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The Roar Of The Jungle

  • Sat 16th Feb, 2019

“The tiger’s roar filled the cave with thunder” Rudyard Kipling

It’s up with the lark at Jungle Jims Retreat, no slacking! Hot drinks and biscuits at 0545 and into our Jeeps at 0615, our daily routine gets us front of house at the gates of Corbett National Park. In half-light we entered the Dhela Zone. Before the sun was up and within five minutes of leaving the entrance, three huge birds flew over our jeeps; 2 oriental pied hornbill and one great hornbill, huge birds over a huge jungle.  

Wild Boar Corbett NP © Richard BainesWild Boar Corbett NP © Richard Baines  

On the edge of the grassland a grumpy wild boar chomped on his breakfast and gave us the evil eye. A great start but we had to press on into the Jhirna Zone where dense jungle and towering trees wrapped with strangling figs creates a true sense of wildness.

Tiger scratch marks in Corbett NP © Richard BainesTiger scratch marks in Corbett NP © Richard Baines

Being first on the tracks means more chance of encountering exciting stripy things around blind corners! After searching in vain, fresh paw prints, alarm calling spotted deer and huge claw marks on a tree gave us renewed hope.

Spotted Deer in Corbett NP © Richard BainesSpotted Deer in Corbett NP © Richard Baines

Just as we were once again losing the trail, on a narrow track flanked by dense jungle, our Corbett guide heard an unusual noise, “sounds like a tiger eating, listen” he said. We all looked puzzled in disbelief, surely not, but then crack! A crunching bone noise only meters away! Wow! Not for the first time today our ears were on high alert. Despite a long wait, nothing appeared, as the mystery tiger settled down to a full belly snooze. If it’s good for a tiger, it’s good for us so we headed back to Jungle Jim’s for food and some leisurely birding.

First off the blocks again and back into Jhirna, on our afternoon drive we headed straight for the bone cruncher of Corbett! Before we got close, approximately one kilometre away by the side of a dry river-bed, our Corbett guide and Judith, one of our group heard a distant roar. “TIGER” did you hear it? Before I had time to answer we were off! Our guides knew exactly where to go and eventually stopped in a quiet place to listen again. A huge roar came from the jungle. Every one of our senses was now on high alert.

Roar after roar resonated around the trees, a deep, scary sound, once heard never forgotten, a really powerful sound of wildness. Every roar was louder and louder. By this time our second jeep had joined us and we had all set up our video and cameras in frozen anticipation. As the sound came even closer, I could see moving stripes through the bushes and then there she was!

Bengal Tiger Corbett NP © Tony KnowlesBengal Tiger Corbett NP © Tony Knowles  

The roaring stopped as she eyeballed us pausing briefly before walking slowly across the track and calmly into the jungle. For the next 20 minutes she moved a significant distance, continuing to roar on her way, giving away approximately where she was, but despite trying we never saw her again. We were left with a truly unforgettable experience, wilder than I had ever imagined, two senses working overtime to create a fabulous big cat and group fuelled adrenalin rush.

Bengal Tiger Corbett NP © Tony KnowlesBengal Tiger Corbett NP © Tony Knowles  

It took us a while to get back to birding after that, but only a little while. For the next two hours we travelled the tracks enjoying some wonderful birds; emerald doves, nesting changeable hawk eagles, blue-bearded bee-eaters, lesser yellownape, black storks, fulvous-breasted woodpecker, spangled drongos and crested serpent eagles.

Black stork adult and juvenile Corbett NP © Richard BainesBlack stork adult and juvenile Corbett NP © Richard Baines  

Several days later the feeling of wildness, tingling fear and wonder at that sound has not left me. They say you will never forget your first encounter with a Bengal tiger and that the first one is always the hardest.  Later that day we were told how lucky we were to capture both the roar and images from the same tiger.

Bengal Tiger Corbett NP © Tony KnowlesBengal Tiger Corbett NP © Tony Knowles  

The following day we returned to the same area and heard her again, this time though she wasn’t alone anymore she had found her valentine as a male roared nearby. February is mating month for Bengal tigers so we didn’t hang around, I really wouldn’t like to be a gooseberry between two tigers!

Richard Baines YCN

Many thanks to our fantastic local expert guides and drivers from Jungle Jim’s a fabulous place to stay and big thanks to our National Park official guides and our clients including Tony Knowles for his fantastic tiger photos. To get all the info about our trips to Asia and our home grown Yorkshire trips please sign up for our e-newsletter Click Here.