Even though I have been travelling to Uttarakhand since my teenage years, I had never visited the Jim Corbett National Park located in Nainital(Garhwal). JCNP was named after Sir Jim Corbett who helped in the establishment of this reserve. My tour with my family to Uttarakhand this time round, finally, took me to this place. Jim Corbett NP is also the first national park of India.
We fixed a Delhi- Nainital- Jim Corbett circuit but the online booking to Jim Corbett did not go through as we met with the Sold Out notice. The 5 safari zones(BIjrani gate, Jhirna gate, Dhela gate, Durgadevi gate and Dhikala gate) had stopped any further bookings. In case a tourist fails to book online, one can still visit the Sitabani wildlife reserve and get a Corbett like experience over the rich expanse. Though it is not a part of the Corbett Reserve, Sitabani has fauna and flora to make you feel at home. It is also called the Corbett Landscape.
So though we were put up at a resort near the Dhela gate, we did not have the permit and Sitabani was almost at a one hour distance from here via Dhikuli bridge. So Sitabani, it be!! To enter Sitabani, one must hire a jeep of the National Park and leave all private vehicles behind. We were transferred to a jeep and sat all prepped up for this journey inside the reserve. As our vehicle entered the gates, we were greeted by a huge chirp of birds seemingly welcoming us! The entry made, we understood the rich flora of the place.
The Sal forest hosts tigers, wild elephants, leopards, Asian Black bear, Spotted deer, Barking deer, the yellow throated pine Marten etc. The amazing species of birds existing here are a photographer’s dream – The collared falconet, the Long legged buzzard, Hawk eagle, booted eagle are only some of the names. The pleasant weather combined with the thrill to discover these hidden lives made the Sitabani Wildlife reserve a tour to remember. We encountered some of the above on our trail but the big wild cat clearly evaded us. The rustling yellow shrubs against the tall jungle trees formed an image of the Royal bengal cat for us but that was a betrayal!!
The track and trail was sheer exciting and after two hours of animal/bird watch, it was going to come to an end. As we were heading for the exit, a small bird sitting on a tree high above, chirped over our moving jeep. The chirping was shrill and louder than the bird could manage with its little body. It was as if it was telling us something or warning about something. Without pondering too much over it, our uneventful tour came to a point where our jeep driver who was also our tour guide had to choose one of the two routes on the diversion. The longer exit route had more forest area while the shorter route would lead us to the road where our vehicle was waiting to reach us back to the resort. Without stopping for a hot cup of tea, we decided to exit via the shorter road route. As we headed further on the route, the prophecy of the little chirper came true. The skies suddenly became dark and as we sped to our resort, the meaning of the chirper’s prophecy translated itself into strong winds almost 50 kmph. The rains started lashing and we felt hail hitting our bodies. The entire route was lined with light trees some of which had started falling on to the road. One such tree fell in front of our moving jeep way before we were about to pass. The adventurous and brave jeep driver Ashraf quickly halted, moved the tree away with brisk hands and sat back in to jeep to drive us to the Dhikuli bridge where our car was waiting.
Without any harm, we got transferred to our car and we thanked him profusely for being God sent and so brave. Adventurous was surely his second name and numb our condition after this rescue in Dev bhoomi. As our vehicle proceeded towards our resort, it was going to be another 30 mins towards the Dhela gate. Soon we were stopped by traffic ahead and after a light wait we were told that none of the vehicles would be moving ahead as a huge tree trunk had blocked the road ahead. The storm had certainly performed its duty well! But this time, the width of the tree was so huge that no adventurous guy could move it away from the path. District officials were being called as this needed huge professional cutters to get it out of the way. As we sat there still trying to digest what had just happened, came a knock on the car window informing us that our resort vehicle was waiting on the other side of the tree to take us back.
With a huge sigh of relief, we made our way beyond the tree and exited the mayhem. Hoping all others would reach their resorts too.
And the words still resound “A trip to Uttarakhand is nothing, if something exciting doesn’t happen”
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