Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand is where I met the “Queen”; it was a warm March afternoon & she was dozing under the cool shade of trees.Sharmilee or the Bijrani Queen, as she is more popularly known as, is the proud tigress of the Bijrani zone of Corbett national park. Although not so famous as Machli (the longest living tigress in the Indian wild), she has been the cynosure of the tourists coming to Corbett every year. I realized this every second during my seemingly endless wait to see her, as everyone else also waited with bated breath to catch a glimpse of her. Gypsies had made a beeline and I wondered if at all I could see her.
The throne chosen by the “Queen” for her afternoon siesta overlooked the narrow road that meandered down through the dense forest cover. It took our gypsy almost half an hour to move a few metres close to where she was sleeping. Through the dense undergrowth and branches of the trees, there she lay –only a few feet away. I could finally see her face as she raised her head. Completely mesmerized by those magnificent black stripes, I kept looking on at one of the most beautiful creations on this planet!
Sharmilee gradually raised her head , licked her paws, yawned to reveal those canines amidst the whispering “wows” , “uffs” and innumerable clicks that intertwined with the other jungle sounds all around. We eagerly waited in anticipation of her next move. Would she rise and move? Myself and Suman (my friend and fellow co-traveller ) had our cameras ready to capture the tiger walk.
Sharmilee peered over the bushes and grass– eyes of the tiger as they say!!! ! I was excited as I clicked the best of shots I could manage – a full grown tigress was staring at me. Those eyes had an intense and blood curdling look about them !! I kept aside the camera and joined Dibyendu and Rahul (my other friends on this tour) in observing the gestures of the tigress . Sharmilee continued to rest though. Tigers spend most part of the day sleeping or simply lying down to conserve the energy that would be required during hunting or territory patrolling. She was no exception. I was disappointed not to see her walk past our gypsies but I cherished the forty odd minutes I spent in her company. I wish I could spend some more time with her – it was so fulfilling yet unsatiable.
This was the last of our four safaris at Corbett where almost every sign of wildlife had unfolded before our curious eyes, be it the rare yellow throated marten (sadly we could not click any image), the pair of curious jackals, ever alert herds of deers grazing here and there or the big herd of wild elephants that refused to yield any space as they moved along the road with one of the males even stopped to warn us should we get any closer ! But somehow these sights paled in comparison to the encounter I had with the Bijrani queen at the fag end of our tour. The true essence of Jim Corbett’s words was now clear to me-
“Those who have never seen a tiger under favourable conditions in his natural surroundings can have no conception of the grace of movement and beauty of colouring of this most graceful and most beautiful of all animals in our Indian jungles”
As the tour concluded, I vowed to plan the next one soon; there was something about the Queen that made me crave to venture back into the wild and savour the grace and regality that she exhibited !!
If You Go
Jim Corbett National Park is located in the northern state of Uttarakhand of India around 250 Kms from the national capital of New Delhi which is well connected to all major cities outside and inside India via flights. Nearest railway station is Ramnagar –daily trains are available connecting Ramnagar and Delhi.
All useful information and online booking of safaris for day visits to the park and forest accommodation in different rest houses (Dhikala/Bijrani/Jhirna) can be obtained from the official website-