There are probably fewer iconic parks in India than Corbett; named after the legendary English hunter – turned photographer and conservationist – Jim Corbett. One of the first national parks in India to be given Project Tiger status and a place with so much wildlife and human history wrapped up in its origins, that a visit here just to hear about Jim Corbett; let alone see the wildlife tigers he helped conserve, is both enriching and fascinating at the same time. It is also one of the few tiger sanctuaries in India, which allow the visitor on their India wildlife holiday to actually stay inside the park……………and believe us, that brings a whole new dimension to your tiger safari in India - but more on that later!
So, if we can assume that most of you will be starting your journey to Corbett from Delhi, lets give you a BIG TIP straightaway and say that you should seriously consider reaching there by train and not going for the car option. We have visited Corbett national park multiple times since 1999 and tried both; with some of the car journeys – due to the dreadful traffic problems in Delhi – taking as long as 9 hours. The train journey is much shorter and will leave you just 45 minutes from your Corbett wildlife lodge. If you need to take the car journey because you are continuing up into the Himalayan foothills after your tiger safari in Corbett, then consider a stay in an airport hotel and getting on the road ASAP the following day. The first half of the journey if fairly monotonous views of Delhi suburbs as this mega city continues to grow outwards. You then start to hit some major agricultural lands before enjoying some forest views in the last 1-2 hours of the car journey
Many other tiger sanctuaries will ‘tell you’ that they have the largest male tigers in the country and of course there is no real data to make a comparison between one tiger park and another. However, we can say from our own experiences and our clients and wildlife guides who visit Jim Corbett national park, that the male tigers are really huge and beautiful to photograph. In addition, to see one of these magnificent tigers strolling along the beautiful Ramganga river; or actively hunting the sambar and spotted deer coming for the water. We have also been privileged to see the tigers from elephant back in the beautiful grasslands just being the Dhikala forest guest houses. Seeing Wild Asian Elephants in Corbett national park is a big part of the experience and if you delay you visit until March you will see a lot more of them around the open grasslands and making their daily migration to the river to bathe and drink. One of our most evocative and special memories of a tiger safari in Corbett, is crossing the river by elephant back and seeing a group of wild elephants on either side of us – simply amazing! Corbett national park is one of the best birding spots in India; with a bird list of over 600 species and including some beautiful rarities such as Swamp and Bengal Florican, Ibisbill, Sarus Crane and Red Headed vulture. However, it is not just about the birds you can see in Corbett, it is more about combining Corbett with mid-altitude Himalayan locations, like Nanital and Pangot, for the chance to see species such as Cheer Pheasant, Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, White-tailed Rubythroat, Streaked Laughingthrush and Black-headed Jay.
Many visitors to Corbett, either don’t allow enough time to visit the Dhikala zone of the park or it has not been recommended by their ‘nervous’ travel agents; worried about their clients reactions to staying in basic Forest Bungalows (some dating from the 1930’s). Of course, the park managed accommodation is very basic; but, we would go as far as saying that a tiger safari in Corbett national park, without a stay in Dhikala (or one of the other forest Bungalows) is not the ‘real’ Corbett experience and you will have missed out on that special ‘wildlife magic’ that makes Corbett such a gem. During our three visits to Corbett we have been lucky enough to stay at the forest bungalows at Dhikala and the smaller complex at Sarpduli. The Dhikala experience is more like staying at a small resort inside the park (without the facilities). As well as several different types of accommodation, there is a small restaurant and both jeep and elephant safaris depart from here. In the past, I have been able to organise staying for several hours in a watchtower ‘hide’; which was amazing for birds and provides an outside chance to see elephants.
Staying at Sarpduli is more about taking a small group of staff with you and enjoying a private excursion into the jungle of Corbett; with everything you need to be comfortable provided. We had great food cooked by our local cook and our daughters enjoyed the interaction of our local wildlife guide; as we enjoyed game drives inside the park. Some of these forest bungalows in Corbett national park can get booked out early; so, if you would like to take on our bespoke Corbett tiger safaris, then start your planning now!
After a few days enjoying the delights of Corbett national park, you might be in the mood for something different and if you are traveling there from March to June; a chance to gain some altitude and profit from some cooler temperatures. There is nothing quite like a mountain road, taking you from the plains of India to the hill stations. As the number of switch back corners increase, you will see the vegetation change; pine forests replace Sal and Teak forests and new bird species (both mid and high altitude) come into the picture. Specialist birding lodges have been set up in the optimum places for high quality birding and even if you are not a keen birder; you will love the different landscapes, cool temperatures and a chance for some easy trekking.
If you would like to combine tigers and birds on a unique tailor-made ‘tigers in corbett’ and birding in the Himalayas wildlife holiday. Or give us a call on 0800 999 4334 and we can talk to you about all the pros and cons of all the tiger parks and wildlife sanctuaries; based on 20 years of personal visits to India.