The Corbett National Park is a primal jungle as Rudyard Kipling put it. Despite extensive tourism, the park has managed to retain its primeval ambience, where man must walk timorously, in awe and with a strong sense of his own insignificance. more pictures....
Set up in 1936 as India's first national park and possibly the finest, the Corbett National Park was first delimited in consultation with that great hunter and conserver, Jim Corbett. The park spans across some 920.9 square km at an altitude of 600 to 1100 metres about the foothills of the western Himalayas in the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal in the state of Uttaranchal (formerly part of Uttar Pradesh). In its eventful 64-year life, it has grown considerably in size and now includes the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of its 1,319 sq km of reserved forest area.
Prior to the years 1815-20 of the British Rule, the forests of the Jim Corbett National Park were the private property of the local rulers. Though the ownership had passed into the British hands, the government paid little or no attention to the upkeep of the park. The sole aim was to exploit the natural resources and extract as much profit as possible from the jungle.
It was only in the year 1858 that Major Ramsay drew up the first comprehensive conservation plan to protect the forest. He ensured that his orders are followed strictly and, by 1896 the condition of the forest began to improve. Ramsays plan reflected the deep thought he had given to the science of forestry. In 1861-62 farming was banned in the lower Patlidun valley. Cattle sheds were pulled down, domestic animals were driven from the forest and a regular cadre of workers was created to fight forest fire and secure the forest from illegal felling of trees. Licenses were issued for timber and count of trees was undertaken. In 1868, the Forest department assumed responsibility for the forests and in 1879 they were declared reserved forest under the forest Act.
In a letter dated January 3,1907, Sir, Michael Keen for the first time referred to the possibility of turning these forests into a game sanctuary however the proposal was turned down. It was years later in 1934 the governor, Sir Malcolm Hailey, supported the proposal for the sanctuary and wanted the enactment of a law to give it protection. To overcome the delays that legislation would entail the area was made into a reserve forest by the Chief Conservator of forest. Later in consultation with Major Jim Corbett, the boundaries of the park were demarcated and in 1936 The United Province national Park Act was enforced and this reserved forest became the first national Park of India. And it was aptly named Hailey National Park after its founder Sir, Malcolm Hailey
Initially the park measured merely 323.75 square kilometers, but to accommodate wild animals like Tigers and Elephants, it was expanded to its present area of 520 square kilometers (core area) in 1966. The year 1973 was a landmark in the field of wildlife preservation. It was in this year that wildlife preservationist and naturalists from around the world launched PROJECT TIGER the most prestigious and biggest total environmental conservation project ever undertaken. The Jim Corbett National Park has the distinction of having been chosen the venue for the inauguration of this project.
Colonel Jim Corbett was born at Nainital in 1875, the eighth child of Christopher and Mary Jane Corbett. His father was the postmaster of Nainital. He did his matriculation at Nainital's Philanders Smith College where he was admired by his masters for his modesty and retiring nature. He did not pursue his academics any further.
He spent his summers at Gurni House in Nainital while in winters he went down to Kaladhungi in the tarai jungles. It was here he was taught how to fire a gun by his eldest brother, to. Their bungalow in Kaladhungi was inside a dense forest in which a large variety of plants and animals found refuge. The abundance of wildlife in Nainital those days can be gauged from the fact that Jim spotted tigers and leopards within a six and a half-kilometer radius of the temple of the goddess Naini. As a result of living in such exotic and beautiful surroundings he developed a spontaneous affinity with nature.
At the tender age of ten he found himself addicted to hunting, he had shot his first leopard and would just pick up and train his gun on any wild animal he encountered in the Jungle. When he was eighteen he joined the railways at Mokama Ghat in Bihar working as fuel inspector and assistant station master. He then became a labour contarctor.
When the World War I broke in 1914, he took a batch of five hundred Kumaon labourers to France. He was good at recruiting and organizing labour and was able to make them work for him willingly. He also helped the British government by training allied soldiers in jungle warfare, he then hold the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1920 after his health broke down he resigned from the job and returned to Nainital and for the next twenty-four years he served as an elected member of the Nainital municipal Board.
While serving in the railways at Mokama Ghat, he would spend his holidays at Kaladhungi. Shikar of course would claim most of his time, He had bagged two man eaters, a feat which made his name a house hold name in the far flung areas and long before he was known as a skilled jungle man leading Shikar parties for the dignitaries. It was during one such Shikar parties with three army officers the turning point came in the life of Jim - One a Shikar party somewhere in northern India they came upon a lake with thousands of water fowls. They were delighted to see the sight and shots rang echoing in the entire valley. In a matter of minutes their count stood at three hundred waterfowls. Jim could not stomach this sacrilege. From that day he developed an aversion to this type of Shikar. And while his friends were overjoyed Jim vowed never to kill a beast without a reason. After he had killed a man-eater known as the Kuara of Pawalgadh in the mid thirties he gave up Shikar as a sport. There after he shot only t hose tigers which had turned man-eaters or cattle lifters.
Jim considered it his duty to kill such dangerous animals, a duty he carried out faithfully till his last days. E killed his last man-eater when he was well past sixty In those days the terror of Man-eaters loomed heavy on the regions of Kumaon and Garwhal and Jim was the only man who had the guts to take on and kill such bloodthirsty beasts, endowed as he was with his superlative skills required for the job he killed man-eaters in their den, in open grassland, in dense forest and on rocky slopes. Some of his most famous encounters are published in his six books of which the man-eaters of Kumaon and The Man Eating Leopard of Rudra Prayag are well renowned.
After World War II he settled in Kenya with his sister Maggie. It was there that at the ripe age of eighty he passed away leaving behind a legacy which still reverberate in the valleys of Kumaon and Garwhal.
In all his years serving the cause of wildlife preservation and later deliverer of peace and tranquility in the man eater infested regions of Kumaon and Garwhal Jim became inherent with the wildlife conservation and the Indian Government in 1956 renamed the park - Corbett National Park in honour of Jim Corbett the powerful missionary for wildlife preservation in India. A fitting tribute to the White Saint.
Corbett has been a haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers for a long time. Tourism is allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its splendid landscape and the diverse wildlife living here. In recent years the number of people coming here has increased dramatically. Presently, every season more than 70,000 visitors come to the park from India and abroad.
The main feature of this ridged valley is the Ramganga River, running broadly west by south west, the catchment streams of which vivisect the land into numerous little ridges and ravines. The topography is therefore very varied-the streams forming islands of 'sheesham' trees, the ridges being thickly foliated with 'sal' trees and the pastures carrying long grasses. In this variety of habitat abounds wildlife of enchanting beauty including 50 mammals, 577 birds and at least 25 reptiles. The river teems with mahseer, gharial, mugger and flocks of cormorants.
Project Tiger was inaugurated here on April 1, 1973. The center of tourist
activity in the park always continues to be Dhikala, at the heart of the core area. Here, substantial residential accommodation has been built along one end of a large grassy plateau perched on the edge of the cliff bordering the Ramganga reservoir.
Apart from tigers (90 in number in 1984), leopards as well as lesser cats such as the leopard cat, jungle cat, and fishing cat are also found here. The sloth bear, Himalayan black bear, dhole, jackal, yellow throated marten, Himalayan palm civet, Indian grey mongoose, common otter, porcupine, black naped hare are the other attractions of this area. It is possible to see elephants all over the park.
Four species of deer are found here. These are the barking deer, para, kakkar, and the well known spotted deer chital. The goat antelopes are represented by the ghoral.
There is a lot for the bird watching opportunities in this park as it has over 580 species of birds. Most of the water birds are the migrant variety, and arrive in winters. Some of these are the graylag, bareheaded goose, duck, grepe, snipe, sandpiper, gull and wagtail. The residents include darters, cormorants, egrets, herons, the black-necked stork and the spur winged lapwings.
The reptiles, which are residents of this area, are the rare fish eating, long-nosed crocodile gharial, and a few species of turtles and tortoises. The Indian python, viper, cobra, krait and king cobra also inhabit the Corbett National Park.
The national park offers invaluable experiences for adventurous and serious-minded wildlife-buffs, photographers and anglers. It is advantageous to have one's own vehicle here. Walking in some areas is permitted, but only when accompanied by a guide. Elephant rides for wildlife viewing, in the mornings and evenings, can be booked in the Dhikala complex.
In the vicinity of the Corbett National Park are the wildlife sanctuaries like Rajaji National Park and Dudhwa National Park. Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh and one of the major tourist destinations in the country.
For the survival of such a remarkable gamut of floral and faunal species in Jim Jim Corbett National Park , water is a crucial factor. The Ramganga river forms the most prominent hydrological resource, supplemented by tributaries, most prominent of which are the Sonanadi, Mandal and Palain rivers. The river Kosi runs proximate to the Park and is also a significant water resource for nearby areas. Wildlife is dependent on rivers, more so in the dry season, for they provide drinking waters and also forms home to several key aquatic species.
Ramganga river is crucial for Corbett infact without it there would be no Corbett. It is the largest of the precious few perennial sources of water in the Park. A rain-fed river originating near Gairsain in the Lower Himalayas, the Ramganga traverses more than 100 km before entering Corbett near Marchula. Inside the Park it flows roughly 40 km till Kalagarh where it enters the plains. During this run through the Park it gathers waters from the Palain, Mandal and Sonanadi rivers.
The Ramganga is inhabited by key aquatic species like mahseer fish, the endangered gharials, mugger crocodiles, otters and turtles. Many species of birds, like kingfishers, fish-eagles, terns and storks depend on the Ramganga. During winters the Ramganga reservoir attracts many migratory bird species, especially waterbirds from Europe and Central Asia.
The Kosi is a perennial river like the Ramganga and its catchment lies partially in Corbett NP. From Mohan through Dhikuli till Ramnagar, the Kosi forms the eastern boundary of Jim Corbett National Park. Even though the Kosi does not enter the Park boundary, wild animals from Corbett use it for drinking especially during pinch periods. Its bed is strewn with boulders and its flow is erratic and often changes course. Kosi is notorious for its unpredictable and damaging torrents during monsoon. Like Ramganga, the Kosi too is inhabited by mahseer and attracts migratory birds.
The Sonanadi is an important tributary of the Ramganga. Named after this river the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary adjoins Jim Corbett National Park and forms an important part of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The Sonanadi enters the Park from the northwest direction and meets the Ramganga at the reservoir. The name Sonanadi means river of gold. At one time grains of gold, found in the alluvial deposits washed down from the higher areas, were extracted from the bed sand by sieving, washing and mercury treatment.
The Mandal rises in the eastern heights in Talla Salan in Chamoli district. Forming a part of the northeastern boundary, Mandal flows for 32 km and joins the Ramganga at Domunda a little distance above Gairal. During the dry season, the Mandal contains very little water but during the monsoons it turns into a furious torrent. It forms a vital breeding ground for the endangered mahseer. The Palain is the third important tributary of the Ramganga and enters the Park from a northern direction. It meets the Ramganga about 3 km north of the Ramganga reservoir.
Sot is the local name for a seasonal stream. While traveling across the park you may cross several of these bouldery dry streams. Though most of them appear dry and lifeless, they are very important for the Park ecology. Animals depend on these sots for their drinking water requirements for a good part of the year. There are some sots in Corbett that are perennial, important ones being Paterpani, Laldhang, Kothirao, Jhirna, Dhara and Garjia. Since water is a limiting factor, these perennial sots provide water to wildlife during pinch periods. Many of these sots are covered with thick growth of evergreen shrubs and bamboo clumps which form ideal shelter for many animals including the tiger.
BY AIR - Phoolbagh, Pantnagar at a distance of 50 km is the nearest airport. Delhi at a distance of 300 km is the nearest international airport.
BY RAIL - Ramnagar is on the broad gauge track from where the road transport options have to be availed to reach the park.
BY ROAD - Dhikala is 300 km from Delhi, 145 km from Lucknow and 51 km from Ramnagar. The route from Delhi spans Hapur-Murababad-Ramnagar. The turn off is some 7 km beyond Muradabad to the left, marked by a small board. The route from Lucknow spans Bareilly-Kichha-Rudrapur-Doraha-Kashipur.
Corbett National Park is rich in vegetation, with different kinds of trees and shrubs. The lower reaches of the Park, where the land is flat compared to the upper reaches, consists of tall and slender sal (Shorea robusta) trees. Shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) and khair (Acacia katechu) trees are found in the middle reaches, while the upper reaches of the mountains are full of bakli (Anogeissus latifolia), chir (Pinus roxburghii), gurail (Bauhinia racemosa) and bamboo trees. The Park is dotted with lantana shrubs, a species that is a great cause for concern. Imported years ago from America, the lantana shrub ensures that nothing else grows near it. In the Park are 110 species of trees, 51 species of shrubs, and over 33 species of bamboo and grass that are mostly found in chowds, or meadows.
Corbett National Park has more than 50 species of mammals, 585 species of birds and 25 species of reptiles, but the Park is known for its elephants and leopards, not its tigers. Many kinds of deer, namely chital (spotted deer), sambar (Indian stag), chinkara (Indian gazelle), pada (hog deer) and muntjac (barking deer) abound in the Park. Tiger sighting is rare, in spite of a lot of alarm calls from monkeys and deer. Elephant herds comprising tuskers, females and calves are commonly seen. However, an elephant herd with calves is perhaps the most dangerous encounter in the wild, for elephants are very possessive of their young and do not hesitate to charge at intruding human beings.
Leopard sighting is even rarer than that of the tiger, and these spotted cats confine themselves to the higher reaches of the Park. Other feline species found in the Park are leopard cats, jungle cats, the rare fishing cat, and caracal, to name a few. Sloth bears, wild boars, monkeys, dholes (wild dogs), jackals and ghorals (mountain goats) also inhabit the Park.
The aquatic reptile population in the Park consists of mugger (Crocodylus palustris) and gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) crocodiles, while Indian rock pythons, Russell's vipers, cobras, king cobras and common kraits are some of the snakes found in the Park. Bird life includes parakeets, flycatchers, babblers, cuckoos, robins, bulbuls, Indian and Great Pied hornbills, warblers and finches, to name a few.
Elephant safaris can be arranged in Dhikala and Bijrani.
Jeep safaris are available from outside the Park as well as from Dhikala