Vanghat - Where conservation meets tourism.Times of India
woke up one morning to find tiger footprints right outside his hut…Mint (weekend edition of the Hindustan Times)
Vanghat lies in total seclusion with the meandering Ramganga virtually cutting it off from human habitationDarpan (in-flight magazine of Indian Airlines)
plenty of other wildlife too – from curious otters that come to check you out to the odd sambhar passing by..Outlook Traveller
Nine villages made direct beneficiaries in the landmark community based tourism initiativeFurs, Fins and Feathers
One of the most isolated jungle lodges in India, Vanghat is truly breathtakingPike and Predator
Set amongst blissful wilderness, Vanghat’s remote location may only be accessed on foot by a 2km hike from where the road ends and a bamboo raft-borne river crossing making average fitness and a sense of adventure vital. The lodge is comprised of just 4 spacious thatched cottages amidst the wilderness. This makes sure that the impact on the local environment is kept to a minimum with just a fifth of the property built upon, maintaining the forest environment for our true hosts, the wildlife, and ensuring exclusivity and a personalised service for our guests.
Our team is entirely local, possessing the fine traits of hill folk being polite, hardy and gracious hosts, whilst also knowing the surrounding landscape and wildlife better than anyone. Our activities focussing on walking safaris (a rarity in tiger country), birding, wildlife photography and angling are lead by some of the finest knowledgeable naturalists and guides of the area.
Modest, traditional and in many ways ahead of its time, in true Corbett fashion.
Today returned to wilderness, Vanghat was once the site of a thriving village. This history dates back to the turn of the twentieth century when early settlers were brought in by the British for employment in the timber industry, evidence of which can still be seen up-valley above Marchula. Thankfully the forest from Vanghat and beyond for around 60km to Kalagarh fell under strict protection even then as it was the grounds of the Viceroy and Governor General of India's grand annual hunt.
It was under the stewardship of legendary hunter turned pioneering conservationist, Jim Corbett, that this area became Asia's first national park, founded in 1936 and later renamed in his honour. In 1974, Jim Corbett National Park was chosen as one of the launch areas for Project Tiger, securing the park and Jim's legacy at the forefront of wildlife conservation. The area of the reserve increased over time, including the creation of the Corbett and Kalagarh Tiger Reserves in 1991 to act as a buffer zone to the national park. This enveloped many small settlements in the area, including the village at Vanghat.
By this time however, the settlement, once a typical small Bhramin village where the inhabitants largely depended on agriculture and forest produce, fertile land and proximity to the Ramganga River, was largely abandoned due to monsoon flooding and the youth moving to more promising urban prospects.
When lodge owner and founder Sumantha Ghosh first came upon the land which is now Vanghat in 1999, he was then the chief naturalist at Tiger Tops Lodge, exploring remote submontane river systems for a fishing camp with waters deep enough for giant mahseer to migrate up year round. The ecosystem was in a bad way, with the once legendary golden mahseer vacant due to locals fishing with explosives and chemicals, and the land a degraded and overgrazed patch between the protected forest and the river. But it showed enormous potential and surrounded by great beauty, so much so that Sumantha decided to purchase the land for himself.
Initial efforts to regenerate the river were rapid and remarkable. By setting up a scheme that shared revenue from game fishing with the local communities - thus making it in everyone's interest to protect the river - within a year our stretch of the Ramganga boasted some of the finest mahseer fishing beats anywhere. Concentrated efforts were also made to restore the land and the wildlife returned. With every year of growth that passes, it becomes ever more indistinguishable from the Tiger Reserve that surrounds us.
The property was earlier meant to be a private fishing spot for close friends and family and a charming stone cottage was constructed. However, disconcerted with the state of popular tourism in India's national parks, Sumantha chose to expand the lodging, building four mud and thatch bungalows, thus creating a rich experience for true wildlife enthusiasts that was not detrimental to the landscape or fauna whilst supporting local communities through gainful employment. Modest, traditional and in many ways ahead of its time, in true Corbett fashion.
Today Vanghat stands humbly at the forefront of sustainable tourism within the subcontinent, one of few lodges enthusiastically welcoming Government of India's strict guidelines to ecotourism enacted to curb rampant tiger tourism which, as Sumantha foresaw, has proved untenable. Of course there is still work to be done and we will continue to strive to make our operation as environmentally friendly and socially responsible as possible whilst providing our guests with an unparalleled time in the Indian wilderness.