After having been to more than 20 wildlife sanctuaries and National parks in the country, we have come to the conclusion that Corbett is in a league of its own: the variety of habitats the park affords is amazing, and therefore, the biodiversity is staggering. Most people flock to Corbett to see the tiger- after spending a couple of hours inside the forest, they say that they did not see 'anything'. .
The forest was teeming with wildlife, yet tourists sought only the majestic tiger, and it seemed like the rest of the birds and animals were creatures of a lesser God.
We saw an animal so endangered, that the Park Warden equated our sighting to seeing a thousand tigers- an animal called the Mainland Serow, a type of mountain goat-antelope. Couldn't take any pics, though, as the Serow was up a steep slope, concealed in a scrub thicket.
A family of rambunctious, smooth otters swam upstream, merrily devouring the fresh water fishes abounding in the Ramganga river. There was a laggard amongst the juvenile otters and the squeals by his imploring mother otter still reverberate in our ears.
We gawked at the highly endangered Gangetic Gharial who was basking in the glorious sun on the banks, obviously satiated, as he gave a cold shoulder to the noisy otters.
The sighting of two flocks of Great Slaty woodpeckers was a lucky one for us, as these birds are so rare that any birder would give an arm and a leg to spot them. We feasted our eyes on a herd of at least five hundred spotted deer grazing in the plains along the reservoir, giving company to five hog deer which, unfortunately, are highly endangered.
We spotted a crested serpent eagle hastily dropping a half-eaten green keelback snake, and then waiting patiently for our jeep to move ahead so that she could resume her meal in peace (piece-meal?).
On several occasions,we came across an interesting sequence - a herd of elephants would turn their backs to us upon a primitive, silent, infra-sound command by their matriarch.The matriarch would then advance toward us pesky tourists to check out our nuisance value while the rest of them would obediently wait and remain stationary.
Only after the matriarch verified our bonafides as curious but non-threatening tourists would they resume their incessant chomping.
The unforgettable sight of a herd of elephants submerging themselves in the depths of a pool in the river, their trunks resembling periscopes , will remain etched in our memory forever. A young, calf, battling the gushing torrent, lost his nerve mid-stream and was at risk of being swept away by the current. We were relieved to see his mother and aunt instinctively go after him, buttress him and finally shepherd him to the safety of the bank.
Such unforgettable scenes are enacted in the jungle everyday and yet tourists seek only the inimitable tiger. Needless to say, the tiger epitomises the Indian jungle but must all other creatures ,big and small be ignored?
One needs to just open one's eyes to the riches that the forest offers, and the experience can be deeply fulfilling.