Saturday, April 25, 2015

Corbett, Heaven of Wilderness!

“I had spent many nights in the jungle looking for game, but this was the first time I had ever spent a night looking for a man-eater. The length of road immediately in front of me was brilliantly lit by the moon, but to right and left the overhanging trees cast dark shadows, and when the night wind agitated the branches and the shadows moved, I saw a dozen tigers advancing on me, and bitterly regretted the impulse that had induced me to place myself at the man-eater's mercy. I lacked the courage to return to the village and admit I was too frightened to carry out my self-imposed task, and with teeth chattering, as much from fear as from cold, I sat out the long night. As the grey dawn was lighting up the snowy range which I was facing, I rested my head on my drawn-up knees, and it was in this position my men an hour later found me fast asleep; of the tiger I had neither heard nor seen anything.”
… Jim Corbett

Above words from none other than the legendary Jim Corbett which I have read when I was ten years old & a town boy from remote place of Vidarbha, Maharshtra! At that age for me Jim Corbett was just a super hero who used to spent nights chasing bad tigers (With due respect now I understand there is no term like bad tiger), i.e. who eats humans & in the process kept showing jungle to many like myself by his sharing! Never in the dreams that boy from khamgaon has thought that some day he will be able to visit the same forests on which some seventy years back Corbett’s feet has travelled & yet sometimes even unseen dreams too come true & so has mine! Not just once but five times I could visit the land of Corbett, last one was outcome of my latest trip there! A lot has been changed since my last trip nearly six years back, the road from Delhi To Ramnagar i.e. town near Corbett Park has become now mostly urban & in very poor condition especially the part of the travel through Uttar Pradesh State! It’s really a shame as well matter of concern for our rulers who wants to put our country on world map that place like Corbett which is visited by tourists across the world has so poor means to reach there. We have very wide variety of forests & a master corridor can be worked out, well linked with each other by roads, air & rail routes, so all the major wild life spots can be connected with each other. Take example of Corbett the only major air way it’s connected is from Delhi & from Delhi it takes at least eight to ten hours to reach Ramnagar! This time can be reduced giving more time for the tourists to spend in forest.

Another matter of concern which I felt as a wild lifer is numbers of resorts & hotels mushroomed around the Corbett forests! Agreed tourists’ needs accommodation & on one front Corbett Park differs from other rivals or say tiger destinations like Kanha, Tadoba & Ranthambore or Bandhavgad & that is apart from wild life there is a lot for the tourists around the forest. Places which are already high on tourism like Nainital, Almora, Binsar & Ranikhet all are in vicinity of Corbett so naturally tourists have options if they don’t get a safari in the park & that demands need of all these resorts around Corbett even more! But in the process what about all the garbage these places produce as well the traffic which is too dangerous for the wild life, I think it’s high time to strike a balance on this front or it will be too late to control! We can think of a separate tourism accommodation development area which will be well equipped with drainage treatment plants as well water recycling & also a proper access to this spot. Here we can develop it as a tourism village & then curtail or stop permitting new resorts along the roads.

Then comes the infrastructure in & around the park & on this front Corbett is far ahead of any park, Good reception areas at the park entrance gates & within the parks makes life of tourists easier. Though the public toilets in bijarani or at khinanauli & sarpaduli needs to be maintained & for this we can use Kanha pattern i.e. a full time janitor at these rest rooms & we can charge tourists for using them! The best part with Corbett is allowing tourists to stay within the forests & full marks for the better conditions of these rest houses in forest. A major issue at places except Dhikala is electric power & high power solar batteries can be thought of as charging of camera batteries as well ventilation in the rooms in summer becomes a major hurdle. We can think of allowing Solar/Wind power companies to adopt these rest houses & in lieu can allow them advertise on the rest houses or else can charge some additional charge to the tourists staying here for use of electric power! But these are basic needs of stay in wild life tourism & can be taken care with little bit of thinking out of the box!

Also keeping the tiger sighting in mind for which most tourists come; the waterholes especially in bijrani range need to be opened up a bit so the tourists can have better look at them if the tiger is sitting in. We can keep safe distance from the waterholes so there won’t be disturbance of vehicles moments to the animals coming at water hole but at present most of the water holes are hidden in the shrubs or behind the trees where the view is totally obstructed. One more aspect is opening of new routes in the forest, agreed there are certain restrictions by the Supreme Court regarding the same but we can close down some & start new ones. This will keep the repeat  run tourists interested as each time if I am driving on same tracks then it might be boring & let biodiversity of the Corbett be also seen is the concept!  One more thought is think of allowing stay at chowkis in the Corbett Park with the scheme, “One day with keepers of the Corbett”! As it will help people understand life of the forest guards who by risking their lives are protecting the wilderness for us & this will help in moral boosting of the ground level staff too! Such initiatives will definitely help in making the two ends i.e. tourists & forest staff gel better way & lots of assistance or support can be generated once the common man understands hardness of forest life & his responsibility towards the same.

About wild life Corbett offers, it’s endless yet I have came across many of the friends who says they didn’t saw tiger in the Corbett & there is nothing! For that we have to blame our tourism especially wild life tourism campaign which revolves around the tiger. And we must understand the difference between Corbett & Central Indian forests where water is scarce in summers so sighting of the tigers at water holes is a common thing, which isn’t a case in Corbett. Here ramganga is a perennial river & water is available in abundance also the vastness of Corbett makes it difficult to locate the tiger or leopards like animals as prey base is available all around in forms of chitals, sambhars & languor’s! So tiger unless it comes in open on the road are not easy to sight & they become shy of the moving gipsy’s. Let’s understand ears of the tigers can pick tiers of the gypsy from even distance of one km & if he is walking ahead he will silently move in the thickset of clerodendron along the road & even we pass from just ten feet distance we won’t know how close the tiger was! At the same time Corbett offers probably best & largest biodiversity we can get at one single place considering the birds’ verities there. And then if you are staying out of the park & visiting for just one or two safaris then you need quite luck to sight a tiger! Instead if you are staying inside the park at forest rest houses & taking at least four safaris then you have much more chances of coming across the king! Then in which season you are visiting Corbett is also important factor as in summer months i.e. April/ May chances are much more than in winter! And I think there is need of a good interpretation center sharing all such information, at least at bijrani & dhikala entrance gates so the tourists will be well aware of such details & negativity about not seeing the tiger won’t be there!

Sharing just few of my own experiences here during my Corbett trip & though I had been always a bit lucky with Tiger sighting especially at Corbett yet there were far more exiting scenes than the tiger! This sharing will make you understand about the Corbett in much better way is what I feel…

“A warm April sun rises over the thickly wooded hill making everything bright with its glow, our gypsy enters through dhangadi gate & on the dusty road heads for dhikala, and my eyes tries to cover the endless expand of greens & blue water of ramganaga flowing through the hills & lone elephant on that stage! A drama called Corbett has begun & now four days I will be engrossed in the script which nature god itself has written!”

“Earlier evening you have spent three hours waiting at one place to see a tiger & you know he's there around somewhere, silently waiting in bushes of clerodedenron, looking at you with those cold green eyes yet you can’t see him; you can feel his presence in the air through the alarm calls of peacocks, sambhars & chital! You have seen its pug marks all along the dusty road & yet it won’t come in open, like he is testing your patience! You went back to your forest rest house & slept with his dreams & first thing in morning is you sat in the gypsy & again tracking those pug marks you went to the same spot where you have spent three hours last evening, the alarm calls rang all around & you know in your heart that a tiger is just feet away & now its matter of few minutes & your luck & suddenly it comes on road, a male tiger roaring & walking head on to you; what more luck one needs in forest & you are happy as this is what called as chasing a tiger in forest!”

“I was visiting after six years & it was just like the way I have left it, rather got more better with the age; the sun touches the horizon painting everything in orange red making the ramganaga reservoir glow with its sparkle & on this canvas elephant's silhouette moves, their trumpeting filling the surrounding! The entire seen is like a dream which I keep seeing every day & night, comes true again!! Corbett, I have visited for five times & each time I love it more & more!”

“The best part at forest rest houses is the nights over there & here you come to understand what it means “pitch black” i.e. total darkness! At late evening at bijrani rest house was just looking at the clear sky with carpet of stars on it, suddenly a sambhar shirked just near the solar wire fence of the rest house & soon followed by calls of chitals, assuring presence of the tiger very close by! Have you ever felt how helpless you are in darkness of forest when every other animal can see you but you can’t! At such times just to feel the jungle with all our hearing senses is the real fun. We couldn’t saw the tiger but felt its presence thoroughly & that’s some experience!”

“You are moving out of forest after checking out the bijrani rest house, the tiger’s roaring image still lingering in your mind & ear & way back suddenly you sight a big bird at distance on a tree & wow its great pied horn-bill, probably the most beautiful one in that size league, at 600 meters distance with 600mm lens it’s a long shot & felt like a sniper to click it! Was most happy with this shot for two reasons as one I haven’t ever seen this big beauty & another the lesson which I have learned at high price, of not packing up the camera till you get out of forest got paid off!”

“From Gahiral to Dhikala the Ramganga River runs parallel to the road at many turns hundreds of flood paths meet the river carrying tons of water during rains to the ramganga! On one such meeting point suddenly our eyes fell on an eagle who was eying something at the same time a wandering jackal to come there. Curiosity got us when saw through the lens, it was a kill probably by the tiger but the tiger seems to have gone for a deep in water because of the efforts in making the kill & the kill was unguarded for time being! The eagle & the jackal both were claiming the kill, for some time weighed each other in thought of getting the kill by their own. But soon they realize there was enough for both of them the tussle got settled & both departed with their share of kill! The entire drama took place in fifteen minutes but made us forgot everything around, even the tiger, which eventually entered on the scene in late afternoon! That's what forests of the Corbett are!”

These are just few of my own examples I shared so as to understand what it means be in the forests of Corbett. Agreed a tiger is the best sight in Corbett or in any forest yet when we say we didn’t see a tiger that’s not fault of Corbett forest instead learn to feel the tiger around, see its pugmarks, listen to its roar & understand the alarm calls of every living animal & bird in the forest & then you will enjoy the same forests much better & in true way! It’s human nature to share unhappiness about what we didn’t get but what we have got, we conveniently forget to share! Ask yourself that didn’t you get spell bounded by the vast grasslands of Dhikala with thousands of dears grazing on it? Didn’t you get mesmerized with the orange sun setting on ramganaga reservoir with elephant’s silhouettes moving on that background? Dint you wonder over the fascinating colors of great pied horn bill & beauty of a long tailed minivet? Have you not noticed the flight of paradise fly catcher which moves like a white wave over the blue sky? At night haven’t you looked at the clear star studded sky & tried to count them from your rest house verandah? In so many ways Corbett has tried to give the best of the sights which we never get to see in our concrete jungle & yet we complaint we saw nothing!  That’s what I called being foolishly selfish!

What’s more is even when I come back to my concrete jungle in city life from such trips while my morning walk suddenly from the adjoining tree comes a chirping sound & my ears notice it & expectantly I looked for a familiar sight & I am a happy man to see a pair of mage pie robin dancing on its branches! This is what forest has gifted me, to look for the wilderness around me, whatever surrounding it may be it still has so many species of birds, trees, grass & I am once again in the forest forgetting my city stresses! Friends whenever next you will visit Corbett, just try to absorb as much you can & carry along those fragrances of rhododendron & sounds of the birds as then you will never feel Corbett hasn’t shown you the tiger as do mind, the tiger has seen you for sure! 

Plz see more snaps at the links below... 

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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