Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tadoba Trip for Tiger: Bagher Tandob in Tadoba !

This article is written by Soma Mukherjee nee Datta Gupta  (rearranged and edited my me)
For the full article in her blog click here - . The words in italics are added by me. 

The first time I had heard of Tadoba was around 2012, when my friends had gone there and come back with a lifetime experience of tiger sightings. I also learnt that in Tadoba, the question to be asked was “how many?” and not “did you?”.

Our final group of 9

My experience in the Sunderbans was very disappointing and although Kaziranga rewarded us generously with wildlife and otherwise, we did not see the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. So, a Tadoba plan had already started germinating in my head but our sudden transfer out of India put a big spoke in my planning wheel. I was planning to go last year during my daughter’s school break but came to know that the park closes for 3 months after June. This year, I was determined to go. My brother was also game for a tiger safari in April. Our initial tour group of 3 ultimately trebled in size to a very nice mix of 9 with the members’ ages ranging from 11 to 83!
We booked our plane tickets to Nagpur in January as Indigo was giving an amazing round trip offer of around INR 5,800. 
After intensive googling, I zeroed in on Serai Tiger for our lodging. However I learnt later that we should have started the process by first booking our safaris. The booking system here is totally different from the African safaris! Thankfully, by various permutations and combinations of entries through different gates, the camp manager Mr Dev booked us 6 safaris.

01/04/2016 - Day 1
We flew to Nagpur on April 1st and spent that night at the house of my old school mate Swagatika, who I was meeting after December 1977!! She was incredibly and unbelievably gracious not only to house all NINE of us but also serve a delicious spread of palak paneer, Kolhapuri chicken, prawn malaikari and doi maachh (fish in yoghurt sauce). This informal gathering at her house proved to be a good icebreaker (while snacking on authentic Bengali vegetable cutlets) as most of the group members hadn’t met each other before. The manager at Serai Tiger even asked me once, if we were all very old friends, such was the visible camaraderie amongst us.
After dinner, my friend told us that many beautiful birds visited the garden in front of her balcony early in the morning. We made a mental note of it but did not take her so seriously as we probably thought how many birds can visit this concrete jungle?
02/04/2016 - Day 2
I woke up early to give her company in the kitchen and had more or less forgotten about the birds. Suddenly, the oldest (and the most experienced wild lifer) member of our group urgently called me to the balcony. What a sight greeted my sleepy eyes! Birds of all hues and sizes were very busy with their morning chores around the verdant patch in front of us. Parakeets flew around in gay abandon. And bird calls greeted us from all corners. I will let the photos do the talking but I rued the fact that I had not gone out earlier to see a few more. Birds don’t enjoy the heat of the summer and are usually around in the early hours of the morning and again around sunset time.
After a sumptuous home-made dosa breakfast, we left for Tadoba in the big van (Tempo Traveller) sent to us by the lodge. The roads were smooth and we reached in time in 3.5 hours  for lunch (very good taxi driver Prakash Dungre +91 9423404693) and soon got ready for our first safari at 2.30 pm.


Tadoba map

There are SIX gates or points of entry at Tadoba National Park:
  • Moharli/Mohurli (approx 180 km from Nagpur): NINE vehicles allowed every morning and evening (total of 18 a day) for a tiger safari from this gate.
  • Kuswanda Gate (approx 140 km from Nagpur): FOUR vehicles allowed every morning and evening.
  • Kolara Gate (approx 120 km from Nagpur): NINE vehicles allowed every morning and evening.
  • Navegaon Gate (approx 140 km from Nagpur): SIX vehicles allowed every morning and evening.
  • Pangdi Gate (approx 250 km): TWO vehicles allowed every morning and evening.
  • Zari Gate (approx 190 km): SIX vehicles allowed every morning and evening.
Accommodation facilities are best found near Mohurli and Kolara gates.
MTDC and FDCM guest houses are the best located and cheapest places to stay with all basic amenities. However, food options are very limited. They only have online booking facilities. Do not try to call them.
Royal Tiger Resort is another very affordable place right next to Mohurli gate. It is a favourite haunt for photographers. There are other resorts too to suit your budget needs. Check this site for very comprehensive information on TATR.
We were very happy with our stay at Serai Tiger Camp. The “tents” were very spacious and comfortable and the food very wholesome. The staff was also very helpful and polite.

At the Kolara gate, the most famous high end resort is Svasara but Chava is much more reasonable and very good, according to my friends who have stayed there. Their food is very good too but 100% vegetarian. The biggest plus of this gate is that it is much much quieter than the very touristy and noisy Mohurli.

We had been warned about the deadly heat in that part of the country but had also been assured that in early April, the heat will be bearable. However, while driving to Mohurli gate in an open Gypsy, we felt we were passing through a furnace. Our hats and sunglasses hardly provided any relief. The jungle did not provide a canopy either and we got roasted almost until sunset. Looking at the headgears of the other tourists, who were all dressed up as the infamous bandits of the Chambal Valley, we all realised that we had made a BIG mistake in our estimation of heat.(So do take a wet towel) But our excitement and very good sightings made us forget the heat for a while. 


The first thing that struck me about the park was how beautiful and green it was. I live in Kenya now and just as my safaris there are never only about lions, I did not come to Tadoba just to see tigers. Of course, I was desperately hoping to see one, for the first time ever, but that did not make me oblivious to the birds and other animals of this place. And the amazing diversity of the flora and habitats in this small area.
Gaur (Indian bison)
Dhole (Indian wild dog)
Lovely snoozing place of the dholes to escape the scorching heat
Open billed stork
Honey buzzard
Chital (Spotted deer)
Sambars taking refuge in Tadoba Lake
We were lucky to see the famous tigress Maya (P2) with her cubs at Pandharpauni within an hour of our first safari near a watering hole. . The amazing camouflage provided by the dry long grass has to be seen to be believed. How beautifully the stripes merge with the golden colour of the reeds and grass. Keep looking and you suddenly get to spot this magnificent animal.
The Queen of Tadoba – Maya or T2
See the camouflage I was talking about: Now you see them, now you don’t
She had 3 boys and a little girl who came out to pose for us in the open. But the mother and her sons continued feasting on the sambar they had killed the previous night. The female cub was so much smaller. 
Maya has stripes which look like around 7 eyes on his body along with his cubs.

The standard practice for safari cars is to wait infront of the watering hole and you are normally rewarded with a tiger sight. This area is famous for Maya. But to see tiger you might miss other things elsewhere. The flies in front of Pandharpauni is notorious. SO YOU MUST TAKE INSECT REPELLENT. 

The little sister
I am a tiger too!
But awww, I am still a kid

Suddenly , we saw a wild boar come to drink water near them and I was sure that he would be killed but thankfully, the tigers were not interested. There were some thirsty birds around too, all flocking around the waterhole.
A herd of chitals (spotted deer) also drank water quite cautiously and went on their way. On our way back, we passed by Lake Tadoba and saw quite a few aquatic birds, langurs and sambars.
We were also lucky to sight a serpent eagle on our way. As the weather was getting cooler, the dholes were coming out of their slumber and becoming active. We also spotted a Rufus Treepie which is known as the tiger’s dentist.Unlike the fearless ones in Ranthambore, they shied away from human contact.
A male sambar was grazing by the roadside. A magpie robin was about to call it a day. We also spotted the very shy barking deer. A pair of golden orioles playing in the bush looked a very pretty sight. The sun was beginning to set and in the dusk light I saw a green pigeon for the first time. I could not make out the colours well but I saw their unique colouring in the morning light the next day. We saw quite a few peafowls scurrying around but they were so frisky that I could just about get a bad shot.
But the day belonged to the magnificent setting sun!

After the safari we returned to our resort at around 6 pm. There is not much you can do after returning to the resort. We chatted with our group members and went to sleep little early since we have leave for early morning safari at 6 am.

03/04/2016 - Day 3

The next day turned out to be a day of of mostly birds and an interesting dhole sighting. But we had to get out when the moon was still in the sky at 4 am (because we could only get an entry through Zhari gate which was quite far away) but were rewarded with a mesmerising egg-yolk sunrise. Actually very few people go there.It is almost  65 Km from Mohurli gate and takes around 1.5 hours to reach there. 
We saw many rollers as usual and a pond kingfisher patiently waiting for its breakfast and a langur sitting near it. We also spotted a jungle fowl scurrying away to god knows where. While we waited by a watering hole where leopard sighting was “guaranteed”, I had a chance to observe quite a few interesting birds around me. Especially my favourite ones – the gorgeous green pigeons.
The leopard never came despite an hour-long wait – instead chitals came in great numbers, drank water and left. However, I had a great sighting of a Changeable Hawk Eagle who was probably trying to steal a crow’s eggs/chicks and was challenged bravely the much smaller bird.

The dauntless challenger
Changeable Hawk Eagle


Kingfisher and the green pigeons

I also got some interesting shots of langurs. And a very unique ant nest made up of leaves. Never seen something like this before.

Monkeying around
The beautiful forest


Ant nest – you can see the big red ants all over

In the afternoon our entry was through Mohurli gate, we had a glimpse of one of Sonam’s cubs at Jamunjhora. Later in the afternoon, Sonam and the other 2 cubs had also emerged, we were told by another guest at our lodge.

Sonam’s cub approaching the watering hole


First full view

On our way back, we passed by Tadoba Lake which always is a treat for sore eyes.

Black headed Ibis and little egret

Our driver then dashed towards Pandharpauni again to check on Maya. We didn’t have much of a say though. We had a good sighting the previous day and the waiting place is infested with flies who don’t give you a respite. So remember to carry insect repellants if you want to wait here. We did sight Maya in the long grass and she seemed to be initially interested in a kill but then the sambars got a wind of her presence and scampered away, alerting all and sundry. The chitals followed suit quickly.
On our way back, we saw the ghost tree (that changes colour every season; white in winter, pink in spring and brown in summer) and some more birds. When it is white, its silvery bark glistens in the dark, especially on a moonlit night. We were there in April and a few of them quite ghostly white, although it was beginning to change colour.

Reminded me of Harry Potter’s Whomping Willow

The we saw a pack of dholes on a hunt. They seemed to have some kind of plan as they disappeared up on a hillock after coming close to the group of sambar. We could not wait long as it was getting dark.
I spotted a ruddy mongoose with some kind of berry in its mouth. Also, a Brahminy starling, treepie, peacock and barking deer.
And then we got back to the lodge for the night. The sunset was nothing spectacular like the other day. We saw a peacock engaged in a mating dance but promptly showed us his back as we came closer. In any case, the object of his attention had moved away.


04/04/2016 - Day 4

We passed by the beautiful Telia lake on our way to Choti Tara territory but she was not there. It was a lovely morning and we got some new bird sightings.
I saw a magnificent plum headed parakeet, a green bee eater and an evil looking crocodile.

Plum headed parakeet
Green bee eater

I missed the chance to click a lovely frame of a golden backed woodpecker but could capture a yellow crowned one. They too have an amazing camouflage and I could not see it first against the bark of the tree.
I finally managed to get a clear shot of the resplendent jungle fowl as well. It was again in a mad rush but thankfully it stopped just long enough for me to photograph it. And there were quite a few treepies which gave us hope of a Sonam spotting.

Jungle Fowl


Show for the female
Rufus Treepie – always around tigers to clean their teeth

We almost failed to notice the bamboo plant next to which our jeep was parked. It was flowering, which is a once-in-40 years phenomenon, after which it dies. It also gave me time to admire the light and shade play on the leaves.

The captivating bamboo flowers
Isn’t the canopy awesome?

We waited patiently for Sonam to make another appearance but while she disappointed us, we saw an array of animals coming for a drink of water, one after another, despite the lurking threat. It was so much fun watching this free animal show.

Wary male sambar walking towards the water


First arrivals

The sambars were there first to give relief to their parched throats but there were on high alert. Next to come was the majestic white-socked gaur.

The don’t-mess-with-me look

IMG_9928A pair of shy charsingha were next in line. Only a video can show the trepidation with which they approached their drinking site.

A pair of charsingha


Oh for a gulp of water

A pair of barking deer joined them soon after.

Barking deer

A bunch of langurs were also hydrating their bodies and soon, a wild boar joined them.

Thirsty langurs
The boar could not resist taking a roll

Then came the peacock, very nervy and jumpy. Could not drink peacefully at all.

Our majestic national bird

IMG_9883IMG_9875A white eyed buzzard was the last one to come for a drink that evening. The sun was beginning to set and it was time for us to leave.

White eyed buzzard
End of the day

05/04/2016 - Day 5: 
It was our last safari in Tadoba and we wanted a real close encounter with the tiger. Today we visited the buffer zone. All our sightings had been across a waterbody. The first 2 hours were quite unproductive except for learning about the crocodile bark tree.
Crocodile bark tree

There was a watering hole which was been frequented by the Wagdeo, the oldest and biggest tiger in Tadoba and his cubs. We were told that he had a new young romantic interest called Aishwarya who was the sister of his former mate. But there were conflicting reports about whether the cubs were Aishwarya’s or her sister’s.
After spotting nothing for over an hour, we went to explore the right side of the buffer zone, while my brother and his group who were in another gypsy stayed behind. Barely a minute after we left, their wish was fulfilled as Wagdeo along with his cubs and Aishwarya made an appearance at that concrete watering hole. After frolicking for a while, they disappeared as the tourists were making too much noise. Here is what my brother saw. He did add that the experience felt very artificial – almost like a zoo.
Later we got to know that as we were leaving that side of the buffer zone, some drivers tried to call us as the tigers were spotted. Meanwhile, we went exploring on the other side where there was the vast Irai Lake. We found a purple swamp hen, a lesser adjutant stork and some whistling ducks. I also saw a beautiful flower whose name I still do not know.
We saw some fresh pug marks but failed to see any tiger. Just as we thought our luck had run out, we found a jeep full of photographers beckoning us wildly. Across  an expanse of water, was one of Sharmilee’s cubs peacefully dozing in the water. We missed our much desired “close” encounter by a few minutes as the tiger was just in front before she wanted privacy from the photographers. But we could clearly see the cub with our naked eyes.

Our first glimpse
Eyes open
Who disturbs my slumber?
You guys again!

We went inside the forest to try and find Sharmilee and her second cub but could not. The bamboo grove was fabulous though. But when we came out, we found another cub in the water! The mother must have been somewhere close.

Appearance of the second cub

IMG_0082On our way back, the jeep stalled. Thankfully, the driver knew what to do and we came back safely without becoming fodder for the tiger.

Our young passengers are unfazed

So what we saw in Tadoba are :
Barking deer ( Indian_muntjac) or Feu in Bengali (?)
Black winged stilt  ( 
Red-wattled lapwing
Open bill stork - শামুক খোল (
Black headed Ibis and Egret  (
headed_ibis and
Red-naped ibis 
Egret- বক ), 
Four-horned antelope ( ) 
Wild dog  (Dhol )
Indian Golden Oriole - বউ কথা কও )
Indian Roller bird - Neel-kantha-
Blue eared Kingfisher
Indian Pond Heron - কোঁচ বক

Green Pigeon or Yellow-legged Green Pigeon - Hariyal - State bird of Maharashtra

Long crested eagle - Baaj Pakhi

Gray Langur or Hanuman Langur
Tiger - Madhuri -
Stork billed kingfisher - মাছরাঙ্গা - Machh ghorel -
Spotted deer
Brahminy Mayna/ Starling - শালিক

Snipe - Kada-khocha -

Yellow-crowned woodpecker - কাঠঠোকরা

Plum headed parakeet - টিয়া

Rose ringed Parakeet - টিয়া

Crocodile-bark-tree - state tree of Goa

Gaur or Indian bison

Jungle fowl - Bon Murgi

Rufous-winged Bush Lark (Mirafra assamica)

Tiger Waghdoh and Family members of Waghdoh - Largest Male tiger in India - and

The beautiful Tadoba
Facts about Tadoba

  • Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is Maharashtra’s oldest and largest National Park. The current TATR (625.4 sq km) was established after Tadoba National Park merged with Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary
  • TATR is divided into 3 forest ranges – Tadoba, Kolsa, and Mohurli (sandwiched between the first two)
  • The rain-fed Tadoba and Kolsa lakes together with the Tadoba river sustain the park’s diverse eco-system.
  • It is open from 15th October to 30th June
  • Closed every Tuesday (and on Holi) but the buffer zone is open
  • Book your safari online before you look around for any accommodation or transport
  • It helps if you can arrange for a good guide and driver but they are readily available at the gate on a rotational basis but a good one may not be guaranteed
Safaris can be booked by you online at this site. Bookings are open 120 days in advance but they go away very quickly. However, some resorts do it for you at a nominal charge. A safari costs about Rs 3500 per jeep. Not person. Keep some cash with you.
  • Forest entry fee – Rs 1000
  • Gypsy charges – Rs 2000 (IN CASH) unless the resort arranges one for you before
  • Every camera over 250mm lens – Rs 200 (in CASH)
  • Compulsory Guide – Rs 300 (in CASH)
The group leader’s name along with his/her ID details are required during the booking. He/she MUST be present while entering the park; else the permit will be canceled. It is better to enter more names, as cancellation is not an issue (a jeep can carry a maximum of 6 people plus driver & guide). Add-ons are allowed but I am not too clear about how it is done — all I can say is that it can be done at the gate for an additional fee. According to rules, the names cannot be altered after the safari booking but some do it illegally. Usually, only the group leader’s ID is checked but a random check may happen any time. So it is better to keep your IDs with you. Remember to carry a printout of the online receipt with you at all times. Please keep a photocopy of your ID.
A much cheaper canter bus safari has now been introduced (@ Rs 400 per head) but you must reach the gate very early and wait for the bus to be filled up to a required minimum number (possibly 8) of tourists.
For pictures click here

Chronological order