100s of square kilometres of forest around. A river flowing alongside.
So you go walk in the forest,
Spot birds, and try identifying them,
Guess where the movement of the beast is from the alarm calls
Do a walk through the forest up to the Garhwali village – we’ll setup lunch there!
Spend time on the machaan and hold your breath,
Go sit in the river.
It’s a glorious place to do nothing!
For too long Corbett has been associated with just tiger spotting. It’s time to have a change of perspective. At Khetiyo get exposed to the garhwali way of life – of both man and beast. You could involve yourself in any of the following activites at your leisure.
- Ghooming at dawn
Before project tiger was introduced in 1974 and jeep safaris became the norm, the indian jungle was always explored on foot. The elitists rode elephants to cover great distances but the last mile was always on foot. Being on foot brings out a very primal instinct in a person, a sense of awareness for the surroundings. This makes one more observant and begin to notice the small things, the birds, the breeze, the water, etc. Kenneth Anderson, the famous writer from down South, had a name for this – Ghooming. We intend to bring it back. On foot, even a chital makes for a hair raising experience. You will be accompanied by a naturalist and a village man who will brief you on safety measures. During the ghooming experience, one can go foraging in the woods for some light meals. The garhwali men are known to be able to survive off the land for days at a stretch. In tiger country, on foot, ‘hunting’ for food – makes for a great story at the end of the day.
2. Star Gazing
For a city person, stars are pretty much non existent. So much so that our guests usually have a ‘jaw dropping’ experience when they stare at the dotted sky at Khetiyo. The closest human habitation is a village 4km away. The nearest railway station is 80km away. Being in such remote settings means the air is pure and the skies are clean. This makes for an amazing star experience for those of us who are interested in the astral world. For those that aren’t, it’s an incredibly beautiful and out of the world experience to really be able to see shooting stars and satellites on a clear sky. Couple that with a fine scotch and voila – sheer bliss!
3. Star Beds
The nights are incredible in the jungle. In the pitch black, where visibility is not more than 10 feet, the jungle springs to life. From the crickets to the carnivores, this is the most active time of the day. For those who want to really experience the raw nature, star beds is ideal. We have two machans in different corners of the property where you’ll be provided with comfortable beds for two and some sandwiches/snacks to spend the night spotting wildlife. Using our night vision equipment, you can see thermal images of wildlife through dense bush as well. Its an incredible sight to see so much life in a place where we could not see much with our naked eyes. Interestingly, our guests have also claimed this as a very romantic experience. The night, the stars and the solitude – we don’t disagree.
4. Hike to Chamsen
Chamsen is a village about 4km from khetiyo. The hike to chamsen is fairly uphill, but is through dense jungle. You will be shielded from the sun for the most part and the natural springs ensure that you dont really have to carry any water with you. Although the villagers do this hike in about an hour and a half, for the untrained traveller, it could take close to 3 hrs. This could also be coupled with birding and wildlife spotting along the way. There are plenty of spots along this route, where a quick table can be set up for the guests to just relax to some chilled beer while staring at the stunning vistas. Once you reach Chamsen, you ll be greeted by one of the residents there and sumptuous garhwali lunch awaits you.
The local specialities like Ringora (a leafy vegetable that grows in the 2 months of monsoon),Chuu ( a pink mushroom thats found only this belt right after the monsoon). The giant cucumbers are another attraction here in the winters. A single cucumber can fill the stomachs of two hungry grown men.
You are free to explore the village, interact with the villagers (most of whom know hindi). The village sits a fair height and gives you an overview of the southern edge of the Corbett national park. Chamsen is known for its bagpipers. Interestingly, bagpipes are an integral part of the culture here – perhaps a remnant from the days of the raj. All weddings in the surrounding villages are incomplete without a chamseni bagpipe. You can even learn how to play the bagpipe.
Chamsen also has a junior school and a high school. Interested guests can interact with the children. One can even take a interactive 1hr class with the kids who are otherwise shielded from the happenings outside the area.
A volleyball match can also be arranged at an extra cost (which can be recovered as garhwalis only play when there s money at stake). Some of the months have tournaments going on between the villages that are fiercely contested. If guests are visiting during those times, they could take part in that as well. The guests can choose to stay back the night at chamsen where they can sleep under the stars on comfortable charpoys or inside a gharwali home under slate roofs. Otherwise, the way back would be by road to Luthiya and an hour’s hike back to Khetiyo. Most of the path is in shade.
4. Hike to Jhurungoo
Jhurungoo is another village about 5 km away from Khetiyo. The hike here is also mostly uphill and will take about 3-3.5hrs. Jhurungoo is a table top landscape. Its situated at a significant height but is flat as a table. This village is a sight for all the local cricket tournaments. The height gives one a great view from Jhurungoo. We can even see as far as the Kalagarh dam which is located atleast 40 km away. The entire national park is visible as well.
The hike to Jhurungoo will pass along the northern edge of the Lohachaur range of the corbett national park. The birding is superb here and one can definitely hope to see our superstar – the Pallasus Fish Eagle.
A ‘5 a side’, 10 over cricket match can also be organized if the guests request for it at an extra cost. Playing cricket in tiger country – priceless.
The way back would be by road till Luthiya and a downhill hike to Khetiyo.
5. Village grazing in Luthiya
Luthiya is our closest village and sits right above us behind the ridge that overlooks Khetiyo on the North. Khetiyo and Luthiya were at some point the same village. But the wilderness drove the Khetiyo residents to move away and form a bigger village behind the ridge.
For any village community in garhwal, cattle and goats form an important source of livelihood. Most of these people depend on the forest for their feed. Grazing in the forest has been the biggest reason for man animal conflict with cattle being killed and revenge killing by the villagers. In addition, the grazing along with population increase has put an unnecessary pressure on the protected areas. This experience allows the visitors understand the critical conservation issues that face wildlife protection in India. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and comment on India’s failure to conserve its forests. This is a chance to actually understand the complexity of the problem. Visitors accompany the villager on his grazing rounds into the buffer areas. It is a chance to not only explore unexplored parts of the woods but also interact with a villager in a comfortable setting. You will also be accompanied by a naturalist for wildlife spotting along the way. Typically, this activity lasts about 3 hours and ends around lunch time. You can come back to Khetiyo and relax for the rest of the day reading books on the machaan overlooking the Khetiyo Estate.
6. Safari in Lohachaur
Lohachaur is the start of the hilly areas of corbett. Owing to its gradient, this range has a winding safari route that overlooks the ram ganga valley until it merges into the mandal river just 500 metres from Khetiyo. An old forest bungalow built in the British era overlooks the valley and can be booked in advance. This area is known for its elephants and birding. Two of the star attractions of Corbett – the Pallassus Fish Eagle and the Great HornBill are very frequently sighted in this area. The presence of the fish eagle is a very strong indicator of the quality of the water as its preybase requires a very high level of purity. Khetiyo estate is located about 2 km from the Lohachaur forest bungalow.
the forest bungalow
7. Safari in Halduparao
For those who do not want to miss out on the Jeep safari into the Corbett National Park, Halduparao is an ideal location. This part of the park is visited only by the serious enthusiasts. It s known for its birding and elephant sightings. This range forms the North Western edge of the Corbett National Park and has a quaint forest bungalow overlooking a tributary of the sonanadi river. One of the most beautiful ranges and an ideal safari for the interested wildlifer. The chances of sighting the big cats is always a draw of luck and one should not go looking for it. However, this range offers some stunning array of birds and the biggest mammals on land – the elephants. The guest house needs to be booked in advance for entry to this range.
the region is known for elephants in summer
8. Kitchen Gardening at Khetiyo
This kitchen garden feeds the staff and guests at Khetiyo. Completely organic and spring fed using the same irrigation mechanism that was built 50-60 years ago and rediscovered by us 4 years ago. The guests are most welcome to spend the day to till the ground using our bulls, or harvesting the crop. The harvested veggies will be cooked over firewood and food never tastes better than when it is grown yourself.
9. Cycling in the hills
The roadhead at Luthiya forms a part of the state highway network and drives around the park all the way from the Northern edge to the Southern edge of the park connecting to the Ramnagar – Delhi road via Marchula. Although this road is motorable, cycling is a great way to experience the hills. Since the roads are not very frequented, and the vistas are incredibly stunning, the guests can head out for a day of cycling in the hills. A nice sumptuous fire wood cooked meal would be arranged at Bilkot or Chamsen. One can easily head out for a 50km ride without feeling tired in these areas.
If you are a keen birdwatcher, Khetiyo is your paradise. Following is a list compiled by one of our guests during his 3 night stay.
|Oriental Magpie Robin|
|Red vented Bulbul|
|Eurasian Collared Dove|
|Rose Ringed Parakeet|
|Lesser Fish Eagle|
|Pallasus Fish Eagle|
|Red whiskered bulbul|
|Himalayan flameback woodpecker|
Reptiles and amphibians
|Oriental Garden Lizard|
|Indian Bull Frog|
dragon flies and damsel flies
|Black stream Skimmer|
|Ruddy Marsh Hawk|
|Scalet marsh Hawk|
|Little Blue Marsh Hawk|
|Blue tailed forest hawk|
|Crimson Tailed Marsh Hawk|
|Green Marsh Hawk|
|Blue Grass Dartlet|
|Pale Grass blue|
|Blue Spotted Crow|
|Baven’s Swift/ Small Branded Swift|
|Yellow throated marten|