Life on the edge….of a forest!
When the opportunity came knocking at our doors,to visit the famous Jim Corbett Wildlife Sanctuary and stay at the aptly named Lebua Corbett, a luxurious Jim Corbett Resort, we grabbed it with both hands and why not? It was now, over 4 decades since I read “Man eaters of Kumaon” by Jim Corbett. However, we had never set foot on the terrain where Jim Corbett once roamed and hunted, except for a night on way to Binsar and that hardly counts.Originally called Hailey National Park, this, after all, was the first protected national park of India.
Lebua Corbett Resort
We had just landed in New Delhi from Mumbai and embarked on a 6 hour road journey to Lebua Corbett Resort. Roads were not too bad at most places but we got stuck in a heavy slow moving traffic somewhere near Khurja for over an hour due to construction of an elevated expressway. The driver remarked that once it is built, drivers can shave off about an hour. Eventually we crossed Ramnagar after sun had set. It was already dark when we started climbing the hilly road to Mohaan village. 6 hours became 7 hours and we reached the parking lot of Lebua Corbett after sundown.
When we reached Lebua parking at Mohan village, our stuff and us were all bundled into a 4X4 pickup truck and the last couple of kilometers were undertaken. Even while we were wondering about the change of vehicle, we veered off the road, and on to the hilly dirt track through the jungle. The adventure had already commenced! It was one of the best off-roading experience lasting just a few minutes. I was somehow reminded of Xanadu, the house of Mandrake the Magician, atop a hill!
We were greeted warmly to the music of Indian bagpipe, the mandatory garlands and a local welcome soft drink. When we landed in Delhi, we were apprehensive about the pollution, where the Air Quality Index, in those days, was about 900+ . Our breathing was easy here and so we casually asked Adarsh, the Manager, about the pollution levels at the resort. Hearing his retort, we must have jumped a couple feet like a startled cat. Adarsh himself measured it and found the AQI was 20! So pure was the air here.
Location of Lebua Corbett Resort
Lebua Corbett is located at Bhakhrakot village in Mohaan or Mohan region. This was made famous by Jim Corbett, when he tracked and killed the Mohan Man-eater, the tiger that killed several humans in the past. Now, this 9-acre luxurious resort lies on the edge of the Corbett national park. Well, the boundaries of the national park are man made but can hardly keep out the animals. As per the staff members, wild animals are sighted once in a while in the neighborhood. They have a lot of stories to tell about these sightings.
The room was huge and almost immediately we noticed Faisal’s signature object. Faisal is the GM, India Operations of Lebua Group. Our framed photos, on the bed, hanging from the trunk of the towel elephant. This act alone tells of the lengths to which the staff members go to, to make the stay comfortable and pampered for the guests.
There were no brick walls in the Suite room, where we stayed. Just ceiling to floor heavily curtained, glass windows and panels. During the day time, when the curtains were drawn apart, copiuous amount sunlight came in and with the greenery outside, it gave us the feeling of being with the nature.
Nisha had already picked her corner spot which had an old style rocking chair. In fact the furnitures had a retro look to go with the surrounding areas. Owing to ecological considerations, there were glass water bottles instead of plastic bottles.
The room was air-conditioned and had Wi-Fi, large sized LED TV, coffee/tea maker with Lebua’s signature ceramic tea-pot, in-room safes, enough electric sockets and luxury amenities in the bathroom. As usual, with so many better things to do, we never saw anything on TV 🙂 🙂
On the bathroom counter was a tray of, what we thought was something to eat. But why the bathroom? A closer looks revealed the mystery. It was a beauty tray containing essential oils, honey, neem twigs and leaves, Multani Mitti (yellow fuller’s earth) and such products used while taking the old style oil-bath.
All the towels and the bath tub were liberally sprinkled with Neem leaves, which are known to possess insect repelling properties, which was doing its job effectively as not a single insect was in the room.
There are, in all 44 luxurious and well appointed rooms divided into 3 categories of varying size and amenities, called Villas, Suites and Residences.
Our favorite place, however, was the balcony overlooking the forest at the back. We loved this place so much that we even had one of our meals here.
There is one 24 hour restaurant, Azrak, overlooking the infinity pool and the forest beyond, is named after a similar restaurant in Lebua Lucknow. Azrak serves Kumaoni, Garhwali, Pan Asian and International dishes. On the other side is the well equipped Saraca bar where one can wind down after day long activities and watch the sun and clouds perform for you with myriad colors at sunset.
To the uninitiated, it may sound a bit too little for a luxury resort, but the above is just the beginning.
It is only when we interact with international Chef Sachit and Chef Kala, we know we are in perfect hands and they can whip up any dish like magic. Even non-foodies like us, ended up gaining a couple of kilos :). Also one may request for meals to be served at any of the umpteen places.
Once we had lunch close to the gorge just 50 Metres from the back gate and had a poolside western breakfast the other time.
One can even host a party on the courtyard of an old house at village Bhakhrakot, like we experienced.
One evening Sachit, invited us to go up the dirt track for a surprise. Soon we reached our destination. The ambiance, with oil lanterns, coal fired stove, wood-fired body warmers, wooden torches with flickering flame, the seating, the blankets and other rural paraphernalia, just transported us to a village living. Of course the food was prepared in authentic Kumaoni style. 🙂
Lebua Corbett has almost perfected the art of what they call as experiential theme based dining. For one of our breakfasts, the theme was , all the dishes which you normally find at station-platforms during a train journey, like poori-sabzi, masala chai, South Indian, omlette-bread and the likes.
Since our words fail us describing the delicious all the dining experiences we post a few pictures to do the talking. I am sure some of these photos will make your mouth water and some of these venues will make the hardest of you, a romantic!
Activities at Lebua Corbett
There was not a moment when we could have said, we were bored. While most of us would be content with a safari and take a dip in the pool, Lebua Corbett ensured that there was enough to do for those hyper energetic folks who may land up once in a while.
Jungle Safari: We went on two safaris accompanied by the naturalist, Balwant Negi. We spotted a lot of wild animals and birds, but the big feline fellows (Tigers and Leopards) were hiding. In all these years of safaris, we’d spotted tigers once only, that too on our very first safari in Kanha. Leopards, never!
Bird Watching and nature walk: At another time we went on a nature trail with Balwant Negi, to capture some birds (in camera). At this point I again re-iterate the lovely feeling you get in the forest where you hear the jungle sounds and sometimes your own breathing!
Trip to the Kosi River Bank: Best time to reach the river bank is before dawn and wait for the sun to rise while sipping hot tea in the cold wintry morning. An unforgettable experience. The animals and people were walking through the shallow waters to get from and to their village on the higher slopes, on the other side of the river.
It is said that once people used to live right next to the river till a flash flood forced them to cross over to reach this higher grounds.
Mohan hills view point. A few kilometers uphill on the main road brought us to the Mohan Hill view point that gave a sweeping view of the valley and we could also locate the resort from afar, through the haze.
Tour of Bhakhrakot village: Just a kilometer or so uphill from the resort lies the village. One can enjoy the village life and talk to the people there. We went further up till the beginning of the trail for Mohan Hill View Point. On our way back we met a couple of women coming.
The older woman was sick. They had just made a visit to the doctor at a nearby town and was walking all the way up from the main road. We naturally compared our easy lives to their tough ones. Even if you are sick, you have to hike a few kilometers to get help.
Star gazing: On a clear we spent some time star gazing and watching the moon through a telescope on the terrace. If it was not for the cold weather, I am sure we would continued to be there till late.
Just curl up with a book , on the balcony overlooking the forest. In the serene atmosphere one could easily catch up on ones reading. Also one can borrow from the nice collection of books on wildlife and about this region.
If we had the luxury of unlimited time, we would have surely tried these other activities too.
Activities room with pool-table, foosball, carrom board and kids area.
Horse riding: We once had breakfast next to the corral where two of the finest horses I have seen, were majestically strutting. Nisha became friends with Diana and Michael. Unfortunately we could not ride them for lack of time.
Cycling around the resort, Hiking to Mohan hills view point. It is about 3 – 4 hours round trip.
A visit to Jim Corbetts house, now converted into a museum .
And many many more such activities…
Gymnasium: There is a well equipped modern gym to serve the die hard gym-person.
Swimming Pool: An infinity pool overlooking the forest, just opposite Azrak restaurant. The light blue of the pools was so inviting but the temperature was a bit too low for our comfort. We did find a fellow guest cavorting in the pool, all by himself and enjoying thoroughly.
Spa: There are plans of a world class spa with several treatment options. It is expected to open soon.
Disclaimer : We experienced Lebua Corbett Resort at their invitation but the opinions, as always, are own.
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