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CORBETT NATIONAL PARK
Just short of 300 km northeast of Delhi , cradled in the foothills of the Himalayas lies the Corbett National Park. It is India's first national park and also one of her finest. It was named Corbett National Park, in honor and memory of the late Jim Corbett, the legendary. hunter-naturalist turned author and photographer who helped in demarcating the park's boundaries and setting it up. The man who had influenced Jim Corbett most to hang up his guns and take to the camera was a forest officer, F.W. Champion, the pioneer of wildlife photography in India. This National Park was one of the first tiger reserves along with seven others in the country; today, there are 18 such reserves. The tiger census for 1984 reveals that there are now 4005 tigers in India. Corbett is , in fact , a large valley with its long axis from east to west. Through this valley run three thickly forested ridge systems roughly parallel to one another and in the same direction .
Small offshoots of these ridges run north to south and the valleys formed in between are known as sots. The ridge to the north forms the boundary of the park in that direction and Panda, the highest point, with its magnificent panoramic view of the park is here. Corbett is open from mid-November to mid June but you should avoid the crowded weekends. The gates are closed at sunset and no night driving is allowed. Dhikala is the main accommodation centre in the park, 51 km from Ramnagar (the nearest railhead). Outside Corbett there are some expensive resorts and a few hotels in Ramnagar. Permits for an overnight stay in the park have to be obtained from the park reception centre at Ramnagar (Tel: 85-489) where accommodation is booked. Its open daily from 8 a.m. to 1 PM and 3 to 5 PM It's also possible to book some accommodation through UP Tourism in Delhi (Tel: 011-3322251), and the three rooms at Khinanauli must be booked through the Forest Office in Lucknow (Tel: 0522-246140_). Some travellers have reported that they've arrived at Ramnagar to be told that accommodation in Dhikala is booked out for up to five days ahead. If this is the case, rather than waiting in Ramnagar, make a booking and head for the nearby hill stations of Naini Tal or Ranikhet. Day visitors are not allowed to enter from Dhangarhi Gate or to visit Dhikala. To visit Bijrani you must first get permits from Ramnagar, only 100 permits are granted each day and no advance reservation is possible. Charges given in this section are for foreign nationals; Indians are charged about two -thirds less. At the park gates you must pay an entry fee. At Dhikala there's a library and interesting wildlife films are shown there (free) in the evenings. The elephant rides at sunrise and sunset are not to be missed . During the day you can sit in one of the observation posts to watch for animals. At Bijrani there's an interpretation centre and restaurant. It's sometimes possible to get elephant rides from here. There's a bank for foreign exchange in Ramnagar.
There's a wide range of accommodation but the prices charged for foreigners mean that it's not good value. There's a very basic dormitory (like three tier sleepers on the trains!). There are two restaurants, one run by KMVN and the other a private operation. With your own transport and food, you can also stay in Forest Rest Houses at Sarapduli, Bijrani, or Gairal, Khinanauli; and any of the other Forest Rest Houses (see the Corbett National Park map) . Don't forget to ' clearance certificate ' at Dhikala before you leave the park.
Note that if you use Ramnagar a base you'll have to rent a jeep here and you won't be able to go out on elephant rides on the centre of the park, as day visits to Dhikala are not allowed. There's a good Tourist Bungalow (Tel ;85225), next to the reception centre. Down the side street off the main drag, the Hotel Everest has rooms with bathrooms . Rooms at the hotel Govind are a little cheaper but not so clean. This place does, however , have a good restaurant. The manager is very helpful but don't believe the sign that says 'Alcoholic Drinks Strictly Prohibited' !
There are some upmarket resorts, but they're outside the park. The quality Inn Corbett Jungle Resort (Tel :85230) has attractive cottages high above the river (including meals) and offers elephant rides and excursions into Corbett. The Corbett Riverside Resort (Tel : 85961) have some pleasant rooms in a peaceful location close to the river. The Claridges Corbett Hideaway (Tel : 85959) is more upmarket with accommodation in attractive ochre cottages set in an orchard of mango trees . Tiger Tops Corbett Lodge (Tel : 011- 6444016) is a very luxurious place . There are elephant rides, jeep trips and a swimming pool. Despite the name it's not part of the company that, operates the resort in Chitwan (Nepal)
Ramnagar is connected by train with Moradabad. The bus terminal is near the reception centre and the hotels : the railway station is 1.5 km south.
Ramnagar is connected by bus with Delhi , Lucknow , Naini Tal and Ranikhet. The bus terminal is near the reception centre and the hotels: the railway station is 1.5 km south. A bus runs from Ramnagar to Dhikala at 3.30 PM, returning from Dhikala at 9 am the next day. The airport at Pantnagar is 110 km away - too far to be of any use . There are also three day package tours operated by UP Tourism and others from Delhi.
Apart from the daily bus service to Dhikala the only form of transport available there is elephants. Jeeps can usually only be rented at Ramnagar .
These two towns, six km apart, form an important travel junction for travellers to Naini Tal and most of the hill stations in the Kumaon region. Kathgodam is the railhead and there are evening trains to Lucknow , Agra and Jodhpur. There are retiring rooms, a good refreshment room and a tourist office. Bookings can be made in the out-agencies in many hill stations. There's supposed to be a connecting bus to Naini Tal but if the train is late you'll miss it. If you're coming up to this area it may be better to get off the train at Haldwani, where there's a big bus terminal.
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