On the last week of April, I traveled with a friend to Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. This park is particularly famous because it hosts the largest population of tigers in India. It is also home to other animals, like elephants and deer, and more than 500 species of birds.
Located 250 km from Delhi, it is relatively easy to get there. We took a train from Old Delhi station that departed at 4:00 pm and arrived in Ramnagar, the closest town to the park, around 9:00pm. To make things easier, we hired a travel agency to help us arrange accommodation, the permits and safaris to visit the park.
There are five zones in the park, the most popular being Jhirna and Dhikala. For the first day, we booked a jeep safari to Jhirna zone. Our guide was an old man who exuded a quiet confidence, probably fruit of years of experience and knowledge about the park and wildlife.
He drove into Jhirna zone until we arrived at a small pond. April is in the middle of the dry season, which makes it easier to spot animals because they have to come into the open in their search for water. Around the pond, we saw an elephant, spotted deer, a couple of vultures and other birds. We stayed there for a few minutes, watching quietly behind some trees.
After a while, our guide continued driving until he stopped on a hill which overlooked an open field where there was another small pond. There were not big animals to be seen around, but our guide advised us to keep quiet. Many jeeps kept passing along the road while we just stayed there, without anything exciting happening.
We had been there for at least fifteen minutes, when our driver sensed that we were becoming impatient. He confidently told us that a tiger was around, and that he could tell because of the monkey calls. He said that the tiger may come out in the open, or he may not, but if it did, it would come from the bushes on the left and will walk towards the pond. We kept waiting a little longer, but this time paying more attention to the sounds and noises. A few minutes later, our guide yelled with excitement “tiger” and pointed towards the bushes. At first, we couldn’t see anything, but then, the big cat appeared right in front of us, it walked towards the water and then disappeared behind some rocks, just as our guide had foreseen!
There are no words than can tell the excitement that we felt. The sight may have not lasted more that ten seconds, but it is one of the greatest gifts that India has given me so far. I feel very grateful for the guide that was assigned to us. It was for him that we saw it. He knew that patience is rewarding. That’s a lesson to remember.
As soon as we lost sight of the tiger, our driver started driving in the direction it was going. Whenever our driver saw a jeep, he would tell them that we had just seen a tiger, but pointed to the direction where we saw it instead of where it was going. I guess it was a little deceiving on his part, but not exactly lying.
We didn’t see the tiger again, but instead, we found two male elephants, one with two tusks and the other with only one. A wild elephant is nothing like those you would find in orphanages. Wild ones are extremely protective of their territory and would become aggressive if they feel threatened. At that point there were two other jeeps next to ours, the guides are experienced and kept us at a distance, but when one of the elephants started walking towards us, the guides quickly turned around to avoid any danger.
After our encounter with the elephants, we continued along the road, and saw many gray langurs. Finally, we reached a rest spot, got off the jeep and walk around to stretch our legs. After that, we went back to the hotel, still in awe about all we had seen and looking forward to the adventures that were waiting for us the next day.
For the second day, we booked a canter safari to Dhikala zone, which is located at the heart of the park. We thought that if Jhirna had been so rewarding already, Dhikala would definitely be even better.
The safari around Dhikala was definitely amazing but we didn’t see any more tigers. Instead, we saw many sambar and spotted deer, some reptiles and many birds.
The most amazing moment of the day was when we encounter a herd of elephants. Right in the middle of the road there was a female elephant with her cub, and a few meters afterwards, two male elephants in a playful fight. We had to wait a little while for them to move to the side of the road. It was wonderful!
As a mega diverse country, India is blessed with wildlife. A visit to one of the many National Parks will never disappoint. Even if you don’t get to see big animals, just being around nature is relaxing enough to recharge you and leave you ready to go back to the craziness of life.