Often referred to as "The Jewel of Vidharba", the Tadoba National Park lies in the district of Chandrapur, in the north-eastern part of Maharashtra.

Located in the heart of a reserved forest, it is an infinite treasure trove of innumerable species of trees and plants - and wildlife that includes tigers, panthers, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs, bison, barking deer, Nilgai, Sambar, and Chital.

In fact, the Tadoba National Park and Andhari Wildlife Santuary together form the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. The park derives its name from "Taru" the local deity, whereas the Andhari river that meanders through the forest gives the sanctuary its name.

Flora: Teak, Ain, Bija, Dhaoda, Bamboo, Haldu, Arjun, Tendu, Salai, Jamun, Mahua.

Fauna: Tiger, Leopard, Sloth bear, Wild dog, Jackal, Sambar, Indian Bison, Barking Deer, Nilgai, Spotted Deer, Chausingha, Ratel, Flying Squirrel, Wild Boar, Langur, Mongoose, etc.

Weather: Winter is from December to February. This is followed by summer from March to May and the monsoon season is from June to September, and the post-monsoon season is from October and November.

Best time to visit : February to May.

My Travelogue of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Sanctuary – 1-3 May, 2015

Our planning for the Tadoba sanctuary visit started in earnest around 4 month before the actual trip which was scheduled for May 1-3, 2015 taking advantage of the holiday on May 1. With a spate of email and chats, a total of 14 friends evinced interest in the visit and a ground plan was then put in place by my friend Rohit, who had initiated the plan. Another spate of up and down mails with lots of options and discussions, it was decided that we would book the MTDC guest houses in Moharli. Hence, 5 rooms with twin occupation and 1 additional bed in each room were booked. Online transfers of money by all the members were done to Rohit who was coordinating and doing all the booking. Keeping a single point of contact, booking and spending was envisaged to keep the various activities streamlined. Most of us also booked our return flight tickets from Nagpur to Mumbai, taking into account the discounted fares being handed out by Indigo at that time.

Being from varied backgrounds and situated all over Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, and myself being designated as the wild life expert of the group, we had an impromptu get together at Bhandup Pumping Station in February 2015 for a birding session and introducing the other members to the wildlife scene and to each other, many members being first timers into the wildlife and just acquaintances. Only half the group turned up for this session and it paved a way for at least an introduction to what we would encounter in Tadoba.

Our train tickets were also booked en-masse on the designated date in the Duronto Express leaving CST and reaching Nagpur. A couple of members opted to fly to Nagpur and had their flight tickets booked. Now remained the part where we had to book our safaris in Tadoba. There are various routes into Tadoba and these safaris have to be booked online 30 days in advance, and there being limited entry of jeeps into the safaris, there is always a mad rush for this booking. Four of our members sat from 12.00 midnight to around 1.30 am online doing the bookings for our safaris for the 2nd and 3rd May, there being no safaris on May 1, the day being a holiday. Only buffer zone safaris were allowed and those had to be booked the same day through the entry gates.

With all the bookings completed and confirmed, albeit with a lots of effort as the MTDC site often crashing or not loading up at all due to the hundreds of people trying to book safaris at the same time, we all let out a sigh of relief that the major portion of the work was completed. Now remained the balance work that had to be completed. Calls were made to the travel guys in Nagpur and guides of Tadoba to confirm our internal transportation to and from the railway station / airport to the MTDC resort. Relevant advances were transferred online and those were also confirmed. We felt the need to have another get together closer to the date of the trip and we all had another round of introductions at the R city in Ghatkopar in mid-April for another session of introductions. All the do’s and don’ts for this trip were explained to everyone including what to carry what not to carry etc.

Then came the D Day of our trip… with a twist. All of us, with our individual luggage, assembled at CST on April 30 to catch the train from PF 18. Two of the participants who had opted to travel by Air to Nagpur had to cancel their tickets in the last minute due to the flight being rescheduled from early morning to noon which defeated the entire purpose of taking the flight. Duronto Express being a superfast train, even the Tatkal bookings were not available and these two, Ameya and Amruta had to be accommodated with us in the train on normal express tickets booked from the ticket window. With 13 confirmed seats, it was not too difficult to accommodate two members with some “adjustments”

We reached Nagpur early morning at 7.30 am on May 1, dot on time. Our transport vehicles, 3 Tavera, picked us up and whisked us off towards the MTDC cottages at Chandrapur, just a few minutes outside the core area gate of the Sanctuary. On the way, we stopped briefly for a heavy breakfast and also picked up lots of fruits, watermelons, oranges and bananas for our daily ‘in-between’ snacks and for additional energy and water. Reaching the MTDC rest house at 12.30 we had to order for our lunch as the food items would be cooked only on specific orders as per our requirement. A quick cold shower and change of clothes saw us all sitting in the canteen for food. The food, though simple, was delicious and wholesome. A quick run back to the rooms for picking up our rucksacks containing water, some snacks and our cameras and we were all off in our respective open safari jeeps to the buffer zone gate for the evening safari. Out of the 15 of us, only 3 of us had seen the tiger before in earlier safaris and other were all looking forward to a sight of the magnificent animal. Though the buffer zone had a few tigers, we were not so fortunate to spot any but were regaled to the other animals and birdlife which were in abundance. The weather was punishing and the mercury soared to a high of around 37 deg celcius making us all sweat and the fine red mud raked up by the tyres of the vehicles stuck to us and made us all grimy and uncomfortable. That evening ended with some very good bird and animal sightings and a quick cold shower in the rooms followed by simple but tasty dinner. Returning to our rooms, tired from the travel from Mumbai to Nagpur and then to our guest houses followed by 3 odd hours of hot dusty safari, the AC room with soft beds was like being in heaven and we all drifted off to sleep and much needed rest, keeping in mind that the wake-up call for the next morning safari was at “4.30 am.”

The first core safari day saw some action and quite a lot of initial disappointment which turned out to be a boon in disguise. The sanctuary officials had changed the rules for booking of jeeps for the safaris recently and we were not aware of the same. We had expected our guide to coordinate and book our safari jeeps but it was our resort which was supposed to do on our intimation the previous night, which we did not provide to the resort. This led to us waiting at the gate without a jeep for almost 1 ½ hours of the early morning, the most productive time for sighting wildlife! Ultimately we managed to hire 3 private vehicles to take us in, paying additional amounts. These 1 ½ hours of waiting were very productive in a different way. With no jeeps to pick us up from the resort and 3 of our members already standing at the safari gate, all the others decided to walk the 2 odd kms to the gate from the resort. We started identifying all the birds around us on the way and added up almost 25 odd species of birds to our tally on the first couple of hours itself. Piling ourselves into the private closed vehicles, we entered the core area for our morning safari with a regret of losing almost half of the morning safari time outside the gate, but with an enthusiasm that things ultimately worked out. Our guide Subhash is well respected in the area and is very well versed with the history of Tadoba and also the various areas where we could spot animals and birds. We proceeded in haste to the small pond inside the sanctuary where we expected the female tigress Maya to come for a dip in the morning to cool herself as the temperature was rising steadily. Our perseverance was awarded and we saw her walking jauntily ignoring all the safari jeeps right up to the waters’ edge and ease herself in. The only sound heard were the hushed conversations and the sound of the various camera shutters popping all over the place.

We had to hurry back to the gate not to miss the morning safari end time as the authorities are quite strict about it and the vehicle and guide are penalised if they do not adhere to the safari time schedules. The noon was spent in our AC rooms having a nice cold bath and cutting and distributing watermelons which was relished and required to beat the heat. That noon, again we were all up and about, completely covered up to avoid the sun and also the heat and fortified by eatables like chips, kachoris, theplas and of course many bottles of water to avoid dehydration. That afternoon too we had some excellent bird sightings along with sloth bear, mongoose, barking deer, Chousinga etc. As the evening went by and the heat started simmering down, the tigers got up from their shady habitats and started for their favourite watering holes to cool themselves and have a drink before they went to hunt. That day we spotted the Katerzari Male, an impressive male who not only gave everyone a paisa vasool “darshan” but also walked along the road quite a while giving some superb photographs to those who were on the other end waiting for it to walk to them.. The buzz and excitement that the tigers create should be seen and experienced, and no words can express the “euphoria” that a tiger sighting creates. That day, at the water hole, we not only spotted a group of Indian Gaur but also the wild hogs which had come to slake their thirst. So the Saturday ended with 2 tiger sightings in as many safaris not to say the umpteen numbers of birds, insects and other animals that were spotted.

Sunday was the last day for us with just the morning safari and we were all geared up for another tiger.. this safari had turned out to be a bonanza for us with a sighting each safari when there are days when not a single tiger is sighted even after 4-5 safaris… and the lucky trend continued. And yet again a tiger was sighted on the last safari but our jeep but the other two jeeps with friends did not spot any…. Post lunch that day, we all bade goodbye to the tigers of Tadoba and drove back to Nagpur to catch our evening flights back to Mumbai

Thus ended one of the most memorable wild life safaris with some amazing sightings and photographs and of course videos which would be cherished and talked about for a long time, till the next time

The List of wildlife spotted during our visit is as below :

Name of species

1 Ashy Prinia

2 Asian Paradise Flycatcher

3 Bar Headed Ground Thrush

4 Black Capped Blue Monarch

5 Black Drongo

6 Black Headed Ibis

7 Black Headed Oriole

8 Black Ibis

9 Black Kite

10 Black Shouldered Kite

11 Brahminy Starling

12 Changeable Hawk Eagle

13 Chestnut Tailed Starling

14 Common Myna

15 Common Sandpiper

16 Coppersmith Barbet

17 Crested Serpent Eagle

18 Crested Tree Swift

19 Eurasian Golden Oriole

20 Greater Coucal

21 Greater Flameback Woodpecker

22 Green Bee Eater

23 Grey Hornbill

24 Grey Jungle Fowl

25 House Crow

26 House Sparrow

27 Indian Robin

28 Intermediate Egret

29 Jungle Babbler

30 Jungle Crow

31 Large Billed Crow

32 Large Egret

33 Laughing Dove

34 Lesser Flameback Woodpecker

35 Lesser Whistling Teal

36 Little Cormorant

37 Little Egret

38 Little Ringed Dove

39 Orange Headed Ground Thrush

40 Oriental Honey Buzzard

41 Oriental Magpie Robin

42 Painted Stork

43 Pied Starling

44 Plum Headed Parakeet

45 Pond Heron

46 Purple Rumped Sunbird

47 Purple Sunbird

48 Racket Tailed Drongo

49 Red Spurfowl

50 Red Vented Bulbul

51 Red Wattled Lapwing

52 Rock Pigeon

53 Rose Ringed Parakeet

54 Rufous Treepie

55 Savannah Nightjar

56 Shikra

57 Spotted Dove

58 Spotted Owlet

59 Stork Billed Kingfisher

60 Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

61 White Bellied Drongo

62 White Eyed Buzzard

63 White Stork

64 White Throated Kingfisher

65 Wire Tailed Swallow

66 Green Impreial Pigeon

67 Royal Bengal Tiger

68 Spotted Deer

69 Sambar

70 Chousinga

71 Barking Deer

72 Nilgai

73 Indian Gaur

74 Wild Boar

75 Monitor Lizard

76 Mongoose

77 Three Striped Palm Squirrel

78 Hanuman Langur

79 Sloth Bear

79 Total tally for Tadoba - 3 days

 

 

Ravi Vaidyanathan

Ravi is a hardcore nature enthusiast with varied interests in outdoor activities, viz. Trekking, Ornithology, study and identification of flora and fauna of India,Nature and Wildlife Photography, writing blogs and articles for newspapers, co-coordinator for the India Bird Races, moderator for a few biodiversity portals, etc



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