India’s largest and most celebrated national park has been on the wrong side of the news since July with the Supreme Court of India ordering a halt to tiger tourism here and in all tiger reserves in the country. The reason: Overenthusiastic tourism that paid no heed to the needs of wildlife. In September, the order was rescinded but only after state forest departments and tourist departments agreed to redraw the line on how much tourism was too much. That said, it’s a tragedy that the most eco-friendly eco-lodge near the park, Camp Forktail, closed down this year.
The tourist attitude to wildlife has changed little since the time when maharajas led shikar expeditions to the jungle to shoot tigers for sport. These days, the ‘hunters’ travel in jeeps, carry cameras and flock in alarming, chattering numbers around tigers. It’s a bit like missing the forest for the trees. No, a lot like it.
What tourists tend to overlook is that there is way too much to see and experience in Corbett than tigers. Of course, the national animal is a veritable trophy but one more enjoyable when the sighting is left to luck.
Among the five most precious experiences in Corbett, enjoy the glorious sunrise – the sight of sunlight streaming through the treetops and filtering in fog-filled beams to the forest floor is enchanting. Next, there are birds, to see which you must really go in winter. About 600 species have been recorded – the highest for any national park in India – and these include some rare species. The Corbett Waterfalls, viewed in all their glory just after the monsoon, are a sidelong glance away from the Kaladungi main road. The river Kosi by moonlight is among the most uplifting sights for any nature-lover, and one which only Corbett can offer. And finally, there is Jim Corbett himself, the legendary hunter-turned-conservationist in whose memory the park is consecrated. His house, now a museum, is filled with many poignant and inspiring memories.
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