There are very few Englishmen who are remembered with gratitude, respect and awe as Jim Corbett is in India till today. His legendary exploits to hunt down man-eating tigers and leopards in early twentieth century, often at great personal risk, have left an indelible mark on the thousands of common men whom he helped by eliminating these marauding predators.
My love for the wild, especially in the forests frequented by Jim Corbett, brought me to one of the most idyllic resorts in the foothills of Kumaon namely, Call of the Wild. I was privileged to spend two nights there, in early March this year, with my folks and their friends from UK and enjoy some really memorable moments.
Call of the Wild Betalghat
The three hour and sixty kilometres jeep ride itself from Nainital to Betalghat, where the resort is located, was in itself full of excitement and uncertainty. Going past winding traffic free roads, with the Kosi river on one side and the forested mountain on the other, our ride was rewarded with stunning views of the valleys and a smashing sighting of the greatly endangered Chukar pheasant.
Tucked away on a secluded and densely forested hillside, away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and city, Call of the Wild has been maintained with great zeal and passion by the Nanda family, who have been running this resort for the past twenty years.
The proud father and son team service the bungalow, cottages and hut rooms, with great enthusiasm and professionalism, which is reflected in the impeccable food, comfortable interiors and service to match. The property has been constructed to blend perfectly with the surrounding environment and offers panoramic views of the Kosi river and is thickly forested from all sides and comes at a very affordable price.
Our Call of the Wild Itinerary and Experience
We were accorded a warm welcome by the friendly staff with offering of fresh rhododendron juice served by the side of the swimming pool.
Soon we had a surprise in store when the camp staff whisked us away for a sumptuous lunch to be served on the banks of the river Kosi.
In such a spectacular setting it was no wonder that my overseas guests decided to have a go at landing a golden mahseer or two, which were found in plenty in the fast flowing waters. Though we had no luck with the fishing, the experience in itself was unforgettable.
Here’s a short video of my failed but fun attempts at fly fishing –
Hardly had the sun gone down the horizon, we were on board an open vehicle for our night safari. The avid naturalists of the camp, armed with high intensity night torches, took us past the desolate roads to look for animals and birds by night. Even though the leopard eluded us, we had great views of deer and other animals, with their eyes shining in the lights of the beam. Needless to say, the hour long ride was a magical experience for all.
After a delicious meal overlooking the swimming pool with a crackling bonfire by the side, peppered with tales about the incidents of the neighbouring jungle by Nanda senior, I retired to my spacious air conditioned room to relax and rejuvenate.
After a piping hot shower, generated by the constantly solar heated supply to the bathrooms, I was refreshed and raring to look forward what the next day had in store for us.
I was awakened at dawn by the persistent calls of the birds, notably the blue whistling thrush, which is a beautiful bird found in abundance in these parts. For the bird lovers, the environs within the property itself will produce such stunning species like white browed fantail, rufous and grey treepie, greater yellow naped and grey headed woodpeckers, white crested laughing thrush, purple and crimson sunbird and the extra special yellow billed blue magpie among others.
A hearty breakfast followed in the afternoon by an equally delicious lunch had left us completely sated and satisfied.
As evening approached, there was another surprise in store when the camp naturalist asked us to prepare for a sunset walk.
We were soon out in the thick jungle, with the two sturdy camp dogs leading the way, over boulders and branches to a special scenic spot about 200 feet above the Kosi river. Our guides soon had hot coffee, tea and refreshments served to us as we marvelled at the splendid valley views before us and the setting sun in the background.
As darkness fell, we had to reluctantly head back to camp and leave the magical spot, referred to as High Bank, behind us with some of the fondest of memories.
We spent our last evening enjoying another fabulous spread and more accounts of the denizens of the jungle, especially the leopard, which is known to be often sighted in these parts. Though I personally did not see the leopard, the image of a large nilgai, dashing down the hillside ahead of us, when we were on our way back, left us completely satisfied with what we could manage to sight.
A visit in any place of nature is not just about wild animal encounters, but also the scenic forest and the picturesque countryside. The simple excitement of staying close to a jungle, known to be infested with predators, with all the comforts of a luxury hotel is all what Call of the Wild Betalghat was about. If given a chance to revisit, we would be jump on it!