Friday, August 20, 2010

Corbett National Park

Spread over 1300 Sq. Km at the foot hills of the Himalayas,this breath taking  beautiful sanctuary called Corbett National Park,is one of the oldest and biggest sanctuaries in India. Formed in 1935 it was called Hailey National Park, named after the then governor of United Province (then part of undivided India), Sir Malcom Hailey. 

Jim Corbett Barge
It was around these parts that the Wildlife conservationist Sir Edward James Corbett spent most of his childhood and adult life before moving to Kenya. A passionate conservationist and an avid wildlife photographer, he learnt most of his craft in these woods. A strong advocate of preserving wildlife, he took to hunting only when the big cats in the jungle turned man-eaters. Many of these stories can be found in the book Man Eaters Of Kumaon. In 1957 the name of the sanctuary was changed to Corbett National Park in his honour (two years after he passed away).

Hang on!There are many ways of getting to this jungle paradise. One can take a train to Dhangarhi Gate station which is about 32 Km away from the city of Ramnagar or take a flight to Pantnagar which is the nearest airport (about 90 Km from Ramnagar). But, perhaps the best way of getting here is by road. For the most part, the roads are good and as you get closer to the sanctuary the road gets engulfed by forests which add to the excitement .

Ramnagar, the gateway to the sanctuary, is a typical small Indian town full of life, colour and chaos. One can easily find a place to stay here. There are options for everyone, from cheap and cheerful to the luxurious. In case you plan to visit during December-January or during May-June it's a good idea to book a place in advance, as this happens to be the peak season.

The main attraction is the Tiger, but one must realize it is very difficult to spot this king of the jungle. This, once in a lifetime experience,is both breath taking and scary at the same time. It is usually preceded by a calm and then, there is a general air of heightened alertness. Once the languors and deer start giving out calls that a tiger is out on the prowl, some prehistoric human instincts take over, the hair stands on its ends and everyone waits with baited breath for that elusive chance of seeing the tiger.

Green Bee-EaterIn case you don't get to see this big cat don't be disappointed.There is plenty to see in the forest. The forest is also home to wild elephants, deer and many species of birds. If you happen to go during the winter months you can see many large migratory birds flocking these woods. Most of these are found near the dam at Ramnager. The dam was built in 1967 for irrigation purposes. and when it was built it had a significant impact on the local ecosystem. Gradually, a lake formed by the dam became a home to many large water fowls flying to warmer areas during the winter.

Once you are done with the sanctuary you can pay a visit to the Garjia Temple. The temple is of great importance to the locals and this is situated in the middle of the Kosi river. With the blessings from the temple you can step on to one of the oldest suspension bridge in the region. Bridge over Kosi River
Over 120 years old, this may not be the longest or biggest suspension bridge on the planet but it is an architectural feat, none the less. During the summer months take a dip in the river for the current is not so strong and the river is relatively calm. Come monsoon, when the river swells up,the bridge provides a safe passage  over the violent river.

Lonely WalkBefore you wrap up your trip, head out to the town of Kaladhungi. This small town is where Sir Edward Corbett grew up and spent most of his childhood. There are many small canals on the outskirts of the forest, some of which are over a 100 years old. Amazingly they all still working,  provide drinking water for the locals and the water is used for irrigation as well. One can take a leisurely stroll along these canals. It won't be long before you feel you are in a fairyland and a mystical creature is hiding behind the next tree or shrub just waiting to jump in front of you. This may not happen but, if you tread softly and you are lucky, you might spot a dear sipping water in the stream. 

One can easily imagine a young Jim Corbett merrily going through the woods, watching the trees in awe and falling in love with the forest. Today, the house where he and his family stayed has been converted into a museum. It has many of Corbett's personal belongings and the grave of Robin and Roswana. Robin was his faithful and brave dog who accompanied his master on the hunting expeditions.

Corbett FallsNot very far from here is another natural wonder, the Corbett falls. It is a small but beautiful water fall. A popular destination among tourists and locals.It is worth a visit. There is a small entry fee to get to the place. After a small trek one comes to a bridge and soon the sound of the waterfall fills the air and before long this beautiful natural wonder is revealed.

It is not hard to understand why so many visitors come to Corbett,sometimes making multiple visits . The forest has a persona of its own and the history surrounding the place adds the spice and colour to this beautiful place.

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