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Adventure Activities in Jim Corbett National Park

Jim Corbett National Park

Among national parks in India, Corbett is iconic. Though there’s wildlife in abundance here, it has always been associated with the tiger, thanks to the influence of the legendary hunter-turned-conservationist, Jim Corbett, as well as the groundbreaking Project Tiger, the first wildlife conservation project in India. Corbett is also India’s (and Asia’s) first national park.
This biodiversity-rich sanctuary is situated in the Nainital and Pauri districts of Uttarakhand, straddling the Kumaon and Garhwal regions between the Himalayas and the terai (an area of savannah, grassland, marsh and forest), and encompassing a multiplicity of habitats. Its overall area is approx 1300sq km, which includes a core area of 520sq km (Jim Corbett National Park) and a buffer area of 800sq km (reserve forests, and the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary). Apart from a few stretches, the core area is out of bounds. Safaris, meanwhile, are only allowed on the fringes of the sanctuary.


Some areas of the current reserve came under the princely state of Tehri-Garhwal. The forests here were private property of the local rulers before the British arrived, in the early 19th century (Tehri-Garhwal was absorbed into the Punjab Hill States Agency during British rule). In 1858, a Major Ramsay (under whose jurisdiction the area fell) drew up a conservation plan for the forest. In 1868, the Forest Department took over the running of the area, banning cultivation and the operation of cattle stations in an effort to protect it. In 1879, restricted felling was allowed, and the area was declared a reserved forest.
More than a half-century on, the then Governor of the erstwhile United Provinces, Sir Malcolm Hailey, expressed his desire to make the forest area a game reserve, revisiting an earlier British plan of 1907. The boundaries of the sanctuary were demarcated in consultation with Jim Corbett, who used his sway over the provincial administration to help establish the sanctuary. In 1936, the United Provinces National Park Act was enforced, and Hailey National Park became India’s first national game park. In 1957, its name was changed to Ramganga, before it was renamed (again) as Corbett National Park in 1966.
Corbett’s current core area dates from 1966; it was created to accommodate animals like tigers and elephants. Recently, Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, to the west, was added. Today, the protected areas of Corbett National Park and Sonanadi make up the Tiger Reserve. ‘Project Tiger’ was launched in Corbett in 1973.


Corbett boasts a range of geology and geography, making it home to a variety of ecosystems – mountains, hills, forests, ‘chaurs’, marshes, rivers and streams.
The lower mountain areas have sal forests, while higher up are mixed forests of chir pine (the only conifer here), oak and rhododendron. In addition, Corbett has flowering trees, shrubs, bamboo, herbs and grasses – the latter form the largest group of plant species (70) in the park.
A large chunk of the sanctuary has a canopy of mixed deciduous forest. Sal is the chief and dominant tree species in Corbett, while khair-sissoo, which grows amid sand and gravel, occurs around rivers and streams. Sal forests are dense forests, and form a vital wildlife habitation in north and central India.
Chaurs are savannah grasslands that form about 10 percent of the total land mass of the park. They consist of species of medium to tall grasses. Amongst the elephant grass in the chaurs, you’ll come across elephants, deer and grassland birds like partridges. Most of Corbett’s chaurs lie towards the north, in pretty Patli Dun, a valley formed by the Ramganga River (and visible from Dhikala, one of the park’s tourism zones). Many of the duns lie between the Himalayas and the Shivaliks (Outer Himalayas).
Corbett has five rivers – the Ramganga, its three tributaries Sonanadi, Mandal and Palain, and the Kosi, adjoining the reserve on the eastern side. The Ramganga flows in an east-to-west direction till Kalagarh, where it enters the plains. On its journey through the Corbett National Park, it collects waters from the Sonanadi, Mandal and Palain rivers. ‘Sots’ are another source of water in the park; these are seasonal streams which local wildlife depends on during periods of lean rainfall.


The sanctuary is open from Mid-November to mid-June. The best time for tiger spotting is between April and mid-June, when there’s less forest cover, and the local wildlife emerges in search of water.

Flora and Fauna

According to the last count, there are about 160 Bengal tigers, and around 700 Asian elephants, in the park. The tiger thrives here due to dense jungle, the Ramganga River and an abundance of prey. But because it roams in the wild, this magnificent beast remains elusive. Elephants, however, can be sighted in herds of 100-strong during the summers. In addition, one can spot deer and sambar, as well as almost 600 species of birds. Corbett is also rich in flora, with nearly 500 species of trees, plants and shrubs. This is an area teeming with biodiversity.
Among the larger animals, deer is the most commonly sighted. There are four species of deer: chital (spotted deer), para (hog deer), sambar and kakar (barking deer). Leopards have also been seen, in the park’s hilly areas, though none with the infamy of the maneater of Rudraprayag. There are also frequent sightings of jungle cats, primates (rhesus macaque and common langur), the Himalayan goral (goat-antelope), wild boar, Asiatic jackal and bears (Himalayan black and sloth).
Among avifauna, one can spot shikras, black-winged kites, minivets and shrikes, birds of prey like the osprey, crested serpent eagle, Pallas’ fishing eagle and Himalayan grey-headed fishing eagle, and river birds like kingfishers, cormorants, terns, shanks, storks, sandpipers, dippers and forktails. If visiting between mid-December and end-March, you’ll likely spot a fair number of migratory species in the park, especially around the Kalagarh Reservoir.
There are also 33 species of reptiles, including the king cobra, the Indian Cobra, rock pythons and the Bengal monitor lizard. And there’s marine life aplenty, too – the Ramganga River is home to the mahseer, as well as the goonch, Indian trout, rohu, species of carp, and loach. You will also find long-nosed gharials, crocodiles (mugger and Indian Marsh), turtles and otters (common Indian). Corbett, in fact, is home to three species of otter; their presence is taken to be a sign of a healthy river bionetwork.

How to reach

Corbett is 250km northeast of Delhi, 63km southwest of Nainital. There are regular buses from Delhi to Corbett (every 30mins; 8hrs), as well as from Haridwar (9 daily; 5hrs) and Dehradun (9 daily; 6hrs 30mins). From Nainital (4 daily; 3hrs), you arrive via Kaladhungi, 26km southeast of Corbett (stop here to see Jim Corbett’s house, now a museum).
The overnight Corbett Link Express leaves Delhi (Old Delhi) at 10.45pm and arrives in Ramnagar at 5.30am (return 9.30pm-4.30am). The railway station at Ramnagar is 1.5km from the main reception centre. From Ramnagar, take a taxi to the park and Dhikala.
Ramnagar is well connected by road with Lucknow, Varanasi, Nainital, Ranikhet, Haridwar, Dehradun and Delhi. The drive from Delhi (295km) will take you via Gajraula, Moradabad and Kashipur, before you reach Ramnagar. Alternately, you can arrive in Ramnagar via Haldwani/Kashipur/Kathgodam.

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