Seek the tiger, find the Jungle

Jim’s Jungle Retreat

Jim’s Jungle Retreat

Corbett National Park
, Uttarakhand
, India

Jim’s Jungle Retreat combines luxury with a concept that borrows as much from the forest bungalows as it does from the enduring architectural legacy of the local villages. Daleep Akoi in his mission to give guests an experience of the forest he loves has conceptualized 18 cottages and lodges that are rustic, simple yet stylish, allowing maximum exposure to the outdoors without giving up on any of the modern comforts and privacy. The reception is a thatched pavilion open on both sides with a shop on one side and a board that prominently displays the sightings of the day! Well-tended paths lead to independent cottages at ground level, each with an entrance porch and a verandah, tucked under shaded trees.

The air cooled thatched restaurant, theatre and lounge are set close to the swimming pool all of which are set slightly away from the cottages and lodges and sums up as a place full of life and activity. The lounge is perfect for lazy afternoons to catch up on your reading – explore their library that is full of books on wildlife and forests.

Our Rating: Mid-Range
Property Type: Wildlife/Nature Lodge

Destination

Jim Corbett Park is the oldest National Park in India established in 1936 to protect the tiger, and was the launchpad for Project Tiger in 1974. Originally named the Hailey National Park, it was later renamed after the legendary shikari turned fierce conservationist Jim Corbett. It is a dense moist deciduous forest with hills, grasslands and water bodies. The park is home to nearly half of the bird species found in India and apart from the tiger and elephant, rare species such as the otter and the endemic fish eating crocodile are found here.

Jim’s Jungle Retreat is in Dhela village and set close to the Southern forest of the park – the Jhirna zone, and is spread over 15 acres and close to a seasonal river that comes alive in the monsoons. The retreat has been part of a regeneration process over the years creating an ecosystem of fecund plant life and arthropod species along with birds, jackals, deer, wild boar and on occasion stray tuskers that wander close enough.

Accommodation

The cottages and lodges are air-conditioned and positioned to allow ample space and green cover in between. Plush and earthy at once they can withstand summer heat and monsoon downpours yet blend into the wilderness – yellow-washed exterior, thatched roofs and fine linen furnishings that whisper of the jungles and its inhabitants. Further away past the water body are the Jungle Lodges that are set high overlooking tree tops and built with an immense wrap around verandah. Both, the porch and verandah are ideal to enjoy the sounds of the jungle at night and to watch birds and butterflies that swarm the retreat during the day. The Jungle Cottages have been imaginatively designed to carve a charming morning room that open to a comfortable bedroom. The bathrooms and changing rooms are simple yet modern with a hearty shower and offer plenty of moving space. The Jungle Family Cottage is perfect for a family with two children or for a group of four.

The lodges borrow the construction style of the neighbouring Gujjar community and colonial-era forest bungalows with sloping thatched roofs and verandahs and making use of natural light and ventilation. Every detail embodies thoughtful luxury, from their large spaces to the deep mattress on the king sized beds, comfortable seating, the layers of curtain that allow the outdoors to the charmingly presented bath products.

Dining

The Carpet Sahib’s Cafe; has been built in the local Gujjar style with mud and thatch. A special mention needs to be made of the dining here that probably serves the best food in the region. The menu creatively picked, makes the best use of fresh produce that is locally grown – milk and other farm produce are sourced from neighbouring farmers, including organic vegetables and fruit, little-known grains and legumes sourced from the Himalaya and locally-grown herbs and spices. It is also the venue for wildlife slide shows and film screenings.

Experiences

The Jhirna and Dhela zones are most easily accessible from Jim’s Jungle Retreat, while the other zones are a little further away. The naturalists have extensive knowledge on all aspects of the park and enhance the wildlife experience. Safaris have to be pre-booked and are organized in the Retreat’s own vehicles. Corbett is the only national park in India that allows stays within the park. On prior request, Jim’s Jungle Retreat can help guests to book one of the forest lodges inside the park for an overnight stay or two.

Evenings at the lodge are special which begin with a well picked and relevant wildlife documentary, followed by dinner that is set in different locations depending on the menu and mood of the evening. The Retreat also offers several other interesting activities which expose your guests to the region, its natural history and culture. For those tired and weary from park drives, the Spa is a blessing. Aranyam Spa therapies are recommended to help relieve fatigue and rejuvenate you at the end of a long day. Deep tissue and Ayurvedic massages are indulgences designed to help you relax so that you can spring out of your bed for another day in the jungle!! Other activities include fishing in the Ramganga River and cycling through the villages in the buffer zone.

The Young Ranger’s Program has been specially created for the younger generation to gain an understanding on the need and importance sustainable wildlife tourism. The program often enjoyed by adults too gives an insight to how the forest ecosystem works, how to track animal footprints, identify birds, butterflies and mammals and how we can continue to experience, enjoy and protect our wilderness areas without causing disruption to the balance of nature. The Retreat’s jungle trail walks are highly sought after and a naturalist accompanies guests to interpret the ways of the forest – from tracking signs on the forest floor to animal and bird calls in the jungle. From chasing butterflies and birds to learning about termite hills and the forest’s many foragers, the simple act of walking through a forest amid wildlife is at once heart-racing and calming and serene.
Visit Chotti Haldwani, which was Jim Corbett’s home and now a museum that chronicles the life and interests of this great son of the Jungle. A walk through the model village which he adopted and later granted to the villagers, gives you an insight into the work he accomplished as a conservationist and protector during his lifetime.

Perfect For
those who enjoy wildlife and nature. The magic of being amidst nature listening to the sounds of the jungle are enough to refresh. The Young Ranger’s Program is a great way to get children to understand the importance of a thriving ecosystem.

Operational status
The Retreat is shut in the monsoon and is operational from October to June.

Why we love this place

The Lodge was founded with the idea of encouraging local employment, sustain conservation ideas and help city dwellers fall in love with the forests. Jim Jungle Retreat’s commitment to ‘Green’ and sustainable tourism is reflected in the first interaction that a guest has with the lodge. On arrival, every guest is introduced to the Corbett jungle, the balance it creates and the philosophy that the retreat lives by – ‘Seek the tiger, find the jungle’.

About your host

Daleep Akoi’s relationship with Corbett Tiger Reserve began when he was just a toddler and continued for years thereafter as a visitor to the forest and often staying in the forest lodges for weeks. The time spent on elephant backtracking tigers, fishing on the Ramganga reservoir, spending hours on a look-out machaan, picnics by the riverside, conversations about the jungles and the animals with forest officials and rangers, imbued a deep sense of belonging and love for this region. The camp was set up by his father and today, Daleep’s consciousness and sensibility drives the retreat’s philosophy.

Responsible/Sustainable Tourism

The Retreat’s motto of sustainable tourism is one of its qualities that places Jim’s Jungle Retreat at the top of the luxury lodges in Corbett. They do everything right to build on their eco-sensitive quotient – buying local products, employing locals as guides and maintaining an organic farm, managing waste to harvesting water. Their Mahavan project is a comprehensive program for conservation and restoration to allow the natural eco-system of the terai forests around Corbett to thrive and prosper.

The land that Jim’s Jungle Retreat stands on was farmland and had been denuded of any flora native to the area. Thus began the Mahavan project to plant indigenous species and allow the forest to regenerate and creep back in. Over the years with careful planting, nearly 100 species of trees have been planted thus inviting a wealth of insects and birds to take up residence, with visits from spotted deer, sambar, jackals and even the occasional elephant and tiger! The project also acts as a platform for teaching about the biodiversity that exists here and the relationship between man and the jungles.

Most of the staff is from the local area and are trained and upskilled (including understanding sustainable practices) and encouraged to maintain a long-term relationship. Assistance is provided to their families with support given for higher education, celebrations and during emergencies. Although the Retreat has its own organic kitchen garden, milk and other farm produce are sourced from neighbouring farmers, including organic vegetables and fruit, little-known grains and legumes sourced from the Himalaya and locally-grown herbs and spices.

Jim’s Jungle Retreat have initiated a zero plastic policy with the aim to completely move away from single use plastic. The products used at the spa are all created from organic ingredients sourced from the Himalayan foothills around or grown on the retreat grounds itself. Soap and shampoo dispensers for guests have been provided thus eliminating single-use toiletries. The soap dishes are made fresh everyday with foraged leaves! Water provided at the Retreat is filtered and filled in glass and stainless steel bottles, and mineral water for those who wish to purchase it, come in glass bottles. For picnics, the food is packed in broad leaves, brown paper and cotton strings.

The Retreat have tied up with Waste Warriors to take care of waste in house and of the surrounding area. Waste is segregated, composted and recycled while waste water is treated by a natural root-zone treatment plant and the water reused to water the grounds. Solar energy is used to provide heated water in the Spa, kitchen and the cottages. The all natural soap nuts are used as washing detergent, thus further preventing harmful chemical use. Jim’s Jungle Retreat is mindful of its location and neighbours and are careful not to disturb the visiting wildlife with zero tolerance for loud noise and music and muted lighting within the grounds.

Assistance is provided to the forest department as and when required, and for Operation Monsoon that trains villagers to patrol forests in the monsoon season for wildlife protection. Sumer camps are organized for the village school children during the summer months to sensitize them on the importance of coexisting with the jungle and its inhabitants.

Our Recommendation

Take an early morning walk through the retreat to witness different bird species that, enjoy high tea on the machaan as you look across the riverbed at herds of deer or elephants on their migration; sit back on the deep verandahs that are perfect sitting areas to witness the forest theatre being played around you.

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