01 Apr Tanhau, an eco-friendly homestay at Corbett Tiger Reserve
Nestled up high in the Kumaon range of the Himalayas in India, just a few km drive up from the Jim Corbett National Park is a quaint, isolated homestay called Tanhau. This award-winning lodge offers breathtaking views and solitude for solitary reapers, true to its name. It is an ideal Himalayan getaway for people who like short inspiring breaks in picturesque locales.
It was nearing Christmas, and the kids had just started with their winter vacations. I wasn’t keen on ending the year with working at the lab or working at home but rather wanted to get some quality family bonding time. Balancing the city madness with nature escapes and thrills seemed like the ideal way to bring in the New Year.
So, after some quick calls and confirmation with the owners of Tanhau about pet-friendliness of their lodge, we set off for a four day trip in our car packed with the kids and our husky, Esky.
The 6-hour drive gave us time to bond as a family. Before we knew it, we had turned to the beautiful lush green drive through the Corbett National Park and upon the winding roads to Mohan.
Approximately 9km from Mohan, a right turn brought us to the foothill of the hilltop where Tanhau is located. The last 4 km stretch up was a steep gravel pathway that could be accessed only by a 4×4 overlooking the entire Kumaon range, and the snow-capped peaks in the far distance.
The pristine property had two cottages apart from the owner’s residence and staff quarters. These were constructed with rustic local ‘pahadi‘ stones, green painted doors and windows. Each cottage had a sit-out porch framed by vines to give a warm, inviting feel. All around, trees and golden yellow grassland spread infinitely; the only other man-made structure was the solar panel installation. We chose the cottage perched right at the top of the property overlooking the mountains in the western sky.
While we gathered in the porch with tea, the sky transformed from the aqua blue to orange, bloodshot red, green and purple into one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. A myriad of unbelievable colours burst through the sky, and we had our first experience of winter skylights.
Soon it was pitch dark with only the Venus shining bright. The stars and mythical constellations lit up the sky. We decided to use the app Skyview for stargazing only to realise that what we thought were shooting stars were actually satellites. It is strange, how humans have changed the face of the earth and haven’t left space either.
The conversations around a bonfire and home-cooked meals lead to the end of a beautiful day. Despite being tired from the journey, the atmosphere was filled with excitement for the upcoming few days.
Through the morning, we decided to relax, sleep, read and absorb the beauty of the place, bringing life to a slowdown that we rarely experience in the city.
Energised by the evening, we started on a two-hour trek to a plateau (tapu), to catch the most beautiful sunset and winter skyscape I have ever seen. The trek was through the untouched and unfrequented trails of the jungle.
“The local guide taught us the ways of the forest, to respect silence, to respect all forms of life, to walk with heightened senses and be one with nature. The way of bliss and healing”
The barking deer called out to alert us of tiger movement, and the experience in the wild in those moments was both scary yet thrilling. The trek prepared us for a tough and hardcore jungle experience we would embark upon the 4th day, the ‘Man-Eater Trail’.
By now, I had many thoughts darting through my head, so I sat down to write my stories. Any writer must have a conducive environment. Tanhau is on the top of my list for nature lovers looking to find solitude and a place to relax, sit and pen down their thoughts. The beautiful landscape and skylights exploded in my brain as I started stringing words into stories.
The man-eater trail is the name of a trek down 2500 feet of mountainous terrain through deep jungles, tiger territory and the absolute unknown. There is no set path or map. It exists because of the instinct of a few local people who discovered it, possibly relating it to stories of the route taken by Jim Corbett to track down the man-eater of Mohan.
The trek over 5 hours is extremely tough and a worthy challenge for fitness enthusiasts. An added plus is the many sounds and sights of the jungle that make a safari experience look like a poor cousin. On foot, treading for hours, clearing a path for yourself through hours of descent and watching out for tiger or elephant movement is a sheer thrill.
The wildlife was all there, somehow hiding and camouflaging as they are adapted to do and only rarely revealing their location. We were like aliens, not knowing the ways of the jungle and even with the softest of tread, making enough noise to break the deep silence that engulfs a forest.
The barking deers and langurs called out to alert of tiger movement, and 200 ft away, the tiger rumbled his irritation. It was a moment of unparalleled fear and thrill, followed by relief as the silence returned. The close encounter with a tiger hidden somewhere, watching us, sparing us, is a moment we will never forget.
At the end of the trek, we exited close to the Durgadevi gate of the Jim Corbett Park, and a cab brought us up back to Tanhau.
It was Christmas, and we brought in the evening with mulled wine, stunning skylights and warmth of bonfires.
It was worth celebrating completing the trail since as of now, not many people have ventured there. Holiday breaks like these offer quality family time, time to learn and heal through nature as well as enough solitude that one can embrace, should they wish.
There was a feeling of not wanting to leave the next day, somehow steal another day from our busy lives to absorb the simplicity, bliss and hospitality at Tanhau.
However, we know now that we have a home away from home, the owners Chaitali and Sunando, as friends for life and I will be going back there as often as possible. Some of the stunning photographs included here are by Sunando. He is not only a great photographer but a wildlife enthusiast and entrepreneur. His wife Chaitali makes Tanhau the home it has come to be for so many like-minded people who visit there. Their details can be sought at www.tanhau.in
- The journey from New Delhi to Tanhau is 310 km, takes approximately 7 hours nonstop.
- Good pitstops are around Gajraula where a drive-through KFC, Mcdonalds and Subway are options right across the road from each other.
- Travel start should be early from New Delhi to avoid traffic. Make the return journey from Tanhau post breakfast, to avoid the early morning herd of elephants that can cause damage to cars and humans.
- Tips for packing: It is advisable to pack a couple of light tracks suits, good trekking shoes, light and warm jackets according to the season, camera, binoculars and water bottles.
Activities to do around Tanhau
- Safari at the Corbett National Park.
- Stay at Dhikala forest lodge.
- Man-eater trail for sheer jungle adventure and trek
- Go fishing around Ram Ganga river.
- Relax and unwind space for writers and painters.
- Network with the community of bnb owners, many of whom are artists and environmentalists.
- Family holidays with pets for those looking for pet-friendly destinations.
Hope you found this post inspiring enough to visit Tanhau and Corbett National Park. Visit their website www.tanhau.in
Please feel free to share your experience of travel to this beautiful part of India.