Core of Corbett (Dhikala) – How much does it cost and should you visit there?

Sayantan.geo

TRAVELER BABA
Core of Corbett (Dhikala) – How much does it cost and should you visit there?

Corbett National Park, named after the legendary Jim Corbett, is well known for its natural beauty is also among the last few habitats of the Indian tigers. No doubt, it is one of the most pristine places one could visit. However, visiting Corbett is not an easy affair, especially if you want to explore the core zones of the forest. In this blog, I am going to discuss the costs involved in visiting one of the regions- Dhikala, based on our recent trip in 2017 and try to answer the question – should you visit the core of Corbett?*

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The cost involved

First, let’s start from the preparation phase. You need to have the Forest Rest Houses (FRH) booking in advance if you want to do a jungle safari there. Canter safaris are available, but they will not venture into the interiors. Simply put- if you want a gypsy safari, you need to book the FRH. However, booking a FRH in Dhikala is not easy as they are always in high demands. So we planned early and tried booking online in the official website as soon as the booking opened for our desired dates. But bad luck! All of the advertised accommodations are booked already. Later, more probing unraveled that the rooms are booked almost in an instant and apparently the only possible way to make sure you’ve a reservation is to go through an agent (unless you know somebody in the Forest Dept.). Here comes the real cost calculation.

The actual cost of the accommodation is Rs. 3925 but since we had to go via an agent, we spent about Rs. 4700 per room. Next is transport. Of course you need to hire a Gypsy to go there and that could cost you around Rs. 5000 – 6000 depending on the agent you contact. For us it was 5000 for two days including two safaris. Since we went to Rampur in our cars, we had to pay the parking fee at some private parking place (note- the Dhikila forest gate won’t let you park your car there), which costs 200. The round trip fuel cost in my car was around Rs. 3000. Of course you can take the train from Delhi to Ramnagar and that would cost significantly less.
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We reached Ramnagar and the agent cordially invited us. He then took us to the gate of Bijrani Range, where we met the driver with the vehicle. Soon after he got the remaining money, he waved good bye to us and told us to provide Rs. 5000 to the driver upon completion of the trip. It was straight forward business and I liked the way he handled it professionally. The driver then requested us to hire two binoculars, which we initially refused. However, he continued nagging and finally we rented one at Rs. 200 per day. Here, I must confess that although we knew that the driver is trying to make some commission there, but it was great decision to hire that binocular. Later, we were amazed how clear it is to see through the lenses. So please bring a good quality binocular with you or hire them from any shop there.

We reached at the Dhikala gate, registered with the booking copy and ID proofs. Then the guard there sold us two bags for Rs.100. Without any explanation, he asked Rs.100 and I though there must be some kind of fee, but then he gave us two jute bags, which you get in the supermarket for Rs.10-20 these days since the ban on plastic bags. Well, not bad- but it could have been conveyed in a straight forward manner. Nevertheless, we took them.
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The journey to the Dhikila FRH was long 1.5hrs journey covering 31kms inside the forest. Once we reached at the FRH, they took us to the rooms and asked for Rs. 50 as some fee. The rooms were basic but clean. There were only few accommodations they have and all of them were full. I guess, there were about 30-40 guests in total.

We reached there around 2pm and were hungry. Turned out that they have a vegetarian buffet in their guest canteen, which costs Rs.300 per person. I was little surprised to see that at Rs.300 for a veg meal, you don’t even get a desert! Moreover, the food quality was nothing fancy. There were another canteen but you can only get bread omelet and tea/ coffee there. Moreover, it serves dinner only to the employees; so even if you want to eat something simple (let’s say Maggi) for dinner, you have no option. So we ended up spending Rs. 1200 for lunch and dinner for two (Rs.300x4). Breakfast is another Rs.250 each if you want to have it. That means another Rs.500 for two. It was too much for a simple breakfast, but as said earlier, the options are rather limited.

Next day, we had to pay Rs.1200 to the official guide (mandatory) for two safaris. The safaris were great, but I am coming there in a bit. So let’s calculate the total money we spent on our two day trip.

Booking of rooms – Rs. 4700

Fuel cost – Rs. 3000

Car Park – Rs. 200

Jute Bags at Dhikala gate – Rs. 100

Binocular rent – 400 (for two days)

FRH fee – Rs. 50

FRH Food – Rs. 1700 (Lunch and dinner @ Rs. 300 and Breakfast @ Rs. 250)

Safari charge – Rs. 5000

Guide charge – Rs. 1200

Other (food en route, etc.) - 850

TOTAL COST for Two– Rs. 17,200


So, is it worth visiting?

There are two things to consider here before we go into the discussion. First, money or the ability to pay is a relative term. In other words, to some Rs. 17,200 is a lot and to others, it is nothing. Secondly, we need to consider what you get in that money is more than the accommodation for one night and two days at Corbett with two safaris. Many of us living in the concrete jungles also want to go out of the city to find solace in the nature. It’s a bonanza on top, if you could see wildlife- isn’t it? So Corbett was that long awaited trip for us and it was somewhat more than the materialistic calculations of profit and loss. But still, we need to calculate and budget for everything and find a suitable justification before spending certain amount of money on something.

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There are many blogs and posts describing about what you could see in Corbett. So, I am not going into the details. But to put it into the context, we need to mention what you can expect there. Corbett has a lot to offer to say the least. You’ll see the wilderness of the forest, the sound of the birds and the call of the deer. The open grasslands and the roaming elephants will add up to your imagination of having an African safari. The lake in the middle (the reservoir) with its sunset hues will surely brighten up your day when you return home from the first safari. If it couldn’t, then the foggy sky of the next morning is there to welcome you with its mystical magic. Foxes will come close to you and the wild bores will walk pass you as if you don’t exist. The birds will look at you with the expression of – why so early? Let us have our breakfast in peace! But the most amazing feeling is of course seeing the great Indian tiger. And consider yourself super privileged if you happen to see tigers more than once or see them with cubs. It’s a sight you’ll remember for your entire life. Here, I must say, it is not only the wild animals which you should consider. It’s the experience of living a different life for a day or two.


It is a priceless experience, indeed. The fee for the safari was all okay, so as the fee for the guides. However, considering that the FRHs are public property and run by the government, it was little difficult for us to digest the accommodation and food prices there. Is it then only reserved for the people who can afford a comparatively higher rate and not for the rest? If it is so, then where is the public nature in a ‘public’ property? If demand decides the price, then it’s the market, which controls the deal. Then it is the exclusivity that you are paying for and exclusive means ‘which excludes the rest’. However, a major question here in this context could be – Shouldn’t the forest be available for all to experience? I understand that the construction of the hotels and accommodations should be restricted for the wellbeing of the wildlife and nature. I am not talking about increasing the size, but the point I am trying to raise is that- making the experience exclusive based on the paying capacity does and not necessarily guarantee that all those who can afford also has the respect and dedication to experience the forest. But here is the irony- you are allowed to experience how nature is free from our ideas of commodity and calculation, based on your capacities to calculate and spend on it!

So should you still visit Corbett? My answer would be ‘Yes’, you may go to the core of the Corbett if you can spend that much of money. It will be an unforgettable experience for sure. But remember, there are other forests in India and you could visit them with lesser load on your pocket. Living life like locals (almost) without the comforts of the water heater or ACs, food without buffet but with boiled wild leaves and rice are experiences by itself. I've experienced both and they are great in their own ways and given only one choice, I'd prefer the later. I can bet, those memories will also last a lifetime.

*The views and arguments expressed are my personal opinion and the reader is free to agree or disagree with any or all of it.

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karun0035

Well-Known Member
Hi,

Your cost calculations are the best I've seen in a while!
INR 8,600 is slightly expensive, but given the experience it offers I will certainly go for it!!
I did some homework and found the below information from http://www.corbettonline.uk.gov.in/AccCalculateAmount.aspx

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NOTE- The above charges are for a HUTMENT, and if its decent it will serve my need. I won't expect anything fancy, but clean bathrooms are a must!
As far as room rate is considered, I believe everything is included in the total room cost. If not, can you please explain?

Given the total official amount, I have no complaints!

This place is in my bucket list for long, will be ticked soon!!!
 

mousourik

Who Am I
Once thought of going there in March 2017, and hence had some mock practices on booking accommodation on the opening dates at the desired time. It was virtually impossible. It was also not clear that, if booking for two days was required, then is it to be booked on two consecutive days, or two days can be booked at one go on the first date. Eventually the programme got canceled and we did not go there.

But, how the accommodation gets filled up is a mystery. We even tried to contact some famous guides / agents but the cost was much higher and they put up tourists at resorts outside the park.
 

Sayantan.geo

TRAVELER BABA
Hi,

Your cost calculations are the best I've seen in a while!
INR 8,600 is slightly expensive, but given the experience it offers I will certainly go for it!!
I did some homework and found the below information from http://www.corbettonline.uk.gov.in/AccCalculateAmount.aspx

View attachment 734735

NOTE- The above charges are for a HUTMENT, and if its decent it will serve my need. I won't expect anything fancy, but clean bathrooms are a must!
As far as room rate is considered, I believe everything is included in the total room cost. If not, can you please explain?

Given the total official amount, I have no complaints!

This place is in my bucket list for long, will be ticked soon!!!

Thanks a lot for the complement. The official charges for the Annex rooms are the following. But yes, I think all the rooms are clean. I don't know, but the HUTMENT must have separate toilet. If so, it should be clean.

Corbett cost.jpg
 

Sayantan.geo

TRAVELER BABA
Once thought of going there in March 2017, and hence had some mock practices on booking accommodation on the opening dates at the desired time. It was virtually impossible. It was also not clear that, if booking for two days was required, then is it to be booked on two consecutive days, or two days can be booked at one go on the first date. Eventually the programme got canceled and we did not go there.

But, how the accommodation gets filled up is a mystery. We even tried to contact some famous guides / agents but the cost was much higher and they put up tourists at resorts outside the park.
That was a puzzle for us too and as I said, we tried a few times but no luck! So it seems you need to contact someone there. But again, their rates are very different and they will insist you to stay in the resorts. But in case you want to visit Dhikila, you are only allowed to visit the core if you have a prebooked accommodation in your name. That means again going to those agents.

March is so far the best season! Go there and you'll enjoy the trip.
 

skysat2005

Super User
Nice, these details are always welcome. Thank you!

Are Canters available for booking for Dikhala zone for a single safari, without FRH stay? How to book them?
TIA
 

Sayantan.geo

TRAVELER BABA
I have seen canters in the Dhikila zone and they are allowed to go upto the FRH Dhikila. That means more or less skipping the core and the most interesting sections of the forest- the grasslands, where the chances of wildlife sighting are the highest. However, I donno how to book them. Please check the official web - corbettonline.uk.gov.in and if there's any clue- post them here for others who might be interested.
 

karun0035

Well-Known Member
At such locations, I look for basic amenities and not luxury. And I guess a bare minimum room will do.
Higher the room rate, higher are other attached costs...
 
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