On the Trail of the Tiger

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Where I stayed
Corbett Motel

Flag of India  , Uttarakhand,
Saturday, April 2, 2011

From Nainital we planned to take a bus to Ramnagar but after waiting by the side of the road for two hours we decided to jump in a share taxi. We descended from the Himalayan foothills, reaching the town of Kaladhungi after an hour. From here we took a bus that was full to bursting point to Ramnagar, gateway to Corbett Tiger Reserve. We checked into Corbett Motel, situated in the shade of a mango orchard away from the noise and bustle of Ramnagar’s busy streets.

We had come here for one reason, to see a tiger in the wild. Corbett Tiger Reserve is India’s oldest national park, established in 1936, and is named after a tiger hunter, Jim Corbett, who made a name for himself shooting tigers that had turned into man-eaters. There are around 170 tigers in the park today and the reserve is one of the best places in India to spot tigers. To give ourselves a good chance we decided to do two half day jeep safaris.

On the first safari we were joined by a chatty couple from Poland. We drove through a beautiful landscape of forest, grassland and rocky river valleys. We didn’t see any tigers but we saw plenty of other wildlife including:  three species of deer – spotted chital which look like our fallow deer; sambar, India’s largest deer; and barking deer. We also saw a small family of elephants with a calf although they were quite well hidden in the tall grass. The highlight for us was the large number of birds including peacocks, grey hornbills and a rare green tree pie.

The next day we got back in the jeep, ever hopeful for a flash of orange amongst the dappled shade of the forest. Unfortunately, it was not to be. We were naturally disappointed but we knew it was always going to be a matter of luck. We still enjoyed a wonderful afternoon in a special place spotting lots of other wildlife. We came across a lone male tusker elephant who was naturally bad-tempered, throwing his trunk around and making a lot of noise! Again we saw many deer, langur and macaque monkeys, and a plethora of birds including an Asian Paradise flycatcher who sported an improbably long two plumed tail, green bee eaters, chestnut headed bee eaters, a changeable hawk eagle, and a male peacock proudly displaying his tail feathers to an unimpressed looking female.

The next morning we boarded the train to Delhi. We were lucky to get tickets. We had tried to buy some on the internet days before but it was all sold out with a long waiting list. But in India it’s all about who you know and the owner of our guesthouse, Karan, was somehow able to procure us some tickets the night before. Our seats were in lowly Second Sitting Class, and the carriage was jam-packed with passengers without tickets who were standing in every available space. It was a fast train though and we reached Delhi in five and a half hours.

We took a rickshaw from the station to the scruffy tourist centre of Paharganj where we stayed for one night in one of our grimiest rooms yet. We have now come to the end of our Indian odyssey and tonight we catch a plane to Hong Kong where we will spend four days before heading to our last and final destination, Yunnan province in China’s far south-west. India has been a crazy country to travel in and we have loved and loathed in equal measure. It is either a feast for the senses or an assault on the senses depending on your point of view. You are never far from the smells of incense and spices but you are also never far from the pungent odour of urine. The people are friendly for the most part but can be a little bit too excitable and a bit too in your face. The places we have enjoyed the most have been those where we have managed to find some breathing space away from the chaos and noise (especially the incessant beeping of vehicles). One thing is for certain, India is a place we will never forget!

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