The Corbett National Park was India’s first national park that was set up in 1936. It spreads across aboput 600 square km, form 400 to 1200 m above sea level. It is located foothills of the western Himalayas in the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal in the state of Uttaranchal. It includes the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a part of its reserved forest area. The Corbett National Park was set up with the help and recommendation of great hunter and conservationist, Jim Corbett.
One of the most prominent features of this ridged valley is the Ramganga River, which runs broadly west by south west, and forms little rivulets that divided the land into numerous little ridges and ravines. The topography is very varied with streams forming islands of ‘sheesham’ trees, thickly foliated ridges of ‘sal’ trees and long grassed pastures. Wildlife abounds here in a variety of shapes and sizes, including about 50 mammal species, 577 birds and at least 25 different reptiles. The river teems with mahseer, gharial, mugger and flocks of cormorants.
Project Tiger was inaugurated in the Corbett National Park in 1973. The center of tourist activity in the park has always been at Dhikala, the heart of the core area. This is where residential accommodation has also been built along one end of a large grassy plateau that is perched on the edge of the cliff bordering the Ramganga reservoir.
The wildlife found here ranges across a broad spectrum of species and type. Apart from tigers, leopards, lesser cats such as the leopard cat, jungle cat, and fishing cat are also found here. The sloth bear, Himalayan black bear, dhole, jackal, yellow throated marten, Himalayan palm civet, Indian grey mongoose, common otter, porcupine, black naped hare are the other attractions of this area. It is also possible to see elephants all over the park. Elephant rides are arranged by park authorities with highly experienced mahouts, and are a great source for tourists, for observing the wild from the back of an elephant is a unique experience altogether.
Four species of deer are found here. These are the barking deer, para, kakkar, and the well known spotted deer chital. The goat antelopes are represented by the ghoral.
There are also many bird watching opportunities available in this park for over 580 species of birds have been recorded here. The avifauna is interesting and diverse because of the overlap between the high altitude and the plains. Most of the water birds are the migratory birds and arrive in winters. Some of them are the graylag, bareheaded goose, duck, grepe, snipe, sandpiper, gull and wagtail. The residents include darters, cormorants, egrets, herons, the black-necked stork and the spur winged lapwings.
The reptile population of the Corbett National Park is the rare fish eating, long-nosed crocodile gharial, and a few species of turtles and tortoises. The Indian python, viper, cobra, krait and king cobra also inhabit its undergrowth and swampy areas.
The national park offers incomparable experiences for adventurous, experimental as well as serious-minded wildlife-buffs, photographers and anglers. It is advantageous to have one's own vehicle here. Walking in some areas is permitted, but only when accompanied by a guide. Elephant rides for wildlife viewing, in the mornings and evenings, can be booked in the Dhikala complex.
As with the rest of the country, there are three well-defined seasons at the Corbett National Park-winter from November to February, summer from March to June and the rainy season the rest of the year. Corbett is closed for public from June 15 to November 15.