It’s a safari, not a picnic!
A safari is an opportunity to sight wild animals, gain insights into their world, understand them and glory in their existence. It’s also a time when you must tone down, be considerate and not disturb them or the visitors who have come to see them. Deeksha, a wildlife enthusiast, recalls a safari where an insensitive group created a din, ruining the novel experience of a sighting a tiger for everyone with their boorish behavior.
It was 5 in the morning when I woke up to my father requesting me to get up for the nth time and get going. I soon realised I was not at home but at an equally special place, and even though I was still not willing to get up, I told myself this was for the good. A while later, my father and I headed out of our annexe, all geared up with our binoculars, camera, bird guide and our backpack loaded with munchies, water and dry fruit to get us through to breakfast. It was still dark outside with a little bit of blue breaking in. As we made our way to our ride, we heard the morning chirps around. Our Gypsy driver, who had been driving us around for years then, was getting the car ready for the morning round. By this time, a few other visitors had started heading to their respective rides. Most seemed experienced, by the way they were all dressed in layers of dark, dull coloured clothing. It’s very easy to discern if someone’s visiting a wildlife reserve for the first time by the way they dress.
We boarded our Gypsy, ready to set out ‘into the wild.’ The grassland ahead was beginning to appear by then. The grassland of Dhikala is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. On one side of it is the river Ramganga and its reservoir. And on the other, a huge span of sal forest that begins abruptly by its edge. As we drove through the road along this transition, we saw a couple of long-tailed shrikes and bush chats perched on long grass blades. We crossed a few other early risers while roaming around the grassland, all of us desperately looking for clues to the big cat’s whereabouts. And just as we were about to leave for the other part of the park, it started. Multiple chital calls alerted all in the vicinity. We, too, headed towards the river.
Main road through Sal forest in Corbett National Park. Picture credit: Deeksha Sharma
By this time, the sun was beginning to rise, the fog had settled over the river, blocking the sight of any water altogether. A few river terns and cormorants could be seen flying up above the fog against the backdrop of the Himalayan foothills. We stopped for a moment to check whether they were still calling, only to realize we had come pretty close to the herd that was. Two more Gypsies were already parked at the spot, with the passengers making the minimum amount of noise, waiting for the cat to emerge any time now. After we had parked our car at a good enough spot, two more Gypsies lined up behind ours. Now, it was only a matter of time, or so everyone believed.
All of a sudden, I heard giggling and very loud voices talking. I turned around and saw a big, noisy family with countless kids just having a normal picnic. The kids started shouting, no one telling them not to. The grown-up kids wore bright red jackets, pink caps, yellow gloves, and the rest of the color palette. I gave them a look or two, trying to tell them to tone it down. But they just kept going. Just as I was about to open my mouth, I heard a commotion ahead. As I turned around yet again, I saw the yellow and the black, almost shining as the sunlight hit it. A beautiful female adult, she set out on the road ahead of us. The people behind us got terribly excited and loud as they watched her turn and disappear into the grass yet again. They still tried hard to spot her again only to be disappointed. Once again, I tried to tell them to pipe down but no one seemed to care. They had just sighted a tiger. That was all that mattered. I immediately asked my driver to drive us away as I could no longer tolerate the utter lack of sensitivity.
Gold meets Silver meets Emerald at Dhikala Grassland in Corbett National Park. Picture credit: Deeksha Sharma
We finally finished our safari having sighted a herd of 12 elephants grazing at the far end of the grassland, a Pallas’s fish eagle feeding its little one and two yellow-throated martens running through the underbrush. The sunset in Dhikala is a sight to behold, with the sky changing colors every minute and the alarm calls starting to fill the air yet again, announcing that the predator was on the move. We came back to the forest rest house a little after the sunset, had warm tea and called it a day.
Showtime on Thandi Road in Corbett National Park. Picture Credit: Deeksha Sharma
To many of us who love wildlife and nature, it is not shocking to get angry in such situations. The very point of these parks and sanctuaries is to give people insights into the world of wild animals, hoping they show restraint from such behaviour. It is sad to see that even now when tourism and conservation are closely linked, such incidents are pretty common. I hope the scenario changes with time, with tourists becoming more considerate and careful.
Written by Deeksha Sharma
This entry was posted on Friday, January 10th, 2020 at 10:32 AM
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