An amazing place called Corbett

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Jun 9th, 2010, 06:26 AM
  #1
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An amazing place called Corbett

This trip report is from roughly 16 months ago (Feb'09), but I know little has changed since.
I am now planning to take another trip to India, hence my presence here now.
I thought this report would help others as I know from past experience that Corbett is not such an easy place to book in advance.

Having visited many parks around the world, and stayed in some fabulous accommodation. We were very pleasantly surprised by our experience at Corbett National Park. For wildlife viewing in India, we had already visited Bandhavgar, and Ranthambore, both of which, I found to be a little too touristic for my liking.

On arrival at Corbetts Hideaway, in Corbett parks Buffer zone, I immediately felt at ease. The staff were so friendly, and helpful, and the food there, was “to die for”.
I suggested that the Chef could return home with us. He smiled and pretended that he’d never had that offer before.
The room was a Bungalow/Chalet. It had separate Bedroom, Bathroom, sitting room,
Kettle, Tea/Coffee making ingredients, cups& saucers, spoons. NO TV. . GREAT !!
So OK , the hotel is NOT the best in the World, that did not matter in the least, it wasn’t that expensive either.
For value for money, it will always take some beating as far as I am concerned !
Despite stiff competition from some newer hotels in the area, the Hideaway retains a lot of character, and much charm, from an era long since passed.
It is, I think, the best in the area ! Remember, this is out in the Wilds !

The hotel is on the outskirts of Ramnagar, this is the closest rail link for Corbett.
A train (Ranikhet express No 5013) leaves Delhi every evening at about 10.45.
and arrives in Ramnagar, at around 5.00am, the next morning.
The train ride is slow, and soon rocks you off into a deep slumber.
Apparently there is a high risk of having baggage stolen in the night, and use of a chain around a bar under the seats is common practice to stop this happening.
Thankfully, We never had any experience of this.

Getting from the station to Corbetts Hideaway at this time can be very hard without pre booking a lift. So this is a must do thing, before leaving Delhi.
If you can arrange for a transfer before leaving home, even better.
Mine was booked in advance for me. There will be mention further along, how to achieve this.

To enter Corbett, you need entry permits. To obtain these, you must queue outside the park administrative centre in Ramnagar. Many people queue, very early in the morning. You must fill out strict security forms before permits are granted.
This is for both yours, and the wildlife’s security.
Poaching happens in Corbett too, but that’s another story !
Visiting the actual park, (remember you are already in the wild, wildlife is all around.)
I mean entering in Jeeps. Going through the gates, there was a little hint of touristic trap, by this I mean people trying to rent to you, binoculars, hats, etc.
Had I not brought my own I would probably have been glad of this.
Binoculars are a MUST !
Fortunately my guide (Ramesh Suyal) had already obtained my entry permits in advance, this saved a lot of waiting about in the cold, and we were always at the very front of the line of Jeeps waiting to enter. The gate opened, and we were off.

The first of our Safaris was to Bijrani zone. A heavy mist hung over the grasses, and I could smell the life around me. Corbett was both magical, and mystical in the half light, but very cold. Fortunately, the adrenalin from knowing creatures, lurking in the shadows, waiting to eat me, kept me a little on the warmish side.
The dark certainly heightens your imagination too.
It was now just getting light, but as the day got brighter the scenery grew more beautiful.
The light brought out the colours of the forest, and parklands. Lush grass, and leaves showing up in several shades of green, and gold. The shafts of Sunlight cut swathes of white through the undergrowth. The mist, and fog, gradually lifted, then vanished.
Jungle fowl, Peacocks, Pheasants, were all showing off their fabulous plumage.
Deer of all types, and sizes, changed colour, from grey, to all shades of gold, through to reddish browns, as the sun rose higher. The terrain was beautiful, the wildlife was plentiful. Now, with this illumination, I could clearly see that this was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been to.
The warmth was coming from the Sun by now too, it was about 9.00am.
The alarm call from the Monkey‘s, and various Deer species, had been raised half a dozen times, or more, by now, but we hadn’t yet caught a glimpse of Mr, or Mrs Stripes, or any baby Stripes. Ramesh assured us, “There are Tigers very close“.

We sat a while, engine switched off, the total silence making our ears ring inside.
After about 3 minutes, a big round popadom like Sal tree leaf crunched behind us on the forest floor. The noise was very loud against the otherwise silent forest.
I peered over my shoulder, and saw the head of a Tiger poking through the bushes, it was tasting the air, sizing up the situation. It let out a little growl like rumble, and backed itself away from us. It turned and walked about 30 yards away, before breaking cover and venturing onto the forest track. It was a young Tigress, Ramesh said it would have been about 2-2.5 years old. He also added that this was a good thing. Had this been Male Tiger it may have attacked us. Apparently he has been chased many times by Males defending a territory, or Females, defending cubs.
On one occasion for over 1.5 kilometres.
She made her way along the track for about 60 metres, then dropped down into a gulley and disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.
I will never forget that particular minute of my life, for as long as I live !
Ramesh said he knew this Tiger would be here, at this time. I thought at the time he was just making himself sound good. He was however to prove too consistent over the next few days, to be considered anything other than genuinely skilled, and not just lucky. Your guide will make your trip worthwhile, if you trust him, and listen to what he says. We saw 2 more Tigers that day, but they were at a distance. So 3 in all on our first day. Not bad, considering we were supposed to be in another area !
I had asked in advance for Ramesh to organise things according to my wishes.
I had a timetable in my mind, of places, and things, I wanted to do, and see.
Overall he scored very highly. He changed one or two of my wishes, he thought he knew better, and, in a nutshell, I am very pleased he did.

That night, back at Corbetts Hideaway, we sat and chatted with people from many different places. English, Americans, Australians, Irish, and Indian folks, all had a common interest, the wildlife. Be it the four legged kind or the feathered variety . Corbett Park is a Birdwatchers dream come true, and apparently the fishing is good too. We sat around a bonfire, chatting and exchanging stories from the day.
No one could match our 3 Tigers. A good meal, and couple of Kingfisher beers later, we were all ready to hit the sack. It had been a very long, and very exciting, day.

The next day started just like the first, it was very early, very cold, and we were still half asleep, when we set off for Dhikala Forest lodge for a couple of days.
The forest lodge at Dhikala is, according to all sources of knowledge, the centre of the universe, for wildlife experiences. Our previous day in Bijrani, was going to take some beating !

On route to the forest lodge, we stopped to look at some leaves. We must have looked at the leaves for a full 10 minutes. What we were supposed to be looking at, was a Woodcock. It had sat motionless, and totally invisible to the untrained eye, for all this time. Ramesh had seen it straight away, while the jeep was moving, but we took forever to spot it, even with our guides patience, and directions. My God, this man was good !
He showed us some Gharial too, quite a few of them in fact. From some very small, to some very big ones. Only a few days earlier, at home, we had seen a documentary about these creatures being very rare !!
It is fair to say, we were, already, very impressed with Corbett.
Perched high up, at a place called High View, High Bank or View Point (I think),
we had a clear view of the river below. The large pools were full of very large fish, and we could see these Crocs with long thin snouts, chasing after them.

We arrived at Dhikala Forest Lodge at just after 11.00am. We had to check-in, then dumped our bags, and made use of the facilities, and were back in the jeep and we headed off to a watchtower, before returning again for lunch.

Meals are served in the basic servery, refectory, canteen, whatever you wish to call it.
Anyhow, its very basic, and the food looks like really plain, uninviting , gruel.
To be fair to the guys who are responsible for this “gruel” looking, food. It tasted great. I happily enjoyed second helpings, it was very, very, tasty.

After a very hearty, and most welcomed meal, it was back to the grindstone in search of wildlife. Encounters with a Yellow throated Marten, and Wild Elephants, were all we could manage all afternoon. How boring can it get, I ask you ? I am Joking !!

In the 2 days at Dhikala forest lodge we never saw a Tiger !
But. . .This was more than made up for, by the other things we did see.
Which included a herd of Wild Elephants, ripping the heart out of the forest, in a loud, crashing, splintering, trumpeting , happy Elephant, doing what happy Elephants do best, sort of fashion.
On our 2nd afternoon, on our way back to the Buffer zone, we heard a commotion in the undergrowth. At first we heard the Jungle fowl squawking, and darting around, then other small birds were fluttering around us. Ramesh noticed they were all after the termites that were taking off, having sprouted wings, and attempting to set off to create new colonies. Within 5 minutes there must have been 200 + small birds flying around in the small clearing, feeding on the now, very clear to see cloud of termites.
What made this even more intriguing was, now the Raptors were coming in for the small birds. It was a veritable, feeding frenzy, which lasted for about 25 minutes.
Well, we were bowled over by all this, and we aren’t birdwatchers.

We had seen many reports on other travel forums and followed the advice and contacted Ramesh Suyal who agreed to be our brilliant guide (tigersincorbett.wetpaint.com/)
He is not an agent or tour operator. He does many things, for many people and even more for the wildlife conservation effort in Corbett National Park
He certainly lived up to our expectations, and did not disappoint in any way.
Your Guide really does make all the difference to your wildlife experience.

We returned to Corbetts Hideaway, and a most welcomed shower.
Dhikala may well be the wildlife enthusiasts heaven , but it is very basic !

We went back to Bijrani zone for our next safari. Again the morning was Cold, Dark, and very, very exciting ! This was, after all, where we had already seen Tigers.
We had not been travelling for long, before we heard the first alarm calls from the Deer. . Ramesh said “Tiger is close“. The Cameras were suddenly snatched from their storage bags.
Earlier you will remember I said about the Sun shining through the undergrowth,
leaving swathes of white light ? Well, the White shafts of light hitting the undergrowth, combining with the Black shadows, which the light was also creating, mixed in with the Brown, and Amber, curled up edges of dying leaves, and grasses ranging from Green to Gold. This all goes together perfectly for a Tiger to be standing right in front of you !! And you not being able to see it.
Until it moved, it was invisible, it was approximately 25 feet away. It was in plain view, and still we never saw it.
Did you see the movie predator ? The Predator blended in perfectly with its environment .
Well ! The Tiger was exactly this way, until it moved toward the Sambah deer it was stalking.
The most gorgeous creature ever to walk the planet, was totally focused on the deer and was completely ignoring us.
Bijrani had done it again, with the most excellent of showpiece’s.
We were all thinking “life doesn’t get to be better than this“, when, life just got better.
2 cubs tumbled into the rear of Mamma Tiger, Ramesh said these were about 8 months old, and not doing what they were told by Mamma. This seemed to be the case too, as the Tigress forgot about the deer, who had already started to walk away. We had these 3 cats to ourselves for about 15 minutes, before they one by one, disappeared back into the cover of the forest. Fantastic, tears of joy were streaming.

Back at the Hideaway that night, after another sumptuous banquet, and a couple more Kingfishers. We struck up conversation with a couple of other partys, who, that day had, had great Tiger sightings at Dhikala.

The next day was one final half day safari, which was our final glimpse of the beautiful park until we return. This was to prove fruitless as far as Tigers were concerned, but we so enjoyed our time here we were not in the least disappointed.
Corbett is so much more than Tigers. We met some wonderful people, and made some new friends. Many of whom we very much hope to see again, and soon.
After supper in Jims Grill, it was all about saying our good byes to the Guys at the Hideaway, they had been terrific, we had no complaints .
Except one. Our stay at Corbett was too short.
A review we read on another forum had mentioned about 2 weeks being insufficient.
How right this turned out to be. We will definitely be returning to Corbett as soon as is possible, though this wont be before November 09.
We will for certain be using the guide services of Ramesh who was everything that the reviews said he would be, and more besides.
We will be asking him to book all our safaris, transfers, accommodations etc next time
All that remained for us after saying our goodbyes to the Hideaway staff was to catch the 5014 train from Ramnagar to Delhi which departs every evening at around 21.35.
Ramesh and Chandan (our driver for our entire trip to Corbett) transferred us to the station, put us on the train, and stayed with us until the train pulled out.
We all had tears in our eyes.
This trip had been about so much more than seeing wildlife. It was, I think, more than anything, about seeing life !
We LOVED Corbett National Park, and the people who live there !
We cannot wait to get back, but for at least 2 weeks next time.

Frank
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Jun 9th, 2010, 08:20 AM
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I am sorry I messed up the link to Ramesh's webpages it should be www.tigersincorbett.wetpaint.com/
and not to have included the closed brackets which annoyingly stop you from finding the page that is so useful
Frank.
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Jun 9th, 2010, 11:52 AM
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Thank you Frank for the very interesting report!

Hideway sounds very good. Have you got a web address? My search didn't lead anywhere

As you know Badhavgarh and Ranthambore - how would you rate Corbett in view to the sightings and game drives? Are GD conducted in Suzuki Gypsy's as well?

The guide you mention - did you pay him directly for his service?

Wich DMC/TO did you use?

I know quite a few questions - I would be delighted if you could answer.

We are thinking of gping either in Oct 2010 or April 2011.

Thank you!

SV
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Jun 9th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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SV--tourists are responsible for the decline of the tiger:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...m-in-india.cfm

How can you, in good conscience, go?
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Jun 9th, 2010, 05:13 PM
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Marija, your thread contains a link to an opposing view, which I believe shows that there are two sides to this story.

We enjoyed our time at Ranthambore and even saw a tiger. Yes, the tour vehicles all ganged up on it which was not good. We also saw lots more flora and fauna on our safaris - it was not just tiger hunting as the first article in your thread implies. Our stop at Ranthambore also provided a nice break from the chaos of the cities.
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Jun 9th, 2010, 10:55 PM
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Just imagine Corbett when you could sit on tree machaan, over a water hole, looking for game!
The Govt. of India has issued a clarification that though the entry to WL reserves, expansion of hotel industry in or around the parks shall be strictly regulated, the genuine tourist shall be allowed to visit the reserves. There will be no hinderance to the domestic or foriegn tourist who wishes to visit such parks.
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Jun 9th, 2010, 11:02 PM
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I think this might better have been titled, "an Amazing Guide called Ramesh". He must have been amazing as he found you more tigers than most guides find in a year. Incrediblous!
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Jun 10th, 2010, 06:38 AM
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Lcuy you sound a little sceptical.
If I were warning you of the wrong doings of a bad person you would be less sceptical and a little more appreciative, I guess.
This is alerting travellers to a good guy. The equivalent to useful booking software for a computer.
Not all comments should be negative would'nt you agree.

The story is a true one and of course you are quite correct it sings loudly the praises of the guide Ramesh, and boy, the guy earned it.
If you go to any of these webpages you will read a similar story.
I must stress this guy is not a travel agent and he is eager to let that be clear

There are 27 reviews here and most mention Ramesh

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...d.html#REVIEWS


http://www.indiamike.com/india/india...advice-t83680/

and whilst these are from Ramesh's own webpages they are genuine
http://tigersincorbett.wetpaint.com/...ecommendations

Any fool can sit in a jeep and accompany tourists around the forest calling themselves guides, and many do. I can bear witness to that at many parks around the world.
That is a very good reason why so many folks do not see any tigers or Leopards. No where more so than Ranthambore where I was rushed around, shown a tiger, and then rushed out again in just under 2 hours. I know that not all guides are like this but many are.

There is a very healthy population of tigers in Corbett, and their habitat is perfect for them. Not so at Ranthambore.
Your guide is the key to achieving many sightings. Ramesh is a naturalist as well as a guide and understands the animals.

Spassvogel.
If you want to book Corbett Hideaway resort, Ramesh can get you a better deal than you will. Here is a link to the hideaway. http://www.corbetthideaway.com/corbe...acilities.html

No DMC or TO, Ramesh booked the lot, hotel, safaris, transfers, permits and only charged us for his guiding services and as mentioned got a better deal than I could by booking myself. I sent him a $200 USD deposit which covered his out of pocket costs and sent him the balance by direct transfer but I understand most pay him when they arrive.
The best person to ask questions about Corbett is Ramesh, but I am happy enough to try and answer any you ask.

Safaris are in Jeeps and are all private,unlike Ranthambore, which as far as I am concerned is great, no sharing a jeep with fidgets, cacklers, and space gluttons.
Corbett was much more natural than either Bandhavgarh or Ranthambore this made the experience so much more enjoyable.
Whilst Bandhavgarh was OK, I felt the tigers were being displayed for the tourists. No such feelings in Corbett.

Tourist are not the cause of the tigers demise they dont even pay them that much attention. Unless protecting cubs or territories. People taking over the habitat of the tigers, and just as importantly their prey, that is what is diminishing tiger numbers, along with poaching.
Tourists provide much needed income for areas like Corbett and the locals there respect that, and are a little better at looking after their tigers.

vp_singh
I am right there with you looking out over that water hole in that machaan

Frank
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Jun 10th, 2010, 09:47 PM
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Having been with Corbett these last 20 or so years, I am not convinced Bijrani takes the cake over the core areas around Khinanauli, Sarpduli (or even Dhikala, touristic though it may be). True there may be a resident tigress with cubs in that area & for that matter a tiger can be seen anywhere, even on the road to Mohaan! but being a drier part of the country, Bijrani certainly does not qualify to be 'the' place to go. It is much easier to book though, for, even your hotel will book up a jeep safari in this area of the park!
The Infinity with it's largest waterfront, with the river Kosi & Hills in the background, most enjoyable evenings, on the verandah under a full moon, with water gurgling just below, is as enchanting a place as any, in this area!!
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Jun 11th, 2010, 04:38 AM
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vp_singh
Your experience of Corbett is vastly superior to that of mine, and I bow to your greater knowledge of that area. I knew nothing of the infinity resort or its existence. I since checked it out online though, and it looks superb. In the photo section is a photo of a tigeress and her two cubs, that image certainly brought back some fond memories.
The tariffs at the Infinity are certainly much higher, but I am sure that ensures greater exclusivity, and that it is a fabulous resort.
Corbetts Hideaway can arrange for safaris tours etc, as no doubt all the resorts and hotels do, you are again correct, but all at an increased price.

The Hideaway has a sister resort inside the park ( Riverside lodge ? ? ? I think ), that is also supposed to be very good, but again, I believe this is aso very costly. In my opinion it is the wildlife which is the main attraction and not the fancy hotels and resorts. I was as happy staying at the forest lodge as at the Hideaway but again thats me, I dare say others have their preferences

I have taken onboard your comments about visiting other areas of Corbett instead of Dhikala, and Bijrani, so thanks for that pointer.
Having said that, I really enjoyed those two places, so I shall return to them, but now I look forward to even greater treasures on my return.

My Thanks to you vp_singh

Frank
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Jun 12th, 2010, 11:55 AM
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And my thanks to you Frank, for a delightful and heartfelt report. I can feel your emotions at seeing the tigers and always remembering that minute of your life plus watching leaves for 10 minutes due to effective camouflaging. You eloquently described the terrain and scenery too.

Looks like you have pointers for a return. Me too, though I have not gone the first time yet. Your report is perfect timing for my planning stages and really has me enthused about Corbett. I'll probably do something similar to you.

Was that 2 nights each Biranji and Dhikala?

Do you recall if it is typical to see the elephants? What well rounded sightings you had.

Please share any plans for your repeat visit and thanks for sharing this past visit.
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Jun 14th, 2010, 09:03 AM
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Thank you for your kind words atravelynn

You do not really need to plan a thing for Corbett, just let Ramesh know, When you you want to go, how long you are wanting to stay, and what you want to see.
Now, we will want to go to see the mammals, take in the scenery, and enjoy the tranquility.

I have been advised to visit Kausani, and Binsar to see the views of the mountains, but Binsar is also a wildlife sanctuary. Nainital, also for the views, and to see the town, it is supposed to be a very nice place, and, with a boating lake situated high up in the mountains.
Apparently on the way back from Nainital to Corbett there is Jim Corbetts house and museum and everyone seems to enjoy visiting there.

I want to spend at least 2 weeks in Corbett this trip, and Ramesh has told me this trip away would break up the stay nicely by spending 2-3 days off on a jaunt to see the mountains to recharge our batteries.

The elephants are there in Corbett, but it all depends if they are out in the open, or in the thick of the forest, whether you see them or not. It again, all depends how long you stay,or how many safaris you take, I guess ?
The afternoon that we saw the elephant herd was a case of the elephants suddenly appeared all around us.
We saw a couple ahead of us, and sat to watch and wait. Then we realised they were behind us too. Our driver was getting a bit worried. We had been in a similar situation in Africa and thought it was great, but Ramesh said the Asian elephants would behave differently to African elephants, that they are more aggressive, and that the driver was correct to be concerned. He picked his moment carefully, and crept away, there had to be 30 - 40 elephants, with very young babies as well. It was very exciting.

I cannot emphasise enough, the importance of your guide, for both, your pleasure, and your safety.
Little things came to us both for weeks afterwards, making us wonder if he had done this, or that, by luck, or knowledge ?
Luck maybe, knowledge certainly.

I will want to mix up my stay by having time in Dhikala, Bijrani, and stay a few nights in a buffer zone resort,aswell as the trips to Binsar, Kausani, and Nainital.

I have yet to find out about the places vp_sigh mentioned.

I will let you know of my findings.

Frank
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Jun 19th, 2010, 07:05 AM
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OK , So I just got off the phone to my good man in Corbett. The weather is red hot, there has so far, been no rains.
Ramesh was very excited because he had just been informed of the increased tiger numbers in Corbett. Numbers have risen despite some recent tiger deaths there.

At the present there are over 235 tigers in Corbett, and, he is confident that there will be 240 - 250 before the season begins again in October.

All but the Jhirna zone is presently closed.
Dhikala will reopen on the 15th November, and I am sure he said Bijrani will open again in October, but for the life of me, I cannot recall the exact date, but he did say that it would depend on the weather in any case.

I asked him about the better areas as mentioned by vp_singh, and he concluded that his clients ( who predominantly wished to see tigers) stood a significantly better chance of doing so in either the Dhikala, or Bijrani areas. For anyone who wishes to visit the other places mentioned, this can easily be arranged, as he too, likes to visit these other areas himself, as he is an avid birder.

I mentioned to him about this site, and this thread, and he said "Now is a good time to be thinking of booking for the holiday season in December - January (Xmas & New Year)"

I am sure that my return shall be in the New year after the holiday period because it will be much quieter then.

I hope someone finds this information useful.

Frank
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Aug 27th, 2010, 06:34 PM
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Thanks FrankB for the additional info. Your description of the shafts of light offering tiger camouflage makes perfect sense.

Very useful, thank you.
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Jul 8th, 2011, 07:00 AM
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Hi everyone

I read your post a while ago FrankB, and found it very enlightening. I am now in a position to say thank you for not only the good read, but also the advice, as well as the pointer towards Ramesh. We went at the end of May, and found Corbett to be exactly like you said "AMAZING". For what is, at first appearance a one man band operator, he certainly knows what he is doing does'nt he. He had put other guides with other party's, but Ramesh made sure they all knew their duties, and the entire team were brilliant, and absolutely dedicated to Ramesh, and the work he does.
I was a bit unsure to start with, giving my money over to a totally unknown quantity, but I can assure anyone else who follows FrankB's advice, you need not worry at all.
All through the early morning visits I was going over what was in your posting FrankB. The only thing missing was the early morning mist. Everything else was almost word for word.
We saw 4 tigers in 5 days, but quite honestly the place was so beautiful the number of tigers we sighted barely matters. Thanks FrankB.
All the best Russell.
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Aug 20th, 2011, 08:09 AM
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It is a pleasure to have been a help to you Russell.

Ramesh needs all the help he can get. He is doing a great job for the entire community, and the tigers alike.
He starts at around 4.00 am everyday, and is often up until around 11.00pm, with no break in between.

Ramesh now covers not only Corbett, but also Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhore, Kanha, Panna, Pench, and the Taj Mahal.

His website is www.tigersincorbett.com

Frank
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