Sunday, 13 May 2012

Into the Wilderness - Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR)


I badly needed a respite from the monotnous routine life for a few days at least, since 3 months without any outing (unbelievable!!) combined with a prolonged hectic schedule at office had  made me a bit more garrulous than I am. Hence Tadoba seemed to be a perfect place to be to have some solitude, after we have visited Hills (Mahabaleshwar) and Seashore (Konkan).

Day 0 (30th April 2012) and Day 1 (1st May 2012)

We boarded the Maharashtra Express (11039) at 11 pm from Pune, the train actually came before time  The train reached on time at Wardha, our scheduled destination at 2.55 pm. Our car reached Wardha at 3.15 pm and we started our journey towards Moharli immediately.

Wardha is a small town and it took us just 15 minutes to reach the outskirts of this town. The road through NH7 was as smooth as it can be. There is a place called Jam from where one would need to take a right turn towards Chadrapur if he/she is coming from Wardha.

There was a shortcut from Shegaon towards Moharli and one does not need to go via Chandrapur actually, one has to turn right from the Shegaon market. Once we crossed Shegaon, the road became narrow and through some villages - and they were as rural as a village can be. The road was good with a few small rough patches. Once we started closing in on Moharli, the forest started to appear at a distance which was a fantastic relief to see after a 3 months lean period, confined inside the concrete skyscrapers.

The journey lasted around 3 hours and we reached at Moharli MTDC, where we pre-booked ourselves, around 6.30 pm. One thing to remember here is that Moharli is just a little village so one should expect all the urban luxuries, but still the MTDC rooms were superb. The Moharli gate was just 1 km from the MTDC, which won’t be of any problem if one has booked his/her safaris in advance – the gypsies can pick him/her up and drop him/her there.

The village itself is devoid of serious commercialization due to which one can enjoy the rustic ambience, only if one wants to, but if one wants everything that a city can offer, Moharli may not be the place for that person.Though I have seen quite a few number of resorts there apart from the MTDC one, such as Royal Tiger Resort, Tadoba Tiger Resort, Tiger Trails Resort, Saras Resort etc. I think the village will catch up with the modern facilities (I sincerely wish it doesn’t) within a couple of years, going by the exponentially increasing popularity of TATR.

Anyway, we checked in to our rooms and contacted Ravi through which we booked our safaris  and all of us were all set for the safaris starting from the next morning – we booked 7 safaris overall – 4 morning and 3 afternoon ones.


1. If one is hiring a car on a 'per kilometer' basis, try to emphasize to take the shortcut route which will save you around 30 kms of journey.

2. The taxis will also charge the return fare. For example, our car was from Chandrapur so it charged us for Chandrapur – Wardha – Moharli – Chandrapur route. So negotiate the amount beforehand. Always pre-book your taxis.

3. Morning safaris – 5.30 am to 9.30 am (normally the gate closes around 9.45 am)
Afternoon safaris – 2.45 pm to 6.45 pm (gate remains open till 7.00 pm)

4. Try to pre-book in MTDC if possible, as it is the most economic and decent of all accommodations.

5. Always pre-book your safaris, since at the gate there is always a long queue during the season and on the spot booking will take some time. And there is also a limitation on number of cars that can enter through each gate, so better pre-book the safaris to save hassles and disappointment.

6. Private cars are allowed inside the forest, but go for the gypsies since these are the best to view the animals and taking photographs.

7. A guide is a must on the safaris. And obey whatever he advises.

8. Take full head cover to get some protection from the sun and the dust. And also, protection/cover for your camera is necessary.

9. The boys who work at most of the hotels are from the local villages and hence they are no professionals. So have some patience and kindly don't be too demanding. They will serve you properly, but you just have to give them some time, they are all some fantastic smiling lads.

10. Inside the forest, the animals have the rights so you have to abide by their rules of the jungle. Respect the jungle and its residents.

The Jungle

Before I start with my safari log, I wanted to pen down some of our observations about the forest.

Tadoba is a deciduous forest with dense vegetation, in the peak season one can see the yellowish/brownish nature of the forest mostly, with a sheer dryness all over the place, but there are thick green vegetations as well at many places which give shelter to the animals and human alike. The trees also give birth to many fruits, which hang from the trees unnoticed and unspoiled, which is really a rare sight for people like us, confined inside the concrete walls. At places, the visibility is totally blocked by the density of the trees

Thick foliages can be seen everywhere covering the ground. One of the many things that we noticed are the innumerable numbers of bamboo trees spread all over the place inside the jungle, and long grasses, which are long enough at some places to hide even an elephant. The yellow-brown color of these grasses gives a natural camouflage to the predators like the tigers and leopards, it needs an experienced eye to separate a big cat from these grasses. Because of the presence of so many trees, the jungle is comparatively cooler than the aggressive hot atmosphere of outside premises.

One important fact that one must notice is the scarcity of water inside the jungle. A couple of natural and artificial lakes are present inside the jungle – the Tadoba lake and the Teliya lake – but apart from these two there are only a few waterholes around the safari routes inside the jungle. These waterholes are filled up with the water carried on the water tankers for the sake of the animals by the forest department and there are great chances to see animals converging to these places. In fact, the waterholes are the main points where most of the animals can be seen.

There are human presence inside the jungle in the form of tribal villages and forest guards. The villagers also carry out cattle grazing and agriculture inside the forest so it is very common that the cattle fall prey of the predators or the wild herbivores come to the farmlands frequently causing some human-animal conflicts at either case.

The safaris will take you inside the jungle first through a tarred road laid from the entrance gates and then there are many small narrow ‘untarred’ diversions which will bring you inside the jungle. The roads are so narrow that only gypsy can venture through the same and the presence of those countless bamboo trees within a touchable distance, blocking the visibility, will bound to give you some uneasiness.

Red, dry and dusty soil can be found all over the place. So if you are behind another gypsy while on these roads, be prepared to digest a couple of kilos of dust and get yourself covered with the red particles. There are elephant safaris too (they don’t track/trap the tigers like Kanha), but the number of elephants are very less – we have only seen 3 elephants at Moharli gate.

Once you enter the jungle, the sounds which you can only hear are the tweeting of the birds – which are abundant – and the constant chirping of the cricket. Apart from these one can also hear the calling of the Sambars/Spotted Deers/Barking deers when a big cat is on the move, but you have to be really experienced enough to identify the same. The falling of the leaves and the hush of the gentle breeze also compose the ‘Sound of the Jungle’. The thrill lies when you are expecting a tiger to be seen, deducing from those alarm calls, the experience is beyond my writing articulation capability. And the fragrance of the jungle is so pristine, that you don't to be far away too long.

The sun will be cruel at the afternoon safaris, so a hat/cap/other protective gear will be must, for you and for your camera – not only to protect from the heat but also from the dust. And carry lots of water with you.

Ample flora and fauna will certainly make you come back with your heart, mind and soul all filled with joy and peace. But please don’t return with anything but memories and please don’t leave anything inside the forest but your footprints (gypsy tyre marks to be precise).