As a part of our professional training, we are attached to various departments we work in tandem with, so as to understand different aspects of our job. One such attachment is with the ‘Wildlife Institute of India’ for which we come to Dehradun for a period of two weeks. While the entire program is quite engaging, the most exciting parts of this module, in my opinion, are – the nature’s trail, a visit to the forensics lab and field visit to the Jim Corbett National Park, and it is this last leg of the program, the field visit, that motivated me to write today.
There were ~90 of us, who started from Dehradun in four buses on the 67th Republic Day of India, towards Corbett. The seven hour long arduous journey was tiring but the very first view of the ‘River View Retreat’ resort refreshed us literally and figuratively, with a glass of fruit punch as a welcome drink and beautiful and cosy rooms to retire to for the time being. The event began at 8 PM the same day with director’s address informing us about the place and telling us what to expect for the next three days.
The next day started fairly early, with all of us up and about at 6 AM. We were divided into two main groups to visit two of the four areas of the national park, Bijrani and Dhikala. I was to go to Bijrani first. We were made into subgroups of 5-6 people per jeep for further in the day. Armed with hoodies, mufflers, sweatshirts, jackets, gloves and boots and cameras, braving the chilling winter of northern India, with a driver and a guide, five of us started, full of excitement, for the jungle safari. After taking the requisite permits and renting a binocular, we headed to the forest area.
Bijrani is said to have a good record for sighting the big cats and we were hoping to sight a tiger. Our guide was informative and told us about the park, its history, the flora and fauna and answered various queries that we had. There were Elephant Safari’s available as well and it was quite exciting to start our journey with a view of an elephant mount and a little boy in a howdah on an elephant moving towards the jungle. We sited a number of spotted Deers and Langoors. A little ahead we saw pug marks of a big cat on the ground. All excited, we ventured further to listen to the call of the birds indicating the presence of a big cat nearby. However, we were unable to spot one there. Our guide asked us to be as still and silent as possible so as not to scare away the wild animals. A fellow tourist jeep driver mentioned that a Tigress with her cubs had been spotted in the same area the day before. We waited for some time at that spot but bound by the limitation of time, we moved ahead. Th jeep manoeuvred itself well on the rough terrain but when we passed through shallow water on our way, the scene was worth looking at and locking in in our memories. We could also see a number of birds, a Sambhar Deer and hear the call of a barking Deer meanwhile. Then we moved to a watch tower and looked at the vast expanse of forest from the top. On our way, we met more people, some of whom said they had spotted a tiger today. Even after a long while when we were still being deceived by the wilderness, disappointment started to creep in. We had started our return journey since there is a limit on the number of vehicles allowed inside the park and the duration for which they can remain there. It was then, that we saw some disturbance on our right. We changed course and straight ahead, saw a couple of jeeps halted at a place about 100m ahead of us, everyone looking in a particular direction. Our guide broke the news we had been waiting to get since the morning, there was a tiger there in the woods! It took some patience to locate the tiger there but once done, boy, what a sight it was! The huge face of the animal was visible first, he (it was a male) was yawning. Binoculars focused, I could see it straight ahead and up close. Oh, what a beauty! After a few minutes, he moved and walked up. What a royal walk! What grace! Oh, I will never forget this instance. We had achieved it. We had seen a tiger! Happy to the core, we started to move back once the tiger retreated back in the woods. This time, the mood in the jeep was very different, electric with happiness and excitement, We took a few photographs on our way back and then came out, right on time!
Dhikala was the next stop in our day visit plan. Eighteen of us, in a canter, started off to this area 55 Kms away from our base. This time, satisfied at having seen a tiger before, we were relatively quieter. Here we spotted barking deer, spotted dear (a number of them!), hog dear, sambhar (one was lazily standing in water, so still as if posing for the camera), wild boars( a couple at first, they looked ferocious and crossed the road running right in front of our vehicle, and then seven to eight of them), crocodile (very well camouflaged, basking in the sun), antlers of a deer shed naturally on a tree, pheasants, jungle fowl, peacock, and a number of other beautiful birds I was unable to identify. The landscape at Dhikala was beautiful, spellbinding to say the least. The water so pristine, the grass so green, the grazing deers, roaming around, as though unseen! It was a sight to behold. And then we headed back to our resort.
The next day, on 28th Jan, we decided to spend the morning lazing around, enjoying the beautiful resort we were staying in. Sitting by the river side with a book in hand and basking in the sun was absolutely wonderful. In the afternoon, we took the safari to the third area of the national park, Jhirna. In my opinion, it had the most beautiful landscape of the three. While we could not spot any big wild animals here, the variety of birds, deers and the grasslands were absolutely delightful to look at.
This visit was beautiful in many ways. Not just because we could see so many animals in the wilderness, but also because it made all of us feel so naive and small amidst nature.
So, next time when you want to get away from the city and be at one with nature, do visit the National Park. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
PS Pictures coming soon