Corbett Vs Kanha, probably one of the toughest decisions wildlife enthusiasts take while traveling to national parks in India. Both are equal gems to the crown of Indian wildlife. There are aspects in which these two parks are similar, yet contrasting at the same time.
If you have the time to cover both these parks then you will certainly go back enriched. But if you have less time on hand and can cover just one park then, the points below might help you in making the right decision.
Corbett National Park
Pros for Corbett National Park
1. One of the only parks in India where you get an opportunity to stay inside the national park in over 100-year-old Forest Rest Houses. These Rest Houses were built during the British Raj to accommodate Forest officers when they would require bedding to rest inside the deepest parts of the Jungles while on duty. Within the park, there are several of these Forest Rest Houses. But there is only one which has Electricity with generator set back up, and the others have only Solar energy lighting up your room.
2. Easy access from New Delhi. Corbett is well connected by road and train from New Delhi. The drive from New Delhi is very smooth (especially with the new highway which has reduced the drive to under 5 hours) compared to the train journey from Delhi due to the odd time of the train. There is an Airport (Pant Nagar) about 2.5-hour drive from Corbett where a flight from New Delhi operates just thrice a week. Another Airport (Jolly Grant in Dehradun) is about a 5-hour drive from the Park. Here you have a few flights every day from New Delhi. Unfortunately, the road condition from Dehradun is not very great.
3. Though not so close, one can also drive to Agra from Corbett National Park, 7-8-hour drive if you are keen to see the Taj Mahal. The road from Jim Corbett to Agra is fine, smooth, one lane at several places, but this road has no place to stop for a cup of tea. Pit stops are taken at the fuel stations. From Agra, one can go onwards to Bharatpur, Ranthambhore, Jaipur or New Delhi.
4. If you do not wish to stay inside Corbett National Park, then you have a choice to stay in one of the several resorts outside, depending on your budget, from low end to Luxury lodges. For those wanting to stay in the resorts outside, they won’t have easy access to the same zones for safaris as those staying inside. Only access they will get is in a 16-seater safari canter, which can go to only certain places, giving you a limited view of the National Park. For those choosing to stay in resorts outside, there are 4 zones you can do a safari in.
Good birding destination
5. If you are a keen birder, then there is no place better than Jim Corbett National Park. The total count is close to 600 different species of birds, which is almost 50% of bird species found in India. For serious birding, you can visit some nearby places like Nainital, Sattal, Chopta, and Pangot. This is one of the richest areas for birding in India.
6. The total number of Tigers in this park are well over 200. This is one of the highest Tiger densities in India. Though Corbett is not known much for its Tiger sightings as the Tigers of Corbett are shy. Male Tigers, in particular, are mostly seen suddenly and it is very tough to track them due to dense foliage, grasslands, and some hilly areas. The moment the male Tigers notice that they have been sighted they will immediately look for the closest route to disappear. What is it about the shyness of Corbett Tigers perhaps requires another blog which I plan to write soon? So, watch out for this space.
7. Corbett is home to wild Asian Elephants; in summers you will see big herds of them walking toward the water bodies which are in surplus as this is a Terai forest. Seeing the Elephant herd bathe in the rivers, followed by dust bath is a very fascinating experience. Time seems to stop when you watch these gentle giants enjoy water.
8. If you are into angling, then Corbett has something interesting to offer, Golden Mahseer in the Ramganga and Kosi river.
9. Jim Corbett was named after the man who hunted down several man-eating Tigers in the region. I strongly recommend reading his experiences in ‘Man-Eater of Kumaon’. It is one of the best books written on Indian Wildlife in last 100 years. While you are in the area it is a good idea to visit his residence, which is now a museum (Kaladhungi), and also the village that he made, Choti Halwani next to Kaladhungi. There are certain tracks that Jim Corbett walked on when he shot some man-eaters. There is one on which you can also walk. This is the one on which Jim Corbett walked when he shot the Man-Eater of Mohan. It is about a 3-hour hike.
10. This land also invented wildlife photography. A British Forester and naturalist, F W Champion perfected his art of photography in Corbett. He became famous in the 1920s as the first wildlife photographer who pioneered the night flash photography. To this date an improvised version of same is used for protection and doing a census of Tigers. He told the world that Tigers look more majestic through the lens of the camera than the barrel of the rifle. In his honor there is a Champion road in the Dhikala zone of the forest. He authored one of the first books on wildlife photography ever written ‘With Camera in Tiger Land 1927. In fact, Jim Corbett also talks about F W Champion in his book.
11. Regarding Tigers, Corbett has close to 225 Tigers, but please do not go with a focus to see Tigers in Corbett. I am not trying to say that you will not see Tigers here, you will, but Corbett is not the first park that Tiger lovers should go. It is a park for wildlife and nature lovers. The Tiger sightings here are a shade lower compared to some celebrity parks of central India for the simple reason that the terrain is unique. No wonder it was here that Jim Corbett wrote in his book that ‘you will not see Tigers until the Tigers want you to see them’.
It is not easy to see Tigers in the grasslands or the dense foliage and to top that Tigers of Corbett are a shy lot. But this trend seems to be reversing in the last 7-8 years. With a couple of bold Tigresses, (Sharmelee in Bijrani zone, and Parwali in Dhikala zone) are helping in increasing the Tiger sighting frequency. Sharmelee has not been sighted since 2019, it is assumed that she has passed away due to old age, or due to a territorial fight.
So all in all, Jim Corbett is a fairly comprehensive experience. From Tigers, Elephants, Yellow-throated Martens, Himalayan Bears, King Cobras, Gharials, Crocodiles, 600 species of birds, Golden Mahsheer, and the trails of Corbett.
Kanha National Park
Pros for Kanha National Park
1. All the learned wildlife experts of India have felt that Kanha and Corbett will be the last bastions of the Royal Bengal Tiger, i.e. if and when the Tiger population reduces below the viable mark, it will be the Jungles of Kanha and Corbett which will still remain home to this apex predator.
2. The biggest advantage of Kanha is its remoteness. The smallest towns from Kanha are about a 3-4-hour drive away, thus maintaining a sense of land which time forgot. Hence development and urbanization has touched Kanha in micro proportions compared to other parks. So, if you are looking at a holiday away from the bustling city life then there is no better park than Kanha. It is only now that some parts of Kanha have got mobile connectivity. Many lodges and hotels in Kanha still do not have telephone landlines.
3. Surrounded by tribal villages, the culture and ethos of this place are unique. People are simple, and honest. As tourism has provided them employment, you will interact with them during safaris as they are you guides and drivers. You will notice their simplicity in mannerisms, dressing, and thoughts.
4. Kanha has more than 100 Tigers, and the habitat is appropriate for Tiger prosperity. Tigers require ample of bush, water, and prey. Different habitat in Kanha are home to different animals. For e.g. Barasinghas (hard ground Swamp Deer) needs a typical type of grasslands, Sambar deer needs dense vegetation, Indian Gaur requires a bit of hilly areas, and also dense undergrowth, blackbuck requires huge grasslands, and Kanha luckily has all of them. Therefore, it is an ideal place for Tigers to prosper which they do.
5. Kanha is the crown of Indian Wildlife when it comes to conservation. It has brought back certain species from extinction. The hard Ground Swamp Deer was threatened and only about 50 in number remained. Due to ardent conservation measures their numbers today stand at close to 800. Kanha also reintroduced the Black Buck in its grasslands. A herd of Swamp Deer Hard Ground Swamp Deer from Kanha were also introduced in Satpura National Park. They have successfully bred in that park. Similarly, a big herd of Indian Gaur has been successfully relocated from Kanha to Bandhavarh.
6. It is considered to be the best-managed park in India when it comes to tourism management. Kanha has speed governors in its vehicles. Hence you will see all vehicles at a steady pace.
7. Quality of Tiger sightings is high in Kanha. Though the frequency is a bit less. The reason for good quality is the kind of terrain. As the undergrowth is dense so once the Tigers come on the road, then they tend to spend a long time on the road going about their business of spray marking their territory. So, if your guide and driver are able to get on the same track then you can be assured of a lot of action, and you can capture a plethora of images.
8. Like with Corbett, there have been some British Foresters turned naturalists who spent a considerable amount of time in this region. A Dunbar Brander, the author of ‘Wild Animals of India’, Capt. James Forsyth, author of ‘The Highlands of Central India’, George Schaller, author of ‘The Tiger and the Deer’ have observed different aspects about inhabitants of Kanha and documented the same in their books. It is good to read these books before or after your trip to Kanha National Park to understand Kanha in its entirety.
9. It was Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” which put Kanha on the world map. Awarded by a Nobel Prize for this beautiful and inspiring piece of literature, Kanha is also known as a Kipling country. Hollywood has also made two beautiful films on ‘The Jungle Book’.
10. Kanha is nicely located between 3 other National Parks, namely, Bandhavgarh about 5-hour drive, Pench 4-hour drive, and Tadoba about 7-hour drive. So, if you are wanting to spend more time in the area then it is excellent to do at least one or two other parks along with Kanha.
11.Kanha has good air-connectivity from three Airports. Raipur is 200kms, 4-hour drive, Jabalpur is 210kms, 4-hour drive, and Nagpur is 275km, 5 hour drive. Nagpur is also an International Airport so you may take a direct flight to Nagpur and cover the Tiger parks and go back home without visiting the cities at all.
12. Morning safaris in Kanha are 5-hour duration, and afternoon safari is about 3-4 hour, thus making it one park which has amongst the longest safari duration.
13. Kanha National Park also have provision for full-day safari. In this special experience you are permitted to enter the park 15 minutes prior to rest of the vehicles, and exit about 15 minutes after rest of the vehicles in the evening. You spend full day in the park. Breakfast and lunch are carried along with you. There is also an option of booking a 3-hour exclusive Elephant safari for yourself. Full day safari is exorbitantly expensive but it gives you the experience of being in the park all by yourself when rest of the vehicles have exited the park. I am writing another blog on full-day safari in national parks of India. Watch out for this space.
14. While doing safaris in Kanha National Park, you are permitted to carry breakfast and have it at designated places. The guide and the driver will lay down your breakfast on the bonnet of the vehicle. So the experience of having breakfast inside the park is also unique to Kanha.
15. Kanha also has good toilets around these breakfast camps, which is not common in other National Parks of India.
16. Male Tigers of Kanha are exceptionally bold and big in size. The head and overall size of these male Tigers is perhaps the largest in India. Having personally seen Tigers for over 30 years now, I can vouch for the fact that the male Tigers of Kanha are a class of their own. To support a big head, the Tigers need a strong and a big neck also, which is what makes these beasts gigantic in size.
In his book ‘A Life with Wildlife ‘M K Ranjitsinh (also the author of Wildlife Protection Act of India 1972) that he has seen male Tigers of Kanha drag a full-size male Indian Gaur for more than 300 meters uphill. That requires a tremendous muscle mass. So should you be wanting to see some big male Tigers, then Kanha has to be on the crest of your list of national parks in India.
The pros of visiting both these parks are compelling enough to visit both of them. A safari in Kanha will be as enriching as a Safari in Corbett. The overall experience at both Corbett and Kanha National Park will make sure you visit them again. There are no cons of visiting a national park for a true wildlifer. So experience Tiger safaris in Kanha and Tiger safaris in Jim Corbett National Park, they will leave an indelible mark on your memory.
Comparing Key Points
|Access||Closest town Ramnagar, 10kms fro park gate||Jabalpur, Raipur 200kms, Nagpur – 275kms|
|Area in sq kms||1320 sq kms||1945 sq kms|
|Type of Forest||Moist Peninsular Sal Forest||Dry deciduous|
|No of Tigers||225||110|
|Total Bird species||580||300|
|Key Bird species||Long-tailed Broadbill, Booted Hawk Eagle, Pallas Fishing Eagle, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Spot Bellied Eagle Owl||Golden Oriole, Raquet Tailed Drongo, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, crested Serpent Eagle|
|Open months||15th November – 15th June||1st October – 30th June|
|Closed months||16th June till 14th November||1st July till 30th September|
|Best time to visit||15th Nov till 15th May||1st November till 30th May|
|Temperatures||0 – 15 in winter, to 20-43 in summer||0-20 in winter, to 24-45 in summer|
|Main flora||Sal is the main tree, but over 110 types of trees, 51 species of shrubs, 33 species of bamboo, tall grass in the garsslands is main habitat for Hog deer||Sal is the main tree, and good numbers of Saja, Mahua, Flame of the forest, Bija, Aonla, Tendu, Lendia, Dhawa and 70 species of trees, some grasslands are good habitat for the hard Ground Barasingha found only here.|
|Main fauna||Tigers, Elephants, Leopards, Bears, Gharials, Crocodiles, Sambar, Jackals, Sambar, Cheetal, Hog, Barking Deer, Gorla||Tigers, Leopards, Dholes, Sloth Bears, Jackals, Hard ground Barasingha, Sambar, Cheetal, Barking Deer|
|Stay inside forest||Yes possible in Forest Rest Houses||In Resorts and Lodges outside the park|
|Safaris||Only Jeep safari||Jeep Safaris and Elephant safari in full day Jeep Safari.|
|Permit booking||Booked 90 days before for Foreigners||Booked 120 days before|
I have personally been doing safaris in both these parks for more than 25 years now, so feel free to write to me on [email protected] about these parks, how to arrange safaris, guides, naturalists, and accommodation.
Sharad Kumar Vats
Recommended Tours :
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.