There are two kinds of tourists who have visited a tiger sanctuary – the overjoyed and the disappointed. In other words, those who have sighted a tiger and those who didn’t even get a glimpse of its pugmarks. If you go through my record of sightings, you will probably classify me as the latter. The big cat has never crossed my path. It has been sighted by my uncles and aunts, friends and enemies, my erstwhile boyfriends and even recently by my husband, but not me.
I was in Corbett National Park recently and the big cat completely eluded me. While most of my travel companions wore a melancholy look and sulked in silence, I pretended to feel good and count the number of pugmarks I had seen. But as I wrote my travel diary much later, I realized that there were five special moments that stood out in my memory and none of them included the tiger.
1. Sunrise in the forest
I am not really a morning person, but there is something about the call of the wild that makes you get up even before the sun wakes up, and head to the forests. As I squinted through the montage of greens and browns bathed by the rays of the sun, I learned to appreciate the wonders of nature. The shiny dewdrops on the leaves, the crimson sun peeping from behind the clouds, its light reflecting on the streams, and sunbeams streaming right through the tall trees -- it was a surreal setting. And I must thank the tiger for the same, for without the hope of sighting it, I would have never jumped out of bed in the wee hours of the morning.
2. Birds of the same feather flock together
I am told that there are about 1,200 species of birds recorded in India, of which 600 can be sighted in and around Corbett. We probably sighted about 60. Well, it is not really a numbers game, but I forgot about the tiger and looked for winged species everywhere. There were so many lifers -- the Eurasian Hobby, the River Lapwing and the White-Rumped Vulture were some of them that made my day. The jungle came alive with myriad chirpings as we saw several colours flitting around the greenery. My powers of observation became better as I spotted a few avian species while looking for the tiger.
3. The Corbett waterfalls
There is something about a gushing waterfall, its fury lashing on the rocks as it tumbles down from the heights. The Corbett waterfalls are barely a stone’s throw away from the Kaladungi main road and the mysterious dense forest shrouds many a wild creature here. I could hear it a mile away even as the tall trees interrupted my view and the intricate webs of spiders glistened on the way. Small rivulets rushed past me as I stopped by to admire a damselfly perched on a rock. I followed the green path and then stood before the cascade, awestruck at its force as it descended from a height of 20 meters. The birds and butterflies greeted me at every step. As I stood there in the wild, I was completely lost in the lap of nature.
4. Corbett, the man
Imagine living in the middle of the forest, waking up to the birds and being on call to look for man-eaters in the villages around. Well, the Corbett experience to me is more about the man himself – Jim Corbett, naturalist and novelist who can completely draw you into the world of wildlife. As I walked around his house, now a museum, I felt an emotional high, imagining his stories coming alive. I was lost, not just in the world of books, but in a different era. Gazing at the paintings, reading his quotes, imagining him at his desk writing those books – the tiger was forgotten, as the man became the showstopper. I started reading his Man Eaters of Kumaon all over again.
5. The Kosi by moonlight
The call of lapwings, a starlit sky, the moon just rising from the clouds. And the river Kosi beaming in the moonlight. This is the scene from the balcony of my room in the resort. I sighed looking at the overwhelming beauty around me. The river gently nudged the rocks on its banks, affectionately tapping it as it flowed and ebbed. The sounds of silence rocked me to sleep as I gazed up one last time to look for a shooting star.
Lakshmi Sharath is a media professional, traveler, travel-writer, photographer and blogger.
Five moments in Corbett (and none of them includes a tiger!)
Tourists flock to Corbett National Park, India's oldest wildlife reserve and one famous for sightings of the national animal. But chancing upon the big cat is a matter of luck. LAKSHMI SHARATH, who didn't spot a tiger, didn't consider herself unlucky. She came back with five equally wonderful moments to cherish!By Lakshmi Sharath | Lakshmi Sharath – Sun 22 Jan, 2012 11:46 AM IST
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