Jim Corbett National Park or Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) is the oldest national park in India. The park - named for the hunter and conservationist Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment - was established in 1936 with an original core forest area of 325 square kilometers. The Project Tiger initiative for conservation of the species was launched in 1974, and the current area of 1320 square kilometers was demarcated in 1991.
Nestled between the Himalayan foothills in the north and the ancient Shivaliks in the south, the reserve extends over a habitat that is ever changing and fascinating. Dense woodlands and open grasslands, riverine vegetation and dry riverbeds; forest-grassland edges, reservoirs and mountainous terrain provide an extensive lesson in geographic diversity. This varied habitat hosts a spectacular diversity of mammal, bird and reptilian life - unmatched anywhere in India. The park is home to one of the largest Royal Bengal Tiger populations; several hundred resident bird species, with as many more crossing on their migratory routes, around 50 of mammals and over 30 of reptiles, including the rare, bulbous-snouted Gharial crocodile.
SEEK THE TIGER, FIND THE JUNGLE - The tiger is a good indicator of a jungle’s health. The jungle consists of species that depend on one another for survival. As tigers monitor herbivore populations, they prevent an overconsumption of flora. Plants in turn hold the soil, preventing erosion of precious topsoil that nurtures the forest. As such, every animal plays a unique role, visible or invisible, in the ecosystem we call the jungle.
James Edward Corbett was born in Nainital on July 25, 1875, the eighth child of British parents Christopher and Mary Jane Corbett. He spent his summers at Gurney House, his ancestral home in Nainital, while the winters were spent in Kaladhungi (40km from the retreat). The house is now a museum.
Sensitive to the ways of the Kumaoni people, among whom he learned much of the ways of the jungle, their culture and language, Corbett was asked to command a 500 Kumaoni contingent in France during the First World War.
After the war he returned to the forests, often called upon to rid villages of pesky man-eating predators. A dedicated and skilled hunter, he could decipher easily the signs of the jungle. A ripple in the dust of a dry streambed or a blade of grass caught in the act of springing back from a crushed position would notify Corbett of a particular animal’s presence.
When stalking, he could use the wind to his advantage, as predators do, to either conceal or reveal his person. He could freeze stock-still in midstride, he understood well several animal sounds and was able to imitate most with perfection. A tiger call, using only his vocal cords, was used often as a ploy to lure an amorous tiger for a face-to-face encounter. Two man-eaters were shot using this incredible skill.
Over the years Corbett’s keen understanding of the region’s rich biodiversity and the delicate relationship between man and nature inspired him to turn to wildlife conservation. So did his friendship with F.W. Champion, a pioneer in wildlife photography in India, who persuaded him to use the camera more often than the gun.
A legend in his lifetime, Corbett acquired lasting fame through his books Man-eaters of Kumaon, Man-eating Leopard of Rudraparayag, My India, Jungle Lore, The Temple Tiger and Tree Tops, each carrying detailed descriptions of his encounters in the Indian forests.
After World War II, he settled in Kenya with his sister Maggie. At the age of 79, Corbett succumbed to a heart attack on April 19, 1955. In his lifetime, Corbett succeeded in sparking the genesis of India’s wildlife conservation movement. In 1968, the scientific community recognized his work by naming one of the five remaining subspecies of tigers, the Southeast Asian tiger after him: Panthera tigris corbetti.
This zone, closest to the retreat, is open throughout the year for wildlife safari experiences. A densely wooded and grassland habitat interspersed with streams, it makes for excellent bird viewing with a majority of the species such as the Great Hornbill and the Paradise Flycatcher, found in abundance here. Jhirna is home to an exclusive population of sloth bear, along with wild elephant herds and a growing tiger population. A large grove of Flame of the Forest adds to the drama in Jhirna.
This is the largest and most varied zone in Corbett, offering the best opportunities for overnight staysin century-old forest rest houses. Dhikala contains a diverse range of habitats from the moist deciduous forests to the vast open grasslands, which is widely considered to be prime habitat for the tiger and elephant.. With many unique habitats, including the Ramganga river and reservoir, this zone is a haven for a wide range of species in Corbett. Dhikala’s higher reaches suit theGhoral, a goat antelope, while the Gharial and Maggars, as well as the great Mahaseer, inhabit the rivers below. The hog deer, the fourth deer species found in Corbett, is also exclusive to Dhikala.
This is the north-eastern zone of Corbett with an undulating landscape and densely wooded forests. This is the leopard's prime habitat while lush hilly terrain offers tremendous birding opportunities. The Ramganga River flows through this zone before entering the Dhikala forest range, and provides life to the myriad flora and fauna of this region.
The Sitabani reserve forests have been aptly christened ‘Corbett Landscape’ due to its close proximity to the model village set up by Jim Corbett - Choti Haldwani, and the area where he spent ample time roaming the forests. With the Kosi River providing nourishment to this area’s wildlife, the simple settlements and the Sitabani temple offer a unique rural and jungle experience in Corbett.
This is the traditional tiger and elephant sighting zone, its popularity being next only to Dhikala.The forests in this zone range from those of pure Sal on the upper reaches, to deciduous mixed forests in the valley, along with three major grasslands. It sustains a variety of herbivores, and has a wide network of jungle roads, making Bijrani an excellent tiger sighting territory. With a wide spectrum of water sources adding to the diverse topography, the deep interaction between all types of fauna and avi-fauna is here to be experienced.
This zone provides buffer forest to southern Corbett, comprising mostly of plantation forests. The region is south of the retreat and home to some of the area’s largest Sambhar deer populations. Being the tiger’s favourite, where the Sambhar goes,so follows the tiger!
Marchula is a small hamlet located on the banks of the Ramganga River, famous for angling and wonderful bird watching experiences in Corbett. The predominantly hilly terrain is sliced by the river and hosts unique aquatic life such as crocodile, tortoise and the tiger of the rivers - the Golden Mahaseer. The antelope Ghoral, also known as the mountain goat, can be seen here.
Tumheria is said to be Asia’s largest mud-dam with an almost 4 km long embankment of the reservoir. It is located in the southern buffer forest area of Corbett. The local Vangujjar settlements offer a unique glimpse into their traditional lifestyle, and this water body attracts a tremendous amount of birdlife and is a haven for winter migratory birds.
We highly recommend an overnight stay in a forest that is as alive in the night as it is in the day, and Corbett is the only tiger reserve in the country that offers an opportunity to live within the forest.Spending a night or two in one of the park lodges provides the most immersive jungle experience and as the jungle’s nocturnal sounds lull you to a restorative sleep, you awaken fresh at dawn to a fever of wildlife activity. A naturalist shall accompany you to help interpret the ways of the jungle. Whereas lodging within the park is spartan, we add elements of luxury with a few modern comforts to make your stay enjoyable.
An intimation of 60 days for weekend bookings and 45 days for weekday bookings would be necessary to facilitate a stay in the park.
A jeep safari offers you the only opportunity to traverse deep into Corbett National Park; through itshills, streams and dense jungles. The maneuverability of the Jeep enables one to cover large areas of the park, increasing the chance of animal encounters.
Stay at The Angler’s Shack, a tented accommodation high on the bank of the river Ramganga, located a little over an hour’s drive from Jim’s Jungle Retreat. Experience a weekend of angling for the Mahaseer and Goonch, or just enjoy a day of fishing and picnic. Fishing permits are available on prior intimation – once caught, the fish you bring ashore has to be returned to its habitat with a catch, click and release policy. Sometimes, otter families can be sighted along the river’s length, while the evenings bring deer and other wildlife to the river’s bank.
This is the quietest mode of exploring the forest. Not bound by roads, this is an opportunity to reach parts of the jungle that a jeep is unable to. The Mahouts, or elephant riders, and elephants themselves, act as the best guides to the forest.
Chotti Haldwani is the name given to the land bought by Jim Corbett near his home in Kaladhungi. Together with his sister Maggie, he developed a model Bhabhar village and settled about 40 families on it. The ‘Jim Corbett Heritage Trail’ managed by the villagers provides a unique firsthand experience of the work done in developing this model Kumaoni village. The trail ends at their home, now converted to a museum.
Bicycle through plantation forests of the buffer zone to nearby villages as a local guide informs you about the culture and lifestyle of the indigenous Gujjar people. Enjoy a locally cooked meal with the village folk. Bicycle trips down to the Tumaria wetlands are excellent for sighting migratory birds.
Explore the sights, sounds and smells of the surrounding forests as you trek into the jungle escorted by a trained naturalist. The naturalist introduces you to the jungle’s ecology, ethno botany, animal's behavioral evidences, and the art of tracking a tiger.
Wear subtle colors, like khakis, browns and greens, as loud and light colors tend to distract the wildlife. You want to try and blend in with your surroundings; let the animals stand out, not you!
Once in the jungle, whether on foot or on a drive, keep conversations to a minimum. If you must, talk in hushed tones. And keep all mobile devices on silent mode.
During an animal sighting, avoid sudden movements or making noise. Nudge your fellow traveler if you need to make them aware of the bird or animal; ensure slow deliberate movements.
As a rule, please DO NOT litter. Modern-day packaging is harmful to the environment and animals. Water bottles, sweet wrappers etc. should be taken back with you and disposed off at the retreat.
Always pay attention to your guide. Their vast knowledge of the jungle and its ways will not only keep you safe but also ensure an exciting and informative / educational experience.