Almost for the last 15 years, I have been a regular visitor to the Corbett Tiger Reserve for the reason that after visiting more than 30 tiger reserves of 50 in our country, I have found Corbett to be unique. No doubt visitors call it a heaven as the feel of the place, especially at Dhikala, mesmerises one and all. Even for some reason, if one doesn’t take a jungle safari, one can get a feel of the jungle from the forest rest house itself.
This wilderness is known for the Asian elephant, Bengal tiger, leopard, hog deer, Sambar deer, chital deer, jungle cat, and more than 600 species of birds. During winter, visitors can even get a chance to spot some Himalayan birds, which make Corbett their temporary home during the season. But, the tiger remains the ultimate draw of the place.
For the last three years, a tigress, Paro, has been attracting tiger lovers from all over the country. I had one of the closest encounters with Paro in 2017 when she almost brushed our safari vehicle. Two years ago, we were fortunate to see her again with her three cubs of about six months. We had a plan to visit the park and track the same family during the summer of 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic played spoilsport, and the trip had to be axed. But, then came the good news: The park (Dhikala) reopened its doors for visitors in November 2020. And, up we got up, packed our bags, and put forth into action our cancelled plan in December.
After reaching the park, our plan was to track Paro’s family. At first, our efforts yielded hardly any positive result, but then one day, during one of our safaris, when our vehicle was at the Dhikala FRH, we spotted pugmarks. As we entered Sambar road, we noticed the pugmarks ending at the lantana bushes indicating the presence of a predator. We shared the info with our fellow travellers so they could take positions at vantage points and look for the elusive predator. After some time, one of the vehicles, hardly 70 meters from us, observed a tiger crossing the Ram Ganga river and entering the Dhikala embankment.
My son heard the message and tried to capture the moment. He saw a crocodile approaching the tiger as if ready to grab his easy meal on the platter. My son was fortunate to take a few shots within a span of 30 to 40 seconds. And, he son later informed us of the crocodile’s presence next to the tiger. This was probably the first record of such a behaviour at Corbett. I remember when a tiger was spotted beside an elephant in the river from the High Bank, it became a talk of the wildlife community at Corbett Park.
While the tourists were trying to find out whether it was a tiger or a tigress, which was seen beside the crocodile, some movement was noticed at the opposite side of the bank. We saw another tiger following a herd of spotted deers. This new development arrested the viewers’ attention, with every vehicle trying to grab a place at a convenient position on the bank of the river to capture the real-life drama in the wild. The mother of three cubs, namely the so-called Paro, appeared at the shore and the flock of deers ran for life through the river, evading their prey’s deadly paws. She stopped, observed for some time, and then put her feet in the clear waters of the Ram Ganga river, and started her journey towards the end where her daughter was waiting, and we were stationed to capture the moment.
Soon enough, Paro and one of the cubs crossed the path on which the vehicles were waiting, and moved into the thicket. During the safari, we got a chance to get a few clicks of the entire family.
Apart from tigers, we also got an opportunity to cross paths with elephants. Since our safari was in the morning, the whole park was engulfed by a thick blanket of fog. And, the presence of a bull or an elephant coming out of the fog is a sight to behold, forever etched in your memory!
I am sure the popular tigers and their families, whether it is Parwali or the Grassland tigress, would attract many nature lovers. The reason why nature and wildlife lovers visit the park is to enjoy its raw beauty. This place gives the feeling of the Savanna of the Masai Mara river crossing, and the feelings of the mountains in the forest.
(The writer is a wildlife photographer)