Tadoba Andheri Tiger Reserve, located in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra is the state’s oldest and largest National Park. This Tropical Dry Deciduous forest spreads across an area of 625 square kilometers, and is home to a variety of Flora and Fauna. The Bengal Tiger is the key species of the forest, more than 80 tigers have been recorded in the reserve (as of December 2015). Other mammals include : Indian Leopards, Gaurs, Sloth Bears, Dholes (Indian wild dog), Striped Hyenas, Chital, Sambar, Nilgai, Chausingha, Barking Deer, etc. The forest also houses a wide diversity of birds and reptiles.
My trip to Tadoba in March 2016 was one of the most successful trips I’ve ever had.
A total of 5 safaris were booked and all of them were from Navegaon gate. At first we were in doubt whether it’d be good enough or not, as from what we heard from most people and read in various trip reports, it was the Moharli gate which is usually known to be the best in terms of tiger sightings. But, fortunately things were totally different during our tour.
Tigress Maya and her cubs at the Pandharpauni Lake.
We were blessed with the sightings of this gorgeous female called Maya and her cubs in all the safaris that we took. The Pandharpauni lake area, which is the territory of Maya was just a few kilometers from the Navegaon gate and because of this we could reach there very early and wait for the tigers to come out. All the vehicles that came from Moharli (located almost 23kms from Pandharpauni) used to leave the spot at least half an hour before the end of each safari, even if the tigers were still there in the lake whereas we were still able to stay back for 10-15 minutes more and observe the tigers peacefully! This was one very big advantage of coming from the Navegaon gate.
Two cute little cubs of Maya playing near the Pandharpauni lake.
Crested Serpent Eagle
A mother Gaur (Indian Bison) feeding her calf – at the Tadoba Lake
The gaur, also called Indian bison, is the largest extant bovine, native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. The species has been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986, as the population decline in parts of the species’ range is likely to be well over 70% during the last three generations. Population trends are stable in well-protected areas, and are rebuilding in a few areas which had been neglected.
During the afternoon safari of Day 2, we went to a place called “Jamni”. On reaching the area, we noticed 2-3 other vehicles waiting ahead. All the photographers in those cars were pointing at something in the forest beside the road. The guides were also trying to spot something through their binoculars. We went closer and came to know that they had seen a leopard climbing up on one of the trees. Everyone kept their eyes glued towards the trees, but not a single “spot” could be seen. After waiting for a couple of minutes, we decided to move on. Just as we were about to take the turn, there was a sharp alarm call of a langur and a chital!
A few minutes back everything was just like an usual summer afternoon in the forest, the deer were grazing, langurs were resting in the trees and there was the occasional chirping of birds, everything seemed so peaceful but, now there was a change in the atmosphere, the forest was draped in an eerie sense of fear and there was an unusual chaos among the denizens. We kept our eyes peeled towards the distant trees, the alarm calls were still on…and then suddenly there was the plot twist! Far away from one of the trees, something dropped down at a speed of light and pounced towards a young deer, but could not catch it. All the animals went haywire and ran for their lives, it was the Spotted Queen of Jamni and she had stepped her paws on the ground! Soon after this she disappeared into the thickets, almost like a phantom vanishing in thin air. Unfortunately none of us could take even a single photo of the moment, most probably because it took place quite far away and neither did we expect it to happen so fast and suddenly.
This was the first time that I saw a leopard in the wild, and undoubtedly the excitement level had reached its peak. We waited there with a hope that she’d come out in the open or at least give us another chance to photograph her, and it did happen! She reappeared near an abandoned school building by the side of the forest and then gradually walked out of the bushes and entered the grasslands….This was a one in a million moment for me!
The Spotted Queen of Jamni
The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a leopard subspecies widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent. The species Panthera pardus is classified as Near Threatened by IUCN since 2008 because populations have declined following habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching for the illegal trade of skins and body parts, and persecution due to conflict situations.
This gem of a sighting lasted for just a few minutes, but it will remain in my memories forever. This entire safari was the best of all. Not just because of the tigers and the leopard, but we also came across two dholes (Indian Wild Dog) while returning towards the gate.
Dhole (Indian Wild Dog)
The dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a canid native to Central, South and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Endangered by the IUCN, as populations are decreasing and estimated at fewer than 2,500 adults. Factors contributing to this decline include habitat loss, loss of prey, competition with other species, persecution, and disease transfer from domestic dogs.
Indian forest Nightjar
Mottled Wood Owl
In all our safaris, we went to the Pandharpauni lake area to look for Maya and her cubs and while on the way towards the lake, we came across one particular spot on the road where there was a strong odor of a rotten carcass. It came most probably from a kill made by the tigers, and the carcass was hidden somewhere in the forest on the other side of the road. Temperature during the day was very high and most of the time we saw the tigers resting near the lake. Once the relaxing session got over, they used to come out of the lake, cross the road from that exact spot of the rotten odor and enter the forest where they had hid the carcass. All the cars rushed towards that road to see the tigers from a closer distance. Everyone tried to get the best spot, some wanted to go as close as possible for that perfect selfie and the photographers just wanted the best angle without any obstruction in front.
Tigress Maya in the grasslands.
Cub of Maya crossing the road.
On the last safari, we revisited the Jamni area with a hope of seeing the leopard again. But, instead of the leopard, we got to see another famous tigress known as Choti Tara. We saw her taking a nap beside a waterhole, it was quite far away though. The area of Jamni falls under her territory.
Tigress Choti Tara taking a nap.
Planning a trip to Tadoba this summer? Here are some useful tips :
- Safari timings – 6 am – 11 am and 3 am – 6 pm Open all days except Tuesday.
- Best time to visit : The park is open throughout the year. February-May is a good time for seeing wildlife. The forest becomes dense and lush green with the onset of rains in mid-June. This is the time when there’s also a rise in Insect life.
Winters (from November-February) are quite comfortable, with temperatures around 25-30 degree Celsius during the day.
Summers are unbearably hot. Day time temperature reaches almost 50 degree Celsius. But, this is a good time to see mammals near waterholes and lakes.
- Accomodation : There are many private resorts and lodges at Moharli and Navegaon. We stayed at Tigers Heaven Resort, near Navegaon gate. One can also book the MTDC lodges at Moharli. Check this link for more information regarding this maharasthratourism.gov.in .
- Transport : Nagpur airport is 205 km. away via Chandrapur; 140 km. via Chimur.
Nearest railway station is at Chandrapur, 45 kms from Tadoba and Nagpur Station, around 150kms from Tadoba.