When it comes to going on Safari, I found Uttarakhand to be much more relaxed with their rules than Madhya Pradesh. In our excitement to be first inside the jungle we were parked in front of the gate at 5.15 am, and there was not a soul there! A huge number of jeeps rushed to the gate at 5.50, but till then there was just us.
The Birjani zone (please feel free to read it as Biryani) has more roads open, which means there is a greater chance that you will be able to follow pug marks and see some carnivores. It’s therefore much more crowded than any other zone, though the rangers don’t allow more than 30 jeeps into the jungle at any time. We spent some time there the first morning and it was beautiful. Most of Corbett is full of dried out river beds, which the guides assure us run full in the monsoon. There are piles and piles of the most amazingly coloured and shaped stones everywhere. We must have seen 7 different sets of pug marks (paw prints in jungle vocab) but did not see hide nor hair of the elusive tiger.
Our afternoon safari was in Jhirna, which is a zone that's 45 minutes away from Birjani, and much smaller. It’s one of the zones that apparently people are sent to when there’s no place in the larger zones, very pretty and picturesque but not much happens there. I’m not complaining though - we saw more activity in Jhirna than we did anywhere else in Corbett! What's pretty cool is that at one point, you are driving down a road that has Uttar Pradesh on one side, and Uttarakhand on the other.
We went to Corbett with no expectations other than being overawed by the jungle (which we were). We had been told not to expect to see many animals, the jungle was too thick, the zones were too far into the buffer area. But, but, but…. when we went to Jhirna, we had a great driver as well as a guide who was determined that we go home happy. We camped out by a watering hole where he basically decided we would sit all afternoon if we had to, and about forty five minutes later, WE SAW A TIGER. It was the shortest sighting I’ve ever had, literally less than a minute, where he walked down a slope, along the bank of a stream and back into the thicket. But we saw him. And managed to get a few hazy pictures too. Oh happy days!