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Tiger Safari india Why visit Jim Corbett national park?

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Tiger Safari india, Jim Corbett National Park

We have been lucky enough to visit Jim Corbett national park on 3 separate occasions since our first India tiger safari there in 1999 and wanted to share with you some of the very special qualities of this famous national park and why – at the right time of year – it is one of the best places in India to see tigers.

When to visit Jim Corbett National Park?

Firstly, this is also a famous park for birding in India, so for those with a passion for Indian birds I can straightaway push you towards a visit during the Indian winter – approximately from November to February- and suggest you also include the birding hotspots of Nanital and Pangot as extensions to your visit to Jim Corbett national park. However for this blog I want to focus more on the best time to see tigers; with the added bonus of seeing more of the extensive wild elephant population that lives in the park.

From approximately March onwards the heat starts to build on the plains of India and as for most of the tiger sanctuaries in India’s northern and central regions, this is the catalyst for more tiger sightings due to the resident tigers staying closer to the remaining waterholes. As an added bonus at Jim Corbett national park, this is also the time when the large groups of elephants come down from the thickly forested hills and make their way to the year round sources of water; which they use both for drinking and bathing. I am thinking in particular of the magnificent Ramganga river, which winds its way down from the Doodhatoli ranges and is a tributary of the world famous Ganges River. I have been privileged to be staying at the famous Dhikala forest bungalows and watched of 15-20 elephants slowly walk towards the river from the opposite bank and enjoy a family bath together; with the younger elephants particularly enjoying the cool waters and relaxing with their siblings.

Where to stay at Jim Corbett National Park?

On our very first visit to Corbett we did not fully understand the various access gates and opportunities to stay inside the park at locations such as Sarapduli and Dhikala – two locations we have subsequently stayed overnight in, both as a family with two young daughters (2011) and also by ourselves (2006). The KEY POINT here is whenever in India you have the chance to stay in an old style colonial forest bungalow deep in the heart of the jungle, however basic it may be, even if your chance to see tigers is close to zero, grasp it with both hands and never let it go……………….why? Because in this age of boutique wildlife lodges, sky beds, personal butlers and ‘glamping’; this is your chance to go back in time and see how Jim Corbett and his generation would have enjoyed the Indian Forests – let’s leave aside for the moment Jim Corbett’s penchant for stalking big cats and shooting them; that’s an entirely different blog!

So what does this mean for you and your tiger safari to Corbett?

When immediately we can say it has to be a split stay between a comfortable mid-range lodge which gives you access to the Bijrani gate and a 2 or ideally 3 night stay at one of the forest bungalows inside the park. That is pretty much how we have been organising tiger safaris in Jim Corbett national park since 2000 and it has worked pretty well. Avoid the corporate hotels in Corbett which have done such a good job of cutting off the natural migration of tigers and their prey from the buffer areas to the main reserve and choose as small a property – ideally owned by a local family – as possible.

What wildlife will you see in Jim Corbett national park?

We have already waxed lyrical about the chance to see tigers and wildlife elephants at Corbett and all I will add to that is the fact that this park is famous for particularly large male tigers and there is nothing more thrilling to encounter one in the extensive meadows close to the forest bungalows at Dhikala. However there is more to see in this beautiful park than just tigers; including rare reptiles, the most prized game fish in India (Golden Mahseer) and one of the smallest deer in Asia.

The drive from the Dhangari Gate and Dhikala is both beautiful and exciting. As well as an ‘outside’ chance to see tiger (there is a large males territory that you pass through) you stop at ‘Crocodile Pool’ for the chance to see Marsh Muggers and the very rare fish eating Gharial. This location did not disappoint but further on in a deeper part of the river we were lucky enough to view (from above) a 20 year old male tusker fully submerging in a 20 foot deep pool at the bottom of a small cliff. We were incredibly privileged, as due to our position the elephant was completely unaware we were there and therefore behaved completely naturally as he frolicked in the water and continued to dive, with his trunk occasionally showering his back in classic elephant pose.

Hog Deer are very shy animals but due to a relatively healthy population in Jim Corbett national park, this is one of the best places to see them. Often nervously grazing on the edge of forest clearings, you need to be fast with your camera to get a shot before they bolt deeper into the forest. So if you want to visit one of the best places to see tigers in India and are currently planning your tiger safari and hope to see two of India's iconic wildlife species, then Jim Corbett national park may very well be the park for you.

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