In the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, in the district of Nainital lies India’s oldest national park, the Jim Corbett National park. The park is home to a diverse variety of flora and fauna and is a favorite haunt for tourists and wildlife lovers. One can see different species of mammals including 3 species of otters, all kinds of deer, king cobras, river turtles, crocodiles, elephant herds and of course, those famous tigers.
Corbett also has vast open grasslands surrounded by towering tall hardwood trees like the Sal in the midst of which flows the Ramganga river, serving as home to a variety of wildlife as well as adding a gorgeous backdrop to the national park.
Corbett National Park is one of the few tiger reserves that allows guests to stay overnight within the park’s boundaries. And on a secluded bank of the Western Ramganga River, you will find one of most remote wildlife lodges in northern India, the Vanghat.
Vanghat is accessible only by a 2km cross-country walk that includes crossing the river waters on a makeshift raft. Its best to travel light as this trek can be quite exhausting with a heavy baggage.
The eco lodge itself is a cluster of about 5 cottages with thatched roofs merging with the forest environs and appearing to be one with the wilderness. Each cottage can accommodate 2-3 people. It comes with an en-suite bathroom and a verandah where you can relax and watch the wildlife from the comforts of your temporary home.
Vanghat is an eco lodge in every sense – there are no TVs, no ACs, and poor mobile connectivity, unless you had a BSNL connection. You may get a signal if you head to the river, but would you dare when there may be wild animals on the prowl?
You do get hot water on demand though, so that might come as a relief especially if you’ve gone on long walks and want to relax your aching muscles. Meals are simple, yet delicious, with the local chef being an expert in Indian and Tibetan specialities and continental fare. Meals are served in the dining area by candlelight.
There are many walking trails around Vanghat with a waterfall view in one of them. The lodge offers a number of wildlife activities including.
The Walking Safari: There’s no better way to be one with the forest than by walking through it. Remember the lodge is not situated inside the premises of the National Park, but on its fringes, in the Corbett Tiger Reserve, which is like a buffer zone to the national park, which still offers a stunning view of the rich wildlife.
Walking in the national park is forbidden, but here in the tiger reserves, you can experience a heightened sense of the wild from the rustling in the undergrowth to the myriad of birdcalls. Everything is amplified in this deep dark part of the woods and you get a feeling that you’re not the one watching, but are the one being watched.
Your Vanghat guide will enlighten you about the different species of birds and help you identify them by their calls or sometimes by their poop; you will see footprint or paw scratches left behind by the tigers; you will see firsthand the wild boar’s dig outs and you will definitely spot deer and elephants, and if you’re terribly lucky, some big cats themselves. There are plenty of trails around the lodge, some easy, some not, and there are new ones constantly being added so no walking safari will ever be the same.
Bird Watching: Uttarakhand is home to one of the richest and most diverse bird habitats in Asia. Over 600 species of birds can be spotted in this region and Vanghat is ideally situated to check out the overwhelming array of birds that flock the region.
You can catch the noisy white-throated and crested Laughingthrush, the vociferous green Magpie, the colorful long-tailed Broadbill, the hunting parties of Minla, black-necked Tit, Siberean rubythroat, grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, red headed Vulture, and scarlet Minivets among others. Vanghat also offers to plan and book bird watching excursions across other parts of Uttarakhand and India for you, should you desire.
How to Get to Vanghat
By road: From Delhi, you can take the train to Ramnagar and hire a taxi to drive down to Vanghat. From the nearest road, Vanghat is a 2km walk across a bridge down the Ramganga valley, through a village before crossing the the river once again on a bamboo raft.
From here it is a short walk to the lodge. You need to have average level of fitness to make the trek and must keep your luggage light to be easily portable by the staff. If you are arriving by your own vehicle, secure parking is available at the point where you break off for your 2km trek. Driving from Delhi takes about 5-7 hours.
By air : If you are arriving at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Vanghat staff can book a private pick up to transfer you to Vanghat, which is a 300km drive, or you can be booked for an overnight stay in Delhi or near Ramnagar, depending on the time of your flight’s arrival.
By train : The nearest railway station to Vangat is Ramnagar. Vanghat staff arranges pick up from the station to Vanghat, which takes about 1 to 2 hours. If the train lands late at night, guests can be booked into a nearby accommodation before proceeding to Vanghat the following morning. A train from Delhi to Ramnagar usually takes between 5 and 6 hours.0