When you are traveling to Dhikala, following lines comes to my mind:
It’s not the destination, it’s the journey..– Someone Wise
As you make your way into the Dhangadi gate, first time visitor will get a hint of what to expect in their 30km journey to the Dhikala FRH complex. Tall sal trees, thick bush, streams and ravines abound. You know that you are in the land of Trumpet, Roar and Song.
Formalities at the gate were very quick and within minutes we were off to Dhikala FRH. My favorite part of this road is the section leading to Sultan FRH. I do not have adequate words to explain the beauty. At one point my much better half was amazed with colors of canopy that she declared it to be one of her favorite part of the forest. As we stopped near Sultan to freshen up, we could hear a faint sound that resembled a light drizzle. Turns out, that was the sound of tiny Sal flowers falling. My son’s joy knew no bounds as he identified a Lesser Fish Eagle, through the canopy, from the moving vehicle. I think he does not want to be a Uber driver anymore when he grows up.
As we approached Dhikala, we had a very good sighting of Shikra. While not a new bird for us (we see them around our apartment), it still is a bird that we love watching whenever we have a chance. In-fact Shikra was most frequently seen raptor for us during this trip. Checking into FRH was quite quick. The restaurant at Dhikala has basic vegetarian food and they do serve eggs. Their service is good as well. Set your expectations right, Taj it is not.
As we started our evening safari, excitement was in the air. Zakir bhai decided to head across the riverbed as Paarwali and cubs were moving around in that area. We started making our way through Sambar Road. We took a brief halt to watch one of the massive tuskers taking a bath in the river. Most distinguished feature of this tusker were his red ears. Zakir bhai told me that this tusker is known as Laal-Kaan (red ears). As we left him to his bath and moved towards
paar, we stopped near one of the streams to watch river lapwing, black-naped monarch & paradise flycatchers. Grassland had the usual suspects, bushchats and bee-eaters. Orange headed thrushes were busy collecting nesting material. Red Jungle Fowls were pretty common too. Generally the birding season in Corbett is winters, but despite that we managed to do some bit of bird watching through out the trip.
After searching for pug marks, we settled near a dry stream bed to wait for the coveted
alarm call. And we waited for a fair bit. Another gypsy gestured us to go back a little and suddenly we were in front of two tiny cubs. Tigress was nowhere to be seen, and there was a third cub who was hiding in the bushes.
While this was a brief sighting in a fading light, we were over the moon. We headed back to the FRH, tired but in good spirits. As we settled in after dinner, calls of the nightjar (sounded like Grey Nightjar to my untrained ears) started from within the campus. Unfortunately I was unable to locate the bird. As we drifted off, we could hear the rumblings from elephant herds around the campus.
We spent next morning in search of some elephants in the grassland and around riverbank. While the elephant numbers were not as high as we expected, there were herds around with youngsters and also a few tuskers. I wanted to see playfights and dustbath. We did get one more opportunity to revisit cubs from last evening, before they wandered off in the bush.
So far so good. This trip to Corbett was already going much better than my previous trip. My son on the other hand was going on with adding birds to his list. One of the thing I told him about Corbett was about chances to see some of the raptors including owls. We were not disappointed. We ended up with a good sightings of Palas fish eagle, Brown fish owls, Eagle owl, Oriental honey buzzard, Serpent eagle and crested treeswift to our list. We missed woodpeckers, nuthatches and Twany Fishowls in this trip. May be during next trip we will get lucky.
Coming back to stars of the Jim Corbett national park, Tigers did not disappoint us. At one point we were actively moving away from the that had cubs, so that we could explore the other areas like Kamarpatta road, thandi sadak etc. But we ended up sighting tigers there as well. One such memorable sighting was Paarwali tigress with her cub. In another instance, we had a chance sighting of a stalking tigress on our way back to the FRH. Even when we thought of just exploring the grassland, we ended up with yet another tigress appearing out of the grasses. It was raining tigers.
Even when does not want to chase tigers, these regal cats have a way to pull you in. However, Corbett has much more to captivate your imagination. You get to spend time with Asiatic Elephants here, and they are delight to watch. If you were to pay attention, you will be able to guess how they communication in a heard. Also, when there are youngsters in the group, mischief is imminent. Play fights are fun to watch and if you can find them around water, they can keep you entertained for hours.
Before we know it, we were on the last safari of our 6 safaris in the Dhikala zone. We spent our last safari sitting on the high bank, spotting Mahseer fish in the water. We left the park after a heavy breakfast to continue our onward journey to the secret destination I had planned…
Here are some of the notes for anyone who is planning to visit Corbett:
- There are convenient trains from Delhi to Corbett. There is a Shatabdi express that has AC chair cars, in case you were unable to get tickets in Ranikhet Express.
- Tracks can get very dusty, get something to cover your face and camera equipment.
- There are a couple of highway Dhabas that you can stop at for good food, in-case you are traveling in a car. One of them was Moga Punjabi Tadka (https://goo.gl/maps/VmkWLiMfx8Q2759M7). They had really tasty food and clean facilities. Another famous one is Shiva Tourist Dhaba, we did not eat there.
- When traveling from Corbett to Delhi airport, do provision plenty of time as a buffer. Traffic jams on the way can create some anxiety. Our 5-6 hour journey ended up with close to 9 hours on the road.
- You are limited to 3 nights stay in a zone, and even within these 3 nights you might have to change your quarters. Pack light.
- Tip your the caretakers on your way out, not when you are checking in. If you tip in advance, he will ghost you. Also, remember to tip the boys in restaurant and the boys who clean your rooms. A small tip to these boys will go a long way.
- Be considerate to other guests. Don’t be the loud mouth wild ass.
- Where possible, stay in FRH. However, if your aim is birding you will actually have more fun while staying outside the park (plenty of resorts to choose from).
- Carry valid ID cards. It should be the same ID that you used during your booking. This will be verified at the gate.