Jim Corbett National Park, which is a part of the larger Corbett Tiger Reserve, a Project Tiger Reserve lies in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. The magical landscape of Corbett is well known and fabled for its tiger richness. Established in the year 1936 as Hailey National Park, Corbett has the glory of being India's oldest and most prestigious National Park. It is also being honored as the place where Project Tiger was first launched in 1973. This unique tiger territory is best known as the father who gave birth of the Project Tiger in India to protect the most endangered species and the Royal of India called Tigers.
Spans over an extent of 520 square kilometers, its whole area comprises of hills, marshy depressions, riverine belts, grasslands and large lake. It is among the few tiger reserves in India that allows overnight stays in the lap of the National Park. Nature watch and wildlife viewing in the park is done in an open four wheeler Jeep and on elephant back. Sheltering a healthy population of tigers and rare species like Otters and the endemic fish eating crocodile, the national park is one of the most sought after destinations for the wildlife buffs. Dhikala, situated at the border of the extensive Patil Dun valley, is the most popular destination in Corbett because of its superb location and sheer abundance of wildlife present.
If you love bird watching then Corbett is virtual haven for such tourists. Corbett and its adjoining area is a home to more than 650 species of residents and migratory birds. Particularly Dhikala is fine place to look for birds of prey, more than over 50 species of raptors alone shows the healthy biodiversity of the area. Their multiplex behavior is intriguing and their varied songs are very much pleasing to the ear. In a nutshell, this finest national park of India is well known for rich and varied wildlife including royal Bengal tiger, elephant, four to five species of deer and rich birdlife.
Corbett National Park is divided into the five ecotourism zones for the proper management of the tourism activities in the tiger reserve area. These zones are Dhikala zone, Bijarani zone, Jhirna Zone, Dhela zone and Durga Devi zone. The safari tour is organized in two shifts by the forest officials of Corbett tiger reserve in all of the ecotourism zones. The limited numbers of safari jeep are allowed in every zone to ensure the proper distribution of tourist flow in all the zones. Each zone has its own natural charm with their specific landscape beauty and wildlife. However, the tiger sighting is more or less equal in every zone along with the little bit of difference in topography as all the zones are the part of the same ecological land.
Here are the brief introductions about all the five tourism zones for which safari tour is organized in the Corbett National Park-
Dhikala zone keeps the celebrity status among all the tourist zones of the Corbett National Park. It is the most sought after zone for the day safari as well as for the night stay in the Dhikala forest rest house. Situated in the periphery of the Patil Dun valley, the Dhikala zone is the largest zone of the Corbett National Park and carries a large variety of flora and fauna. The landscape of this zone, which consists of large grasslands known as Chaurs, dense Sal tree forest and various channels of Ramganga River offer you the enchanting view of nature. The panoramic view of the broad valley overlooking the Kanda Ridge in the backdrop is really a magnificent scene. Considered as the best zone for tiger sighting, it is the most preferred choice for the night stay by the wildlife lovers. Other animals like wild elephants, Spotted Deer, Wild pigs, Hog Deer and Barking Deer are mostly seen in this region. If gets lucky, one may see the tiger chasing a deer in the grassland or beside the water streams. Also, a wide range of bird species found here, which are like the feast to the eyes of the bird-watchers. In the Dhikala zone, there is no jeep safari available for day visitors. However, one can enjoy the day tour through the Canter safari offered by the forest officials of the Dhikala zone. The Canter safari is an open bus safari with the 16 seats in a bus and total of 2 buses are allowed in one shift. You have to book your seat for the canter safari in advance and you have to visit at the Entry gate of the Dhikala zone to catch the canter safari.
The Bijrani zone is not any lesser when it comes to the spectacular natural view or the catching a glimpse of the king of the Corbett forest, the royal Bengal tiger. This zone is the most popular zone after the Dhikala zone and the most visited zone by the day safari tourists. Enriched with the eye-catching landscape, this zone is known for its tranquil and serene ambiance inside the forest. A wide range of wildlife species found in this region is what makes it a unique zone in the Corbett. With the large Grasslands, thick Sal forest and various water streams, the topography of the Bijrani zone is also as attractive as the Dhikala zone. Along with the enchanting view, this zone also boasts of having a large number of the tigers making it a best tiger sighting zone. There is Jeep safari available for the day visitors in this zone. One can book the day safari online to get the entry in the zone. The day visitors can also avail the facility of elephant safari inside the Bijrani zone, which is available by paying the required fee on the spot on the first come, first serve basis. The day safari is organized in the two shifts and only 30 safari jeeps are allowed to enter in one shift. One safari jeep can carry a maximum of the 6 adults and 2 children excluding driver and guide/naturist. A guide is mandatory with the jeep to get the entry.
Located on the southern edge of the Corbett National Park, this zone is included much later in the tiger reserve zone, in the year 1994 and got immense popularity among the wildlife lovers. As the Jhirna zone is open for the day tourists throughout the year, so it is one of the most visited zones in the Corbett Reserve forest. The tiger sighting in this zone is reported frequently and also a wide range of wildlife species found in this region. Along with the majestic tigers, the wild bears are the main attraction of this zone. Other animals like wild elephants, sambar and various species of deer along with a large number of bird species are found in this zone. Two shifts of the day safari are allowed in this zone with the 30 jeeps in one shift. You can book the Jeep safari online with a maximum of the 6 adults and 2 children in one Jeep. As per the rule, a naturist/guide is mandatory with each jeep.
The Dhela zone is the latest added zone in the tourism zones of the Corbett National Park that was opened in December 2014 for the safari tour. This zone is also remains open all round the year for the tourists as like the Jhirna zone. However, the safari tour depends on the weather condition. The zone consists of mix topography which includes the dense forest of trees like Sal, Haldu, Bahera, Rohini and Kusum along with the large grasslands and various water bodies. This zone is rich in the fauna species too with the animals like the Royal Bengal tiger, leopards, wild elephants, Nilgai, different species of Deer, wild bears and the various species of reptiles and birds. This zone is well known especially for the vast range of bird species and considered as the best zone for birding. One can book the day safari to visit this zone and be the part of this magnificent part of the Corbett forest. Apart from the safari entry permit, you also have to book a Jeep and a guide, without which you can't get the entry inside the forest.
With the hilly landscape, the Durga Devi zone is like paradise for nature lovers with the enchanting natural surroundings. The zone is situated on the northeast periphery of the Corbett forest and highly rich in species of flora and fauna. The streams of Ramganga River and Mandal River enrich the water bodies of this zone and add the beauty to this wild forest. The main attractions of this zone, apart from the majestic Tigers, are leopards, wild elephants and Otters, which are primarily found near the Domunda Bridge. The famous fish known as the Mahsheer fish is found in the river streams of this zone. This zone is also rich in bird species, providing excellent birding opportunities. The bird species found in this zone include Gray Headed Fishing Eagle, Maroon Orile, Black chinned Yuhina, Long Tailed Broadbill, slaty blue flycatcher, bar tailed tree creeper and plenty of others. The zone is literally a paradise for the bird watcher. Jeep safari is organized for this zone and tourists can also stay at night at the Lohachaur Forest Guest House in this zone after making a prior booking.
The Sitabani forest zone is the reserve forest zone located outside the Corbett Tiger reserve area. The zone is treated as the Buffer area of the tiger reserve and is open to everyone to visit here. The landscape of this zone has a rich natural view which consists of dense forest and river streams along with many old temples. You will find plenty of herbivore animals like elephants, deer, sambars, Nilgai and others roaming freely here. Though it is a buffer zone and tigers or leopards sighting are almost negligible here, but sometimes these dangerous predators are spotted here in search of their prey. There are around 600 bird species found in this zone among which most are migratory birds. The zone is a delight for the bird watchers. Sprawled in the large area which even incorporates many villages in it, one must visit this zone to savor the magical ambiance of the enchanting nature. This zone is a less visited delight of nature as tourists generally prefer to visit the tiger reserve area and give this zone a miss. There is an old temple named Sitabani Temple is located in the forest and is protected and maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). Along with this, there is also a very old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. These temples are visited by a large number of devotees. It would be really a memorable experience to explore this forest and a night safari in the Sitabani forest will be a thrilling experience and you will get an adrenaline rush with the quiet and eerie ambiance of the forest and in the anticipation of encountering any wild animal. Visitors are allowed to explore this zone by the Jeep safari, elephant safari or by walking. The private vehicles are also allowed in this zone. You have to pay the entry fee on the spot at the entry gate in Teda Village to enter in the forest reserve area and after exploring the forest you have to make the exit from the Paulgarh gate, almost 60 km away from the entry gate.
Dhikala is largest and most beautiful tourism zone of Corbett Tiger Reserve consisting large grasslands, river beds, sal and mixed forests. Ramganga river flows through dhikala zone which supports variety of wildlife in the zone
The only thing that the resort lacks in, is the variety of activities it offers. It is limited to a nature walk, safari, bon-fire and swimming, which you cannot do on cold days. All in all we had a good trip, thanks to the helpful staff, good food and cosy rooms.
We initially booked to go for safari in Bijrani but once we had sent over deposit for stay at hotel Aahana were told the permits had run out for the day we wanted so had to settle with Jhirna.
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