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A Memorable Safari at Jim Corbett

How often do you get to see elephants chase off a tiger? Our recent safari with Tigerwalah at Corbett National Park put us right in the middle of the action!

We travelled in late April when it was very hot and dry, which, we were told, would increase our chance of seeing tigers as they’d be frequenting the water holes. Stoked to see the iconic image of a tiger sitting in water, we endured daily 40-degree heat and cough-inducing dust driving through the dense Indian jungle. And the jungle did not disappoint! In recent weeks, it was reported that Paarwali, a beautiful tigress, was regularly spotted in the late afternoon taking a dip in what had become her private pool. Armed with this bit of intelligence, we headed straight for the pool on our first safari drive upon our arrival at the park.

Tiger at Jim Corbett

  Paarwali at her private pool-©Biplab Banerjee

After about an hour’s wait in our Gypsy and being amused by the troops of photographers setting up their camera lenses the size of small canons, the afternoon lull was punctured by a sudden flurry of excitement. Paarwali was spotted trotting down a trail and heading straight for the water! When she emerged from the trail, her stunning orange and black coat was in full view glittering in the afternoon sun. We watched her approach the water’s edge, take a few satisfying sips, and gently slide into the cool water after feeling it out with her paw. It was one of the most memorable wildlife sightings we have ever seen! After spending some time soaking in the water, Paarwali got up and walked to the other side of the road. We could hear her mating calls and we knew romance was in the air. Wishing Paarwali luck in finding her Romeo, it was time for us to leave the jungle and head back to camp. Little did we know our day’s adventure wasn’t over yet. As our column of Gypsies filed through the narrow road, we came upon a herd of elephants. Disturbed, they charged at us forcing all the vehicles to reverse hastily. Unbeknownst to us then, the elephants had just given us a first taste of who truly is boss in the jungle.

 Eager to catch up on the Paarwali romance, we set out in the afternoon on our second day for the riverbank where the magnificent tigress was sighted earlier. We staked out a good vantage point among a small caravan of Gypsies and watched the many residents of Corbett going about their business. Sambar deer were grazing by the water, small herds of elephants and their newborn calves enjoying a cooling dust bath, and beautiful woodland kingfishers dive-bombing for dinner. Finally, a graceful feline silhouette appeared. It was Paarwali! And she was still grunting for love! Attracted by the series of mating calls by Paarwali, a big male appeared. Romeo had answered the call and was making a bee-line toward Paarwali. When they met, they acknowledged each other briefly and then quickly slipped out of our view behind the bush line. Not two minutes later, they reappeared and went their separate ways without so much as a kiss goodbye. What happened behind the bushes will forever stay behind the bushes!


While Paarwali walked out of sight from us, Romeo drifted out and settled quietly into the grasses not far from a small herd of elephants that had gathered by the river. It appeared that neither Romeo nor the elephants were aware of each other’s proximity. We waited in silence and wondered what would unfold.

Elephant chasing tiger at Corbett

         Clash of Titans: ©Biplab Banerjee

Soon enough, when Romeo let loose a grunt to answer Paarwali’s call from afar, he unwittingly disturbed the peace at the waterfront. Realizing that there was a tiger nearby, the elephants went into a frenzy because there were calves in the herd. Not knowing exactly where Romeo was, a young bull started stomping through the tall grass and trounced toward Romeo, who somehow managed to lay low. The young bull calmed down and peace returned. But not 10 minutes had passed when the elephants caught wind of Romeo’s scent and chaos resumed. And this time, it wasn’t just the young bull but the whole posse! From our vehicle, we watched six adult and juvenile elephants spread out in a line and moved forward through the brush as one unstoppable force! This movement flushed out Romeo, who must have felt like the lone quarterback facing off the full defensive line. With the elephants charging behind him, Romeo broke out of the brush and made for the river in full throttle. It was a scene to behold — elephants trumpeting their trunks and flapping their ears and giving chase to the king of the jungle amid clouds of dust! As abruptly as it started, the drama was over with us still holding our breath. Romeo had escaped unscathed except for maybe his slightly wounded pride.


Over the next two days, we had a couple more encounters with Paarwali. On our third morning, deciding to forgo a crowded sighting of a young tigress on the motasaal grassland, we ventured down Sambhar Road only to come face to face with Paarwali resting by the side of the road. Upon seeing us, she decided to get up and stretch her legs. It was exhilarating to have her stroll toward us while our driver expertly reverse our Gypsy to maintain the five-meter distance between us and the tigress. We moved in sync this way for some distance before she turned and disappeared into the thick bush, ending our rare, private, and up-close sighting of a beautiful animal.


Corbett had given us the show of a lifetime. In addition to Paarwali and Romeo, we were lucky enough to spot a third tiger on two separate occasions. Even during the downtime waiting for tigers, the abundance of deer and birds kept us mesmerized. We cannot wait to return next season and hopefully, we’ll see Paarwali again, perhaps with cubs in tow.





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