Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve with Treks and Trails India
Visiting a Tiger Reserve requires lot of planning; I had planned to visit Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in June. Monsoon Season was late and it was still summer at Chandrapur. Temperature at Tadoba can reach up to 47 degree. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve consist mostly of Bamboo Forest nearly 60%, Tiger density is good being a small reserve compared to others in India chances of Tiger sighting are high..
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve can be reached from Chandrapur city which is around 30 km away or Nagpur which is 160 km away. Nagpur has a major Railway station and Airport which is well connected with all Metros in India. There are many entry points into the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. Mohurli Gate is the busiest with MTDC resort 1 km away. TreksandTrails India recommends you book your Tiger Safari Pass through Mohurli Gate. Other gates are being developed as Tourism center Khutvanda / Kolara / Mohurli / Navegaon / Pangdi / Zhari (Kolsa).
We boarded the Duronto Express Train no 12289 from CST which is a very comfortable train fastest to Nagpur. You can also choose Sewagram Express train no 12139 till Chandrapur city which is nearer to Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. Duronto Express reaches Nagpur by 7.20 am. We had hired a Innova Taxi from Nagpur till Mohurli Gate which is around 160 km or 3 hours drive away. We reached our Hotel Tadoba Tiger Resort it is nearest to Mohurli Gate and gives you an advantage while entering the Reserve
Climate was hot and dry we were very excited about our afternoon safari which starts at 3 pm. We spent our timing clicking pictures of many birds in our Hotel Compound. Our Veg lunch was served at 1.30 pm soon after our lunch we boarded our gypsy for our first Safari. One Gypsy can accommodate six people back sits are not recommended for tall people.
We got our pass checked at Forest check point and paid charges for lenses above 250 mm. Each person with a 250mm Camera lens or more has to pay Rs 200 camera charges per visit, which can add up quickly if you are going to do multiple Safaris during your visit. Next you need to hire a Guide they sit next to the Checkpoint after paying your camera fees and pass checked by forest officer you are allotted a Guide. Driver will drive according to Guide instructions. Finding a good Guide is important some are very good Tiger Trackers some have good network amongst their Guide group and SMS or Call each other about Tiger Locations.
We entered the Park after a brief check at 3.10 pm our Gypsy was 5th in row. You can book your Tiger Safari Pass online at http://www.mahaecotourism.gov.in/Site/Common/nationalParks.aspx some passes are allotted at the gate on spot though difficult to book. Our Guide took us directly to Teila Lake which is very close to the gate. Weather was cloudy now and forest was cool we saw many Birds on the way the lake was nearly dry. We didn't spot any tiger and we moved on to our next location on Tiger safari there are many birds and animals you will encounter.
We were enjoying the birds at Tadoba Indian Roller, Asian Paradise Fly Catcher and many more we visited many water holes and Tadoba Lake we saw all big animals other than the Elusive Tiger. I had company of our Regular trekkers who had previously visited Kanha and Ranthambore and had spotted only one Tiger Munna from a distance and was hoping we could spot a Tiger on our Tadoba Visit. Park closing timings are 6.30 pm all Gypsy need to exit by 6.30 pm. Gypsy are available at Hotel you stay or near Forest Entry Gate.
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve are two Reserve which have been merged together if you enter from Mohurli there is metal road after driving around 15 km you reach Tadoba Gate where your guide will make entry about his visit you have to reach this gate by 6 pm in evening max. It takes 30 mins to reach Mohurli gate from Tadoba Checkpoint Gate. There are two villages inside Tadoba you can see villagers move around on bikes and state transport buses also run frequently through the tiger reserve till these villages we saw many villagers waiting for the bus with Kids. Humans and Tiger sharing the same forest many villages have been relocated and now two remain we saw a deserted village which was relocated and was now home to Male Tiger named Gabbar.
We reached our hotel around 7 pm we were all tired Tiger Safari are long and slow and tiring if you don't find Tiger. We had our dinner early and went for a walk to explore the Mohurli Village. Village is being developed by Hotels and Tourism is the main source of income. Many locals drive Gypsy / Work as Guide / Run Home Stay hotels / Dhabas. There are many options available for stay at Mohurli Village from Budget to Expensive ones. Do book your stay with AC room keeping the window open at night is not a good option many bugs will creep into your room due to fluorescent light and white bed sheets. Climate is also hot and dry our room had a good 2 ton ac which kept us relaxed throughout our stay. Tadoba Tiger Resort rooms are good spacious and bathroom are clean. While walking around we saw many villagers sleeping In the open Tiger doesn't strike fear in them anymore.
We went to sleep early and woke up at 5 am our morning safari timing was from 6 am to 10.30 am. Morning safari is longer we had some tea and Poha our Gypsy was waiting for us, many Gypsy had already queued at the gate. We found another Guide hoping he would be better than the evening guy. We entered the gate at 6.05 am. There are traffic light at the gates which indicate the gates are open and gypsy start moving in for final check by the forest guards.
Our guide took us to a newly open location at Tadoba some parts are closed for years so that Female Tigress with cub is not disturbed or Male Tiger is not disturbed. We were in search of the Shy tiger named Shiva he had driven his father Yeda Anna or Mad Anna into the buffer zone. Tiger Reserve is divided into Buffer Zone and Core Area.
Buffer Zone passes can be bought on spot they are not available to book online. TATR buffer measuring around 1,150 square kilometres would include about 80 villages in Warora, Bhadrawati, Chandrapur, Mul, Sindewahi and Chimur blocks. Difference between Core and Buffer forest and the misconception tourists have that Buffer means to tiger. Buffer is the area of forest which is used to satisfy human needs such as wood , medicines etc , buffer eases pressure on the core. Better the Buffer, better is the Jungle. Tadoba buffer has about 70 tigers where as core has just 65. This terminology is just for forest management ease and has nothing to do with Tigers presence.
Buffer Zone entry is near MTDC resort. As always MTDC resort is well located surrounded by water bodies. Rooms are air conditioned and cheap with good food. You need to book well in advance to avoid last minute disappointments.
Before starting our journey I had spoken with Atul Dhamankar he has been researching on Tigers for two decades now and is an expert at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. He has written many books in Marathi and English to help you understand Tigers better and enjoy your Safari at TATR. Please check his blog http://atulintadoba.blogspot.in/ chances of spotting Tiger at Buffer or Core are same.
Buffer Zone restriction has been imposed since June 2014 at Tadoba very few passes are allotted many tourist preferred Buffer to Core Zone. Tigress Maduri and her cubs had become a center of attraction with all tourists heading towards buffer zone to watch them.
Tiger Shiva location was well known to our Guide he took us to the location where he would spend his morning, One Gypsy Jeep was also on the same trail it had some serious photographer armed with huge zoom telephoto lenses. When we reached the spot and Shiva the Tiger was sitting on the dry river bed the gypsy head of us got few pictures Shiva being a shy male was not used to Gypsy Jeep around him and started to move away into the dense Jungle. Some of us spotted it and some couldn't it was so quick we were all excited and our luck had changed.
We start driving to Tadoba Forest Gate once we reached there our guide received info about a Tigress which was spotted at Jamunzora and was walking towards Teila Dam. We went 10 km back and waited at a spot on the road hoping she would cross us. After 20 minutes passed many gypsy's had gathered and then started moving away thinking Tigress must have stopped walking. Suddenly Tigress Sonam walked few feet away in front of Gypsy jeep. She was a beauty and completely comfortable with humans and jeeps around her many of us got her pictures and were awe struck spotting a tiger in wild gives you goose bumps.
Within 1 minute she disappeared in the forest again she was walking towards Teila Dam our guide an excellent Tiger tracker asked the driver to drive towards Teila Dam. We drove towards dam and waited at a spot where she was expected a sloth bear was drinking water nearby it was very hot he quickly ran back into the forest on seeing many Jeeps arriving. There are many trees near Jamunzora with beehives and sloth bears claws can be seen all over the tree. We waited for another 15 mins though Sonam the tigress didn't appear we decided to visit other water holes in search of our next Tiger spotting.
Tadoba has many other animals all tourist though come for the Tiger. By now we had seen Hanuman Langur / Sambar / Spotted Deer / Barking Deer / Four Horned Antelope / Indian Gaur / Sloth Bear / Rudy Mongoose / Wild Boer.
Bird spotting was amazing at Tadoba we saw Cormorant / Darter / Heron / Egret / Ibis / Oriental Honey Buzzard / Besra / White Eyed Buzzard / Crested Serpent Eagle / Vulture / Jungle Quail / Grey Junglefowl / Red Spurfowl / Peacocks / Sarus Crane / Lapwing / River Tern / Spotted Dove / Green Pigeon / Laughing Dove / Parakeets / Asian Koel / Pied Cuckoo / Greater Coucal / Owl Kingfisher / Indian Roller / Green Bee Eater / Barbet / Black Rumped Flameback / Indian Pita / Woodpeckers / Swallows / Long Tailed Shirke / Black Hooded Oriole / Eurasian Golden Oriole / Drongo / Myna / Rufous Treepie / Starling / Jungle Babbler / Asian Paradise Flycatcher / Magpie Robin / Pied Bushchat / Munia these many birds in Four Safari. Our morning Safari ended and 4 ½ hours flew away we were all excited after the Tiger Sighting and shared our experience with the Hotel Staff. We all went to sleep and woke up for lunch and our Jeep was ready for our next Safari.
Evening Safari now was usual after two Safaris I understood the roads or routes undertaken by Guides we had stuck with same guide for our evening Safari. Our guide took us at Teila Dam hoping Sonam the Tigress would be there it was very hot now hottest since we had been to Mohurli. He spotted her within few minutes she was on the other side of dam Relaxing in Water. By now many Jeeps had arrived and were taking turns to click pictures. We decided to move towards Tadoba Lake in search of Maya the most famous Tigress at Tadoba.
Maya is very comfortable with humans and jeeps our driver explained she had sat next to his Jeep on several occasion. All guides know here locations and will take you there hoping to spot her. Our guide informed us that Maya had just given birth to Tiger Cubs and Tiger Patrol Guards had closed her area to tourist. Maya sometimes would wander out with her cubs so lot of photographers would wait hoping to get a glimpse in case she wanders out. Maya didn't wander out we visited her location four times during our safaris though Mr Atul Dhamankar was lucky and he got a pic with Maya walking with her cub in her mouth.
Image link http://www.indianaturewatch.net/displayimage.php?id=487541 . http://www.indianaturewatch.net is a good website for pictures for Tigers in India. Sanctuary Asia group on Facebook has also good pictures of Tigers from Tiger Reserves in India.
One of the Forest Patrol Officer informed our guide that Gabbar the Tiger was relaxing in a water hole at Pandharpauni. We drove towards the spot and he was sleeping there a Sambar was standing just a few feets away. Gabbar was sleeping and didn't feel like hunting or it would have been his easiest kill. There were many jeeps luckily we got a good spot and binoculars came in handy we watched him and clicked few pictures. Tiger photography requires a very good zoom lens I had 70 – 300 mm lens with me which is not adequate Tigers normally don't venture near Jeeps. If you have a good zoom your can cover the distance and create a good picture. Many people had brought large telephoto zooms and pro zoom camera like canon sx50 or Nikon p510. I would suggest if you could rent a good 500mm upwards lens with Tele converter and monopod and camera bean bag to click pictures. It was late now and all Jeeps started heading towards the gate our last night at Mohurli we still had one morning Safari left.
Do carry some ready to eat food on your Safaris; Water is not available during Safari so carry atleast one liter per person. Cover your body with full sleeve clothes / Eye protection / Round Cap to minimize sun damage.
Our last Safari was on a weekday to our surprise crowd was still the same Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is very popular with locals also who come here with families. Mini Bus is available for larger groups though it doesn't match the fun of open Jeep.
At 6.00 am lights at gates turned green like F1. We again went in search of Shiva the Tiger after reaching his location we spotted him sitting in the Bamboo forest few feet away from our Jeep. He was so close though the thick bamboo forest doesn't let your camera focus on him for a good picture. A foul smell was in the air he had made a kill nearby. He stood up after 20 minutes and started walking towards his kill which was across the road he crossed our jeep and gave an angry look and disappeared into the forest. Tiger are so well camouflaged you can't spot them even if they are sitting few feet away Tadoba Bamboo Forest is ideal for them to hide. We left for Katezari area a Tigress with her cubs was spotted there this is the most beautiful location at Tadoba. Along the way we spotted many monitor lizard a Rudy Mongoose marking his territory. We didn't find the Tigress at Katezari, the drive in this location is enchanting jungle is so dense, wildlife is amazing our guide explained that this is the first place to be closed if it rains since it gets flooded.
While returning back on our last safari we went in search of Maya the Tigress for the last time and saw Two Tigers at Tadoba Lake walking on the lake periphery. They were at a distance but visible clearly a local state transport bus heading to Chandrapur from Chimur village also reached at same time all passengers were excited and start peeping through the windows. The cheapest way to do Tiger Safari in India board a State Transport Bus from Chandrapur to Chimur Village in Tadoba Tiger Reserve, no safari pass required.
We saw few Nilgai's at a man made waterhole we were very close to the Mohurli Gate and saw all Jeeps lined up a Tigress had just crossed the Metal Road and was sitting now near the road. The Forest Guard was guiding all Jeeps one by one so that everybody got a chance 5 minutes each.
Our Tadoba Jouney had come to an end what a place highly recommended. Many friends had warned me that tiger spotting is difficult in wild, I got spoilt here so many tigers so close and birding was best.
Tadoba should be visited with an expert you can always click good pictures with decent equipment but you can tell story only if you have knowledge and experience. Jungle is much more than Tiger each and every animal / bird / reptile has an interesting story to tell. There are many jungle camps organized by Photographers at Tadoba who offer excellent knowledge about the jungle.
We need more researchers and photographers to be backed by government and media. Forest Guards / Guides / Local Villagers are all important in Tiger conservation projects hope they are paid well and motivated to maintain our Jungle. Do tip the Guide and Gypsy Driver they help you in making your Safari memorable.
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