“A tiger is a large-hearted gentleman with boundless courage and that when he is exterminated – as exterminated he will be unless public opinion rallies to his support – India will be the poorer by having lost the finest of her fauna.”
– Jim Corbett
In the heart of India, lies a pristine abode of the unscathed wilderness. Where the crepuscular rays scatter through the Sal trees, enlivening the forest trails. Where a shroud of mist inundates the forest floor, embracing the flora and fauna on a bed of clouds. A land many envisioned through the eyes of Sir Jim Corbett as he watched over these undefiled woods from his machaan– The Jim Corbett National Park (1956).
Established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, it was renamed to honour Sir Edward James Corbett – renowned hunter and conservationist (author of Man – eater of Kumoun, Jungle Lore). It was chosen in 1974 as the location for launching Project Tiger, India’s maiden wildlife conservation project. Its geographic location in the sub Himalayan belt aids varied terrains ranging from hills to marshy swamps and grasslands. The picturesque habitat sustains around 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species, 25 reptile species and several migratory birds.
The gates to the park open at 06:30 A.M and there is nothing as enchanting as the rusty route with trees converging at infinity. Our accommodation was booked at Dikhala forest lodge, situated at about 50 km from the main gate. The drive to Dikhala itself was a safari with several sightings of Sambar deer, Cheetal and Barking deer. Dikhala offers you a panoramic view of the forest. Situated on the ridge of a dam overlooking Dhikala Chaur (grassland), all you need is a pair of binoculars to watch the varied fauna on the riverbed.
The Magnificent Beast’s Stride
It was our second safari in Corbett, first within Dikhala zone. A bright sunny afternoon and clear sky marked a good start. With our fingers crossed for any chances of sighting, we set out on our alluring gypsy ride. Swerving from the grasslands on to a hilly road, we ventured upon a track laid with vibrant violet flowers. The sun, splashing occasional glances of yellow rays, made them sparkle with an aura of mystique. On one side we had a river bed laid with pebbles, crystal clear water slipping through the gravel, glistening under the clear blue sky.
“What a sight it would be to see a tiger walk through those violet flowers, to watch it gently gait over those pebbles, cross the shallow river and fade into the grasslands”