Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the mysterious Jim Corbett National Park is implicated in the tales of the royal Bengal tiger. Established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, Corbett has the glory of being the oldest national park in India. Wild elephants crossing a stream at sunrise. Image courtesy of Shutterstock Jim Corbett National Park – India’s oldest national park spans more than 520 square kilometres, and encompasses a variety of landscapes including hills, marshes, grasslands, and bodies of water. Although the park is spacious, its Ramnagar headquarters is located in Nainital district, Uttarakhand. History of Jim Corbett National Park Prior to its establishment, the park was the private property of the princely state of Teri Garhwal. The Raja Teri handed over part of the region to the East India Company in exchange for their assistance against the Gurkhas. The Boksas are a tribe of Terai who settled in this area and practiced farming, they were expelled by the British in 1860. The process of preserving the park began in 1868. The existing terrain and wildlife were so unique that a plan to create a wildlife sanctuary was drawn up in 1907. However, Only in 1930 did the park go through the demarcation process under the direction of Jim Corbett. A protected area known as Haile National Park with an area of 323.75 square kilometers was created in 1936 when Sir Malcolm Haley was Governor of the United Provinces. The Bengal tiger crosses a stream. Image courtesy of Shutterstock The reserve was renamed in 1954-1955 to Ramganga National Park. After Jim Corbett’s death, to keep his memory alive, the park’s name was changed again to Jim Corbett National Park in 1955-1956. Over time, the area of the reserve continued to expand and increased to 797.72 square kilometers in 1991 with a buffer zone. This makes it one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in India. In 1974, a wildlife conservation project, Project Tiger, was launched by the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Read: Bhimtal, Sattal, Naukuchiatal – The Mysterious Lakes of Kumaon Jim Corbett Edward James Corbett, also known as Jim Corbett, was born in 1857 in Nainital, Uttarakhand. He was of British descent and was the eighth child in a large family of 16. Despite his desire to continue studying, he joined the railways as a fuel inspector to support his family. During his life, Corbett tracked down and shot several man-eating leopards and tigers. The first man to eat cannibals was the Champawat tiger who was responsible for an estimated 436 documented deaths. He has written about hunting adventures in his books: Man-Eaters of Kumaon, The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag and The Temple Tiger. Girija Devi Temple in and around National Park Geography of the park Located between the Lesser Himalayas in the north and Shivaliks in the south, the park has many valleys, hills, small streams and small plateaus. The Ramganga River flows through the park. Only 20% of the park is open to tourists. The rest of the park is protected only for wildlife. It is home to nearly 110 species of trees, 50 species of mammals, 580 species of birds, and 25 species of reptiles. Read: Mukteshwar, Kumaon – Amazing valley views Jungle Safari and other early morning activities Foggy sky on jungle safari road way. Image courtesy of Shutterstock The primary activity to do in the park is Jungle Safari. There are different types of jungle safari to choose from. While planning your visit, book your tickets from Uttarakhand Government website one month in advance. Instant reservation is not possible in formal forest areas. If you miss booking your safari, you can always book a Sitabani Safari as in the buffer zone. Each safari takes 2-3 hours. Timings vary in summer and winter. While packing for safari, keep your ticket print and government issued ID card handy. Read: Jageshwar Dham – Shiva House in Kumaon 5 Different Areas of Jim Corbett National Park The National Park is divided into 5 different areas. Each of these regions has a unique topography. They are: Dhikala District Dhikala maintains the status of celebrity among all the tourist areas of Corbett National Park. It is the largest area in Corbett National Park and bears a large variety of flora and fauna. Safari is not available to today’s visitors. One has to book a stay in the jungle guest house to experience the safari in this area. It is the best tiger spotting area in the entire park. In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bear Grylls launched a special episode of Man vs Wild in this area of the national park. Open from November 15 to June 15. Various entry gates to the national park such as Amanda, Bagrani, Dikala, Bagrani. The next popular area for spotting tigers is the Bagrany region. Since an overnight stay is not mandatory for safari, tickets sell out faster. Its landscape includes large grasslands, dense sal forests, and streams. Open from October 15 to June 30. Jhirna The Jhirna region is located on the southern edge of Corbett National Park. Since this area is open to tourists all year round, it has the largest number of visitors. Along with the majestic tigers, seeing the sloth bear is the main attraction of this area. Wild Elephant, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, and Dhela safari route opened in December 2014, the Dhela area is the latest addition to the tourism areas of the national park. This area also remains open all year round for tourists like Jhirna area. However, the safari will depend on the weather. Apart from the wildlife, this area is best for bird watching. Read: Himalayan Splendor in Binsar, Kumon Durga Devi The region is located on the northeastern tip of Corbett Forest and is very rich in plant and animal species. Streams of Ramganga River and Mandal River enrich the water bodies of this region and add beauty to this wild forest. Open from November 15 to June 15. The lush green canopy of the forest. Image courtesy of Shutterstock Sitabani The Sitabani Forest Area is a protected forest area located outside the Corbett Tiger Conservation Area. The area is treated as the buffer zone of the tiger reserve and it is open for everyone to visit here. There are about 600 species of birds in this region among which are migratory birds. Mostly herbivores such as elephants, deer, sambar and nilgai are found here mostly. Other than Safari, the national park has a museum in Dhikala and Corbett’s ancestral home in Kaladungi. Museum and National Park Map The museum is vast and full of information about wildlife. From the different species of mammals in the forest to the whistling of different types of birds in the park, this museum has it all. With the help of 3D shows and light, you can get an insight into the life of the forest at night. Garjiya Mata Mandir is located on the banks of the Kosi River on a hilltop. The temple is over 150 years old and is dedicated to Ghargia Devi. It has thousands of devotees who visit on a daily basis. It is the best place to spot some rare species of birds, especially the Himalayan kingfisher. If you are interested in adventure activities, there are many tour operators that offer trekking, river rafting, mountain biking, and more. Read: Birds in Kumaon – Explore Uttarakhand Nature Transportation The nearest airport is in Pantnagar at a distance of 83 km. For travel by train, there is a railway station at Ramnagar that is connected to Delhi. The 245 km road trip from Delhi takes about 5 hours. Accommodation in Jim Corbett National Park The National Park is an international tourist destination with plenty of resorts, hotels, homestays, and riverside campgrounds. Other than government restrooms, none of these commercial properties have been set up within the woods. They are all on the highway or in the buffer zone. It is truly surreal to witness the raw beauty of this land. While on the one hand, the forest and its ecosystem are present; On the other side, towards the resorts and hotels, the Kosi River flows quietly but quickly. Bust of Jim Corbett If you are adventurous and want to live inside the jungle, you can visit the Uttarakhand government website and book your accommodation in advance. All Corbett Forest areas have rest houses known as Forest Lodge. It is not necessary to stay inside the forest unless you choose to visit the Dakhla area. Food and other facilities will be taken care of by the caretakers. Consumption of alcohol and non-vegetarian foods is strictly prohibited inside the park. Read: Must Walk in and Around Landour Mussorie Sign boards with information on the typical village and park Best time to visit Jim Corbett National Park The months from December to March are ideal for visiting the national park. At an altitude of 1,200 feet, the park and its surroundings cool down to 5°C during the winter months. It is easier to navigate, and the chances of spotting a tiger in the early hours of dawn are higher. Summer in Corbett is unbearable. May and June see temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius. My visit to Corbett in June was very noisy due to the weather and high humidity. From June to October, most of the park is closed due to monsoons. During this time, the water bodies within the forest fill up and vehicles find it difficult to pass the lush green vegetation. This post was written by Akshaya Vijay as part of the IndiTales Training Program.