Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand-land Of Tigers And Elephants

{flickr|100|campaign} Rudyard Kipling once described this land as primal jungle and Jim Corbett loved to travel the length and breadth of this land fearlessly.This is Corbett National Park (CNP), a splendid place supporting a vast reservoir of wildlife.This park has the honour of first national park of the country. It was so declared in 1936 as Hailey National Park & later renamed in the honour of legendary hunter-turned animal lover Jim Corbett. It is situated in the foothills of western Himalayas in the districts of Nainital and Pauri Garhwal in the state of Uttarakhand and this wildlife heaven is reserved for adventure loving and tough people.
We arrived at Rampur, about 7-8 hours away from National capital Delhi, in the afternoon full of anticipations.The permit to visit and stay in CNP are issued here. We got our reservations for Dhikala rest house which is located centrally in the park and is infact houses the forests department.Near the entry point, we took our lunch and entered the CNP through Amdanda gate. Our rest house at Dhikala was approximately 30 kms from the gate along a narrow metalled road. The landscape of the park was mesmerising and this place exuded the charm of ancient primitive era. We saw a few vehicles parked on the kucha road near the main road. I jumped with excitement of seeing something wild and saw a group of elephants comfortably munching on grass of size equal to their heights. This was my first encounter with the Indian giants. They seemed indifferent to our presence.This apparent callousness of elephants about homo sapiens does not augur well for these giants as this made poachers work very easy. By an estimate, their population is 622(in 2008) in the park area.
We moved ahead and saw a signboard about Indian gharial and saw a few gharials taking sun-bath on the banks of river Ramganga. Ramganga and its streams vivisect the land into numerous ridge and ravines. This landscape is perfect habitat for the growth and survival of tiger, leopard, bear et al. We were looking for the big cat tiger. About 164 (as per a count in 2007-news was in Indian Express) big cats inhabit this area and are very reserved creatures. Only lucky people can have a glimpse of this magnificent creature.
Next morning, we were ready to see the virtual rawness and beauty of this mysterious land covering an area of 1319sq. kms. We come across a herd of spotted deer, chital, which ran ahead of our jeep. I saw a lone barking deer, jackal, otters running for fish in the waters of Ramganga. Since it was early morning and a light drizzle had just finished, there was freshness, fragrance and coolness in the air and this was the time of hectic activity. Our guide asked to stop the jeep as there was a call. We waited in anticipation for half an hour but nothing happened. There are documented instances of tigers killing and eating a mature leopard. On muddy trail, we saw fresh pugmarks of a tiger and scanned the whole area for its presence. Chance and luck plays the role in case of tiger sighting in the wild as tigers here avoid humans unlike Ranthambore where tigers show indifference towards humans.
CNP has immense variety of wild life. About 50 species of mammals viz tiger, leopards, leopard cats, jungle cat, fishing cat, jackal, Indian wild dog dhole, porcupine, civet, otter, mangoose, barking deer, ghoral etc.,580 birds species viz king vulture, eagles, kingfishers, etc. & 25 species of reptiles including crocodile gharial, crocodile, cobra, krait etc inhabit the park. It sustains a very significant ecosystem and is thus ecologically, socially and environmentally very important.
Near Sarpduli, we come across a herd of female elephants,a lonely seemingly pregnant jackal and vast variety of birds inhabiting bushes. I have not seen such a vast variety of small birds at a single point and has surpassed even Birds paradise Bhartpur in Rajasthan, in the number of avian species.Very few people are aware of this fact and the entire focus is always on the big creatures like tiger et al. For next two days, we scanned all parts of the park to get a glimpse of tiger and it finally obliged us when we saw a male full grown tiger near a waterhole. It was amazing feeling.
It is a privilege to visit this primal jungle and taste its raw beauty.This park remains closed from June 15 to November 15 for general public. A large number of rest houses are available in the area namely Dhikala, Khinnanauli, Sarpduli, etc.