It was that usual time of the year when i go and see the new resorts / lodges that come up around the national parks. So packed off to the nearest and one of the best national parks of India. Distance from New Delhi is 275kms, time taken is 5-6 hours. Most of the journey is smooth on a four lane highway, A small patch of about 25kms, around Kashipur town is a bit busy hence the speed drops here. So checking out the resorts and doing Safari in Jim Corbett National Park was the objective of my visit this May 2017.
Reached Ramnagar by noon, had lunch with a friend, and went to see the new resorts that have recently come up. Lemon Tree Hotels is coming up with a good place about 4 kms ahead of Dhangadi on Ranikhet road. And the Taj group has taken over a resort and turned it around completely into a nice gateway tucked in next to a river. Dinner at Taj gateway reinvigorated my memories of working with the Taj. Food was as delicious as always, and it gave a feel of a nicely managed resort in Corbett.
Got up next day, me and my camera fully charged for the next 60 hours of my engagement with nature. Entered from Dhangadi gate, and after doing the registration formalities the safari began with our baggage in the jeep, and cameras equipment on our seats.
First thing that starts to happen when the safari begins is deep breathing. You become conscious of your breath and start to enjoy it. Seems like you have just started to breathe. You can clearly visualize where is your breath going in, reaching, and returning. This is the magic of the forest.
Crossing the Sultan rest house on the right, and still getting used to the realty of Corbett, Gopi (my driver) braked, keenly looked upwards, and in a low tone hushed and pointed a Long-tailed Broadbill on the tree to our left. I saw it, and was mesmerized by this rare beauty.
This was a ominous beginning to our safari. We continued and in another 20 minutes of drive, he braked again. This time he looked over his right shoulder, pointing at a distance of about 40 meters in anesthetic tone he murmured, “Sir, Yellow-throated Marten”. I saw it looking towards me, i lifted my camera and off it went. Photo taken only in my mind.
After a good one and half hour of drive we reached the famous Dhikala Forest Rest House. Over 100 years old, overlooking the Ramganga river and foothills of Shivalik. Checked in quickly, finished, left our bags in the allocated hutment, and had perhaps one of the best breakfasts ever. Fresh Aloo Poori, and a cardamom tea.
The afternoon safari in Jim Corbett National Park in Dhikala zone usually starts towards Sambhar road until there is some news from Thandi Sadak. So we also moved towards the area, and before long crossed over the wooden bridge on the Ramganga river.
While on the bridge, the driver noticed a Checkered Keelback snake with something in his mouth. Unsure of what it was, i clicked for records sake, and was happy that Gopi noticed the Snake right on the bridge. I have often noticed that almost all the drivers are very careful while driving in the national park. Nothing living to a naked eye ever goes under their wheels.
Crossed the river and reached the water hole, popularly known as the swimming pool of the legendary Paarwali. She was not around. Paar means “the other side of the river”. So Paarwali means a Tigress on the other side of the river. Spent some time looking for her, no luck. Got back to the rest house, the vehicles that came last said that they saw her crossover from one side of the bush to the other. No regrets, as we knew we had 3 more safaris to go.
Next day morning, the search for Paaro began again. While on Sambar road, we saw a herd of Elephants crossing the river, it was but obvious that they would do the dust bath before heading into the woodland. Stopped, and how one hour went by, did not realize.
What followed this was even more spectacular and totally unexpected. Elephants mounting (mating)
Gopi was getting a bit edgy as we were more engaged in Elephants while he wanted us to see Paaro. We relinquished to his wish, and crossed the river. Saw some vehicles coming back with some delighted faces. I knew they had seen Paaro. We did not even ask, and they voluntarily informed that she was sitting in her favorite pool for over 30 minutes. Gopi’s expression fell, not mine. Though i wanted to see her, but i was more than delighted with the Elephant show i just witnessed.
Same evening we witnessed another beautiful sight in the grasslands, locally known as “Chaur”. The sun was setting, the sky was turning crimson red, and i saw a lone Tusker at a distance. He obliged by moving into the frame, i lifted my 300mm prime and realized he was still not in frame of my lens. Sun was setting fast, Elephant was moving faster, i had to get him in the frame, i asked Gopi to reverse. We backed good 100 meters to get this Tusker in the frame, and what resulted was something like below. What an amazing safari in Jim Corbett National Park.
Every day is a new day in a Jungle, and enthusiasm does not dilute by not seeing what you wanted to see, rather there is happiness to have got something you never expected. The journey in search of Paarwali commenced. Crossed the river, entered the woods, and we see two vehicles standing in front of us, silently, with people standing silently, only sound was the camera clicking. Even a blind person would know that the Tiger was in the vicinity. We found a small opening between the two vehicles, and saw this beauty sleeping just next to the road. She wanted me to believe that she had rejected our presence, but careful twitching of her ear with eyes still closed signified that she had noticed and accepted our advent.
After about good half an hour she decided to get back and move into the bush. She moved in about 5 steps. And we also moved in about 5 steps. The reason for her movement was obvious soon. She heard some footsteps of unsuspecting deers, and she was alert. Ears, eyes, and all muscles focussed. The stillness was so magnetic, that i also became still behind the eye-piece. Seconds, and minutes passed she was looking away from the lens. I had kept my focus ready but she wouldn’t look. Looking with one eye, and the second closed for long can be a bit strenuous on the eyes. But i did not want to take a chance of giving my eyes a break.
Good 15 minutes passed, it seemed like eternity and she was just not obliging me with a glance. I realized she was testing my perseverance. Soon a prayer started in my mind requesting her to look my way but once. Finally she did, my forefinger fired, and she continued to look for good 15 seconds without blinking. As if conveying, “Happy? Is that enough, or you want more?” I did not want more.
I had just seen one of the most gorgeous Tigresses in recent times. By the time we moved from there, we realized that we had been in her majestic presence for over three hours. Three safaris searching for her no outcome, and then she presents herself, in her Kingdom, in the way she wanted us to see her. While i was wanting to see her in the pool, as i had seen her images on social media in a pool. But she had something else in mind, and i was euphoric with the look she gave me.
Time to check out, left Dhikala Forest Rest House and headed for outward journey. It was about 11am. I kept my camera ready for the Elephants who always come to say bye to me on the road from Dhikala to Dhangadi. Gopi said, “not at this time sir, it is very hot”. Well, there are no experts in wildlife is what i know. Half a kilometer into the track, and i see a herd on the left as if waiting to say bye to me. I said bye by taking the last image of the trip and drove back to New Delhi. Safari in Jim Corbett National Park had come to an end.
A complete trip in all ways, everything ticked, resorts, Dhikala, Elephants, and Paarwali graced us by her company.