“The tigers of some other famous national parks in India like Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh are used to tourists but here, the tigers are quite shy,” says Raghav Rai, our guide. “It’s typical for tourists visiting the park to straightaway ask the guide, ‘Will we see tigers?’,” says Raghav, adding, “the forests here are much more than tigers”. The fact is, there is no certainty that you will see a tiger on your safari; you get to spend a limited amount of time in the park, and you do not control which zones you visit.
Where We Are
The Jim Corbett National Park was established as India’s first National Park on August 8, 1936. It is home to over 650 bird species, with grasslands and Sal forests fed by the Ramganga river. Originally christened the Hailey National Park after Sir Malcolm Hailey, it was later renamed the Ramganga National Park, but was finally named in the honour of famous local conservationist Jim Corbett after his death in 1953.
Jim Corbett was an army officer of the Colonel rank in the British-Indian Army and before he turned into a nature conservationist, wildlife lover and a revered author, he was a very famous hunter in India and abroad. Due to his amazing tracking and hunting skills, he was often sought by the then government of the United Province to track and kill the tigers and leopards who posed a threat as man-eaters.
As we reached our destination, Aahana The Corbett Wilderness, I was a little bewildered as to how what is considered one of the most luxurious addresses of Corbett could simply merge with the natural surroundings of the place. Aahana touches the forests of Corbett National Park along its entire length on the north-eastern boundary. The Khara Gate of the Jhirna Range of CTR, which stays open throughout the year, is in its close proximity. That’s not all, this place is also a bird lover’s paradise – out of the 650 species of birds present in Corbett, more than 130 species are regular visitors.
To the Jungle
Next morning, we were all eager to begin the most exciting part of our trip – the jungle safari. In Corbett, there are two safari timings – 5:30 am and 2:30 pm (they change depending on the season and the route). Since it was April, we were asked to be ready by 6 am. We started our journey by driving towards the Dhikala gate. The drives typically last three hours and drivers stick to this schedule strictly. You can either drive in a cantor or a jeep. We travelled through different paths and the deer, elephants, sambhars were easy to spot, but our eyes were peeled for the main game – the tiger.
We drove for a few hours, stopped to smell the plants and paused to take a lot of pictures. We also took a break at the top of the hill to admire the gorgeous view. As we were climbing one of the hills, we saw a leopard, but the guide shared with us that it was a bit of a ‘loner’ and there are others that walk together, so we stopped to look for them and eventually spotted some. Seeing tigers in the wild has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and our guide too was very concerned about making it happen for us. We didn’t get to see any tigers on our safari but it was a memorable trip nonetheless.