What begins as a quest for the magnificent striped jungle cat ends in marveling at the beauty of the forest. I would have loved to meet the tiger in its natural habitat, but the fresh air, the bird songs, the mysterious woods all make up for that one missed sighting. Here are few glimpses from Asia’s first national park, the Jim Corbett National Park that came into being in 1936 to conserve Bengal Tiger.
The day begins at the break of dawn at the forest department’s counter getting permissions for the safari. Sun rises up slowly as a beautiful orange helium filled balloon that a child accidentally let go in the skies.
While the permissions are being acquired, the eager tourists unable to contain their excitement over meeting the mighty beast wait for their jeeps to rev up.
Buffer zone of the park serves villagers for cattle grazing and firewood. Unperturbed and with complete faith of not being attacked by wild animals, the villagers ply through the zone in freezing early morning.
And then begins the quest as the jeep hums along deeper in the forest. The birds flit across dead trees and golden yellow tall grass.
Barking deer and Spotted deer venture out to graze …alert always keeping track of tiger’s movements…sending out loud frantic calls to warn others when the predator is on prowl.
The tiger is indeed on prowl leaving fresh pug marks in the sand along the dry seasonal river bed. A minute earlier and it would have crossed the paths of camera toting tourists.
Meanwhile beauty shows up in myriad other colors. The fresh greens of forest are refreshing. The fallen leaves lay out a brown carpet rustling at slightest movement. A emerald dove scurries away in the bushes. A peacock walks away, his huge multi colored plume trailing behind. The little male Black Redstart bird rests patiently inviting me to shoot away.
The jungle wisdom says, Langoor and deer rely on each other to warn for tiger movements. Where there is a langoor, deer may not be far. And sure enough a bunch grazes a little away. I am however attracted to this langoor who seems busy searching for berry and fruit but is ever alert. Perched high up, he gazes far and beyond, once in a while, for he can easily spot the preying carnivore making its move.
The sun now shines in all its splendour warming up the cool forest. Gradually it will amp up its heat and animals will seek solace in deeper, cooler, darker mysteries of jungle. There is no hope of spotting the big cat anymore.
I prepare to return to cooler, shaded environs of the resort, stopping more frequently on the paths through jungle to hear the birds converse. A bulbul coos, a hoopoe gruntles, a squirrel runs up the tree, a jungle cock pecks and hides in the wild outgrowth. The air feels clean, fresh and I breathe it in gulps never wanting to let it go…my city does not give me that clean, stench free, smokeless fresh air.
Villagers begin collecting firewood for the day and the forest perks up in emerald hues. It seems like a picture postcard.
I mentally prepare myself to return to the drudgery of city life and suddenly spot these red jewel like birds in the serene clear stream. The Ruddy Shelduck, migratory ducks swim and rest carefree in the stream. I long to be one of them…
I wonder what is that the Cormorants are busy watching? It seems these birds believe in community activity and hence gaze in same direction or are they all basking in the sun?
The safari ends. I have missed the tiger yet returned happier, wiser and most of all refreshed and invigorated…ready to deal with rigmarole that the life is.
- Nearest town is Ramnagar in the Nainital district and is connected by rail and road to Nainital, Delhi , Bareilly.
- The safari rates for jeep vary between 4000 ₹ to 4500₹ and elephant safari is for around 3700₹
- The permit fee from forest department is not included in safari rates of jeep or elephant safaris.