Corbett National Park attracts more than 2 lakh visitors each year, and the highlight of every conversation around it has always been the sighting of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Our partner writer explores the many more interesting facets of the park that you must not miss out on your next visit!
We have been to many tiger reserves and each trip has been fantastic, though I never saw a tiger. We generally visit during winters, when the forest is lush green and tigers could be sitting a foot away camouflaged by shrubs so well that we wouldn’t find it even if we looked for it.
So we focus on having a good time spotting migratory and resident birds, animals and trees.
This time we spent 6 days in Ramnagar, a small town near the national park. We chose to stay at a place right beside River Kosi. The cool thing about staying by a river bank at the foothills of Himalayas, is the large number of water and mountain birds that you get to see.
Lots of birders go uphill and click spectacular photos of mountain birds; and others go to river banks to see spectacular herons, storks, ducks and other water birds. At the river bank on foothills, as you may have guessed, you see both kinds.
The place we stayed at, had one complete side open to the river, with a view of the mountains. So if a tiger or leopard wanted to come and have a drink at the river, and then pop into our resort, s/he could. But that only happens in summers, unfortunately, so we were happy with just finding occasional pug-marks on our walks along the river.
The thing to do when sitting at the river, is stare open-mouthed, as kingfishers, storks and others, dive in and come up with fish. The most mind-blowing aqua acrobatics that I saw this time, was by a crested kingfisher. It hovered like a helicopter mid-air for a while before swooping into the river. Most of the onlookers almost (I positively did!) clapped. We spent hours just doing this, while breathing in the sparkling air and looking at the mist rolling over the river.
Inside the forest, we went crazy finding the Eurasian wrynecks right at the gate. These birds mostly stay and breed in Kashmir, so it was a delight to meet them here. We also saw pied hornbills – prettier cousins of the grey hornbill that lives on the tree by my house in Delhi.
Despite not being a fan of vultures (of course they are a very important part of the ecosystem etc), I got to mention the Himalayan Griffins we found, surely one of the most majestic birds that I have ever seen.
We saw many kinds of deer including the barking deer, which is the smallest deer in India.
Because of our excited squawking at the entry gate at spotting a ‘bird’ (what??), the driver searched high and low and found us ‘the best naturalist’ guide, instead of the ‘usual’ guide.
Difference – the ‘usual’ guide rushes from one pugmark to another, one ‘call’ to the next, with a single-minded focus on tracking the elusive tiger.
The ‘naturalist’ stops to show you trees, tells you how to determine the health of a forest through a termite hill and other exciting features of a forest. Between the naturalist guide, driver bhaiyya and us, there was enough excitement to make all the birds and deer come out of their slumber and start parading in front of us; and they did!
So every time another jeep passed by, asking us if we “saw anything”, we excitedly recited the long list of animals, birds and trees we had met; but the jeep drivers just gave us confused looks. They meant to ask “did you see a tiger”?? “Oh that. Naaa. But we saw an incredibly beautiful forest”!!
– Text and Images By Jayati Talapatra