There are over a hundred national parks in incredible India to choose from. The Corbett National Park located in the state of Uttarakhand is a top choice. It is India’s oldest national park spread over 521 square kilometres. Residents include leopards, deer, sloth bears, Himalayan black bears, elephants, jackals, Indian Grey mongoose et al. Named after the famous hunter turned conservationist – Jim Corbett, the Corbett National Park was the first in India to come under the fold of Project Tiger initiative.

-1-Corbett National Park Elephants crossing our path at Corbett National Park

The landscape is dramatically diverse – the Himalayan foothills loom large on the horizon, the river Ramganga flows through the park, a jungle safari transports you from tall grasslands to dense forests to meandering streams. A treasure trove for bird enthusiasts with about 580 avian species, the forests here are always “alive with the sounds of music”.

Corbett National Park Can’t get enough of these landscapes!

The Journey: Drive to Jim Corbett National Park

It was the final stretch as we made our way from Delhi to Jim Corbett national park on a family holiday. We had left behind the dusty towns on the route and were now headed to the gates of the park. While there are many resorts in the periphery, we chose to stay inside the park at Dhikala, among the six ecotourism zones at Corbett.

We had booked our Corbett tour with Tigerland, a reputed safari operator. At the gates of the park, our guide cum driver was waiting to accost us inside on a 4 by 4 jeep. We left our vehicle at the Tigerland office and embarked on a two-hour long journey to the Forest Rest House in Dhikala zone. We spotted coteries of bemused langurs, a pair of alert jackals, a shy barking deer, and a peacock flaunting his colourful feathers.

Corbett National Park A majestic peacock welcomes us

Silent is the Night

As dusk set in at Dhikala, the forest plunged into darkness – only a few lights atop the Himalayan foothills twinkled from a distance. The sky, the hills, the trees – they were all engulfed in a shade of deepest blue. The Ramganga flowed quietly, carrying silvery glints of the moonlight. “Wake up early next morning – we need to be ahead in the queue of safari vehicles,” our guide reminded us one final time before retiring for the day.

Morning: A Rip-Roaring Safari

At the break of dawn, we were huddled together in the 4 by 4 vehicle, a tad bleary-eyed. The rev of the engine woke us up with a start as we made our way on dusty mud tracks into the jungle. We listened to the familiar calls of the cuckoo. We watched many a pied kingfisher fly over the banks of the river. We smiled at the sleepy pot-bellied eagle owl, ogling down at us. We chased lapwings as they darted in and out of our path. And just when we were least expecting it, a Royal Bengal Tiger showed up, peering nonchalantly as it crossed the trail in front of us and disappeared into the bushes.

Corbett National Park A lucky sighting: A tiger at Jim Corbett National Park

Afternoon: A Date with a Pachyderm

After lunch and a short siesta, we went on a leisurely safari atop a trained elephant. The mahout goaded the gentle giant as it swayed down with ease. The rays of the sun played peek a boo through the thick canopies. Emerging out of the mixed deciduous forests, the elephant sauntered into a vast open grassland. The sun, rapidly sinking over Ramganga, had painted a golden tint over the tall grass. A lone fishing eagle sat on top of a withered tree, perhaps admiring the panoramic views as much as we were.

Corbett National Park Sunset at Jim Corbett National Park

In addition to the national park, do visit the heritage bungalow of Jim Corbett in Kaladhungi. It has been now converted into a museum dedicated to the British hunter who later became a strong advocate for wildlife conversation. The museum contains Corbett’s personal belongings, paintings and sketches as well as manuscripts (Corbett authored many books, including the famous ‘Man-eaters of Kumaon’. The museum is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and remains closed only on the day of the ‘Holi’ festival.

A long weekend at the Corbett National Park, and we had perhaps not even scratched the surface. Memories of our journey lingered on. There was only one way to get over the blues – we decided to be back soon!

Best time to visit
October to June. There are six zones inside the forest. Durga Devi and Birjani zone can be visited from mid-October to mid-June and Dhikala zone can be visited from mid-November to mid of June. Jhirna and Dhela zones are open through the year for day visits.
Where to stay
Namah and Club Mahindra Corbett are a couple of good options. Book a day visit safari in advance. Or book a Forest Rest House inside a Ecotourism Zone, the accommodation is basic but comfortable, with all meals included.
Transportation
Fly to Delhi and then drive down for about 300 kilometres through Hapur, Garhmukteshwar and the Moradabad bypass. You can also take Ranikhet Express, an overnight train from the Old Delhi railway station to Ramnagar, the nearest railhead.