Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve - a trip report






“Good night” – Amit said. I looked at my watch. It was 2 am. I set the alarm at 5 am. Was feeling thirsty… finished the water left in the bottle and I switched off the light….

Silence… ! not pindrop though – some insect was making a screeching noise somewhere. Amit must have been fast asleep. Wasn’t feeling sleepy though… closed my eyes and tried to sleep… felt irritated … what a rush ! Tried to close my eyes again but sleeping seemed to be a remote possibility. Recalled the last evening rush hour … I had probably faced traffic like this for the first time in my seven years in Mumbai. Had started off from home by 3:30 pm and it was 7:30 pm when I realized that I was still stuck in the traffic and I had missed the flight.

Tried to sleep again – Ah ! Recalled a few mails received during the day, which couldn’t be answered easily before the weekend was over! … a flow of passing thoughts … closed my eyes tight in a desperate attempt to sleep – it must be 2:30 am. Remembered Kavita was upset for no reasons when I left… Oh God ! It was really difficult to sleep. I am just left with one and half day to explore the forest of Tadoba and I wasn’t sure whether I’ll get up tomorrow morning or not.

I don’t remember when I slept - but the old habit got me awake by 5 am sharp. The jeep was ready. Manish greeted “Good morning”. I must say, the morning was refreshing enough to make me forget everything back home.

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, “the jewel of Vidharva” - is Maharashtra’s oldest Tiger reserve. Tadoba was established in 1935 and was declared a National Park in 1955. Andhari Wildlife sanctuary was notified in 1986 and the Park and the sanctuary was unified in 1995 to declare it as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). It is one of the 28 Project Tiger Reserves of the country and is one of the best of these 28.

TATR till date is less known amongst the tourist; least commercialized and thus maintains the pristine eco-system of the rich bio-diversity of the forest. Apart from Tiger, Leopard, Gaur and Sloth Bear, the forest hosts a number of other mammals which are uncommon to be seen in other forests – viz. Rusty Spotted Cat, Ratel, Indian mouse deer, Spotted deer, Sambar, Wild Boar, Four horned antelope and Wild dogs. Not only mammals – there are 195 species of birds identified in the Park and it is a heaven for the avid bird watcher. Grey headed fishing eagle and Crested Serpent Eagle are two of the most well known raptors of the forest. Seventy four species of also make the Park rich in entomological resources. Reptilian fauna is no less. Tadoba lake harbors quite a number of crocodiles. Also found are Indian Python, common Indian monitor and the poisonous Russel’s viper.

The Park is situated in the Moharli hills of West Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. It is 623 km² in area, the biggest amongst all Naional Parks in Maharashtra. On north and western boundaries of the forest are hills with dense forest. To the southwest is a huge lake.

It is a southern tropical dry deciduous forest with Teak as predominant species. The bamboo forest defines the typical tiger territories. This is one Tiger Reserve in the country which is open throughout the year. Summer is the best season to visit the park as the wildlife remains around the sources of water. However, Tadoba has its unique charm of Tiger in the rains !!! Immediately after the monsoon, the grass is green and sighting a tiger with a green background is a photographic delight to the wildlife photographer. The Park remains closed on every Tuesday.

The name Tadoba comes from ‘Taru’, the local God and Andhari gets its name from Andhari river which flows through it. Legends say that Taru was a village chief who was killed in a legendary battle with a tiger. A shrine dedicated to Taru still exists near the Tadoba lake. Local villagers are mainly Gond tribals – they speak Marathi and Gondi.

We were left with three safaris only and I had kept my fingers crossed for at least a glimpse of the tiger …


Safari 1:

We planned to explore the Moharli region for some time. The jeep kept moving back and forth round the same location. “The cubs were spotted here last evening” – our guide said. One unique thing to be noted while visiting a Tiger reserve immediately after the rains is – you don’t get to hear ‘alarm calls’. Normally in forest, when the Tiger moves, deer and monkeys start making alarm calls. That’s the most convenient way to spot a tiger. But immediately after the rains, the grasses are thick and long. The beast remains completely hidden and the slightest movements go un noticed and hence spotting a tiger cannot be done using alarm calls. When we didn’t spot one for 1 hour… we thought of moving to Tadoba gate and suddenly … Amit said –“Leopard”! Our first subject for the day – clicked a dozen photograph may be – the light condition wasn’t very favorable though… my first photo of a leopard in the wild … even Amit’s. Next few hours were uneventful. While coming back, I tried my new 400 mm f / 5.6 handheld on a Sambar around 70 feet away and I was so happy to see the results.

Safari 2:

The evening safari was again in Moharli to begin with. Saw a vehicle stopping ahead. They were pointing towards a small stream. I couldn’t see anything as we reached. Guide said – “they must be around”. Within no time – we saw the male tiger coming out of the forest to the main road – Yeda Anna !! The famous male tiger of Tadoba. Anna posed for my camera for a few moments but he was keener on showing his back to me. Soon we could spot the cubs. One – two – three – oh ! there were four of them… playing around… they crossed the road. Unbelievable … there were hardly three vehicles and four tigers. They came close, posed, played around… for more than 40 minutes. I kept changing lenses, kept doing experiments … I said – Oh God ! This is heaven !

Safari 3:

“Thoda aur wish karo” – Amit said. I was hoping – if only I could get a photograph of a tiger in water. I regret I should have wished more. All four cubs again. They were so playful – so lively. There was a small water body… all the cubs kept playing and splashing water. I had no use of my 400 mm there. Had to change to 18 – 55 mm to capture the entire action sequence… one of the memorable moments of my wildlife experience.


Tadoba gave more than I expected. Much more. I fell in love with the forest… came back with wonderful memories of the lovely, cute Moharli cubs …


Facts and figures

Langoor - 2770
Spotted Deer - 2039
Wild Dog - 1758
Indian Bison - 1052
Sambar - 669
Barking Deer - 512
Blue Bull - 228
Wild Boar - 195
Mongoose - 184
Sloth Bear - 165
Four-hornedAntelope - 145
Jackal - 79
Jungle Cat - 44
Tiger - 43
Porcupine - 22
Leopard - 15
Hyena - 5
Indian Pangolin - 2
Ratel - 1

How to reach Tadoba

Nearest Airport – Nagpur, Maharashtra
Nearest Railway Station – Chandrapur, Maharashtra
Accommodation – MTDC resort

Contact person – Manish Varma – 08055920303

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