November to March is the best time to visit. The park is open from November 15 to June 15. April, May and June are great months for wildlife photographers. Winters (November to February) temperatures can drop to 20C. Visibility may be limited by fog till late in the morning.
Summers may be exceedingly hot between March and June when temperatures could rise to 440C. A wind known as dadu blows down the valley from about 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., lowering the night temperatures. In summer, dadu is followed by a hot wind that blows up from valley from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. As a result a thick haze of dust remains suspended which generally clears up only when thunderstorms blow.
Monsoons last from July to October when the park experiences heavy rain and the atmosphere is humid. During the monsoons roads are not navigable and rivers are prone to violent flash floods that can cut access off for days on end.
Sanctuary Asia encourages sustainability in travel, so you can choose from one of the TOFTigers, PUG eco-certified lodges in the park vicinity and help sustain this destination.
Aahana The Corbett Wilderness – Near the Khara Gate
Jim's Jungle Retreat – Near the Dhela Gate
Camp Hornbill – Near the Bijrani Gate
The Golden Tusk – Near the Jhirna Gate
Vanghat – Near the Durgadevi Gate
Corbett River Creek – Near the Durgadevi Gate
Camp River Wild Resort – Near the Dhikala Gate
Government rest houses such as those at Khinanauli, Lohachaur and Bijrani inside the park are for those seeking the true jungle experience. Unchanged since British times and slightly run to seed the rest houses are, however, delightfully located.
The Kanda Rest House is situated at a height offers a great view of the park.
The ones at Sultan, Sarapduli, and Gairal (next to the flowing Ramganga river) have no electricity or food arrangements, which should be made at Ramnagar town. Minimal linen, some crockery and cutlery may be provided by the Forest Department on request.
Elephants, tigers, jackals and porcupines may stray right into the compound area. There is also a provision for caravans and tents. The Dhikala campus (overlooking the Ramganga Reservoir) is the last point beyond which one is not permitted to go without a vehicle and a guard, and has very good tourist facilities. Log huts have 24 bunk beds and dormitory facilities for Rs. 100. Sheets and mattresses are charged extra. Cabins offer a little more comfort. Double rooms cost Rs. 900 with attached bathrooms. There is also a restaurant, a library and a small shop which sells food and toiletries.
Book well in advance with: Field Director, Corbett National Park. Tel.: 05947-253977; Fax: 05947-251376/251012; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Or The Chief Wildlife Warden, 85, Rajpur Road, Dehradun – 248001. Tel./Fax: +91-135-2744255/2741607.
Outside the park some resorts offer better standards of comfort than the Forest Rest Houses.
The luxurious and strategically located Infinity Resort is one of the better options available to tourists who can bear the stiff costs. Birdwatching trips, cycling and excursions outside and inside the park are arranged on request.
Reservation & Corporate Office: Delhi, Leisure Hotels Limited, F- 3/6 Ground Floor Okhla Industrial Area Phase – I, New Delhi - 110 020, India.
Mobile: +(91)-9910384481; Tel.: 011-46520000; Toll - Free Number: 1800 102 4652; Fax: 011-46520050, E-mail : email@example.com.
Quality Inn, Corbett Jungle Resort, Mohan. Cottages in verdant surroundings, 9 km. from the Dhangarhi Gate also provides a high standard to your stay with double rooms and meals. Tel.: 05946-85230.
Tiger Tops Corbett Lodge, Dhikala, Ramnagar. Overlooks the Kosi River with a panoramic view of the forests. Rooms are large and comfortable. The food is good, and there is a bar, a pool and library. Tel.: 05946-85279.
For low budgets, Ramnagar offers cheap accommodation. The KMVN Tourist Lodge near the Project Tiger Office has dorm facilities. Tel.:05946-85775/85225.
By Air: Phoolbagh/Pantnagar (51.2 km.)
By Rail: Ramnagar (19 km.) There is a direct train from Delhi to Ramnagar (250 km.) Moradabad, on the way, offers a convenient connecting point to and from other cities on express trains.
By Road: From Delhi, a motorable road links Corbett. The drive could take 6-8 hours depending on traffic in and out of Delhi and Moradabad. UP Tourism from Delhi organises 2/3 night stays at Corbett in Dhikala at an affordable rate. The tariff covers transport, lodging, boarding, all park fees and an elephant ride.
From major cities in the north, the park is easily accessible by road. There is a regular bus service from Lucknow, Nainital, Ranikhet and Delhi (Delhi Transport Corporation luxury buses).
A daily bus service leaves for Dhikala from Ramnagar with special stops at the different Forest Rest Houses.
Visitors must get permits to enter the park. The Park Administration Centre based at Ramnagar issues these. A booking chit is issued which must be shown at the Dhangari Gate. At the Amdanda Gate, permits are issued for daytrips to Bijrani. Four-wheel-drive vehicles, the best way to visit the park, can be rented on a per day basis from Ramnagar.
Sunrise and sunset elephant rides to the park start from Dhikala. Four people share a ride on a first-come-first-served basis.
Corbett is the ultimate tiger haven, supporting one of the highest tiger densities in the world. A plentiful prey base does, however, support a tiger population, variously estimated to range between 90 to 120. Visitors often report seeing the tiger on the main tar road between the Dhangari entrance gate and Dhikala. If you do not see one, pugmarks are a sure sign that they are around. Apart from the tiger, you could see as many as 50 different species of mammals.
Photo: Nayan Khanolkar/Sanctuary Asia.
Leopards are often seen in the hilly areas and outskirts of the park, because the larger and more powerful tiger dominates the prime areas. The jungle cat and the rare fishing cat frequent grassland and riverine areas. Elephants are the dominant mammals of Corbett, but even these are dwarfed by the larger-than-life vistas. They can be seen bathing, drinking and feeding in the Ramganga River and its food-rich surrounds. Herds are seen as frequently as lone tuskers are. You could chance upon them in thick vegetation or watch them from a distance from machans built over salt licks and waterholes throughout the park. Elephants once used to migrate out of the park, but the Ramganga reservoir has cut off one migratory route and some herds are now confined to the park.
Relatively easily visible are chital, sambar (the largest deer in Asia), hog deer and barking deer. Wild pig may suddenly cross the jungle road as you travel. Huge males wander in sounders with females accompanied by striped and marked piglets. If startled by your presence, the group often takes a moment or two from their foraging to regroup and make their getaway into the undergrowth almost in single file. Large male pigs can be dangerous if bothered and have been known to fatally wound tigers in battle.
Bharal, goral, Himalayan tahr and serow can be seen. In the Bijrani area chances of seeing sloth bear are excellent. Attracted by both termites and the sweet nectar of mahua flowers, the bears often seem inebriated. Jackals come close to the Dhikala campus, where they seem to thrive on small rodents and mammals such as blacknaped hare that live in the grassy chaurs.
The call of the langur is one of Corbett’s most distinctive sounds. Spread throughout the park, these monkeys can often be seen teamed up with barking deer and chital that have learned to feed on the fruit and leaves dropped by monkeys.
The gharial and the mugger or marsh crocodile are both found in the Ramganga river. Freshwater turtles are effective scavengers and can also be seen.
Corbett is a very important breeding ground for the Indian python, Russell's viper, king cobra and common krait – all venomous. Common monitors and other lizards are amongst the 25 reptile species documented in the park.
The tiger, wild dog, hog deer and Indian pangolin are rarely seen outside the National Park although they once roamed the entire terai region. The Himalayan black bear may sometimes be seen during bitter winters at Kandla, but they rarely descend to the lower slopes or valleys.Large packs of dhole or wild dog may be seen in the Bijrani area.
The Corbett Tiger Reserve is one of the world’s best birding habitats. Just under 600 species of birds including several passage migrants have been listed from Corbett, which is also the site of several birdwatching camps held by the Forest Department. One reason for the rich birdlife is because the park is located in the transition zone between high altitudes and the plains. Additionally, migratory birds are attracted to the river; especially species that migrate vertically up (in summer) and down the Himalaya (in winter).
Winter migrants include the Greylag and the Bar-headed Goose, Great Crested Grebe, snipes, sandpipers, gulls and wagtails. Habitat changes have actually benefited a large number of water birds like cormorants, darters, herons and egrets, storks, fishing eagles and kingfishers, whose populations have increased manifold. Moorhens have become permanently resident in the park. The Lammergeyer or the Bearded, King and Griffon Vultures are present. Himalayan Golden Eagles, Steppe Eagles, Oriental Honey Buzzards, Crested Serpent Eagles, Long-legged Buzzards and kestrels can be seen here. Apart from Peafowls, the Kalij, Monal and Koklas Pheasants are all visible (Chir Pheasants only at higher altitudes).
The Snow Partridge, Snow Pigeon, Woodcock, Rufus Turtle Dove and Himalayan Wood Owl are some species you may spot. There are as many as 17 kinds of woodpeckers, five different species of barbets, including the Great Himalayan Barbet, five different wagtails, minivets, redstarts, finches, cuckoos, babblers, parakeets and thrushes. Nights are resplendent with nocturnal birds like the nightjar and owls. Stone Plovers and Stone Curlew are active hunters on the night waters of the river. There can be no doubt that Corbett is an avian wonderland.
The park lies in the undulating Shiwalik ranges, distinct from the Himalaya in that they were formed from the products of massive erosion – sand, gravel and stones – of the Himalaya. In this part of the Kumaon hills, they melt into the Himalayan chain. Patlidun is an elevated, flat valley through which the picturesque Ramganga River, the only perennial source of water in the park, flows. Thus, cradled in the foothills of the Himalaya, in the Pauri Garwal hills and Nainital, the forest spreads over an area of 520 sq. km., of which a core area of 320 sq. km. is inviolate. The South Patlidun area ranges in elevation from 400 m. to 1,210 m. (the Kandla peak) and comprises a huge east-west valley through which three densely forested, parallel ridge systems run. Offshoot ridges go from north to south forming smaller valleys and these provide valuable and very secluded niches for wild animals to hunt and breed. The topography is varied with hilly areas, riverine habitat, marshes, deep ravines and flat plateaux. The Ramganga river enters from the northeast and flows through most of the park till it forms the Kalagarh reservoir created by a multipurpose hydroelectric dam, the largest earthen dam in Asia.
Photo: Bernard Castelein/Sanctuary Asia.
Bhabar vegetation is typical. Extensive forests of sal cover almost 73 per cent of the park in the lower hills and valleys. Haldu is frequently associated with sal as is karipak and rohini. Bakli with its red leaves grows on the higher ridges along with a species of indigenous conifer called chir. Also present are gurail, khetwa, dhauri, ber, amla, papri and mahuwa. There are 33 grass species in the park, including bamboo. Jamun is found along dry riverbeds in the more exposed areas. Sisham and khair are found along the Ramganga river. Shrubs are predominant and climbers common. Grasses like themeda are abundant in the chaurs of Patlidun while more open areas support the more common grasses. Rare ground orchids are scattered in certain areas. Lantana and marijuana are weeds that compete with local species.
Early morning elephant rides from Dhikala into the chaurs must not be missed. Jeep rides before dawn and in the late afternoons till dusk are rewarding. One of the best ways to watch wildlife without disturbing them is to take up post on one of the watchtowers. Perhaps the easiest of the lookout towers to spend time at is the one situated just one km. from Dhikala. Armed with a pair of binoculars, a comfortable cushion and sleeping bag, some food and water and plenty of silence, you could just come away with the experience of a lifetime.
Photo: Isaac Kehimkar/Sanctuary Asia.
The chaur at Dhikala is picturesque and abuzz with wildlife. En route from the Dhangarhi gate to Dhikala, to the right of the road, is ‘Highpoint’, from where you may see resting muggers and gharial crocodiles in the river. Visit Kanda the highest point for a spectacular view. The old forest rest house in Kanda used to have a visitor’s book in which Jim Corbett’s entries were recorded at Kanda and Mohan.
The Kalagarh Reservoir attracts waterbirds, mugger and gharial. The mahseer and malee fish breed here in Corbett. 32 km. from Ramnagar on the Nainital road, past Kaladhungi, is Jim Corbett’s old house which has been turned into a museum. There is an Orientation Centre at Bijrani and a restaurant that is worth a visit. At Dhikala, wildlife films are shown free every evening in the open area overlooking behind the canteen. The restaurant there serves up a delicious breakfast. Try it after a morning round in the chaur.
Trekking and walking in the wild is strictly not permitted.
The park has several entrance gates. The closest leads to the camp at Bijrani and is one km. from Ramnagar.
Dhangari Gate is 18 km. towards Ranikhet and accesses the northern and northwestern side of the park, along the Ramganga valley and the camp at Dhikala. Give yourself enough time to visit all the different areas of the park.
For birdwatchers, a book on the birds of Corbett would be good accompaniment. Kanda, Lohachaur, Dhikala and Gairal are good birding destinations, however, almost any location in the park can bring up unforgettable birding experiences.
Hire a four-wheel drive vehicle. Gates close at sunset. Night driving is strictly prohibited.
Travellers Cheques can be exchanged at the State Bank of India in Ramnagar.
If you plan to drive in winter, check out the smog situation. It can reduce visibility on the roads to just a few metres till noon.
Field Director, Corbett National Park, P.O. Ramnagar, District Nainital, Uttarakhand – 244715.
The Ramganga valley once supported an ancient civilisation, vestiges of whose existence can be seen in the shape and form of terracotta remains and temple ruins that lie along the river.
Sal Shorea robusta forests once grew in a wide swatch all the way across from Punjab to Assam. But humans encroached the jungles, and by the time Jim Corbett arrived on the scene, most of these forests had already been cleared. Nevertheless, this was continued to be a favourite shikar area and many animal trophies that decorated the walls of British offices and homes in North India came from these parts. Timber to feed the insatiable demands of the British government also came from here and it was only when Major Ramsay, a British officer with vision and sensitivity, called a halt to the destruction that the combined havoc of cultivation, grazing and timber felling came to an end.
Years later, E.A. Smythies of the Imperial Forest Service tentatively proposed the declaration of the area as a national park. And in 1936, it was finally notified as the Hailey National Park, named after Governor Hailey of the United Provinces. After India gained her Independence, the name was changed to Ramganga National Park in 1952. It was eventually re-christened as Corbett National Park in 1957.
Project Tiger was set up in April 1973 to protect the tiger and its habitat. Appropriately, the Corbett Tiger Reserve was the location for the launch of Project Tiger, which was officially inaugurated on February 1, 1974.