In Search of the Elusive Tiger at Corbett


In the year 1936, under the influence of the then governor of the United Provinces, Sir Malcom Hailey, India got its first national park. Aptly, the new sanctuary was named after its founder as Hailey National Park, and so it remained for the next twenty years. There were others involved in the formation of the sanctuary, but none more so than Edward James Corbett, or Jim Corbett, as he was more popularly known. Born and raised in the area, Corbett had an intimate relationship with the reserve and its animals. A keen naturalist and photographer, Corbett knew the forest as well or even better than the locals, and he is most well known for ridding the area of some of its most notorious man eaters. It was through his efforts that the national park took shape, and after his death in 1955, the park was renamed after him as Corbett National Park. Corbett was well aware, and extremely concerned about the need to safeguard the tiger population, and fittingly, it was here that Project Tiger was launched in 1973. 




At present, the reserve extends over more than 1300 square kilometers, including about 500  sq Km of core area, and about 800 sq Km of buffer area. The dense moist deciduous forest mainly consists of sal, haldu, pipal, rohini and mango trees, and these trees cover almost 73 per cent of the park. 10 per cent of the area consists of grasslands. The sanctuary is home to around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species. However, the main attraction here remains the elusive and endangered Bengal Tiger.



Crowds of tourists throng the sanctuary throughout the year, hoping for a glimpse of the elusive animal, and I was one of them when I visited Corbett as part of the Club Mahindra Bloggers Trip. We ventured twice into the sanctuary, once for a full day safari, and the second time a morning one, both in different areas of the park, but the tiger remained as elusive as ever, as did the elephants and other inhabitants of the forest. The only mammals we managed to spot were deer – spotted as well as barking deer.



Not seeing a tiger was certainly disappointing, but it was impossible not to be impressed by the sight of the forest. From the meandering streams to the rolling grasslands, and the hills scattered all over, there is so much to see. We stopped frequently, either to see some birds or take a photograph of the sun streaming through the trees…. 


There was ample evidence that there were indeed animals around..... Pugmarks of tigers were seen all over, and I wondered if the tigers knew the tourist schedule and had learnt to stay away from the intruding crowds!


We also saw pugmarks of bears, but the animals were nowhere to be seen!


A troop of monkeys came down to drink water at the stream. While the older ones quenched their thirst, the younger ones gambolled happily! Looks like young ones of all species are just the same!


Among the birds, the only ones I managed a decent capture of, were these two....

A pygmy woodpecker....


and a chestnut headed bee eater!


On the first day of our safari, we stopped at a macchan or tree house overlooking the stream. The banyan tree was filled with birds (this is where I saw the woodpecker) and far far away, we could see a couple of Sambhar deer. Unfortunately, they were too far off to get a decent pic!


As we made our way deeper into the jungle, a pride of peafowl were happily sunbathing in the middle of the path. We waited for them, and after a while, they got up reluctantly, and moved away...


Herds of Chital (Spotted deer) were visible now and then....


Apart from the animals, there was also something else which interested me... the forest rest house...


For something which is over a hundred years old, the rest house is well maintained. And why not? After all, this is where the visiting officials are entertained. In fact, while we were waiting at the rest house for our lunch to arrive, a forest official was visiting, and we watched them lay out the red carpet for him! The whole place, though clean already, was cleaned once more, food was brought in huge hampers, the rooms were opened up and aired..... wonder why he was visiting and if he managed to spot any animals, though!


Our own lunch arrived in a picnic hamper, courtesy Club Mahindra... and I was transported into the land of Enid Blyton and all the other English authors who described such elaborate picnic lunches! 



On our way back, a terrapin crossed our path, and our driver halted the vehicle, picked up the little chap and placed him in the safety of the grass on the side of the path...


The setting sun played magic with the tall grass growing by the path, and we clicked and clicked and clicked!



The landscape was amazing.... with the mountains forming the backdrop, with leafless trees at intervals amidst the tall shrubs in the distance, with the tall grass growing wild in the foreground! We saw some deer amidst these grasses, but they soon rushed off, and we found ourselves wishing it was a tiger which had scared them away! Unfortunately, it wasn't yet time for our tryst with the tiger!


We were happy enough to spot a peacock sitting over a shrub!


The next morning, we headed out towards another gate, the Bijrani gate which was opening after the monsoons, and were greeted by a crowd of about 20 jeeps!


But that was not all..... a TV channel had arrived to cover the opening of the gate, and we had to wait till the reporters had finished talking to all the officials before the gate opened!


The only animal in evidence was an elephant - a tame one, probably used for the elephant safari. As I watched it munch on its food, I wondered what it was thinking.... what would it think about the humans who had gathered here, intruding into its area, just for a peek at the tiger - an animal it would much rather avoid!


Again, the sun seemed to light up the entire forest soon...


And the paths were clothed in green and gold....


And we found ourselves at another forest rest house, this time for breakfast!


The rest house itself seemed deserted... probably no official was expected!


This one seemed to be a few years younger than the other one, but much bigger!


We munched on pakodas and tea, photographed a few birds, and waited for the rest of the tourist crowd to disappear..... and soon, the place looked much more beautiful...


The animals seemed to know of our arrival, so there was no sign of tigers or bears or elephants. As if making up for their absence, a barking deer, normally a shy animal, ventured across our path, allowing me a decent pic!


and another monkey, this time a langur, appeared briefly....


We halted at another macchan..... 



and the view was again amazing! The grass, though you cant make it out in this pic, is once again quite tall, and as I stood there taking pics, I wondered what it would be like, if a tiger suddenly appeared amidst those tall grasses!  The scene was perfect for a tiger to appear, and I could almost imagine one there!


However, there was no use imagining a tiger where it wasn't, so I turned to photographing what I could... such as these huge fungi on a tree.....



and these tiny weeds,.....



A day and a half inside the sanctuary, and no tigers! While all of us had enjoyed the views, the birds and the beauty of the jungle, and had a memorable time, there was surely a bit of disappointment at not having seen a tiger. We philosophized over it, wondering when it would be the right time for our tryst with the tiger, but there was just one person who was happy that we hadn't seen the tiger. And that was Samhith! Every night when I talked to him, he had just one question - "Did you see the Tiger?" When I finally told him that no, I hadn't seen a tiger, he replied, "Good, because then, we can go and see a tiger together! Then it will be the first time for both of us!"

Comments

  1. The sun rays photograph was good.
    Corbett is amazing. We were there a couple of years back. Only for two days. Ideally it needs atleast a week.

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  2. Thanks a lot, Unny! absolutely! corbett needs a week at least! we spent 4 days there, though we went for the safari only on 2 days

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  3. wonderful images and narration!!

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  4. Nice narration and beautiful captures, liked the last sentence.

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  5. serenity steeped in.lovely pics and your narration always makes the virtual trip so much like a real one.

    namita

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  6. Wonderful post. The photographs are excellent. We were  also a little bit disappointed after visiting Anaimalai Tiger Reserve.

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  7. nice shots there Anu !!

    You know last month I had gone on a trip to Jaipur, Ajmer and Pushkar.... And due to time constraints we had decided to skip Jaipur Zoo. But later on we felt we'll just quickly wrap it up in half an hour. And guess what... I saw some 3 tigers there including a white one !!!

    All looked very healthy... only sad part was that they didn't have much area to roam about.... but nevertheless... it was amazing !! :)

    Watching a tiger is truly a different experience altogether....

    -- Shyam

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  8. haha... your son surely would have prayed so hard that you couldn't sight them :)
    corbett is known for its stunning landscapes and elephants and the ugly tiger tamasha too :(
    you have shown a different corbett here... thanks and should visit one day!

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  9. That was one exhaustive round up of the Corbett trip. The forest is indeed impressive but the elusive tiger? Yes they are elusive making one wonder about their being there at all in the numbers claimed. Ah, the pugmarks! Thereby hangs a tale :)

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  10. We also didn't spot tiger when we visited Corbet. Maybe next time!
    Nice, detailed post! :)

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  11. Thanks PNS! ive never seen anything at Annamalai except deer! seen more elephants on the road than in the reserve!

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  12. Santosh, that is what I think too! the tiger tamasha is certainly what corbett would be known for... what we saw was just the offseason.. imagine the season! must be like a mela! and surely the tigers would hide deep deep inside!

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  13. Thanks Zephyr! aah, the tale of the pugmarks? heard a lot about that too, but simply being positive and hoping that these were real ones :D

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  14. Theres always a next time, Bindhu! just hope i see a tiger at least once! if for nothing else, then just to reassure myself that yes, there are tigers in India!

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  15. Thanks so much, Shyam.. long time since I saw u here! i guess we only have to see tigers in zoos now! and wish our zoos were better! the trivandrum zoo was reasonably good.... but the bbay one is going from bad to worse!

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  16. very true... :)

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  17. what can i say, wonderful pics, such beautiful shots.Thanks

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  18. A very interesting and informative post. Your pictures are so good! You may be interested to know that a tiger is stalking the villages near Mysore, and eluding all efforts by the forest guards to catch it!

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  19. Nice post.

    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.com

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  20. Absolutely amazing end enchanting series of photographs - you have taken me on a virtual tour of Corbett Park. Seemsalso like a bird watchers paradise ! Looks like you had a blast though you could not sight tigers or bears. 

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  21. I have not been on any wildlife safari, except at Daroji Bear Sanctuary, which was a bit of a disaster to put it very politely. Though I want to see the elusive tiger, my dream is to spot a leopard in the wild.

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  22. Thanks a lot, Padma! that was interesting... didnt know about that... and hope the tiger gets back to its abode in safety :)

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  23. Daroji was a bit disappointing for me too... but have been on many disappointing safaris now :( so this one was def much better! all thanks to Karthik, actually! i would love to see a leopard too.. but have yet to see a cat in the wild! even a wildcat will do for now!

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  24. Thanks a lot! we did have a blast!

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  25. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Corbet Park

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  26. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    We would love to hear more about your articles so please keep sharing it with us.
    Damdama Lake

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