Anyone who has been to Jim Corbett will be in accord with one fact-until you experience a safari at Jim Corbett, you have never REALLY experienced a safari in its true sense. Be it the vast geographical terrains of different zones or the variety of flora and fauna, or even the adrenaline rush, every thing you experience here is at a completely different level.
I’ll have to go slightly back in time (technically this is a late post) to take you through my experience of this National Park. In a nutshell, it is one of the oldest national parks in India. It is also a part of the Corbett Tiger Reserve and Project Tiger, located in Ramangar, Uttarakhand. Corbett is a huge tiger reserve divided into 8 zones. Each zone has its own biodiversity, terrains and landforms. A few zones like Dhikala and Jhirna have cottages for stay. You can see a striking contrast if you go to different zones. Moreover, it is a futile exercise to complete a Corbett visit with just one safari. More on this, in the later section.
There are many ways to reach Jim Corbett, you can either club this trip with a Nainital, Delhi or Hrishikesh trip. We were on a pleasure trip during May 2019. My friends and I happened to be in Uttar Pradesh and Ramnagar is about a 2-3 hour drive from her place. As this place was on our list since long, we thought of taking advantage of the vicinity. The best way to commute in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand are state transport buses and volvos. We do not have an airport very close to Ramnagar.
We’d booked our homestay and forest safaris with a guide Mr. Ramesh Suyal, who has more than 22 years of experience with this forest. Rameshji had suggested to go with two major zones, Jhirna and Bijrani as night safari is not permitted in Corbett anymore. Also, it is difficult to get a night stay in Dhikala zone-you need a permit. You must be ready to spend enough money if you would like to stay in the forest.
We were in the Bijnor district in Uttar Pradesh and left for Ramnagar at around 7 am and reached around noon. It is a simple and typical village (sugarcane juice is worth having). It is ideal not to spend much of your budget on a great resort if you are okay with a decent stay. There’s nothing much to explore here apart from Corbett National Park, so after the safaris you just relax at your place of stay. Rameshji’s homestay was a simple bungalow with three rooms and one of them was ours. We were served homemade food, his wife used to manage the kitchen. The food was not sumptuous, but it felt like home. The family was very humble and cordial.
Our first day began with an afternoon safari to Jhirna. It had some beautiful landscapes with the tallest of trees I’ve ever seen. We did spot a lot of obvious animals like deers and elephants. However, we were constantly on the lookout for the tiger! The guides over here have a great skill of involving their travellers with their own hunt of finding the tiger. They will ask you to be silent, help you identify the alarm calls and trace the footprints of different animals-this gets travellers so involved in finding the animal, actually makes you one of them.
We did spot a tiger that day, but it was busy resting behind the bushes! Even after waiting for more than an hour, it didn’t move a meter from there. With some great binoculars, we were able to spot it. People who are used to meeting animals in the zoo would not enjoy this kind of animal spotting, because these wild animals are not that close to us.
This morning we went to the Bijrani zone which was a comparitively drier zone with lesser waterbodies. We spotted so many peacocks dancing, humming birds, eagles and kingfishers in their morning routines.
It was a peaceful morning and I will not forget this day when ‘The Jungle Book’ came to life! When we reached near a water body, I could literally see how all the animals live in sync in a forest! Monkeys, deers, sambhars, peacocks, elephants all of them were there-peacefully drinking water without hurting/eating each other away (as we read in sciences). The monkeys were also alert making alarm calls for the tiger. Alas! The tiger was not interested to come over. A lot of running around near hotspots, tracing the footprints of bears/deers/tigers and alarm calls brought in the thrill. There were times we felt we almost felt the tiger around us.
We had another safari to Jhirna on the same day, similar to the previous one.
Thus, all our safaris were fantastic and delightful. I could say that these were better than a safari at Sasan Gir because there are way more sightings compared to Gir here. Furthermore, the guides are pretty experienced and interactive. A traveller should be interested in such rides.
One flip side I noticed at Corbett was that the sovenir shops are not well developed and there is not government recognised sovernir shop. Perhaps, the government could look into these things and make it better.
To end this article, let me share an anecdote. I met a traveller in Ramnagar over dinner who comes to Corbett every year. This old British man travels to Ramnagar in different seasons and goes for atleast 10 safaris each time! It was such a pleasure to talk to him and look at his enthusiasm.
Cheers to traveling, and the sanity that it gives.