Sitting relaxing in our houseboat on Dal lake in Srinagar on a cold October morning in 1989, we were deciding where to go next.
Checking our Lonely Planet guide we wanted a bit of adventure and thought we should go looking for tigers. Flicking through the pages we came across Corbett National Park. Remote, beautiful, northern India, it fitted the bill perfectly. The only problem, when is it open? Our guide said it was closed, but tourist information were not so sure.
So we packed up our lives, put it on our backs and headed off for another leg in our journey. The hair raising (I had hair then!) drive took us from Srinagar to Pathankot, a very tortuous route down one of the worst roads in India. Still unsure if Corbett would be open, we decided to pop by Dharamshala for a rest in the hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas.
After our short break and a hike in the hills looking for an unlucky traveler who had headed into the hills and got lost, we picked up the train line to Ramnagar, a slow 48 hour journey on a cramped and full train.
A short taxi ride from Dhampur station, we arrived at the park, relieved that it was open, although it had only just opened, literally. With the choice of staying in a dormitory with loads of other people, or staying in a tent (more like a yurt than a tent), we went for the tent. Of course, days later, we found out that people who had stayed in the tent previously had been harassed by tigers in the night!
Corbett National Park is a beautiful place with lakes and miles of wild terrain. We went walking through the long grasses and sat by the river watching elephants being washed by their handlers, who then told us this is tiger country and we really should not be there!
Now, 25 years later, I wish I had a time machine! If we had had the technology then it would have been great. The National Tiger Conservation Authority in India is proposing using drones to monitor their tigers in Corbett National Park and other parks throughout India.
The technology will give them the ability to monitor the tiger population and watch for poachers as they go about trying to reconcile the provision of protection for the tigers against the expanding population encroaching on their territory.
Simon Hughes, Ed.