DAY 3: Jim Corbett National Park
by Riad Mahmood
Day three began at 5am. Some enthusiastic children were ready and playing football by 5.15 in the morning. They had no issues with the cold. We got into our jeeps by 6.45am and started our safari. The city of Ramnagar is interesting and is up early. You can see many small hotels that cater to the large number of tourists that throng to the Park. Being the start of the season the local people are getting set to do most of their yearly business. The Park is closed for about four months of the year due to the rains and weather conditions.
Jim Corbett National Park is big, approximately 1288 sq-kms. A lot is being done to preserve the Park. Our transport was the good old Maruti Gypsies. These vehicles can seat up to seven people and manoeuvre well through the forest. The drivers make very decent guides and are more than able to talk you through the journey. Every jeep has a guide too.
The forest has a seasonal river that fills up during the monsoons. As soon as we drove into the Park we saw spotted deer, male peacocks, stork billed kingfisher and barking deer. I have seen a few parks but this one stands out. Parts of it remind you of some of the parks in Africa. At times it felt like I was in Tanzania, Serengeti Park, or near Lake Manyara. The tracks (roads) have interesting names. One of the routes or roads, Jar Pahar, takes you through a beautiful river bed that has been manicured for the season. It has these big pebbles on either side of the road.
Our group photographer, Virginia, took some gorgeous pictures. This is her fourth trip to Corbett National Park. We kept spotting tiger pug marks along the way and hoped we would sight the majestic animal. With bated breath we continued to wade through the forest. The roads are in top condition, not too dusty, as the jeeps maintain sufficient distance from one another.
The lantana weed smell is present through the forest. There are lots of Sal trees, and the Shivalik range. The views get more and more beautiful as you go deeper into the jungle. The sky was clear, true blue and you could see Great Horn Bills on the trees. Sunlight shows up every now and then and when it does it lights up this breathtakingly beautiful forest. The river beds are perfect places to stop your vehicle and get a glimpse of the bird life. It is also a good place to take pictures.
There is an observation point too that gives you an elevated view of the forest. There are large open spaces at various points with tallish grass guarded by thick dense trees. The variety of trees and fauna is amazing; eclectically mixed up and make you want to be able to Google the names to know more about the habitat. With no signal of course, it makes you rely on what the guide and driver tells you.
By nine the sun's rays were falling through the trees that covered the roads, and soon it was out in full bloom, lighting up the forest. By this time we realised that tiger spotting was not going to be possible. This is jungle life and an outcome that we have to take gracefully. Wildlife experts say that sighting of animals needs patience, time and a lot of luck. It could take days to see these creatures. The tiger trails were visible but not a tiger in sight.
This was so different from our visit to Ranthambore Park last year. It is a bigger forest and needs more time. It is more sought after and very seasonal. Both have their own charm but I would say that Jim Corbett National is one place I need to come back to real soon, and so do all of you reading this article.
Post the forest safari it was back to the resort Corbett Tusker Trails for breakfast. Everyone was famished and needed the nourishment with a bit of a break. Children being children were back running around the place. Nainital is sixty three KMs from where we are. Uttarakhand is pretty, simple and has a nice clean air. You feel rejuvenated coming from the metros of India.
The rest of the morning was spent playing TT, football, pool and running around. After lunch we were taken to the nearby Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve. It's a museum that has pictures and other information of the past and its history.
It's really nice to see that most of our children are pretty independent and are able to manage themselves easily. On trips like these you are in a position where you take some decisions for yourself and have to live by them. Children want to feel included by their friends and find ways to do so. Social awareness and skills are built up over the few days they spend together.
Ramnagar is not as well known as Nainital and most of the activity here is connected to small businesses, merchants and tourism. The main town is busy with lots of small shops. You don't see too many tourists as they stay contained in the resorts and come for the Corbett experience. The day ended with a trip to a small temple and a short trek. It's a natural track with a small bridge that was built during the British rule.