There used to be a a time when a single vacation every year was considered enough. Then the vacation interval slowly came down to six months and has now further reduced to travel once every quarter. To make sure that these frequent trips don’t prove too heavy on the pocket, filling the vacation calendar with some domestic hang-outs in the vicinity becomes a must.
In the category of domestic outings, we had so far visited hills, backwaters, beaches and forts but a jungle safari was still an untouched option. And that’s how Jim Corbett happened.
We left for the adventure early morning around 9:30 a.m. (which is early morning when you’ve gone to bed at 2 a.m.!) from NTPC Dadri, a thermal plant township about 25 km from Ghaziabad.
The route that we chose was the usual Delhi – Jim Corbett route via NH 24:
NTPC – Hapur – Gajraula – Moradabad – Kashipur -Ramnagar
While driving, both sides of NH 24 looked rather unfamiliar but the awaited destination was cool enough to keep us excited all through the journey.
Everything was going smoothly with wonderful roads all through and so we thought we would reach our resort, Namah at Dhikuli, well in time, where we planned to pounce on the ‘super-delicious lunch’ mentioned repeatedly on various online portals. However it took almost 1.5 hours to cover a stretch of around 45 km from Moradabad bypass to Kashipur, thanks to the butter crisp road (sarcasm intended).
I was quite fed up of driving at snail’s pace for more than an hour, with my four-year-old son Yuvi doing his best to annoy me by repeatedly screaming as he chomped on his chips in the rear seat: “Lagta hai papa car chlana bhool gye hain” (Looks like dad has forgotten how to drive).
Eventually, the ordeal ended and a well laid road welcomed us again. We reached our resort just in time to be able to enjoy the ‘super-delicious’ lunch.
With the starters of the tour done, it was time for the main event – the famous Jungle Safari at Jim Corbett. A Maruti Suzuki Gypsy swooped down to carry us from the resort to the zone gate. A Gypsy, by the way, was a style statement when I was growing up and so I was really happy to be on board!
Since the vacation plan was formulated at the last moment and I hadn’t booked a safari in advance, the all-time favourite Dhikala and Bijrani zones were all sold out and we had to settle for the only zone available – the Dhela Zone. Going by the reviews, we weren’t really hopeful of seeing a tiger or any other exotic animal and were rather expecting a pretty average outing. But the moment our driver-cum-guide, Javed pressed the race pedal, the adrenalin pumped in and we all got very excited nevertheless for our first open-jeep family ride, with cold winds hitting us from all sides. The fun continued for 25-30 minutes until we reached the entrance gate of Dhela zone.
We equipped ourselves with our soft weapons – binoculars, goggles, camera – and the forest expedition began. As our Gypsy began to creep along the path, it was immediately clear to us that this was going to be an altogether different and unforgettable experience with the abundance of nature all around.
You feel oodles of energy as you go past thick jungle with so many mystic sounds of birds and animals coming from all directions. As the feeling of being on a safari was sinking in, Javed the driver/guide, suddenly stopped the car and pointed us to look in a certain direction where we saw two spotted deer.
It felt so nice to watch their innocent acts. That’s when I realised the huge difference between a zoo and a jungle – in the latter, it’s you who has to follow the rules as you are not supposed to get out of your vehicle at all while the animals roam around freely like they’re the boss.
As we moved further into the forest, a cute little mongoose, who looked extremely naughty going by his restless acts, crossed us so swiftly that I could not even click a photo of him, unlike the wild boars who did allow me some time.
It is really difficult to put into words how wonderful one feels in the middle of a jungle, where you don’t know what you are about to witness next.
“Ssssshhhhh”, said Javed, “A tiger is nearby. He is going to cross the road right in front of you, 100 % guaranteed, Sir. Just be quiet”. The whole family including Yuvi obliged by being quiet, even though due to the excitement, my eyes grew wide enough to convey my question very loudly to the driver: “How do you know?” He then gestured to be quiet and to listen carefully. We noticed that monkeys were indeed making a certain kind of whistling sound repeatedly. It meant that a tiger was on the prowl, Javed explained. We were all frozen, with our eyes darting all over with sheer anticipation, to have an up-close and personal meeting with Mr. Tiger in his own abode.
Fifteen minutes passed. Nothing happened. “Missed call tha shayad” (Monkeys probably gave a missed call) said Javed and I gave him a piece of my mind, again through my eyes. The adventure continued until Javed stopped the car once again after about five minutes, at a watch tower. He again said, a little submissively this time, “Sir, believe me, he is here”. Javed obviously meant the tiger.
Not willing to take another heartbreak, Yuvi showed his clear mistrust of Javed by crying as loudly as he could when he was supposed to be rather quiet and so, we just clicked a few photographs and then left towards the grasslands near the exit gate.
A beautiful sight awaited us there as a big group of wild elephants was having the time of their lives, playing and feeding on herbs. Not that we hadn’t seen elephants before, but watching them enjoying themselves in their group, in the middle of a forest, is a different sight all together.
Just then, another Gypsy crossed us with the tourists onboard yelling that a tiger had crossed the watch tower area just five minutes after we’d left. It was now Javed’s turn to give me a look, “See, I was telling you, Sir,” he said with a wide Oscar-winning smile. I smiled back and saluted Javed, the Tarzan, and then we left for the exit gate.
It was our marriage anniversary that day and the resort staff did everything to make the day even more special.
Of all the good things, we really enjoyed our family cricket session at the resort with delicious dishes being served at whatever location we desired.
Though we did not wish to say goodbye so early, we unfortunately had to leave after spending a memorable 24 hours in the middle of nature and wildlife. However, the jungle safari hangover does stay with you for a while and I look forward to another such experience soon!
Travel Tip: Jim Corbett is definitely worth a visit. One or two days’ stay is enough but remember to make all bookings 45 days in advance.
Images in this post (except title image) are the property of the author.
Read also by Rahul: Visiting the Isha Yoga Centre – a Spiritual Travelogue
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