A trip to Dhikala in Corbett National Park

Call of the Wild

Day-1

Our maruti gypsy was speeding through the forested Ramnagar-Ranikhet road piercing the darkness of the surrounding. Though it was the month of March but previous two days of heavy rain had drastically dropped the mercury and it was very chilly. We three of us were shivering as the icy cold wind lashed on us. It was 5 in the morning and we had just reached the Ramnagar station after an over night train journey in the Ranikhet Express. Our safari gypsy was waiting outside the station…All arrangements been made by Akram Khan,who provides assistance to the tourists in the Corbett Tiger Reserve.One can also hire maruti gypsy from the office of the Corbett Tiger Reserve at Ramnagar against the accomodation booking of any of the forest rest houses inside Corbett.A tall,young lanky guy with a grin in his face approached us and introduced himself as Jeeshan,  our driver for the entire jungle trip.The 18 km long drive ended soon and we reached the Dhangiri gate, the entry point to the Dhikala zone of the Corbett National Park.  At that dawn hours two more gypsies had already reached there and were waiting for the gate to be opened at 6.30 am.Subhransu quickly rushed to the office for identity verification and collecting the permit to enter inside the forest. Day safari is not permitted in this Dhikala zone except the Canter ride by the forest department. Only those tourists are let in through the Dhangiri gate who have atleast 1 night accomodation booking in any of the 4 forest rest houses in the Dhikala zone.At the very entrance of the gate there is a half bust statue of the famous hunter Jim Corbett and on the right hand side a little ahead is a museum with a vast collection of the jungle life.Soon Subhransu returned with the permit and Jeeshan was prompt to start his gypsy waisting no time at all. We took the straight road through the forest.
Our gypsy for the safari
The woods were dark and deep
The first glance of the Ramganga river

It was early dawn and the air was pristine.While Rakhi preferred to sit under the hood beside the driver we chose the rear seat to enjoy each and every moment of our safari. The forest was oak-brown and very primitive with sprawling trees standing erect like the silent sentinels of the grove.There were innumerable trees like Sal,Peepal,Amla, Jamun, Haldi, Rohini,Mango, different kinds of berries, and 488 species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna.This Corbett National Park, the oldest  in the country was established in the year 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered species of Bengal Tiger. Afterwards it was named Ramganga National Park and ultimately in 1955-56 it was renamed as Jim Corbett National Park after the noted author and wild life conservationist Jim Corbett.Nestled in the foothills of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand,Corbett Tiger Reserve comprises 520 square kms area of sub Himalayan belts, marshy depressions, grasslands, riverine belts and a large lake.There is a diverse variety of flora and fauna along with 580 species of domestic as well as migratory birds and 25 reptile species.Gradually the sun was rising and the soft velvety rays peeped through the netted mesh of leaves and we were practically bathed by the kissing sun rays. The chirping of the birds amidst the absolute silence of the jungle enraptured us. Our gypsy was moving slowly, sometimes through the dense wooded forest of sky catching Sals, sometimes through the open glades with distant mountains covered with thick lush green vegetations, again the next moment we were crossing a dry monsoon river with ankle deep water flowing feebly over the pebbles. The roller coaster ride over the steep undulating paths often laden with boulders and pebbles made our digestive enzymes craving for food.We had to pacify our hunger with biscuits and muffins which were left with us.

The forest greeted us with a warm smile
The roads inside Corbett
We three,ready to explore the forest
The male spotted deer posing for photo

Suddenly Jeeshan stopped his gypsy and we got down from the vehicle. Walking a few steps we came to a spot known as the “crocodile point”. Far away we saw the Ramganga river with turquoise blue water flowing through the lush green mountains on one side and deep gorge on the other. Looking through the binoculars we spotted 2 large greyish  gharials lying stone dead on the wide sandy river beds with their sharp teethed jaws wide open to catch the prey. Far away in the water a stork was standing still with one leg. We were simply amazed. All of a sudden Jeeshan pointed to a frivolous , small animal known as Martin, squirmishly vanishing into the dense foliage. After clicking a few photos we again started moving on. The woody incense from the snapping branches crashing to the forest floor,the piles of pale yellowish dry leaves rotting silently and the mounds of soil heaped up by the white ants created an organic compost wave of miasma. We took the road leading to the Gairal forest rest house. Inside the Dhikala zone there are 4 such forest rest houses. First we came across the Sultan forest rest house just on the outskirt of the core forest area. Subhransu was continuously capturing the nature with his Sony Handycam and Rakhi was dozing as usual. All of a sudden we saw a peacock on the roadside roaming unperturbedly. The vivid graceful color of the peacock was really magnificient. Then we came to a watchtower just beside the river from where one can experience a bird’s eye view of the entire area. Jeeshan showed us the Rohini trees bearing small fruits which are favourites of the elephants. These fruits have a red powdery coating on outside which served the purpose of vermillion to the jungle folks.It has the power to cool the body and hence elephants love them.

Subhransu with our driver Jeeshan infront of our safari gypsy,Rakhi there in the front seat
For the first time we got down from our gypsy at Crocodile Point
Subhransu and Jeeshan trying to spot gharials and crocodiles at “Crocodile point”
The Gairal forest rest house is beautifully located amidst the dense green forests with the river Ramganga flowing in front of it. On one side stands the old forest rest house built in British architectural style with deep green thatched asbestos roofs and on the other is the new forest rest house building along with the kitchen and dining area. We ordered for aloo parathas and tea. There were other tourists including a foreigner couple, all loitering on the grassy lawn. There we met a Bengali photographer extremely lucky to site a tiger and capture it in his tele lens. After spending an hour at Gairal, we again set off for our maiden jungle safari, this time towards our destination, the Dhikala forest rest house.
The Gairal forest rest house complex in the Dhikala zone amidst wilderness
Infront of the reception at Gairal

The Old forest rest house at Gairal
The New forest rest hose building at Gairal
Subhransu sunbathing at Gairal rest house
As we ventured deeper into the tangled heart of the age old forest we hoped that it will reveal the dark secrets to us.On our way we saw a herd of spotted deer with the males having beautiful articulated horns busy in eating fruits from the ground which the black faced long tailed langur were throwing to them sitting high up in the trees. Soon we came to a vast open grassland dotted with mountain ranges far away followed by thick blanket of greens. The entire place was covered with long dry elephant grasses on both the sides with narrow dusty roads running criss-crossed at many points. As we approached the forest rest house, I noticed the board of Dhikala outside the rest house complex. I was exhilarated as it had been my long cherished dream to stay at Dhikala and soak in the wilderness. Our gypsy brisked through the fenced gate and positioned itself beside the other vehicles. But it was 10 in the morning and so we had to wait for another one hour to occupy our rooms. This young lad Jeeshan was such a nature and wild life lover that he insisted us not to waste an hour but to have one more round of the safari. Our exhaustion at once vanished and we jumped into the seats and our gypsy rolled on. We travelled through the open grasslands and through the forested roads flanked with thick shrubs, bushes and trees. The sun was shining brightly and the forest reeked of age. Suddenly we came across a stunning vista of hundreds of miles of open grassland bordered with chain of mountain ranges and in the middle stood a large lake formed by the backwaters of the Ramganga reservoir. The deep prussian blue water of the lake blended perfectly with the blue sky above. I was completely mesmerised. Hunderds of spotted, barking and hog deer were grazing on the field and a couple of wild boars also joined them. As our gypsy approached nearer, they hastily ran away, though our purpose was not to disturb them being trespassers in their natural habitat. Jeeshan was very excited to show and explain us everything and prove his efficiency as a wild life expert. Corbett park is a birds’ paradise. Within that short span of time we saw plenty of blue-whiskered bulbuls, black partridges, grey colored doves, green bee-eaters and different types of parakeets jumping on the twigs and grasses and busy in pecking food. I was extremely eager to get down from the vehicle and rush to the blue mystic lake. But Jeeshan stopped me as the forest department does not allow any tourists to walk in the forest. I was little upset by such stringent rule. Our gypsy was running fast and there at far away we saw an array of bare tree trunks standing erect on the open land. As we went closer we realized that they were completely burnt and dead, but anyways they exhibited a beautiful cluster of creativity. Time passed by quickly and we had to return to Dhikala forest rest house.
The open grassland  in Dhikala zone of Corbett Park
The dusty road leading to the Blue lake formed by the Ramganga reservoir
The maiden glance of the Lake
The soul soothing blue water of the lake with distant range of Shivalik mountains
The burnt dead tree trunks on the open grassland at Dhikala
We approaching the dead tree trunks
Just at the entrance of the complex stood the New forest rest house building with 4 rooms on the first floor and the reception and a huge spacious restaurant on the ground. Our booking was in this building and we checked into our room. A middle aged person quickly came and assisted us. His name was Ramesh bhai, an employee of the forest department and for the next 2 days he took utmost delight in giving us as much comfort as possible. We were amazed by his courteuos behaviour. Rakhi was totally exhausted and so she dived into the bed. Our room was a large one with minimal furniture and a large window with glass panes. Looking outside through the window I was elated. The same soul soothing picture perfect scene of the Ramganga reservoir with wide sandy river beds, distant range of mountains covered with thick greens followed by the dense forest just outside the fenced boundary of our rest house complex. One could easily spent a couple of days just sitting on the log chairs in the open grassy lawn gazing at the nature. We were about to freshen up when suddenly we heard a terrible news. There was no water, no electricity in the rest house from last night. Alas! What would we do? The fact was that the severe rain along with lightning and thunder for the last two days had badly damaged the water pump and had snapped the electricity wires. Repairing work was on progress since morning but of no use. We at once called Ramesh bhai for help and sooner he arrived with two buckets full of water, our quota for the entire day. Anyhow we managed brushing away the idea of having a fresh bath. Everywhere there was a hue and cry for water and all the staffs were running with buckets full of water to pacify the tourists. We came out of our room to have our lunch and then to explore the place.Instead of heading to the restaurant downstairs we went to the adjacent canteen which serves food mainly to the staffs of the rest house. A fixed menu of rice, dal, one sabji and roti along with pickles and onion comprises the lunch thali at 150 rupees. Non vegetarian food is strictly prohibited in all the rest houses inside the Corbett National Park. We were severely hungry and so the humble food tasted divine.Moreover the warmth of the young lad Prakash serving food to us was indeed very brotherly. It was 1.30 p.m and we had an hour left for our afternoon safari.
The convoy of gypsies inside Dhikala forest rest house
There stands the New Forest rest house in Dhikala complex
Our room in the New forest Rest house,Rakhi taking rest
The spectacular view through the window of our room

The first thing one would notice after entering the Dhikala complex was the gang of red faced monkeys rampaging everywhere. These young and old, male and female, fat and feeble berserkers were a threat specially to the kitchen staffs. They stole whatever eatables they found in the kitchen. Later we heard that a few days ago one such notorious was caught red handed dragging a heavy packet of 10 kilograms of atta from the store room. So we were very cautious not to lure them with any food. The Dhikala forest rest house is located 30 kms from the Dhangiri gate deep inside the core area of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The sprawling Dhikala complex has different types of accommodations like double bed occupancy in the New forest rest house, Hutments, Cabins, Annexe and dormitories in the Loghuts.But the magnificent building of the Old forest rest house standing amidst the green carpetted lawn is a pride of Dhikala. This prestigious,heritage building built 100 years back by the British, now caters to the VIP guests only. Besides there is a small library with a decent collection of wild life books and magazines, a small canteen, an amphitheatre and the staff quarters. The three domestic elephants which take tourists for the jungle safari every morning and afternoon stay at the backside of the complex. We came to the rear side of the New forest rest house to take some rest in the lawn and imbibe in the essence of the forest. Far at the river bed three gharials were sunbathing, a bevy of white cranes flew away very close to the blue lake, a solitary song bird was singing at a distant Jamun tree. I was drenched in the sweet fragrance of the forest.

The sprawling Dhikala complex with Annexe buildings seen there
At the entrance of Dhikala
Well maintained Dhikala forest rest house complex
The other side of the New Forest rest house with the restaurant downstairs
The Annexe building amidst all shades of green
The prestigious Old Forest Rest house in Dhikala- only for the VIP’s
The pillars of  reminiscence–Old Forest Rest house in Dhikala
As seen from Dhikala forest rest house
The library
The restaurant
Rakhi and Subhransu inside the restaurant waiting for coffee

Jeeshan wanted to take the Sambar road, the  left hand narrow road just a little away from the Dhikala forest rest house, but it was closed due to water logging in patches. Here in this Corbett Tiger Reserve, all the roads are beautifully named like Sambar road, Ramsingh road, Kamarpetta road, Thandi road etc. So we drove straight near the lake. The rippling blue water of the lake was shining like silvery cascades and herds of deer were resting on the yellow, withered grasses, ready to be burnt. Keeping the lake on our right we took the left hand road. A watchful eagle was sitting high up on a dead tree trunk, waiting to plunge on its prey, a jungle cat shambled to the bush near-by. Soon we came to a little wide area where a gigantic, hollow tree trunk, half broken was standing just in the middle of the road. It was completely burnt out and greyish in color. Jeeshan told that it was the widest Sal tree in the entire forest but got burnt due to lightning, hence the place is called “Mota Sal”. We were in awe to witness such a tree with huge diameter and its ultimate fate.Leaving behind the lone dead warrior we chose the uphill road through dense forest. Shuffling noises could be heard from deep interior, deadened by the intricately woven web of leaves. A stout red jungle fowl was unflinchingly roaming inside the bushes and a huge tan-brown sambar peeped from the road side. Our gypsy was running smoothly. I was in love with this green, spacious, macho car, a sturdy four wheel drive with nylon tyres to access in all possible terrains.

The Sambar road was closed
We came to the open grassland with the mystic lake
The withered ” Mota Sal”
Presently Jeeshan was keen to spot a tiger, the hero of Corbett. He explained to us how they identify the “alarm call” raised by the deer who had seen the predator near by and run in that direction to spot one. Furthermore one has to be alert and patient enough and lastly it is sheer luck to sight a tiger in the wild. The tigers generally do not move in the day time. Being a member of the cat family they are basically lazy but super agile. They prefer to move after the sun sets so as to make its” kill” easily. Throughout the day they camouflage themselves with the colors of the leaves and when darkness approaches they search for prey. Jeeshan was giving a first hand knowledge to us about this endangered species as we waited silently in our jeep on the roadside. Fleets of jeep with tourists were plying up and down, each keeping a vigil. And whenever any two drivers were meeting on the road only they had one single question to ask,”Mila…kuch mila?”and undoubtedly they referred to a tiger. I was greatly amused by their earnest effort to please the tourists. My travel to the forest was not merely to sight a tiger and win the “rat race” but to indulge in all possible flavors of the wild, get seduced by the comforting melody of the woods, the birds, the insects, the air and taste the bit of apprehensive danger in the unknown wild. Hours rolled on but neither the tiger came out from his hiding nor any deer gave his clarion call. Time passed by very quickly. The sun was about to cast its last spell.Just 5 minutes were left to strike 6.Leaving all hope for the tiger to come out Jeeshan drove fierce fully back into the rest house, he had to reach there anyhow by 6 p.m, otherwise he would be penalized. The strict rules and guidelines imposed by the forest department is surely praiseworthy as they had taken every measure to protect the wild life. On our way back we spotted a cute baby deer, just a couple of days old all alone in the grassland. My mind trembled in apprehensive fear of the fate of that lost baby in the unknown dark.
We waiting in our Gypsy for sighting wild animal
The Hog Deer
The solitary song bird high up in the netted branches

Our jeep was the last to enter through the fenced gate of Dhikala which were all electrically charged to keep the wild animals away. There was a gathering of tourists outside the lawn. Some were sharing their experiences. A tiger sighting board was placed on the lawn outside the reception. The luckier ones who could spot a tiger mentioned the place and time with their names on that blackboard. An old gentleman was enthusiastically writing about his”magnanimous victory” to spot a tiger cub from a very close distance and was relishing his pride. Sun had completely set in and suddenly darkness grasped the entire area. The ore gold moon was hanging quite at a distance casting a honeyed sheen on the leaves. The lights of the rest houses were glowing feebly under the bespeckled sky. Cold breeze was blowing and so we hurriedly rushed into the restaurant for some hot cup of tea. The restaurant was a large, spacious one with a strip of balcony. There were some nice pictures of the wild life of Corbett framed on the walls. That night we dined there. The food was buffet style with vegetable soup, pasta, dal, mushroom matar, kadai paneer, salad, rice, roti and custard for 270 rupees each. The food was elaborate and we enjoyed it. Rakhi was terribly tired and so were we and our body needed rest. Moreover we had to wake up early morning the next day, as I had booked for the morning elephant safari. So we plunged into the bed to have a peaceful sleep but were super excited to apprehend what was waiting for us the next day. ……

Sun is setting in Dhikala
Darkness approaching
The illuminated Old forest rest house
                                                                                        to be continued……….
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9 thoughts on “A trip to Dhikala in Corbett National Park

  • January 25, 2016 at 1:44 pm
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    I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this
    website. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts
    from you later on as well. In truth, your creative
    writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now 😉

    Reply
    • Profile photo of indira
      February 29, 2016 at 6:40 am
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      Thanks for the appreciation. I am so happy to inspire you. Please share your blog links to indira@soulsafar.in. Please visit the site for more of such interesting soul safar stories.

      Reply
  • February 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm
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    Hi Indira this is a wonderful travelogue! Really enjoyed reading it. I am traveling to Corbett this March and was thinking of using Mr. Akram’s service for the safari arrangement.Would you be able to tell me how much charged for the safari and how many safaris he provided and for how long each safari would usually last? Also, will the safari car remain with me all the time so that I can take a safari any time I want (except night time of course)

    Reply
  • February 14, 2016 at 1:38 am
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    I do agree with all of the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They’re really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are too short for starters. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    • Profile photo of indira
      February 29, 2016 at 6:45 am
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      Thanks for your appreciation. Please keep visiting the site for more such interesting soul safars.

      Reply
  • February 26, 2016 at 10:23 pm
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    Grea information. Lucky mme I rran across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    Ihave book-marked itt for later!

    Reply
    • Profile photo of indira
      February 29, 2016 at 6:25 am
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      Thanks for reading and appreciating the posts.

      Reply
    • Profile photo of indira
      February 29, 2016 at 6:35 am
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      Thanks. Please keep visiting the site for more such soul safars.

      Reply

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