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Written on: Friday October 17th, 2008

A journal entry from: July 08 - Jan 09

Unforgettable! Today I was about 5 metres from a wild tiger. I was in the back of an open jeep, with nothing between me and it besides the fact that it was looking for a tigress and wasn't too hungry.

After an overnight (I won't call it a sleeper - as that woudl imply that I slept) train from Delhi to Ramnagar, I found my way to the extremely confusing and quite oxymoronic Corbett Tiger Reserve Reception Centre. After wading through a horde of jeep drivers competing for my custom for the day, I reached the counter where I was handed a form which I was to fill in. The form was also very confusing, or perhaps it was the fact that I was having trouble staying awake. Anyhow, before I could get the forms filled out the man behind the reception desk said that he was closed (at 7 AM) and would open again at 10 AM. It was now apparently too late for 'morning safaris'.

Disappointed and more than a little bemused, I made my way down the dusty main street of the small town in need of a recharge. Fortunately I found a simple restaurant where after serving me breakfast, the owner offered me a bed for a few hours. At 11 AM I woke and returned to the reception centre, assuming that I would have to hire a guide and driver to go on a tour around the park, looking for tigers. To my great good fortune, at the reception centre I met Michelle, Melanie and Graham, who were about to head off on a tour and had all of their paperwork sorted out and were gracious enough to take a bemused Australian into their hunting party.

Eventually, at 2 o'clock we entered the park with our guide and driver. After some 'enthusiastic' driving to get to the elephant ride station inside the park we were disappointed to find that there was only 1 adolescent elephant going on safari, and it would only take a maximum of 3 people, not the normal 4. I was feeling very guilty about this as if I hadn't join the group, they would have surely got their elephant ride. Instead, we were to drive around the enormous park, looking for wildlife, hoping for tigers.

For the next thee hours we drove around, seeing a lot of interesting sights - some wild elephant, plenty of deer and monkeys and loads of tiger tracks. As the sun was going down we were running out of time to spot a tiger (which are neither tagged nor fed by park rangers) when our driver and guide heard a male's mating call. I personally didn't think we'd see a tiger, and if we did, I didn't think it would be right beside us and hang around for 6 or 7 minutes while we were awestruck! I figured that we were safe because our guide and driver did this for a living. It was only when we were on the way back to town that I asked if anyone ever got attacked by the tigers. Our guide answered that every year a number of tourists were killed! Ignorance is sometimes bliss.