appear then, as if from nowhere, all over the jungles, to help the Ramganga swell into a mighty, robust river. In March, grass at some places were as high as eight to ten feet, where a Tiger could quietly prowl up before an ambush, hunt and relax. At a distance on the other bank, we could see two Gypsys. There had been frequent reports of Tiger sighting in the past one week, and in Corbett, whenever one saw Gypsys lined up in dead silence, it meant the sighting of the Lord of the Jungle in that area. Our mahout gestured to us to be silent as the elephant soundlessly approached the area through dense grass. My nerves were racing and I felt my heart pounding.Will I be second time lucky? Will I get to see the most magnificent animal on Earth? Not just yet…

The highlight of the safari was, when we spotted several Tortoises in the shallow waters as our elephant moved around them. We also saw a family of Otters. There were two cubs and two adults. One of the adults stayed back to watch us incredulously, while the other three scurried into their tunnel in the river bank, the moment our elephant approached them. This particular adult posed for us bravely and enjoyed all the attention, as we took his pictures. Further ahead, we spotted a Hyena slaughtered, according to our mahout, for dinner by a Tiger.

Back in the camp by 6 pm, we were set for a very pleasant evening with cool breeze from the river. We downloaded all the pictures on to our laptop so that dadi and mom, who were up and about, enjoying their evening tea by now, could see all that we had done on the safari. Dhikala has no TV, no phone or net connection, which is such a welcome break! After some tea and snacks, I took a round of the lawns, and checked out the dinner menu at the canteen and dhaba with my dadi. While my dad headed for the dhaba , as I mentioned before, the three of us went for the wholesome dinner buffet.

It was past 10 pm and time for to put off the lights. With two close shaves and numerous other animal sightings, the day ended on a highly exciting note. The next morning beckoned, full of chances – as I went to bed with my spirits high, I knew that somewhere in the deep dark woods, the Tiger lurked and two bright eyes were watching us!

(Part – II: Chase Continues Next Morning)

44 Comments

  • Very well written Abhijit. So jim corbett is like an annual pilgrimage for you. I am sure it would be fun to travel along with you. I am eagerly waiting to follow up with you on your chase “The next morning”. Looking forward to it. Its good to read that though you are keenly waiting for your rendezvous with the Mighty King of Corbetts, you enjoyed jungle as well :-)

    BTW how old are you ?

    • Abhijit Das says:

      Dear manish,
      Thanks for you nice comments. Actually it was originally written by my son Abhimanyu, 12 years old, DPS Mathura Road.

      I structured it and my wife did the final editing – on the whole a family venture!

      Regards,
      abhijit.

      • on the whole a family venture!
        ————————-
        Just like the trip, in-fact travelogues, in my opinion, are the same a family venture with memories of each one involved. May be after several years as we look our old albums, we will like to relive those memories by reading our experiences again and again.

        • Abhijit Das says:

          You are right Manish though I haven’t saved much of the pictures of our travel. In fact the printed ones of 15 years ago are still with me. Not the same with digital ones….you keep clicking and losing…regds

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Beautiful write up Abhijit.

    A breezy read. Would await the next part of the story.

  • Abhishek Bhardwaj says:

    Hey liked ur story.
    Infact today i am at Rudrapur which is near to Jim Corbett National Park.
    On my way to here passed Ram Ganga river also at outskirts of Moradabad but not much water could i see.
    Here for my work looks like will not get a chance to visit Jim Corbett National Park this time hopefully next time.

  • Abhijit Das says:

    Thanks. Next time should be before June 15 when the Park closes till Nov 15.

    Cheers!

  • Vishal M says:

    Hi Abhijit,
    For us also it is a six monthly pilgrimage for us(-: My son who is similar look age and name!! Abhimanyu with similar school DPS indrapuram!! Enjoys the same…We were there 15 days back on route to Dhikala at crocodile point… http://picasaweb.google.com/108400198493802829682/Corbett#
    I would also like my Abhimanyu to write a travelogue on same…
    We also usually go to Dhikala stay one night than Ranikhet,Nanital and this time it was Binsar….
    Next time we would also keep Dhikala+ Muktestwar….How do u book Dhikala as we always go one night before and get current night stay booking in line at morning 5am!! Ofcourse there is a fax and DD way which we avoid as all our programmes are sudden…
    Our 5 visits till now the tiger has allured us…Await your next day post!
    Regards
    Vishal

    • Abhijit Das says:

      Thanks Vishal for your comments. Glad to know about your son and that you also go to Corbett often and love the jungles there.

      I would think two nights at Corbett is just perfect than one night.

      I book Dhikala or any other FRH in Corbett by phone to the Ramnagar CTR office, get them to fax me a quotation and I make the payment in advance. Ramnagar CTR can allot you better rooms if you book in advance.

      KMVN also has an office in Delhi, Barakhamba Road, from where you can book Dhikala. But these rooms will be in Annexe and some of them are not well located or small.

      Regds,
      Abhijit.

  • nandanjha says:

    Wonderful write up Abhijit and Abhimanyu. I have not been to park (inside) for few years but it was a pilgrimage before that. Have stayed at Dhikala, Sultan, Khinanauli, Bijrani and of course Gairal.

    5 years back, our daughter was born and then our sojourns were limited to a day safari inside (that too not at all times) since stay indoors were seen as a challenging for ill-equipped new urban-parents :-)

    The plan was to do Dhiklaa this year but probably we have missed the boat since time is running out. would try.

    Folks – Koutubh Pandey, who runs a travel-business, from Ramnagar has helped multiple Ghumakkars. He also hand-holds for Dhikala bookings, so reach out to him. http://www.corbett-national-park.in/

    • Abhijit Das says:

      Thanks Nandan. I agree with you that Corbett is always a bliss. You have stayed in most of the FRH in Corbett which must be a great experience.

      For Dhikala you still have time this year – till June 15. You should visit in the first week of June. It will just start raining and jungle will be lush green.

      You are right about Koutubh Pandey – I have heard good things about him.

      Regds,
      Abhijit.

  • binno says:

    hi abhijit, really facinating to read the detailed account of ur visit to corbett national partk. but one thing is missing, how did you book the dhikla and the room charges etc.

    • Abhijit Das says:

      Thanks Binno. My booking Dhikala I have explained. Nandan’s recommendation is also serious. I booked two rooms costing Rs 1850 per night for both (Rs 925 per room). Both had Ramganga river as view. Rooms were big with double bed, study table (with power connection for your laptop ), side tables, big bath with sink, towels, hand towels, soaps, geyser etc. Fairly comfortable in such dense jungle!

      Regds,
      abhijit.

  • Bruno Goveas says:

    Great write up by Babu and nicely structured and edited.

    You lucky Dog!. Hope were with you this time around too like our trip to Mukteshwar and Nainital. Wiull get Aryan and Reena to read it too.

    Have fun. Hope your visits to the Dhaba were not just for egg curry and rice but also for some booze

    • das says:

      Babu says:

      Thanks Bruno Uncle,

      we’ll be at corbett this june and hope that aryan, reena aunty and you would be with us! Traveling all the way from Mumbai…

      Bruno – inside Corbett, no no-veg, no net, no TV…and no booze!! Everything in there is VEG!!

      Cheers!
      abhijit.

  • Brajesh says:

    liked the story, beautiful write up. please plan the GIR trip next!

  • debangshu says:

    Very well written! I am now waiting for my motorcycle. Planning Munshiyari in June on it.

  • debangshu says:

    Very well written! I am now waiting for my motorcycle. Planning Munshiyari in June on it. Come along if you want to. I might have another friend with me on this trip.

  • Meenakshi says:

    Wat a beautiful description of the jungle, movements and “call”…I loved the way little but certainly important notes have been taken about chips, egg curry…u feel connected. With the story, I felt as if I was a part of the journey to such a lovely jungle experience…

  • vasudev says:

    i have visited corbett national park for twice and i have unforgettable lifetime experiences..
    i liked corbett park too much and i want to visit it again and again.
    we had our own zypsy and we enjoyed a lit.
    we had entry tickets for DHIKALA from booking office (Ramnagar).
    and we entered in the jungle in morning 11 am and we stayed at dhikala resort and we had two SAFARI within the jungle including Core area.
    we also had a Elephant SAFARI.
    WE HAD A GREAT FUN & really that was awesome ..
    i suggest u all to visit corbett national park at least once in a lifetime..
    for any query u can call me at my number : 09760409262

  • Kunal says:

    Hi,
    Can someone please guide me where to stay in Corbett…we are 5 friends and our budget is also not that high… We are planning to start on 1st May..

    Will be thankful to you for any kind of suggestion

    • Abhijit Das says:

      Dear Kunal,

      You may book youself at the Forest Rest House in Dhikala. That is the only place where you may get a booking at this short notice. Rooms are of Rs 950 each. You will also have to pay entry fee on per head (Rs 150) basis as well as entry fee for the car/Gypsy (around Rs 500).

      Regds,
      Abhijit.

      • Rachna Tyagi says:

        Hi Abhijit

        very interesting article indeed. I remember meeting akram in July this year, he’s a helpful and warm person. Could you please give me his number? I seem to have lost his phone number and we are planning to go there again.

        Thanks
        Rachna Tyagi

  • I also visited recently to Jim Corbett 3rd time, the new animal we saw was a big Lizard.

    Nice writeup, keep it up.

  • Jerry Jaleel says:

    Good writing. Corbett Park is always a thrill to visit and each time you will see a different animal you never seen before. A visit to the Corbett museum in Kaladhungi and to his old home (The Gurney House) in Naini Tal would also provide an added pleasure. The local book stores always carry a good selection of books by Corbett.

    with best wishes,
    Jerry

  • Munnabhai says:

    So this is a new trend. keep it up family!! written by son and edited by parents.

  • ninad says:

    what a nice article the writer is telented !
    it would be lovely to have his views on my corbett write up too!
    http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/elephant-and-the-mahout

  • Abhijit says:

    Hi Rachana,

    Thanks for your nice words. I have also lost Akram’s number. But not to worry, I am there on 28 Nov and will meet him at the Ramnagar CTR office. Will post his number the same day here.

    Cheers!

  • S N BASU says:

    well Abhijeet ji,
    It was great to go through the details of your pilgrimage and hope to join you next time as discussed.Only your visit again and again to Dhaba was quite confusing, do you actually have a dhabo in the dense forest and run by whom? Well waiting for your this edition.All the best.
    with regards,
    S N BASU

  • Abhijit says:

    Dear Mr Basu,

    Thanks for your comments. There are two eating facilities inside the Dhikala camp – one is the one run by the CTR and second is the dhaba which they probably appoint a contractor to run. This option is for tourists staying in the camp but can’t afford the CTR restaurant.

    But what I found was that the dhaba was almost equally priced.

    Regards.

  • Ashwarya says:

    Hi ,

    I am also a frequent visitor to the park where I visit it around thrice in a season.
    Traveled the last to last weekend to sarpduli & again , visiting in last week of Jan to bijrani.
    You can add me on facebook ( Ashwarya Sharma).
    Would be good to have friends in the same city as Noida with similar passion.

  • Soumyajit says:

    Hi,

    We are going to Jim Corbett later this month. Please suggest what type of Safaris we should do and what is the approximate cost.

    We are staying at resort in Ramnagar.

    Regards

  • Abhijit says:

    For people staying inside the CTR, like at Camp Dhikala, there are safaris on Gypsy and elephant – from 5.30 am to 8.30 am and 4 pm to 6.30 pm.

    I stay only at Dhikala and it is easy to drive out into the jungles from the camp early morning. From Ramnagar, you will have to reach the Dhanagari gate (30 minutes) at 5 am to go in at 5.30 am – pls note this is the best time for spotting a tiger in this weather. It will be out by the water early morning. There are other gates as well but I find the drive from Dhanagari to Dhikala Core Area (22 kms) the best.

    As you are staying outside the CTR, timings may vary but it will roughly be around these timings. You can hire a Gypsy for the entire duration of your stay and go to the Park every morning and evening. One safari you can do on elephant. Gypsy can be hired from Ramnagar Gypsy stands while elephant will be organised by the resort.

    Gypsy cld charge you up to Rs 4000 for a two-day/night stay. You can bargain on safari basis as well. Elephant is on per head basis. It was Rs 450 per head in Nov 2011 from Camp Dhikala. From outside, it will be more. Also, from outside while Gypsy will go to the core area of the CTR, i doubt if the elephants will go that far.

    There are group safaris on canter vans as well which are cheaper. These can be booked at the Dhanagari Gate or any other gate.

  • Abhijit says:

    Hi,

    If you already not booked, book a resort at the Dhanagari Gate – there are several within 1-2 km from the gate. This will be a big help during early morning drives.

    Also, if you have time, you should spent a night in Marchula Valley which 35 kms ahead of Dhanagari Gate. The road goes down into the valley by the magnificent Ramganga river. There are tent camps on the river banks. Make sure before booking that the camp is on the river banks. You can ask for fishing rods and catch a Mahaseer! Enjoy the camp bon fire in the night.

    Cheers!
    Abhijit.

  • Soumyajit says:

    Hi Abhijitda,

    Firstly, your post on Jim Corbett is awesome, We are really excited now for our 1st visit to CTR.

    Secondly, your reply filled with all the information helped me a lot. But this time we have already booked a hotel near Ramnagar and our stay is too short (2 days). So will not have time to do a night stay at Dhikala.

    Just planning for a full day Jeep Safari may be in Birjani zone nearest to Ramnagar or do you suggest for two half day safaris at different zone. I agree through Elephant safari we won’t be able to reach the core Area, hence dropping it for this time. I also checked their website where we can book permits, I will do that very soon and will book the jeep on arrival as advised by you.

    I just hope that the Birjani zone has enough in store for us.

    Thanks once again

    Regards
    SOUMYAJIT

  • Abhijit says:

    Hi Soumyajit,

    Thanks for your comments. Two safaris would be better – remember spotting is mostly at dawn and dusk. You should do both zones.

    All the best! Abhijit.

  • Ashwarya Sharma says:

    Hi Soumyajit ,

    For gypsy , you can speak to Rishabh @ 9917382463. You can quote my name to him for the best & reasonable prices. Also , don’t do a full day safari to Bijrani as it is closed during the afternoon hours , you would just be sitting at Bijrani FRH in heat. In Afternoon , you can explore areas around like garjia temple or river kosi banks.
    Also , Bijrani is the best for tiger viewing , but for a change & not to be bored of the same zone , try Jhirna as well.
    You can share your email id with me where I can give you my contact details for any info which you might need immediately.
    Which resort you staying in Ramnagar ?
    Regards,
    Ashwarya

  • Soumyajit says:

    Hi Abhijitda,

    Thanks again for your advise. Have already Booked (permits only) for Bijrani, will try another zone like Jhirna as suggested by Ashwarya.

    Regards

    SOUMYAJIT

  • Soumyajit says:

    Hi Ashwarya,

    We have booked Corbett Motel at Ramnagar. I will try to book Jhirna as well as suggested by you..
    My email id is amisoumyajit@yahoo.co.in.

    Regards
    SOUMYAJIT

  • Aala says:

    Very nice blog. .for sharing content and such nice information for me. I hope you will share some more content about. the best wedding venues please keep sharing!

    Safari In Jim Corbett

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