“The book of nature has no begining, has no end” – Jim Corbett

Jim Corbett, was India’s first tiger conservationist. He was hunter in younger days who had change of heart later on to become protector for locals from man-eating leopards and tiger. Towards the end of British Raj he was first to preach conserving forests and tiger in India. No other place would have his name befitting than India’s first national park called as Jim Corbett National Park. Located in lower foothills of Himalaya’s it is scenic hilly jungle of dense Sal forest. Also known as terrai region it is very fertile land. The river Ramganga cuts across the park giving every tourist memories forever. The vast grass lands of Dhikala zone located along the dam on river Ramganga supports not just large herbis like elephants and predators like tigers but also breeds Jurassic predators, the crocs.

I have been reading books about man eaters from this area written by Jim Corbett since I was kid. Like many of my generation, Jim was one of the reason for my love for jungles. I was always been told you won’t get to see tigers in Corbett because of size of jungle, hills, valleys, ravines and the shy tigers. You will find it is the most beautiful yet the most challenging tiger habitat.

But I had to visit the park. The thrill of unknown and failures pumps me. So I took the long shot. Connected to people who know the jungle in and out. It has various entry points and zones. I did bookings for Dhikala zone. One of most pristine and untouched part of jungle. The place where you get to stay inside core tiger habitat. Most of tourists stay outside the park because it has all amenities of modern world. However in Dhikala it is just bare necessities for living. It is an experience you can have no where else in world. It is when you are living on basic resources as part of natural world, you realise your presence is non-existent. It is place that provides perfect experience for a wild soul.

I entered park from Dhanagari gate. It is a 35 kms stretch upto Dhikala FRH and takes about 90 mins to reach. This hilly road ensures your entire body gets massaged by time you reach Dhikala. I came across many rivulets and dry riverbeds with huge white boulders and stones. The Sal trees seemed to be denser and bigger than teak trees in jungles back home in central India. I was awestruck by beauty of jungle.

Sun rays hardly reach ground .. Drive to Dhikala is mesmerising!

Dhikala is favourite spot for wild souls and also for photographers. Dhikala FRH is located on small hilltop close to dam on river Ramganga. The receding back water of dam in summers gives rise to grass that elephants love to feed on. The grass grows so big that even elephants can’t be seen. Its thrill to do safari here. If you can recall “Kaal” movie, the scene where Ajay Devgan makes his entry you will know what I am talking about.

Grasslands of Dhikala.. Remember the movie “Kaal”.
Elephant grass.. Rightly called so. It can grow taller than elephants!

It was mid summer and we entered jungle in morning and started with our safari post lunch. We headed straight to paar (other side of river Ramganga). It was darn hot, sun was unbearable and we were waiting for tigress by name parwali to come to her favourite water body. The heat of late afternoon soon dehydrated me completely. FYI, Parawali (Paro) is a celebrity tigress of Dhikala but that day she decided not to turn up. We left the place to check our luck at other end of forest, the placed known as sambhar rd, grassland and thandi sadak. Thandi sadak has charm of it’s own. I could smell the fragrance of Oxygen on this road. Round the year this patch of jungle road remains cool. Hence the name. It was in last 10 mins of safari we did see male tiger near macchan off thandi sadak. He was in rush so could not click great pictures of him. Good start for safari I thought.. After all I had 6 more safaris to go!

We headed back to forest rest house. Mobile connectivity is poor. I was to be joined by my wife and couple friend of her, The trio. I wanted to know where they had reached. But couldn’t connect. So I decided to try connecting after dinner. I had early dinner and went back to room to get my phone. It was around 8:30pm and everyone was already inside rooms.

I came out of room into verandah, to check if I get signal. I was surprised, I only one outside room. Everyone seemed asleep. I wondered why? Is it safety thing? Or some jungle law?

Above my veranda even at night I could hear honeybees humming clearly. In search of network I left safety of veranda and went closer to electric fence of FRH along the river bank. I could clearly hear the elephants trumpeting across the dry river bed below. Finally I manged to connect to my trio for few seconds and was relived to know everything was as per plan. By time I kept phone I heard growl along fence that opens towards grassland. I knew it was tiger on prowl. Bit nervous I retired into my room. I realised maybe it was unsaid jungle rule to stay inside room after dinner!

My tiger sighting was record here and all myths that were told me were thrashed. Best part none of them was a man eater. Most of tigers are shy and avoided us, except grassland tigress and Parwali. My record below:

Safari 1- Tigers 1; Safari 2- Tigers 2; Safari 3- Tigers 2; Safari 4- Tigers 0; Safari 5- Tigers 2; Safari 6 – Tigers 0; Safari 7 – Tigers 0

Avg 1 tiger per safari. Not to mention elephants, barking deer, hog deers, crocs, infinite birds and other herbis. I haven’t even spoken about thrill of searching tigers like detectives. It was fun. It was non-retiring. Mammals, reptiles, birds and fauna kept me engaged all the time. It was dream come true..!

For me land of trumpets and roars is mystery of sort. The wild spirits here I find are strange. I say so because in my second visit last year, spirits of wild seemed to be upset with me. 8 safaris no sighting.. I wondered was I cursed.. Did I do something wrong? Or is it some jungle rule again? Will write separate blog for cursed experience..

I just hope the spirits let me in the next time when I visit CTR, for my love for nature and wild animals is as true as love that Jim had for these mountains, tigers, leopards and wild animals.

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