Corbett is one of the most frustrating parks to book accommodation for. You'll be surprised that I say this, because a web search will yield several hotels around the park. The fact is that if you're serious about wildlife you want to stay away from the noisy boors who'll come to park for a drive because they have nothing better to do. Staying in one of the outside resorts means that you'll enter the forest with these people and each time you see a tiger, there'll be a mini traffic jam with people shouting like it's a fish market. So, most wildlife enthusiasts choose to stay at one of the several forest rest houses in the park - the most popular of these being Dhikala. Dhikala is about 49 kilometres from the Dhangari gate of Corbett Tiger Reserve and is in the thick of this magnificent jungle. Only residents at the rest house can drive through the safari routes here and getting accommodation is so tough that only enthusiasts take the trouble.
To tell you the fact, the reservation system is from the dark ages. You fax them a request months prior to your arrival. You keep calling them every day to follow up on your request. You then send them a demand draft when they confirm your booking (yes, even electronic transfers don't work). All this, and you now need to find a good safari jeep and a good driver. After all that trouble, I still wasn't able to get accommodation at Dhikala for both my nights and I ended up getting a night at Dhikala and a night at Bijrani, a rest house slightly more on the outside of the forest. Getting accommodation at Dhikala is truly an insider's job and in hindsight I recommend you take the services of either of the following folks to take the load off your head:
The Bijrani rest house is quite old in itself. Established in 1928 as a hunting lodge for the British, it serves as an in forest accommodation for tourists. The zone however, is shared across both day visitors and lodge residents. This tends to make the zone quite noisy, despite the fact that your accommodation can get you several minutes of tranquility when at the rest house. Do remember that you can get out early each morning and stay back late each evening when all other vehicles are likely to be racing against time to reach the gate. Bijrani is also a comparatively drier zone which makes game spotting somewhat easier.
Now did we see a tiger at Bijrani? You bet we did - a young female who chose to sleep in a little cave in almost human fashion. It seemed to make no difference to her as the guides and visitors on the hillock above her made a huge ruckus about her presence. We left her fast asleep, only to come back in the afternoon to watch her lounging in her private pool after the long siesta.
Anyways, Corbett was the last stop on the big cat trail this year. It's been quite amazing - we've spotted 49 big cats; 28 lions, 20 tigers, and 1 leopard. I think it's quite humbling to be stuck one short of a half century; nature's way of showing she's still in control. I am returning to Bangalore enriched by this experience. I've learned so much and I am more appreciative of this country's biodiversity than I was ever before. The big cat trail will be on the road again in the summer of next year and my plan is to visit the following parks: