Jim Corbett – A Photographer’s Paradise – Many like me grew up reading the absorbing piece of literature penned down by Jim Corbett,  ‘Maneaters of Kumaon”.  It is tough not to fall in love with Corbett National Park having read this book. Hence, Jim Corbett; a photographer’s paradise is an apt title for many reasons.

It was F.W. Champion, a British Forester in the early 20th century who pioneered in taking tiger images by camera trapping in and around Corbett National Park. You may read more about him here.

He inspired Jim Corbett and many others to give up the gun and instead start shooting with the camera. His perfect image of a tiger taken in the night sitting on a Machan is in my opinion the best image of a tiger ever taken.

Frederick Walter Champion Book - Tripwire for a Tiger

He quite rightly said that a tiger trophy at the most satisfies only the owner, but a good tiger image framed on the wall will please all onlookers for a much longer time.

Jim Corbett – A Photographer’s Paradise – Jim Corbett National Park has given me several exceptional immortal moments which are etched in my memory and memory cards now. I have had the privilege of meeting a few of our guests who have done safaris on almost all continents. And they have said that Jim Corbett National Park is by far the most scenic national park which matches the diverse flora and fauna that resides here.

Mist rising up on a winter morning safari in Corbett National Park

So what is it that makes Jim Corbett – A Photographer’s Paradise

Is it the mist-covered Himalayan foothills in the winter months that add the mystic and spiritual realm to the canvas?

Or, the lively Ramganga river which is home to the Mahsheer, Gharials, Crocodiles, and Otters playing on the river bed?

Or, the symphony created by the flowing river, the song of the birds that inhabit this paradise, the trumpeting of the elephants, the roars of the mighty tigers, and the warning calls of the tentative prey when they sight the predators on move?

Close your eyes anywhere in the forest and you can hear the individual notes of all the denizens of the forest. The icing on the cake is the opportunity to stay in the century-old Forest Rest Houses, which are located near the flowing river.

My first visit to Jim Corbett – A Photographer’s Paradise

I recall my first visit to Corbett National Park in 1994 when I went for my first tiger safari in this beautiful haven. I was with a group of friends. I entered the Dhangarhi gate. With each passing mile, the pupil of my eyes were dilating. There was a welcoming shower of bliss calming my senses. Within minutes of this drive, I was in another mental zone, away from the galaxy of my thoughts.

I think the true spirit of Corbett is in the smell and sounds of this forest. You can stop at any place, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let the ecstasy fill your whole body, mind, and soul.

The drive passed through some dwellings at Sultan, Gairal, and the Crocodile Point. The driver was intentionally soft with the acceleration of the vehicle. We were enjoying the view of the delightful Sal Forest into which the sunlight has not yet had time to penetrate. The calling of the Changeable Hawk Eagle, mixed with the kutrook-kutrook-kutrook calling of the Brown-Headed Barbet was taking me away from all the petty cares and worries of one’s everyday existence.

The Ramganga River on Sambar Road in Corbett National Park

We crossed a small bridge and on both sides, all I saw was the white round river pebbles and boulders of different sizes. On the sides of this dry nallah was the tall dominating forest. We stopped for a few minutes here as after quite a while I had got to see the intense blue sky and a distant vulture soaring high and scanning the jungle below for any signs of death. How my eyes longed to see the deep orange fur with black stripes in this backdrop cannot be expressed here. We moved on.

The forest that followed the drive was indescribably grand. The height and girth of the trees was something I had never seen before. I asked the driver to stop again. My eyes were piercing the dense undergrowth for any movement, my ears were anxious to hear the sound of some heavy legs crunching the dry leaves on the ground. All seemed quiet and peaceful when suddenly we heard a loud sound, like the crack of a rifle. We were stunned and pin-drop silence ensued. But our driver who has spent years in these dense Sal forests said, “Sir a wild elephant pushed over a Sal tree”.

We drove for about two hours which seemed like a few minutes of drive through this beautiful abode of God. We had covered about 32kms. Upon reaching Dhikala Forest Rest House I was numbed. All my senses were active, but I felt no need to speak, I only wanted to absorb this paradise.

Elephant in Corbett National Park

This was the first time I was carrying a manual SLR, a Zenith. For the millennials, there were no DSLRs then, and the joy of shooting with these manual SLRs was unique. Every frame mattered as it was costly, and a sure way of learning photography. I would keep a small diary, and each time I took a shot, I would write down the number of shots, with what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Weeks later when I would get the result would I match the individual prints with the notes I had taken to learn, how else could I have bettered my photography skills.

Mesmerized by the beauty of Jim Corbett National Park I started to take my hobby of photography more seriously. Prior to this visit I had an aim and shoot Kodak 35mm camera. It was this forest that sparked my ever-lasting love for the Terai region. The peak of this love was to happen in another park about 225kms away from Corbett where I was privileged to watch the epic battle between a tiger and an elephant. Read more about it here.

Those who keep comparing a tiger with a lion would be pleasantly surprised that there is enough documentation of a tiger single-handedly killing an elephant, more so in these terai forests.

Part 2 of my experience in Dhikala to follow soon. Tiger Safari in Corbett is something I highly recommend for the uninitiated in nature.

 

Sharad Kumar Vats

 

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Sharad Vats

Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered. Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park. Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here's a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger. Buy now on Amazon

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