Corbett and Mukteshwar – The gems of Kumaon

We did this trip back in December 2013. Both my wife and I had office shut downs during the last week of December and we decided to travel somewhere north. Since my wife’s family was free that time and since the interest in wildlife and tigers runs in their family, we chose to visit Corbett and it turned into a family trip. Corbett would work out well for us because unlike other tourist destinations at this time, the cost of stay and other things would not increase because of the peak season. It was just a matter of making sure we booked the accommodation and the forest permits at the right time. Corbett in itself would not require a week. So we decided to club it with Mukteshwar, the lesser known town in the Nainital district of Uttarkhand.

Visiting Corbett for most people would mean booking accommodation in one of the resorts around the forest area, getting a permit to go on a safari which takes you through the outer parts of the forest, spending the rest of your stay enjoying the facilities in resort while getting intoxicated in-between. This is not how you enjoy Corbett. Corbett’s beauty lies in its splendid landscape and diverse wildlife. It has hills, riverine belts, wonderful grasslands and a large lake right beside a forest guest house. You will find forest guest houses built in beautiful locations inside the forest, probably one of the few national parks in India which still allows visitors to stay in the core areas of the jungle despite the supreme court order.

In order to book accommodation in one of these guest houses, visit this website: http://corbettonline.uk.gov.in. The booking opens 45 days in advance exactly at midnight. You need to have fast fingers as the rooms get booked in less than 15 mins. It’s almost the same experience as booking a train journey on popular route on irctc website. The guest houses are located in different zones, Dhikala being the most favoured one by all as it is centrally located inside the core area and with faster access to grasslands and other interesting places of forest. To enter the forest, you need a safari permit. If you have booked accommodation in one of the forest guest houses inside, you don’t need separate safari permit. If you didn’t get accommodation inside, you can still enter the park through a separate safari permit which opens 30 days in advance on the same website. You need to book permits for morning and evening safaris separately. Of the different zones available to enter, you can choose to visit Dhikala through a canter, or pick one of the outer zones to visit through a gypsy. I would recommend picking Bijrani in such a situation as there have been many tiger sightings in this area in the past. The journey from the gate to Dhikala area itself might take a lot of your time if you plan to visit that area in one safari. The main areas (Dhikala, Bijrani) of the park stays open for around 8 months from mid November to mid June. The buffer zones (Jhirna, Sitabani) remain open throughout the year.

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