Jim Corbett National Park (India)

January 2011

I recently went to the Jim Corbett National Park with my office gang from Delhi. This famous tiger reserve is located in the Kumaon region of Himalayas in Uttarakhand state, and has become a popular weekend get-away from Delhi.

So we were exploring the jungle in our safari jeeps when all of a sudden there was a ruffle in the bushes and this huge tiger came out of nowhere onto the track right in front of us. It was absolutely majestic, and it did not look dangerous (you can guess by their body language). Even as we were struggling to decide if we should breathe, hide or click pictures, voila! Another one came out of the thicket, moving ever so slowly and royally, to join his pal on his lazy evening jungle walk.

Suddenly someone shook me up, “Wake up, we’ve arrived at Ramnagar station”.

Our group comprised of 12 people, including my boss Jimmy, in whose honor this trip was planned. Hence also this choice of place – “Jim” Corbett. We left on Friday evening after office. Although with 12 people, taking a mini-bus would have made sense, but we had learned a thing or two about the condition of the road connecting Delhi to Kumaon (Nainital/Jim Corbett) during one of our earlier trips to Sat Tal. So we decided to take the convenient night train this time.

Something about the train: ‘Ranikhet Express’ starts from Old Delhi station at 10:40pm. It splits into two at Moradabad – one set of coaches heads to Kathgodam (train station for Nainital) and the other one to Ramnagar (train station for Jim Corbett), both reaching their destinations at 5am. The opposite happens on the way back – ‘Corbett Park Link Express’ departs from Ramnagar at 9:45pm and merges with the ‘Ranikhet Express’ coming from Kathgodam at Moradabad, and the combined set of coaches heads to Delhi, arriving at 4am.

So we arrived at the Ramnagar station early morning on Saturday and hired taxis for our resort. We had booked rooms at the Infinity Resort, located 9km from Ramnagar station at Dhikuli. Several other resorts (including Wild Crest and Club Mahindra) are located in the same area, on a strip of land sandwiched between the road and the Kosi river. That’s how they all say on their websites that they have a river flowing through their backyard and their rooms are “river-view”.

We had pre-requested for early check-in and were shown to our rooms promptly. The resort is lovely – our luggage was carried in a cool hand-cart, we were greeted by a huge elephant as soon as we crossed the reception area, there are swings, a TT table, a pool table, a tiny pond with pet ducks and a charming wooden foot over-bridge. Their central dining area is called the Gol Ghar (round house) where they also arrange bonfires in the evening. This opens into a terrace where you can dine beneath an open sky that comes fitted with a fantastic view of the river. With a little effort you can climb down from the terrace and walk right into the river bed. We did this twice during our weekend stay and it was absolute fun.

The rooms are tidy, each room has a balcony, and of course, they’re all “river-view”. Surprisingly there’s no TV in the rooms. The use of woodwork is noticeable throughout the resort. I must also mention their swimming pool (which I could not enjoy due to a bad cold that I caught right before the trip) – it is one of the few which is reasonably deep at one end, and offers pleasurable pool-side beer experience. (Although they could do with a smarter guy serving drinks.)

Our itinerary was open for the two days we were there. There was a lot to do inside the resort itself – river frolicking, swimming, TT, carom, pool, swings, cards, and partying. And of course, FOOD. Theirs was the best buffet I’ve come across at a resort. We all overate and loved it.

On Saturday afternoon we went for adventure sports at Garjia, a little further down from Dhikuli. There’s a suspension bridge on the Kosi river at Garjia where a couple of adventure sports operators offer adrenaline rush by tying you to a rope and making you jump from the bridge into the river. They even promise you money-back should you smash your head on the rocks in the process. I again had to give it a miss as I could not afford to get wet in the cold, though my office pals had great fun jumping from the bridge at Rs. 150 per person. Fortunately we did not have to seek any refunds. We procured booze before returning to the resort and had a great party at night in our rooms.

We had also pre-requested for a late check-out on Sunday. We checked out post lunch at 2pm; our train left only after 9pm, so we left our luggage at the resort and went for a jungle safari.

Something about the safari: There are several zones inside Jim Corbett National Park where you can do a jeep safari, the most popular being Dhikala, Bijrani, and Jhirna. Dhikala is the innermost part of the reserve with the maximum chances of sighting a tiger (which is still fairly low). You can do a jeep safari here only if you stay in the government’s Forest Rest House at Dhikala. Only staunch wildlife enthusiasts must stay at Dhikala (or for that matter, at any other Forest Rest House) – they do not allow booze, loud music and non-vegetarian food, and there are no “river-view” rooms; yet Dhikala gets booked months in advance. The other two – Bijrani and Jhirna – are popular among tourists staying outside the reserve. Further, there are two safari timings – morning (5am) and afternoon (2pm). The jeep safari lasts 3 hours, and happens in 6-seater jeeps where the driver is your guide. Permits are required, which can be easily arranged by the hotel/resort you’re staying at.

Our afternoon safari at Jhirna was nowhere close to my dream in the train. The forest cover was low, it was quite dry and dusty, and the only wildlife we saw was deer, peacocks, a creepy lizard, and a mammoth tusker, which appeared to be twice the size of our resort’s pet elephant. We stopped for tea near the Jhirna Forest Rest House where a hyperactive gang of monkeys was entertaining everyone with their antics. On our way back we returned the binoculars we had rented at the entry gate, but not before clicking cool pictures flaunting them.

We had a quick dinner at a restaurant near Ramnagar station and boarded our train well in time. We played poker for a bit before retiring to our berths. The train reached Delhi early morning where we split, only to meet again a few hours later in office.

Overall it was a fun weekend trip, and we were glad we took the train this time as it was far less tiring. We did not see any tigers, and none of us complained.

Expenses:

Train return ticket: Rs. 500 per person
Taxi between Ramnagar station and resort: Rs. 400-500 (9km)
Resort stay: Rs. 5000 per room per night (2 persons) incl. all meals
Adventure sports: Rs. 150 per person per activity
Jeep safari: Rs. 3500 per jeep (6 persons)

Overall expenses: Rs. 5000 per person