Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve – Tigers ahoy!


One of the Telia cubs

Waghnala cub

Tigers at last! The heart of India is home of some of India’s finest tiger reserves and with a line-up that read Tadoba, Nagzira, Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh (and Ranthambhore to finish) it resembled India’s legendary batting line-up.  Tadoba was first up and my brother and me, the original travel party, were joined by our friends Ramki and Swarna and my little daughter, Navya. Thanks to all the set up by Shalik Jogwe, friend and Tadoba expert, I was salivating in anticipation. Something told me that our tiger bonanza was about to begin here. And boy did we have an amazing time!

Tadoba’s bamboo forests make for spectacular tiger habitat and the way it is laid out makes it a great prospect for tiger sightings. The main road runs like a spine through the forest right upto the beautiful Tadoba lake, with forest roads on either side. On our first safari, we went straight to Telia dam, home to a tigress and four cubs. The cubs were in the grass right in front of us and we waited, but we saw only brief glimpses as they walked up an embankment and crossed over to the other side.  No great pictures, but 4 tigers all the same to start off our Tadoba journey!

The afternoon safari was full of drama. On the main road, we saw a standoff between a herd of thirsty gaur and a huge male tiger. The Gaur were very thirsty, but were too wary to drink. And the tiger wanted to come down for a wallow, but the gaur were too close to the water.  This cat and mouse continued for an hour and the stalemate was only ended by the intervention of the water tanker.

The huge Waghdoh Male
The tractor noisily backed into the waterhole, filled it with water, got a great glimpse of the tiger and drove off, equally noisily. The gaur, bothered by the tractor, walked away but incredibly, the tiger did not. He sat still, waited till the tractor disappeared and then walked out into the open and sat in the water.  Patience paid off for this massive tiger - the dominant Waghdoh male.  An eye injury meant he wasn’t as pleasing on our eyes, but he was one of the biggest males I have seen. He walked off after a soak and a drink and that was 2 out of 2 for us.

The next morning we headed to Pandharpouni to see the famous cubs there. Four cubs again, almost fully grown. We saw 2 of them, near a waterhole, but again, too far to get great pictures. 3 out of 3!!

The Kolsa area of Tadoba
On our last safari, we decided to head to a new part of the park – Kolsa. It was a beautiful ride and overnight rain had really freshened up the jungle. We saw a pack of wild dog cross in front of us and missed a large male tiger because we waited at the wrong waterhole! Such is the jungle!

These four trips had really whetted my appetite for Tadoba’s tigers and I’d promised myself I would be back soon.  And I was back in a month’s time for the sequel!

Two of the Waghnala cubs
This time we headed straight to Waghnala, which had a tigress with 3 cubs. And a long drive later, we arrived there and almost at once, saw a cub on an incline next to the road, her siblings were in the bamboo and they soon joined her in the open. And for the next hour, a whole queue of about 15 gypsies had incredible sightings of all three. They walked the length of the queue, posed and walked back the entire stretch. They sat and posed, stalked each other, scratched trees and even ate grass! Then we decided to leave the place to give them room to cross the road… and as we drove, one of them mock charged us! She was a frisky little one, as she then stalked and charged one of her sisters. Then they disappeared into the bamboo thickets, leaving us absolutely sated. One of my best sightings ever!

Veggie tiger!

Mmm.. you look tasty!
The next morning we saw the Telia cubs, they crossed the road in front of us and headed to their kill in the bushes. We finally got decent pictures of this naughty quartet. That afternoon was memorable because of the rain. We got soaked as we chose to drive through the forest to one of the more distant areas. And it was beautiful to be in the forest in the rain, my first time ever. On our way back we got a glimpse of Yeda Anna, one of Tadoba’s largest tigers. The last day, we saw the Telia cubs again, on the road, a changeable hawk eagle and a pack of 3 wild dogs. But the icing on the cake- Indian Pitta, a beautiful, frisky little bird and superb sightings of monitor lizards and a little striped keelback, right outside our hotel room.

In total, I did 10 safaris across 2 different trips and saw a total of 13 tigers and we missed at least another 6 by a few minutes here and there. Tadoba is truly Tiger Bonanza country, awesome if you’re looking for tiger sightings. Go for it, I say!


Tadoba Trip Guide

Getting there
Tadoba is accessed via Chandrapur (40 kms away), the nearest town and rail-head. Chandrapur is on the Delhi-South India line, so has some great connections. There is one train (Sevagram express) that goes from Mumbai.

The nearest airport and big city is Nagpur (185 kms) A 3 ½ hour drive, very comfortable, on excellent roads for most of the time

Stay
There aren’t too many options to stay (yet) in Tadoba. The premium option would be Mr. Suez Akram’s Serai Tiger resort with luxury tents for accommodation.

We stayed a night at the MTDC resort (www.maharashtratourism.com) which is quite basic and wasn’t great ideal since we had a child. It is the cheapest option and should be fine if only adults are travelling.

We moved then to The Royal Tiger Resort- a much better property with 10 decent air-conditioned rooms and a good ambience. The service attitude at the Royal Tiger can be a lot better though and the buffet is pretty limited (and pretty egg-plant skewed), though the food is good at most times. Their spicy green Thecha is excellent!

The food at the MTDC is excellent; typical, local Maharashtrian cuisine. Definitely check out the Zhunka Bhakar. We continued to try food from there even when staying at the Royal Tiger

Safaris
Shalik Jogwe (+91 95959 36369 or tadobatiger@gmail.com) is the best person to arrange everything – he has his own gypsies, will get you the best guide and is generally a storehouse of information on Tadoba. He’s very committed to Tadoba’s conservation and his Tadoba facebook page (Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is created specially as a forum for Tadoba lovers.

Other tips
Mobile networks – Only Reliance works reasonably well (followed by Idea) so best to carry one of these with you.
Tadoba is becoming very popular and gypsies are limited. The permits are issued a month in advance, so best to book was soon as possible.


Oriental Honey Buzzard

Lizard with brilliant camouflage

Monitor Lizard

Indian Roller

Striped Keelback
Termite

Barking Deer

Bush Quail
Changeable Hawk eagle