Corbett National Park Safari report

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#1 Jan 10th, 2011, 03:23
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Corbett National Park – Safari experience report

Our safari was planned after considerable deliberation and much guidance from India Mikers. We decided to visit Corbett National Park for our next India wildlife trip and we booked with a local guide,Ramesh Suyal, wanting to avoid the big tour operator approach.

Day 1 Arrival and transfer to Bijrani zone

We flew into Delhi and then took the Ranikhet express from Old Delhi to Ramnagar departing at 22.40. After some confusion at the train station we made our way to platform 3 where our porter said the train would be, despite all the signs saying platform 5! He was right and soon had us and our bags on the right carriage. We had a good journey and arrived at about 5.40am still tired and jet lagged but excited and looking forward to our first trip to northern India. Ramesh, our guide and his driver Haveej met us at Ramnagar station and drove us in the Maruti jeep through Ramnagar to the gates of the Birjani zone of Corbett National Park.

We waited for gate to open at 6.30, we couldn’t quite believe we were setting out on safari so quickly. As we drove through the buffer zone we saw fresh tiger pud marks in the sand very close to the houses. Our anticipation heightened we continued towards Bijrani Forest lodge where we were booked to stay for two nights.





On the way we saw some spotted deer. On arrival at Bijrani lodge we checked in and then went straight off on safari. We soon saw Spotted deer, a changeable hawk eagle and then a red Rufous-bellied eagle, the first Ramesh had seen for 3 years!



He was as excited as us! The scenery was breathtaking but we were shown how the flash floods on 18th September following heavy rain had stripped the grass from so much of the land, especially along the river sides where farmers rely on the grass to feed their animals. Moving on we saw a pretty little Shrike, white throated kingfishers and other small birds.

A Muntjac was watching us pass with interest. We drove up past a viewing hide where there was a group of children who were so noisy surely no wildlife would stay around! To avoid them we drove up the hill behind them, we heard the calls, then saw a pair Great Indian Hornbills flying in our direction, they landed high in a tree and called to each other, they flew off after a few minutes. Such an amazing sight and as they have always been my favourite bird I thought I had hit the jackpot already!

We saw plenty of deer, Sambar, Langur and other monkeys. We arrived back at Bijrani lodge for breakfast and were asked if we were happy to do all day safari. We said yes, of course! We were advised to have a good breakfast as we may not be back for lunch. As we got off the jeep Ramesh hurried back saying ‘Get in the jeep, you don’t want breakfast, we sped off in the jeep into the forest, where we met up with one other jeep. We heard alarm calls and waited, Ramesh was sure the tiger was in the forest close to us so we waited in silence. Ramesh spotted the tiger first, hidden in the bushes, perfectly still crouching in readiness for an attack, he moved his back paw very slowly then the front paw very slowly, through the binoculars we could see the muscles on his back quivering.

He stayed like this for 10 minutes or more, time seemed to stand still! Suddenly he pounced forward to make the kill but he missed. We never saw what he was after. A few minutes later he came out of the undergrowth and walked along the track until the dry stream where he turned away into more undergrowth…still hungry!.

We drove past and waited where Ramesh expected him to exit, we saw movement and heard twigs cracking, we waited for 20 minutes then he came towards us slowly over about 10 minutes, stopped and looked at us and made out as if to stalk us, he then showed his teeth at us, turned away and slowly sauntered off into the jungle.


It was the most amazing experience as he was so close, we had achieved our dream of seeing a wild tiger and he was so much closer than we had even dared to hope.
We returned for lunch at the forest lodge of vegetable curry, rice and dhal … simple but very good, we had worked up quite an appetite! At1.30pm we set off on the jeep where we saw more kingfishers, spotted deer, Sambar and Muntjac. No sign of more tigers!

At 3.00 we went on an Elephant safari, we had an elephant to ourselves and we set off into the jungle on the elephant with her Mahout sitting in front of us on the Elephants neck. The peace of safari on the back of an elephant is something else. The added height and ability to get so close to other animals is amazing, I was able to take some great photos.

The most incredible thing of the elephant safari along with the sound of the jungle without engines was the aromatic smell of all the plants as they were walked through by the elephant and just ‘crashing’ through the jungle to see whatever took our interest be it a sambar or a changeable eagle or a squawking flock of parakeets.

There is nothing quite like being on an elephant climbing up and down steep banks and wading through streams. All the while she was pulling up clumps of long grass, bashing it on the ground several times to clean it of soil and then eating it. On the return trip we saw many small birds.

It was just the most incredible experience. We returned shortly after 5.00 when we sorted our room and downloaded the photos from the day. There is no mains power but the generator provided hot water and light until 9.00pm. Dinner was at 7.30, a very good buffet style meal with a range of vegetable dishes with rice and rotis. We were so tired we were in bed asleep by 9.00pm having seen just so much in one day.

Day 2 Bijrani
On day two we were woken with chai at 6.00 and we set off prompt at 6.30 keen to be off first before those staying outside the park could get in. At first it was quite cold and we were glad of the blankets provided in the back of the jeep, initially all was quiet. When it started to warm up the birds started singing and we saw more deer. We heard some sambar alarm calls and then drove to the viewing tower which was in the direction of the calls. As we climbed to the first level there was a cry from another jeep and we looked across the dried up river bed to see an adult tiger calmly walking across. Ramesh called us urgently to come down and unfortunately the photo that I tried to take in my haste missed the tiger altogether! We hurried down to the jeep and chased along the track to try to see where it had gone. Ramesh was convinced it was still in the long grass in front of us, we waited for 30 minutes before moving further along. Another alarm call was heard and we drove further along where we saw the tiger going into the forest within 5 yards of us. As we drove back we could follow the tracks of its path along and across the track. We spent a long time waiting to see if we could see it again to no avail. After lunch we set off again and soon found very fresh tracks of a pair of tigers ( over the jeep tracks) probably a mother and cub, we followed the tracks along the sandy track for about half a mile when they went into the dense forest. We searched around and heard jungle fowl and then sambar alarm calls but were unable to find them. We moved back to the river bed and spent most of the afternoon waiting and listening. We heard alarm calls and tried to find their origin but no more tigers were to be seen. Just sitting in the jeep waiting and listening to the sounds of the jungle and watching all the birds, deer, monkeys etc was so wonderful.

If you do want to do a safari you need to be prepared to wait quietly for long periods. When we did come across other jeeps they were often filled with 4 to 6 people plus driver and were far from quiet – we gave them a wide berth! We returned to the rest house again very tired, there were more people for dinner none had yet seen a tiger but were all hopeful for the next day. We made friends with a young couple from Mumbai who had just arrived and were very excited about the day ahead. We had another early night.

Day 3 Bijrani

We went out with a different guide this morning, set off at 6.30 and drove round the forest, we saw a lot of small birds. We stopped to listen for alarm calls by a stream and watched a kingfisher fishing – so peaceful!

We drove further along the river bed and heard a chital (spotted deer) alarm call, stopped to listen and heard a monkey call further on, a sure sign of a tiger. We waited….and waited! Haveej spotted a small snake in the rocks, he really does have the sharpest eyes!

While we were waiting we saw a changeable hawk eagle swoop down to attack into the bushes just in front of us. It flew up and perched in a tree above us. Shortly after we heard and then watched a streak-throated woodpecker pecking at a tree.


We returned for lunch with an Irish couple who had arrived with another guide, they had just arrived and were very jet lagged. After lunch we set off and drove around to the various crossings and sat and listened, we drove up to far side of the river bed and parked close to a herd of 12 chital lying down in the middle of the river bed. They all started to look up stream, we moved along and a pair of Sambar were staring in the same direction further along. Indicating a possible tiger? Haveej, our driver then spotted fresh pudmarks in the sand, Ramesh said ‘hurry, hold on we must be quick’ he told Haveej to follow the tracks quickly and we raced off, at the corner beside the river bed the pudmarks left the track across the river bed. Ramesh whispered, ‘tiger, tiger, tiger’ and we saw the tiger calmly walking across the river bed ahead of us.

We watched him go off into the jungle and left him in peace. We drove to the observation tower where others were also gathering, most upset we had seen a tiger and they had not. They all wanted to see our photos and videos. One of the other guides showed us a video on his phone of the flooding in September, the water was so strong the houses in its way just fell into the water and vanished, so sad. While standing there we heard the call of a great hornbill, several times, it then flew to the far side of the river bed much further upstream. Ramesh grabbed the video camera and filmed it. A great day and we were the only ones to see a tiger; I was required to complete the book to log the sighting, such a hardship!

We left the rest house and transferred to Hideaway resort hotel for a night, it is a pleasant hotel and it was good to have a proper shower! The down side was having to wait nearly an hour for a table for dinner as they had closed the main restaurant. Whilst waiting in the bar we listened to a group of people talking about their safaris…none had seen tigers! But they only went on safari for 2 hours morning and afternoon. We were spending 9 hours a day so didn’t feel to guilty for seeing 3! We didn’t have the heart to tell them though!

Day 4 Transfer to Dhikala

A later start at 9.30am, a chance to catch up on some badly needed sleep. We were collected from the hotel and we set off to Dhikala, along the road we passed an elephant with 4 armed park rangers who told us there was a wild tusker following them. We were told that they were to provide security for the village from tigers etc. We reversed and watched him for a while but he turned back into the trees. We entered the core zone and started through the jungle. We saw a large Samba stag across the valley. We stopped at a viewpoint called crocodile pool and looked over to see 2 crocodiles, a male Gharial and a round nosed mugger.

The view was beautiful and we stayed a while. We stopped further along the way and then saw a large single female crocodile. We saw an eagles nest and noticed a lizard on the branch next to it.
We watched a fish eagle fly across in front of us. We drove to the shingle edge of the river and saw a group of 3 more crocs all basking peacefully in the sun. Further on we stopped at another observation point and watched two female sambar swim across the river, they were very jumpy and at the other side they were very alert and one gave an alarm call, we waited to see if anything would happen but they soon settled and went to the bank on the far side.

As we stood there Ramesh pointed out a large turtle swimming in the water directly below us, he was too deep to photograph well. A little further and a tortoise crossed the track in front of us. We saw a young changeable hawk eagle sitting in a branch (white front shows youth). Moving on and a while later we saw very fresh tiger prints going from the track into the forest, in the dry sand the marks soon collapse after the tiger has passed by whereas these were very peaked. We stopped to listen for a while but then a group of other jeeps came passed and disturbed the peace. Further on a Dhole (wild dog) crossed in front of us and disappeared quickly into the forest.

We arrived at Dhikala forest rest house at 4.30. The rest house had only opened 9 days before and our room though spacious was very damp with mould on the walls. I suspect we were the first to stay in the room following the monsoon. The power was off while we were there and our room had no solar panels so no hot water. The wiew from the room however was beautiful.

And the sunsets were amazing


Day 5 Dhikala

We were woken up at 5.10am by the room attendant asking if we wanted black tea or coffee. Not too pleased at such an early wakening! Especially after a night in a rather wet bed. We set off 6.15am and walked off to look for porcupine that are often nearby but with the mains power out the noise of the generator had scared them away. We were warned that we are unlikely to see tigers at Dhikala this time of year due to the more dense vegetation. We set off in the jeep, it was very misty and wet making visibility poor, the dew was falling from the trees like rain. We drove around, the first thing we noticed was a terrapin swimming in a stream, a little further on we heard an owl calling. We stopped and Ramesh whistled back to it, it responded and they had quite a conversation! There were three tawny fish owls perched high in the trees, it was too misty to photograph well.

We moved on and watched a sambar doe who was very pretty. Close by a group of spotted deer were grazing and a shrike perched on a reed.

A while later we stopped and watched a large Sambar stag scratching its antlers on a young tree, he was totally focussed. The mist started to lift and we went back to the owls and were able to see them more clearly.

A short while later Haveej spotted a brown faced fish owl. We watched a woolly necked stork and an eagle fly past.


We stopped to listen alongside the river, we noticed a sambar looking agitated and heard monkeys giving alarm calls and saw them staying still in the trees calling, a sure sign of a tiger near. A vulture cruised in and settled on a branch about 100 metres from the monkeys, indicating that the tiger had just killed. While we waited Haveej pointed out two yellow throated martens crossing the track behind us.

We continued to wait, and the monkeys continued calling. Two other jeeps joined us. After 45 minutes of quietly waiting and listening a large male tiger appeared on the far bank of the river 250 metres away. He calmly crossed the sand and entered the water, as he did so a second tiger, a young female appeared and followed him. As he crossed the river she lay in the shallow water, once he jumped out at the other side she then crossed the river.

We moved down the track towards the two other jeeps, the male tiger had already crossed the track and disappeared into the forest and we waited for the female to cross. After 5 minutes she leapt in one bound across the track about 15 yards behind us, to quick to photograph. We felt so privileged to have watched them for a full 20 minutes.
Great celebration at having seen 5 tigers in 5 days, a bit of a record for November! We started teasing Ramesh saying that we had seen enough of tigers, could we see something else now!
We toured around and later came across a group of 8-10 female elephants with young and one calf about 3 years old walking down the track, we kept our distance and watched as they disappeared into the elephant grass at the side of the road.

As we moved forward the young one turned round and waved its trunk at us then went into the grass.

We drove forward past them and stopped again, another female who had been in the grass at the other side of the road came towards us and trumpeted at us, clearly telling us to go away, we pulled away quickly and she came out onto the track and her body language made it clear she was not happy for us to be there, we left them in peace. While we were watching them we also saw some beautiful butterflies ( thought of Snonymous here!)

We went to ‘crock pool’, to see what was there and to gloat about our tiger sighting! There wasn’t much there so we just took a rest. We drove on to an elevated hide, of typical Indian construction!! That looked over an area of grassland and shrubs, spotted deer there were plenty all peacefully grazing. Many small birds including a blue bearded bee eater were singing and flying around, peacocks played.

A sambar gave an alarm call and a vulture circled above and then perched on a distant tree. We were told there is a tigress in the area who has been behaving strangely recently and has been chasing elephants. We then heard a very loud elephant trumpeting call; apparently this was the sound of an elephant who was being charged by a tiger. We stayed for an hour to see if a tiger would appear but no luck this time.
On the way back to the rest house we spotted wild boar, peacocks and weaver bird nests and a hen harrier flying. And just to round off the day we watched another wild elephant just 100 metres from the rest house. A fitting end to a perfect day! We sat outside drinking chai for a while and then enjoyed a pleasant meal before bed.

Day 6 Transfer to Ramnagar

A 6.30 start this morning, after a better nights sleep – the beds had started to dry out by now! It was a very damp and misty start but we managed to watch a pair of sea eagles circling above us that swooped down to sit in a tree above us. We stopped for some tine listening for the usual signs of tigers in the area, alarm calls etc, the heavy dew made the spiders webs glisten in the mist.

We then returned for breakfast of omelettes. We packed up and loaded our bag into the jeep for the return to Ramnagar. We set off through he jungle droving slowly around and visited the ‘croc pool’ area. The mist was starting to lift and we watched the sunlight begin to shimmer through the trees, creating amazing lighting effects.

We stopped at a small forest lodge where we looked at the fruit trees and watched local workers sharpening their sickles and knives.

As we started on our route we saw some beautiful Siberian Stonechats, winter visitors to the area and pretty Red Munias.

We stopped and watched a majestic Sambar stag slowly making his way along the riverbed. Before we realised it we were well on the route through the jungle towards Bijrani. We saw many birds and deer on the way and stopped to watch a massive flock of cormorants fishing, working so well together to round up the fish a fascinating sight as they all flew together across the water. A little further on we watched a group of female and young elephants wander along the far bank of the river, further on we saw a lone tusker.

Much to our concern we approached a very unsafe looking bridge and my husband even threatened to get out and walk!

His request ignored we drove on, as we were crossing it Ramesh told the driver to stop, we reversed onto the bridge in order for him to show us a little bird….I am sure he did it on purpose! We drove back to Bijrani and exited the park, very sad to leave. As our train was not until later we returned to the Hideaway resort for a shower and a meal before the overnight train back to Delhi. We were at the train station in plenty of time so we went into the waiting room, while we were deliberating which platform we should be at a man realising our concern offered assistance, he spoke good English and helped us greatly as he was booked in our carriage. While we were chatting we noticed an occasional puff of smoke coming into the room from the ceiling, we thought it may be an insect repellent or something, a while later the smell of burning electrics and dense smoke made us exit swiftly! Our new friend was from Assam and showed great interest in our trip and I showed him some of our tiger photos, he asked if we would email some to him, of course I agreed. We settled to sleep on the train and in the morning when we prepared to leave the train, an hour delayed! He have us his contact details with a note inviting us to visit him in Assam and offering assistance if we ever decide to visit Kaziranga National Park to see the one horned Rhino. That is one of the things I love so much about India, the number of people who are so helpful. The train was three hours late meaning we arrived at Delhi train station at 7.30am…RUSH HOUR! It was chaotic and the only way to get out was to scrum down and go for it, the bags made it even more interesting, I think it took about 45 minutes to find our way out. Our driver was supposed to meet us but he was nowhere to be seen ( He had been trying to meet us at the train but had the wrong carriage). I phoned him, he phoned me but in the noise of the station I could barely hear him and so misunderstood where he was waiting. We managed to negotiate our way to the other side of the main road through complete chaos, bikes, rickshaws, lorries, people etc only to realise when I spoke to the driver again that we had to get back to the other side of the road, we made it….just and with bags intact but having been hooted at plenty! How different from the peace of the jungle. We were driven to the airport and very reluctantly made our way home.

We had the most amazing trip and will never forget the thrill of our first tiger sighting. Thanks to all the friends on India Mike who helped us to put it together. The problem we seem to have in India is that everywhere we go we meet such lovely kind people that we want to go back to see them again….but how can we go back everywhere each year! If only we had more holiday!!

Last edited by tripsammy; Jan 11th, 2011 at 03:53.. Reason: addition
#2 Jan 10th, 2011, 04:23
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#2
Thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us, tripsammy! I enjoyed reading this a lot, and wow, absolutely amazing photos!!
#3 Jan 10th, 2011, 04:58
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#3
You were quite lucky to spot a tiger during your outing. It is indeed a unique experience.
#4 Jan 10th, 2011, 06:33
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#4
Thanks tripsammy a wonderfull detailed report and great pics as well.

Also glad you were able to get to see some Tigers, the Elephant
safari looked really interesting and adventureous.


Thanks Again


vandy
#5 Jan 10th, 2011, 08:02
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Absolutely amazing!!!! Thank you, Sammy!
#6 Jan 10th, 2011, 13:12
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#6
Brilliant trip report with superb pics. Thanks for your hard work in preparing this, tripsammy. I am bookmarking it for future reference.

Quote:
The problem we seem to have in India is that everywhere we go we meet such lovely kind people that we want to go back to see them again….
I couldn't agree more!
"Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to row the boat."
(Jean-Paul Sartre)
#7 Jan 10th, 2011, 17:05
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#7
Nice report !!! The pictures truly justify your experiences in the land of tigers
Regards,

Sopan


“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe”

-- Anatole France
#8 Jan 10th, 2011, 20:02
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Brilliant Sammy!
#9 Jan 11th, 2011, 14:47
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Thanks for all the positive feedback folks, now it is complete i am at a loss as to what to do in the evenings!
#10 Jan 11th, 2011, 15:48
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Hi, great post. Can you share the phone numbers of your guide?
#11 Jan 11th, 2011, 15:58
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#11
Great post & Pics.

We were @ dhikala may 2009 for 2 days but dint spot any tigers. The forest was great.

Thanks
Mani
#12 Jan 11th, 2011, 16:20
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#12
Wow. Great account of your trip there. Loved your photos, it was like being there with you on the trip. :-)

Thank you for sharing this.

Cheers,
Kartik
#13 Jan 11th, 2011, 16:51
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#13
Just saw this now, and thank you Tripsammy for remembering me when you saw the butterfly.

What a very well written report that conveys all the excitement to the reader, as though we were there too. Surely, this must rank as a trip of a lifetime.

Superb pics.
Travelpod / Flickr


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#14 Jan 11th, 2011, 17:11
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Thank you for this reportage. Very interesting.
#15 Jan 11th, 2011, 17:25
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#15
Thanks Tripsammy

I am all worn out now having read that !
As I have mentioned to you in another thread, I am not in the best of health, and will not be able to return to Corbett for a while.
Your report saved me from my misery of not seeing it this year.
It was as though I was there with you.
Were'nt we lucky to see so many tigers, LOL !!
Smashing photo's too

Its all them noisy people that gets me annoyed ??
And they wonder why dont they see a tiger ?

I have been with Ramesh many many times,he never disappoints.
So many times I have heard that Corbett is the hardest place to see tigers, I dont agree, I always manage to see them.

Again many thanks
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