I was at Ramnagar (Uttarakhand) in mid-February of 2011 for almost 15 days during my documentary film The Last Hope shooting. The film was extensively shot in the villages around Ramnagar. Ramnagar is known as the gateway of the world famous Jim Corbett National Park or Corbett Tiger Reserve. We were not sure whether we would get time to enter the park due to our strict schedule of filming Vultures outside the forest; however, we had a wish to manage some time and to visit the famous park.
At the end of our stay, we found that we collected almost all the footages what we wanted and we can spend at least one full day and one-half day visiting the park. At the 11th hour when we decided to visit the park we didn’t have any permit to do that. However, that didn’t become a big issue because during this stay we met Mr. Tiwari who was the Park Warden and a gentleman with vast knowledge of wildlife and about Corbett. With the same interest in wildlife and photography, we soon became good friends. He gave me special permission to visit the park and he offered me his own Bungalow at Dhikala, deep inside the forest to stay over the night. I was so grateful to him that for his kindness that we could visit the park which is always booked by the visitors from all over the world.
We could only manage one afternoon and one full day to enter the park from our busy shooting schedule. So, with all excitement one fine afternoon we entered the forest. Our location coordinator Yashpal was driving the vehicle. We were passing through the thick Sal forest by an open gypsy given by the forest department. Yashpal was telling many stories of tiger sighting. I was ready with my cameras and lenses that no opportunity should be missed. Suddenly we heard the alarm call of langur. We stopped and started following the alarm. A Langur throws alarm if it sees a tiger. Our adrenalin started running as the langur was not very far from us. But we couldn’t spot anything after waiting for a long time at that spot. The langur was not calling at that time and we decided to head straight because there might be a chance the tiger left that place. We started moving and after a few kilometers we again heard the call of Langur and this time we even could hear the call of crows. But we cannot see any movement inside the forest. We were feeling frustrated as we knew the tiger was very near but we couldn’t see anything. We met few more vehicles as all the drivers and guides with tourists were following those calls. But all our effort went in vain. We entered the park at 2 PM and we couldn’t spot a tiger till 5 PM. However, we have seen many spotted deer, langurs, wild boars, jackal, and variety of birds by then. But our all senses were looking for a tiger. It was then almost dusk; we decided to come outside the forest. Our fellow tourist already left quite before. Our Gypsy started moving towards the gate and we came out from the core to buffer zone soon. Suddenly we again heard the langur’s call and we could spot one elephant in a small meadow. We were then almost just a few kilometers before the entrance of the park. Our vehicle stopped near the elephant and Yashpal whispered: “Saab, Tiger” (Sir, there is a tiger). At that point, I could hear only some noise of breaking bones and it took me few more seconds to realize that there was a huge male tiger on a sambar kill deep inside the lantana bush just 15 feet away from our vehicle. We were hearing the calls from langur as the tiger was approaching towards its kill. For the first few minutes I forgot everything about the world. I was amazed to see the huge size of a wild tiger seating on its prey. The tiger was not very happy with the presence of the elephant and it was growling. I stood on the gypsy to take some images of the tiger, but there was no light and the tiger was inside the lantana bush. So make a clear image of the tiger was impossible. I was riding on the top of the open vehicle if I could manage any good image. In this time the elephant made a move towards the tiger and suddenly I heard a sound of thunder and a lightening effect in front of my eyes. The tiger roared and made a mock charge toward us. To my horror, it was not even a second when the tiger made the charge from a distance of a mere 15 feet and went back to its kill. The elephant didn’t waste much time to clear the area and moved back and I was hearing Yashpal was telling “Saab Ji Baith Jaiye” (Sir, Please sit down). But I couldn’t move. However, I came to my sense soon and took the seat in gypsy and then I realized even I couldn’t move my camera and the lenses. My all five senses were not working properly and the camera seemed very heavy to me. Phew, what an experience to face an angry wild male tiger. I could remember those few seconds in my whole life.
We came outside of the forest soon and went back to our guest house. At night after consuming a few cups of tea when I restored back my all senses I found there was one image came capturing the growling tiger in the bush.
The next day we went again inside the forest and started going towards Dhikala range. That night we were supposed to spend inside the forest at the Bungalow of Park Warden. We noticed lots of spotted deer, sambar, barking deer and variety of birds. But our heart jumped in joy when we spotted one elusive yellow-throated martin. It was such an amazing experience to see this rare species. We also spotted a handsome jackal just in front of us. He was very curious about us and was heading right towards us.
The cool night was awesome at Dhikala. The guest houses were surrounded by thick forest and a species of monkey was making sounds all around the night. A cool breeze was following from the river Ramganga. We went to bed early as we have to wake up very early in the next morning.
We woke up in next morning with the alarm calls of Sambar deer. But it was coming from the opposite side of the river. The morning was very cold. We started our journey again through the grassland of the forest. The whole forest was wrapped by thick mist. We headed towards the river from where the alarm call was coming. We noticed fresh pugmark of tiger but couldn’t notice a single after waiting for a long in cold. We spotted a beautiful Crested Kingfisher right on the top of a wooden pool on the river and then noticed a Sambar pair. Those were mating couple. The male was following the female on the river. They watched us carefully and then crossed the river slowly.
Then we moved to the Gharial Points of Ramganga and we could notice few Gharials basking in the Sun. Even we spotted some huge Golden Mahseer fishes in the clear water of Ramganga. While roaming inside the forest we again came across the line of Spotted Deer, Sambar and Wild Boars. Then we realized we had to come out from the jungle soon as that was our last day at Ramnagar and we had to start for Delhi post lunch.
So, it was the time to say goodbye to Corbett with a promise that we have to come back again and spent some days inside this amazing forest with amazing biodiversity. This time we couldn’t spend with the wildlife of the Corbett much due to our documentary film which was going on Asian Vultures, but by then we made many friends there and I am sure we will get the same warm hospitality whenever we will be back to this amazing tiger land.