Luxury in the wild at Jim Corbett National Park

Updated: Apr 21, 2019, 08:27 IST | Bhupen Patel | Mumbai

The famed safari to spot the elusive Shere Khan aside, Jim Corbett also makes room for those who just want to stretch their legs and relax

Pic/Bhupen Patel
Pic/Bhupen Patel

The adrenaline rush of anticipating a face-off with a tiger in the scorching mid-March heat at Jim Corbett National Park, is unparalleled. As the sun rose that morning, we drove into jungle with our trusted lieutenant, Kunwar Singh Rawat, an accomplished naturalist. The excitement was palpable, when he alerted us after spotting the pugmarks of a tiger.

"Keep looking around, he is here," he said in a hushed tone. Rawat instructed our driver to stop the engine of our gypsy and asked us to stay calm. With our eyes popping out in expectation, each one of us scanned every corner of the jungle, for the magic to unfold. We had our heart set on every move and every voice in the bushes. While our pulses raced in the hope of witnessing the wild cat in its home territory, the chirping birds in different sizes and colours made for a soothing sight.

After a few minutes of bated breath, Rawat quickly gauged that the tiger had moved away from our location. We had just missed it by a few minutes. While the striped big cat eluded this writer, other wild animals and birds crossing our paths made the disappointment bearable.

Kumaoni cuisine served at Mankanthpur village, Kotabaug
Kumaoni cuisine served at Mankanthpur village, Kotabaug

Animal planet
Spread across 520 sqkm, Corbett is home to the endangered Asiatic elephant and other critically endangered species, including the ghariyal, and mammal species such as the Asiatic black bear, hog deer, walking deer, sambar, sloth bear, yellow-throated marten and otters. It also hosts diverse aqua fauna and birdlife with approximately 600 species, including the great pied hornbill, white-backed vulture, Hodgson's bushchat, Pallas fish eagle, golden oriole, tawny fish owl, Indian pitta, scarlet minivet and reptiles like crocodiles and the king cobras. "The place is known for its various geographical and ecological characteristics with splendid landscapes and mighty rivers flowing through the park that play a crucial role in shaping its biodiversity," says Rawat.

Not known to many, Corbett was named Hailey National Park when founded in 1936. It was renamed in 1957 to honour British Colonel Edward James 'Jim' Corbett, a naturalist and author, known best as the hunter of man-eaters, who was instrumental in the park's inception.

Taj Corbett Resort & Spa is spread across ten acres of land on the banks of the river Kosi
Taj Corbett Resort & Spa is spread across ten acres of land on the banks of the river Kosi

But the name of the national park is not the only hat tip to the colonel. More than 70 years after he left India, Kaladhungi town - meaning black rock, because of a charcoal and old iron foundry located in the area - that is a 30 minute-drive from the national park, and where Corbett stayed in the winters, still memorialises him. A cottage he built in Kaladhungi in 1922, is now a museum that displays a treasure of paintings, photographs of hunting missions, letters written by Corbett and anecdotes from his life. There is a chair palanquin, a metal bed, a small raft boat and a few pieces of furniture he used. The precinct also has the graves of Corbett's beloved dogs, Robin and Rosina.

The high tea experience at the resort
The high tea experience at the resort

Beyond the safari

The safari turned out to be as rejuvenating as our stay at Taj Corbett Resort & Spa, which stands tall under the shade of imperial deodar and sal trees spread across ten acres of land on the banks of the river Kosi. The resort offers everything from suites to villas and cottages, for those coming in big groups.

The high tea at Taj Corbett's Ghural deck, which faces the river on the foothills of the mountain, was the best start to the day. If you aren't an early riser, the multi-cuisine Treetop restaurant that is known for its traditional Kumauni cuisine, is the next good option to treat your appetite. There is also the Jim Grill Restaurant, which offers scrumptious delicacies - pot roast Jims chicken-hunter style served with crushy baguette, bamboo leaf wrapped lentil crusted riversole, stuffed mandua enchilada and pahadi aloo ki gnocchi, among others - and live music, making it ideal for a sundowner. "Apart from jungle safaris, one can explore a range of activities such as the fishing safari, visit to Garja Devi temple and Kumaoni village, and also play noodle hockey in the premises," says Ritesh Bhatt, the general manager of Taj Corbett Resort and Spa.

The wildlife as witnessed during the jungle safari at Jim Corbett National Park
The wildlife as witnessed during the jungle safari at Jim Corbett National Park

The resort also has a space for corporate meetings and events. "We have a 3,000 sqft banguet hall with an additional boardroom," Bhatt adds. We also visited Mankanthpur village in Kotabaug, a trip organised by the resort, where we relished local favourites like bhangeera kid chutney, bhat ki churdkani, kumaoni aloo ke gutke and mandua ki roti. "We serve guests food that is grown and cooked organically," says Savitri Garjola of Corbett Gramin Mahila Sangathan, who began her journey into organic farming nearly two decades ago, when she started growing wheat on a one-and-an-half acre land. Digging into the local fare was not just a brilliant way to end our luxurious holiday, but also a perfect excuse to enjoy nature's bounty.

Getting there

By road: The national park is a six-hour drive from Delhi. Regular bus service are available. The two routes are Delhi-Gajrola-Moradabad-Kashipur-Ramnagar (240 km) and Bareilly-Kichha-Haldwani-Ramnagar: (160 km).

By rail: Ramnagar is the only nearest railway station to Jim Corbett National Park. A direct train to Ramnagar runs from Delhi. Alternatively, one can travel to Haldwani/Kashipur/Kathgodam and reach Ramnagar by road.

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