Apparently built on the lines of Cumbrian Lake District by the British, Nainital is one of Uttarakhand's most popular hill stations. A few kilometres from Nainital lie other towns that have lakes as their centres. Bhimtal, Sattal and Naukuchiatal are charming little hill-towns built around tranquil lakes as well, and so this region is known as the Tal region. Blessed with gorgeous landscape including forests, rivers and hills outside the park, Corbett as a destination today is far bigger than the national park itself. un[travel] the Tal region of Kumaon and come in search for Shere Khan in the forests of Corbett National Park.
Arrival-Safari at Bijrani or Jhirna
Set off from Ramnagar railway station with visions of big cats conquering your mind. Jim Corbett Park, spread across 1,300 sqkilometres is nestled between the Himalayan foothills in the north and the ancient Shivaliks in the south.
In spite of the enormous area of the reserve, if you’ve never spotted a tiger in the wild, this is the one place where your luck just got better. India’s first national park, the sizeable population of Sal trees make the perfect hideaway for wildlife. There’s much to see as a wildlife enthusiast, from wild elephants, sloth bears, langur monkeys and rhesus macaques to deer including chital (spotted sambars, hog and barking deer) and peacocks as well. You could very well get to see the odd leopards here, but mugger crocodiles, gharials, monitor lizards, wild boars and jackals are practically around every corner. Bijrani’s proximity to both Ramnagar as well as Dhikuli/Garjia (where most resorts are located) make it the perfect safari zone here. Being the most popular zone for day safaris, safari bookings (especially over weekends) can be hard to get so confirm ahead of your travel here. With just 30 vehicles permitted on each safari, plan in advance for the morning or afternoon sessions - bookings open 45 days in advance.
Home to Corbett’s official “supermom”, Sharmili the tigress, Bijrani attracts a fair number of tourists. A lot more because Sharmili is fairly camera-friendly, having seen her fair share of visitors, and has raised family of four cubs who are regularly seen as well.
Thick sal forests and dry streambeds make up the main topography of this zone, along with a few areas of grasslands. There is a watch tower at “Zero Point” where you can get off the safari vehicle and stretch your legs. Take a look around for both Great Hornbills as well as Oriental Pied Hornbills here.
You could also head over for the Jhirna safari if time permits. An erstwhile village, now relocated due to man-animal conflict, Jhirna’s thick forests and grasslands are perfect for birding as well as wildlife. One of just two zones that remain open for tourists throughout the year, Jhirna is known for spotting the occasional sloth bear as well.
Head back to your hotel after a spectacular day in the forests.
Tour of Taal Area
Head over to Nainital after an early breakfast. Apparently built on the lines of Cumbrian Lake District by the British, Nainital is one of Uttarakhand’s most popular hill stations. With majestic views, Nainital is set in a valley around an eye-shaped lake, where according to legend, the Goddess Sati’s eyes had fallen. Bustling markets with spectacular views of the hills essentially make Nainital a gateway to the upper reaches of the mighty Himalayas. With the scenic and bio diverse Jim Corbett National Park just a two-hour drive from here, hordes of tourists tend to flock here at peak season which is generally between March-July each year.
A few kilometres from Nainital lie other towns that have lakes as their centres. Bhimtal, Sattal and Naukuchiatal are charming little hill-towns built around tranquil lakes as well, ultimately giving this area its name, the Taal region. Begin at the famed Naini lake and work your way around the area. Naini Lake still maintains its serenity and cleanliness, in spite of being bang in the middle of the general tourist buzz. Sattal is actually an interconnected group of seven freshwater lakes (saat - Hindi for seven). Set amidst dense forests of oak and pine, Sattal is the perfect setting for what you imagine a lake in the mountains to be. Naukuchiatal is clearly named because the lake has nine corners, apparently impossible to be viewed at the same time (prepare to disappear or attain nirvana, depending on which legend you like, if you do manage to see all nine corners). Bhimtal is the largest lake in the Kumaon region, with a small island at the centre accessible by boats. Head back to Bhimtal for the night.
Tour of Ranikhet
Spend some time in the Taal area if you’d like or drive over to Ranikhet. Picturesque views and renowned orchards make the little cantonment town of Ranikhet a popular tourist destination. Spectacular views of the Himalayas aside, Ranikhet is home to one of Asia's highest golf courses a mere 5 kilometres away. Head to the 700-year-old Jhula Devi temple, renowned for its healing powers. The thousands of bells gently swaying are witness to the numerous devotees who come to worship the deity on the jhula (swing). Move on to the famous Chaubatia Orchards, for its apple, peach, plum and apricot plantations. Get yourself some fresh fruit juice and squash (prices are government regulated, and you can do some serious stocking up here). Just 3 kilometres below the orchards lies the Bhalu Dam. Constructed way back in 1903, the dam-site holds a small artificial lake set amidst dense pine trees. Visit Asia’s highest nine-hole golf course; you could very well find yourself asking for a membership application form (it accepts applications from residents outside Ranikhet as well). Head back to your hotel at Ranikhet after a day well spent.
Tour of Kausani
Leave for Kausani after breakfast. Once described by Gandhi as the Switzerland of India, Kausani is just as breathtakingly beautiful as its European counterpart. Spectacular views of the Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Panchachuli Peaks are visible if the weather is clear. Drive over to the tea estates of Kausani that, from a distance, give the impression of well-mowed green lawns on mountain slopes. After this, head upto the Gandhi (Anasakti) Ashram where Gandhi once stayed to write his book “Anasakti Yoga?”. You will find numerous books on Gandhi’s life here and a quaint museum as well. Spend the night in serene Kausani.
Spend your last day in the mountains with a quick 16-kilometredrive to the 12th-century Shiva temple at Baijnath. Originally built by the Katyuri kings, the stone temple complex is an intricate display of ancient architecture. The main temple has a striking idol of Parvati, chiselled in black stone, unlike any other across the country. Spend some time here before heading back to explore Kausani town a little more. Leave for Kathgodam after lunch for your train back home after a memorable holiday in the mountains.