Pilibhit; A Tiger Reserve waiting for you

Having visited almost all celebrity NationalParks in India, I thought it is time to explore some other pristine forests that India beholds. My visit to DudhwaNationalPark in December had ignited a new Love affair with the Terai forests. The next plausible visit had to be PilibhitTigerReserve. About 6 hours drive from Delhi and just 2 hours from Dudhwa, I explored on places to stay here, and was not surprised with absence of any resorts or Lodges in the area. Only place to halt in Pilibhit had to be the Forest Rest house. I booked myself in Haripur Range at Navadia ForestRestHouse.

If the mesmerizing entry to the Haripur range was any indication of the forest I was to encounter, I was unprepared to envisage what lay in store for me over next 2 days. I reached the Navadia Forest Rest House built in 1913 by the British. The typical Colonial, Forest Rest house with just 2 Suites, and 2 Forest guards as care takers, took me back 100 years. My mind worked overtime to analyze the thoughts of British in building these beautiful Forest Rest Houses in such heavenly locations. Was it to exploit these Jungles for Shikar, and the wood from the beautiful Sal trees which made excellent Ships, and the railway sleeper? Or was it to preserve the Forests from other to encroach upon? Whatever would have been the thought process the result was a nicely tucked away Forest Rest House censored by any kind of disturbance, and truly, a reserve. We handed over the raw material to the Guards to prepare our dinner. Simple Dal, Roti, and Aloo Bhaji tasted exquisite. Spoke to the guards for a few minutes, asking them about what all they see, we were told a Leopard was next to the rest house just 15 minutes prior to our arrival, and a Tiger had crossed the rest house just 2 days back in the evening.

The guard also lit the fire in the room, the pleasant warmth of the crackling fire made the room comfortable. In the daytime almost everyone has visited the forests but only a few people can boast that they were in the forest at night. Tired, I hit the bed, and the forest came alive. The gentle cricket sound, the owl screech, I was terribly curious listening to the music of the forest. My imagination took a kick start on what was going around in the forest outside. Was a Tiger somewhere nearby, or a leopard had decided to give us company just outside our room. When I fell asleep listening to the singing cicadas, buzzing insects, croaking frogs, even I did not realize.

Dharamveer woke us at 5am with a hot cup of tea, and asked us to be ready in 20 minutes to go for a safari. We were swarming with enthusiasm. Got my cameras ready, and hit the road. Within 50 metres from the rest house, Dharamveer asked the driver to take a turn into a meandering trail. We were dumbfounded by the imprecise skimpy trail in front of us. The driver’s eyes aperture opened wide, he adjusted his posture on seat to ensure all his muscles were active, he swerved his neck to remove chinks if any, all mental radars focused. This habitat was very dense, with bushes touching our Jeep from both sides, and an odd branch hanging right in the centre of this trail, we would look up hoping to see the Leopard. There were four of us in the Jeep, but there was a deafening silence, only sound that came was from the tires crushing the dried leaves underneath. The eyes were hungry to spot a predator on the road, but the heart was willing to give it a skip. Such was the impact of this trail that I completely forgot to lift the camera even once. Atlast we came out from the neck of the woods, and were back on the main track, a sigh of relief, and the only word that came out from all our mouths was WOW. Was this only an exaggerated reaction to the unexpected safari we had till now? Maybe yes, as I would not like to think otherwise.
Back to the Forest Rest House, it had got bright now, mist in the backdrop, but the tall Sal trees did not permit the Sun to kiss the ground. Had a heavy breakfast and off we were for the full day safari of Pilibhit.

Now was the time to see the woodland of Pilibhit. One striking thing that came to notice was the flat tracks on which our Jeep was moving. It was flat like a Billiard table, a lot to do with the alluvial soil used. The guide with us told us, that these tracks were made by Britishers. While they were doing survey of the Forest in their vehicles, they also carried a mobile office, and while working in their mobile office if they felt even one bump, the local incharge of the area was suspended. Hence these trails were made real flat. Well, over 100 years, and still the same.

Few kilometers down, and we were at another rest house in #Barahi range. We did not come across a single other tourist vehicle the whole day. Such is the unawareness of this beautiful forest. In no time we were at the Bifurcation canal, and driving along the canal we crossed Mahof range, reached Mustafabad, and then Chuka. A humongous dam built on #Sharda river, which has become a picnic spot for locals. Chuka, is a quiet, and an unwinding set up, however if you are a genuine nature lover, and need peace then must proceed onwards when the locals come in for picnics. Our day had almost come to an end.

What we saw in Pilibhit was a bewitching habitat, some routine wildlife, RhesusMacaques are in abundance in the area, the spotted deers have some swaggering antlers. And yes I was very fortunate to see a HoneyBadger, which has eluded me so far in all the parks that I have visited. This time of the year is not very good for enjoying birds, but again the usual resident birds are in plenty. The big felines escaped us, yet we were not craving for them either, the entire desire was to see Pilibhit, we saw it, and were captured by it All I can say at the end, is, Pilibhit; I will be Back.

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