Nestled in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, Corbett National Park lies mainly in the districts of Nainital, Almora and Pauri Garhwal. The first sanctuary to come under Project Tiger (in 1973), it covers an area of 1,318sq km and includes within it, the Corbett National Park (521sq km), Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary (301sq km) and Kalagarh Reserve Forest (496sq km).

The park is fed by the Ramganga river, the Kosi river and their tributaries. It has five zones thereby giving visitors plenty of chances for close encounters with the park’s wild residents – the entry gate of the Bijrani Safari Zone is 1km from Ramnagar; the Jhirna Safari Zone is open all year and its entry gate is 16km from Ramnagar; entry to the Dhikala Safari Zone is via Dhangarhi gate (18km) and is restricted to those who have a permit to stay overnight in any one of the five forest rest houses within this section of the park; Dhela Safari Zone, an eco tourism zone set up in November 2014, has abundant flora and fauna; and lastly, the Durga Devi Zone, located approximately 36km from Ramnagar, is a birdwatchers’ paradise.

Permits have to be obtained from the tourist office at Ramnagar. Private vehicles are not allowed in the park. You can hire a jeep at the reception. Day visits to Dhikala are not permitted unless it is as part of a conducted tour organised by the tiger reserve.

Park Entry Indians ₹100 (day), ₹200 (overnight); Foreigners ₹450 (day), ₹900 (overnight) Vehicle Entry Indians ₹250; Foreigners ₹500

Park timings 6.00–10.00am; 1.00–5.00pm Elephant safari Indians ₹300; Foreigners ₹1,000 (2hrs) Timings 7.00–9.00am; 3.00–5.00pm

Photography Free

Tribhuvan Tiwari
Famous for tigers, Corbett also promises sightings of wild elephants
Famous for tigers, Corbett also promises sightings of wild elephants

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

One of the little-known delights of Corbett is not the park itself, where only the four-wheeled (jeep) or four-legged (elephant) are allowed, but the areas around it, where visitors can walk freely.

In their eagerness to get to the hotspot, most people often bypass these regions, which offer relatively high chances of spotting wildlife since animals move easily from the park into the surrounding areas.

There’s also something magical about walking in the forest – feeling the crunch of twigs beneath your shoes, the scent of wild mint, suddenly noticing that the trees are loosely linked by skeins of spider’s silk, gilded silver by the early sunlight. The forest canopy arches overhead and one instinctively talks in a whisper as if entering a cathedral. And there is no better way to birdwatch, especially if you have an expert guide with you, who can spot a tree-creeper hunting out ants on the bark of a tree, or home in on the distant toc-toc-toc of a wood-pecker at work, or make out the intricate tear-shaped nest of a weaver bird hung like a bauble on a Christmas tree.

Tiger Spotting

Most people come to Corbett for tigers. There’s no guarantee that you’ll see the cat, but the best time of the year for tiger-spotting is April to mid-June, when the forest cover thins out. Pugmarks, of course, are the classic tell-tale pointers of tiger activity.

Jeep safaris offer the best chance to sight a tiger, since you are able to cover a much wider area in the time available. The guides who accompany you on the safari are also well-versed in listening for warning cries of animals and know the habits of each. The downside is that quite often you’ll end up in a minor traffic jam when a tiger is spotted, with many jeeps converging at the same spot.

Sanjoy Ghosh
A herd of spotted deer grazing at Corbett National Park
A herd of spotted deer grazing at Corbett National Park

In the forest, you can also look out for signs of wild boars, where the undergrowth and soft ground has been churned up by their snuffling snouts, as well as deer-droppings and hoofprints where chital (spotted deer), sambar and tiny muntjac (barking deer) have left their mark.

If you enjoy birdwatching, then mid- December to mid-March is the best time to visit as that is when migratory birds make the park their home. But no matter when you go to Corbett, there will always be deer, elephants, crocodiles, wild boars, otters and mongoose to see.

Elephant Rides

Taking an elephant ride is an experience in itself, even though the chance of see-ing a tiger from atop an elephant is much less. There is nothing quite like sitting on a tusker though. You feel much closer to the forest, as your vehicle lumbers along.

Angling

Angling is allowed in the Ramganga river, but only with a special permit that has to be obtained well in advance. Many resorts, such as Jim’s Jungle Resort can organise angling trips, including arranging for equipment and permits for an extra charge.

Birdwatching

The park is home to over 650 species of birds and birdwatchers can have a field day spotting some of its more unusual denizens such as the bright-headed cisticola and red avadavat.

The park also encompasses the Kalagarh Dam, where the Ramganga creates a large reservoir – a great attraction for the many species of migratory birds, such as greylag and bar-headed geese, sandpipers and snipe.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Forest Rest Houses

The first choice of die-hard wildlife enthusiasts is one of the refurbished Raj-era Forest Rest Houses located in heart of the park. Reservations for all FRHs can be done online or through the main Reception Office of Corbett National Park in Ramnagar (Tel: 05947-251489, 253977). This is where you also obtain your park entry permit. Dhikala Forest Lodge (Tel: 251489; Tariff: ₹1,000–2,500, log huts ₹250 per bed), Corbett’s main campsite, overlooks the Ramganga Reservoir – perfect for sightings of avifauna, herds of wild elephant taking their young down to the water for their evening drink, and other wildlife. Bijrani Forest Rest House (Tel: 251489, 253977; Tariff: ₹1,250–2,000), just 9km from Ramnagar, is conveniently located. There is a small canteen, as well as a souvenir shop, where you can buy books. Sarapduli Forest Rest House (Tel: 251489; Tariff: ₹2,000) is further inside the park. You will need your own vehicle to stay here, and also have to make arrangements for food and refreshments.

Private Hotels and Resorts

Stay options range from hotels, guesthouses and resorts of all budgets lining the road north of Ramnagar along the park’s eastern edge and around the periphery of the park. Corbett Riverside Resort (Delhi Tel: 011-29551191/ 6688, Cell: 09811109596; Tariff: ₹13,000–31,000 for 3D/ 2N), overlooking the Kosi river, has a restaurant. Mapple Leisure Resort (Tel: 281330, Cell: 09818596333; Tariff: ₹6,500–9,000) in Sawaldey village has lovely rooms, a swimming pool, gym and restaurant.

FAST FACTS

When to go The best time to visit is between mid-November and March. December to February can be very cold with temperatures dipping to 5°C. At night listen to the cold wind (locally called dadu) sweeping through the trees. The park is closed from mid-June to mid-November

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

The Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Ramnagar, Dist Nainital, Tel: 05947-253977

Park Reception, Tel: 251489; Fax: 251012, 251376, W corbettonline.uk.gov.in

STD code 05947

GETTING THERE

Rail Nearest railhead: Ramnagar Station (19km/ 30mins)

Road From Delhi, get onto NH24. After Moradabad, turn left on the Kashipur Road. Follow the road that leads to the Amdanda, Garjia and Dhangarhi gates Bus There are buses at regular intervals for Ramnagar from ISBT