I love wild life and Nature, so after visiting couple of national parks Jim Corbett was always the topmost on my list. India's oldest and most prestigious national park which was established in 1936 A.D. the first National park where Project Tiger was launched. This park derives its name from Jim Corbett the famous hunter who later turned nature conservationist. Situated in the serene Nainital district of Uttaranchal, this jungle is like a holy grail for the wild life lovers all over the world. When we talk about Corbett then its Dhikala zone, is the ultimate cherry on the cake. The heart of the jungle or in the wild life lingo Core area for animal activity. The lifeline of this forest river Ramganga flows through this largest zone making it one of the most spectacular and magnificent area of the forest, rich with exotic flora, fauna and wild life. By now you must have got the gist of how mesmerised I am with this place and how very excited for a special wild vacation with the family (pun very much intended). So staying in Dhikala is a big thing because its one of the only core areas in the country which allows to stay right inside the jungle amidst all activities. It is definitely a special stay and with limited number of cottages you really need to book in advance and get lucky to be here. We certainly were. Dhikala forest lodge is run and administered by the forest department of Corbett National Park. One finds here a lot of forest officials, professionals, wild life enthusiasts, photographers, researchers with all their gear and its quite fascinating to watch them at work. The lodge is about 1 hour inside the forest gate and the drive is a safari in itself starting your crazy wild life adventure without any delay. The guest house is 100 years old built by the British. Though the property is basic in nature from some olden era with huge rooms having massive French windows and the highest of ceilings; its the entire experience which leaves one spell bound. Living amidst the jungle with dense foliage and animal cries and calls it definitely can't get more exciting and magical than this.
As I said the options and rooms are limited due to the high demand so we had no choice but to share the bed between three. Husband, brother and me. So after we explored the beautiful but spooky scary property what with the dense canopy of trees, monkeys lurking everywhere and more of jungle and animal noises for company than humans. The truly beautiful machan overlooking the valley - jungle below with its water body where you could see animals playing by it or just lapping up some water, bathing or gazing intently ( i wondered were they human watching us in return ). The never ending electric fence recently fixed to keep the elephants and animals out of the property which we were told again wasn't 100% effective (so much for some reassurance).The sky was eerie and we had some folk tales and jungle stories narrated with full enthusiasm during our hot simple veg meal in the restaurant. All excited for our safari early morning we decided to call it a day having travelled far and being really tired. So everyone bid farewell for the night and crashed to their rooms. To our dismay we three realized that the fan in our room with the highest of ceiling worked only on 1 speed ( the lowest ). The air was hardly circulated till the bed where we three lay cramped, squashed on the bed (in the peak summer season). After tossing and turning hubby decided to take things in his hands and opened the windows (mind you these were the big, massive big French windows ) it instantly became pleasant as gentle breeze filtered in through the mosquito nets. It was a little later after that when I was woken up by something else filtering in. The night had begun in the jungle it was vibrating and echoing with animal calls and activity. Elephant trumpets, Barking Deer, Tiger Roars, in live form as if they were there outside the room and they were actually there in the valley below may be some where around too. Now all those amazing stories at dinner - of tiger kills at the property, sightings, all of them started reverberating in my head. The property being right amidst the jungle so much so that non veg wasn't served due to animal presence and danger. I started imagining a tiger outside the window or worst an angry elephant, now the charm of the charming French window was diminished down to zero as I lay awake I cursed the ever so high, wide and open windows. Imagining what a flimsy mosquito net would do between me and a tiger or a leopard. After having laid awake for what seemed like eons scared as hell I looked at the two blissfully unaware sleeping forms by my side and not wanting to awaken them for the fear of being deemed as a coward throughout life; I gathered every ounce of courage and walked to the window, stood there for a couple of hell longest of minutes expecting some animal to leap in air at me or some eerie ghost to catch up with. Scared out of my wits with my own thoughts I ran to the bed only to scamper back to the window to half shut it, as if that barrier was enough for those predators. Well that was only so much I could do and as I lay tossing and barely turning into the limited space I had and thinking about someone pouncing in through the window. Even the sound of the house lizard was magnified in the eerie space as if played on loop on a speaker and finally after some time I was lulled to sleep by the jungle sounds, beautiful yet scary. An hour or so into my well earned jungle sleep, the alarm rang in the wee hours of the morning. As I dragged my tired body to get ready for my first safari in Dhikala which I had waited for a very very long time. In all excitement as I sat in the cold metal jeep sleep deprived, eyes tired, puffy and paining waiting for my safari adventure; only to have a blink and miss sighting of the first tiger of my life. Yes but that's another story now..