Those who have never seen a leopard under favorable conditions in his natural surroundings can have no conception of the grace of movement, and beauty of colouring, of this the most graceful and the most beautiful of all animals in our Indian jungles.”
― Jim Corbett
Although Corbett was referring to “ the most beautiful animals ” in Indian forest , but, those words of appreciation are equally applicable for the unmatched wilderness and beauty of all the forests in India , and more specially of , the unparalleled beauty of wild-lifer’s paradise Jim Corbett National Park .
If you dream of a dawn when u wake up the chirping of Himalayan Black Bulbul…opening your eyes to see a Black Hooded Oriole knocking at your window pane – as if asking you to get- up …you dream of a lunch under the open sky, surrounded by dense sub-Himalayan forest, a lazy afternoon reading a classic with the sound of the mountain river on the rocky banks and falling asleep listening to the rhythmic tune of nigh jar and occasional orchestra by the Indian Golden jackal….your next Holiday destination should be Vanghat Wildlife Lodge .
The fun starts much before you actually reach there. Minutes after crossing Ramnagar , the nearest town from Corbett National Park, the sense of wilderness engulfs you. The dense tall saal trees from both sides of the road, as if almost kneeling down towards you to welcome the travelers in the kingdom of Royal Bengal tigers. A thrilling drive through the curvy roads will take you to a location near the core are of the forest where, you would need to park your car and gear up for the next adventure. A jungle -walk of about 2.5 km will take you to the bank of the Ramganga River. A small raft boat and a very cooperative local staff from the Lodge would make sure that you cross the crystal blue river safely.
As we walked pass the river bank, trekking towards the dense forest, the dark blue sky with white cottons floating around on the top with clear refection on the Ramganga water , flowing with mysterious pride, we automatically entered into a magical world of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. On the other side the gigantic rocky Himalayan terrains stood there as a silent witness of the world unknown since its inception. A few more moments up the dense forest and all of a sudden the Cottages would be visible. The entire campus have been so aesthetically planned and executed that it becomes so much part of the organic landscape of the area.
Vanghat which includes four mud and thatched cottages and five stone cottages, is perhaps one of the best example of a comfortable and quite luxurious stay in the middle of a dangerously beautiful forest. One can easily find the successful blend of all necessary basic facilities along with the sustainable natural environment. The beautiful cottages can accommodate 2-3 guests and have en-suite bathrooms and a varanda with each one of them.
With blissful souls and tired legs, as we entered our cottage, we could not help but express our sense of appreciation towards the detailing. Constructed with locally sourced clay, savannah thatch and wood inspired by traditional Vangujjar tribal style that has been perfected over hundreds of years so that it perfectly suits the environment and serve as natural air-conditioners. Each one is dedicated to a different group of wildlife, named and painted accordingly to give them unique identities.
As some of us decided to take small nap, we went out to explore the lodge. We all being regular in the area of wildlife and nature photography, It did not take us long to realize the stay at Vanghat is nothing less than living a jungle safari minus the barrier of a gypsy. Vanghat is not shooting your favorite birds from a distance or watching a Sambar deer running away, but it is more like actually living and experiencing the life of all those jungle folks. Choose any corner of this beautiful campus and sit quietly, once can experience the amazing nature unfolding some beauty or other, almost every second. We remembered watching Crested Serpent Eagle, the Black-winged Kite, the Indian Shikra, the Himalayan Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, Himalayan Vultures and Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagles without even moving more than 500 meters from the cottages.
Mr Sunanta Ghosh , the owner and founder joined us during lunch. The journey from a chief naturalist at a Resort to the owner of the wonderful initiative Mr Ghosh has indeed seen it all and has been continuously contributing to sustain the eco system of the area. Himself being a keen observer and lover of nature, he can really enrich an enthusiast with his vast experience and knowledge of the wildlife. He has been supporting the locals in terms of source of offering them employment, livelihood, basic training in wildlife.
Post lunch we went for a walk towards the other bank of the Ramganga. As we walked past the electric fence of the campus, all focused for the birds and lost in the beauty of nature, were suddenly stopped by our local boy Negi. He pointed out on the ground – a clear pug mark, big enough to be a male tiger. Although it seemed a bit old, the thought of a tiger passing by our cottage within not more than 100 meters distance made us shivering down the spine. Although the uncomfortable feeling eased out easily in few minutes later, as we became diligent with the river otter family playing in the water, white capped red stat and crested kingfisher. Just when we were thinking of coming back the breathtaking moment of a Grey Headed Fish eagle pouncing on the river and catching a huge fish, just like a snake bites its prey, made our day.
The night at Vanghat has its different beauty. As the sun sets behind the Himalayan mountains complete darkness engulfs the entire valley. Sitting by the side of camp fire, chatting and sharing jungle stories , up above- the countless stars smiling …it felt like an invisible time machine had transported us to a fictional “Skull- Island” or the world of Congo! Mr Ghosh , before wishing us good -night ,suggested to visit a particular location of the forest next day early morning to photograph the Great Hornbills.
The morning opera of Himalayan black bulbuls did not let us wait till the alarm-clocks wake us up. As we sipped our tea sitting at the balcony, the golden sunlight bathed the mountain peaks at horizon, one by one. Great Indian hornbill or great pied hornbill was indeed an experience which we could never forget. As directed by expert Negi, we did reach the spot and could not believe in our own eyes. Never saw so many of them together playing around the tall Saal and oak trees down the river bank.
Saying good bye to a dream land like this is always going to be the most difficult part of the trips. But, we were all pretty sure of one thing, as we bid adieu to each other, that we would definitely come back to this magical land again.
Nearest Railway station : Ramnagar ( 60 km )
Nearest Airport : Pant Nagar ( 50 km )
Distance from Delhi : 306.2 km
website : https://www.vanghat.com