“The book of nature has no beginning, as it has no end. Open this book where you will, and at any period of your life, and if you have the desire to acquire knowledge you will find it of intense interest, and no matter how long or how intently you study the pages, your interest will not flag, for in nature there is no finality.” ― Jim Corbett
I always have been curious about life of legendary Jim Corbett, who was famous both for his hunting of man eaters as well as for wildlife conservation efforts in the Kumaon region of Uttarkhand. It was his endeavour to protect the wildlife of Kumaon region that led to the setting up of Jim Corbett National Park 1936 (formerly known as Hailey National Park). I had been planning to visit Jim Corbett National Park with family for a long time now, but as luck would have it, it was with my fellow women traveller friends that I went off on an almost impromptu long weekend getaway some time ago.
We were being hosted by Corbett Wild Iris Resort & Spa in associating with TCBG_Trips, located in village Kyari Kham, among lush green Sal forests all around. The Resort’s USP is definitely the location and hospitality. The Resort offers cottages and suites in different categories, along with a wide range of facilities catering to both family as well as corporate groups. The prices start from INR 7000/- per room which include Breakfast & one major meal. Check details here : www.irisresorts.com
It took us 5 hours from Delhi to Ramnagar in Uttarakhand and the drive was mostly pleasant, with only few traffic bottlenecks. Our excitement grew as got off the main highway and drove into the village road, with tall Sal trees on both sides. The smell of the forest, the soothing breeze even during the afternoon and the chirping of birds was all that our urban minds needed to switch off from stress. Soon, we checked ourselves into the Resort and opted for a quick refreshment & nap in late afternoon.
In early evening, we accompanied the Resort’s resident naturalist Manjit for a nature walk in the village & forest nearby. Amidst exchanging stories of wildlife, learning about the local birds, tree species and some banter on our wildlife travel experiences, we had a fun evening on the first day before wrapping up with an early dinner.
We got up at the crack of dawn (actually before dawn!) the next day as it was THE Big day of morning Jeep Safari inside the Jim Corbett National Park. The guides and drivers held a lot of promise of a tiger sighting, as a tiger had been sighted the previous day. Most of our group were quite excited about the prospect of sighting tigers, however, I was more excited to be in the jungle. The sight and sounds of a jungle are so surreal for me and watching animals in their natural state, even if they are deers or antelopes is exciting for me. We spent a lot of time trying to spot a tiger and in the process we did sight many types of deers, monkeys, langurs, birds and antelopes. We even saw tiger pug marks and tiger poop! But no tiger! Well, my date with Mr/Mrs Tiger is now scheduled for next visit I guess. Exhilarated from the morning jeep safari but a bit disappointed, our group came back to the resort and some of us opted for a spa session to get over all the rigours of jeep driving of over 2 hours!
Post lunch, the Resort had arranged a surprise for us and it turned out to be quite sweet one! They had arranged for us to join a local village Baithaki Holi with women, which is unique form of Holi celebrations in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. I and my co-travellers absolutely had a fun time singing & dancing to local folksongs, partaking in the sweets & conversations with the local village women. It was such a beautiful way of celebrating Holi in my opinion. We also visited Garjiya Temple (also known as Girjia Temple /Girjiya Temple), an ancient temple situated in the middle of Koshi River in Ramnagar.
Recommended Read : Celebrating Baithaki Holi in Kumaon, Uttarakhand
The next day we visited Choti Haldwani, which was Jim Corbett’s village when he lived there and is now a heritage village. We first visited Jim Corbett Museum, which is a quaint Scottish style cottage, originally the summer home of Jim Corbett and his sister in Haldwani.
The Jim Corbett Museum has been beautifully conserved and a visitor gets to learn in detail about the life of the legendary hunter and conservationist through photographs, letters and ther memorabilia displayed. There is also a grave of his favorite dogs, who always used to accompany Jim Corbett everywhere; apparently Jim Corbett himself constructed the graves in loving memory of his beloved dogs.
We then headed to Choti Haldwani, the village of Jim Corbett and a heritage village today. Jim Corbett owned all of the lands of Choti Haldwani, however, it was his goodwill & vision that he not only settled many local people here giving away the lands but helped them earn living through the land. He constructed many canals, channelized the rivers and even built a wall around the village to protect from wild animals. However, the most commendable part was that he gave away all the lands without taking a penny when he moved from India to Kenya to the villagers and continued to take active interest in the village through written communication till the time he was alive. It was in Choti Haldwani that I truly understood the scale and encompassing vision of ‘conservation’ that Jim Corbett had, as its not only the animals which need conservation but the humans need to be provided a safe haven to be able to understand the importance of conservation! We also played baithaki holi with the villagers of Choti Haldwani, at Trilok Singh’s home at the old chaupal built by Jim Corbett. The family of Trilok Singh had been gifted one of the single muzzle loading gun by Jim Corbett, which we also got to see.
We then visited the forest rest house in Haldwani where Jim Corbett killed & showcased the biggest tiger ‘bachelor of Pawalgarh’ before giving up hunting tigers entirely.
Our lunch of the day was at a special lady’s home – Savita Ji, who was an organic farmer. It was so inspiring to hear her journey and experience as an organic farmer and a woman entrepreneur. She has been leading the organic farming initiatives in her village for 25 years now, having established self-help groups, winning many awards and currently her organic rice is being exported to Switzerland in collaboration with a corporate Indian brand. It was one of my trip highlights in Jim Corbett and I thank Wild Iris team for taking me to Savita ji home.
Our day ended with a special kumaoni dinner with team of Wild Iris Resort and it was the perfect ending to our amazing long weekend in Jim Corbett National Park region.
The trip to Jim Corbett National Park & surrounding villages left me wanting to come back again with family, not only to see wildlife but also the heart warming villagers, the beautiful scenery and culture of Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Hopefully, I will return soon.
You may like to read my other travel experiences in Uttarakhand, here :