Indian Wildlife - Trip Report

Tadoba National Park

Days 3 to 6

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is the largest national park in Maharashtra with a total area of more than 625 square km. There are approximately 90 tigers in the reserve and 60 in the forests surrounding the reserve.

 

In addition to tigers, the reserve has many other mammals including leopards, sloth bears, gaur, nilgai, dhole, striped hyena, small Indian civet, jungle cats, sambar, barking deer, chital, chausingha and honey badger.

 

Its reptiles include marsh crocodiles, terrapins, star tortoise, cobra, python, Russel’s viper and monitor lizard.

Svasara Jungle Lodge at Tadoba

Situated 300 metres from Kolara Gate at Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. The lodge is in 10-acres of restored forest with 12 rooms.

Rooms

Good hot water once we worked out you had to switch on the water heater! Hairdryer, plenty of sockets (multi-use type), good WiFi in reception area.

Food

Buffet style, not much choice and not very hot especially if you didn’t eat as soon as the food came out.

Grounds

Lots of birds to spot in trees & bamboo. Very dry due to lack of 'spring' rains.

Vehicles/Guides

Vehicles a little cramped (3 to a bench with the park guide). Lodge's naturalist was friendly and knowledgeable. 

Day 3 continued...

Drive 1

Oriental Garden Lizard

 

 

After lunch, we had a little bit of time to get our gear ready and met at 2:30pm for drive number 1. This is when we found out we had been paired up with Linda & Andy – Permits for the drives are reserved when you book the trip, so depending on the order of your original booking will determine who you end up sharing your vehicle with… totally pot luck… it had turned out very good for us as they had a very similar sense of humour and similar in height!

 

Leading up to the trip I had been watching Instagram updates from Tadoba and knew that a tigress nick-named Maya (designated ID reference P2) had two cubs. I was very much hoping to see her and on our first drive we were heading to the Panderpauni waterhole where she has recently been seen. Our driver parked us in the shade at the waterhole, but as other vehicles arrived taking the best spots we were left at the back of the pack. After waiting for a while there were no warning calls so we headed to a different waterhole where we watched sambar deer come nervously for a drink.

Suddenly a warning call was heard coming from the first waterhole and we rushed back to find Maya in the water cooling herself down from the heat of the day. We found a gap between the other vehicles and the vegetation to watch and photograph her. Maya’s two cubs tottered from cover along the edge of the waterhole to join their mother and we watched them interacting with her for about 15 minutes before the cubs went back into the cover shortly followed by Maya.

 

Wow, a wonderful start to our tiger adventure, not only our first tiger of the trip, but our first ever sighting of wild young tiger cubs! Tigers 1, 2 & 3 of the trip - We left the waterhole full of happiness.

In the remaining 30 or so minutes of the drive we stopped to watch some gaur calves (along with their parents) and an eagle eyed guide spotted a savannah nightjar. 

We arrived back at the lodge at 6:30pm (when you arrive back at each of the lodges you receive a cold flannel to wipe away some of the dust and a nice refreshing cold juice). We were then served some Indian snacks at the Teak House with tea and coffee.

 

We had just enough time to have a shower and get changed before we met up for the spotting checklist and went for dinner at 8pm.

 

Spotting checklist: Naturetrek provide each of us with a checklist to mark off the fauna we have seen on each day. At the end of every day Yusuf would run through the checklist marking up what we had seen. Although this worked really well on our previous two trips with Naturetrek, this trip we were in four separate vehicles, travelling different routes, sometimes with a naturalist and sometimes without a naturalist. This meant the quality of the checklist wasn’t as good a reflection of what you had seen… yes you could just check-off the fauna you had seen, but if you didn’t have a naturalist how would you know (or remember) all the birds you had seen! We decided not to bother with the list this time and instead made notes of what we had photographed.

Day 4 - Tadoba

Drive 2

Beautiful clear morning - The Moon

Each morning starts the same, so I won’t keep repeating myself each day unless something different happens. I had my phone alarm set for 4:30am, this was to give us enough time for a quick shower and get our gear together to be ready at 5:30am for a hot drink and biscuits together with the group.

 

The park gates open at sunrise and drivers/guides like to be at the front or near to the front of the entrance queue so they and their clients don’t have to eat as much dust thrown up by other vehicles. Being the first vehicle along the trail has other advantages like being first to spot anything lying on the trail or running across it. During our visit to Tadoba the park was opening at 6:15am, so we arrived at the park gate a little after 5:45am.

 

There are formalities to sort out at the gate before you can enter the park, you are advised to always carry your passport as your permit will have been booked using your passport number (should you change your passport after making the booking you need to carry both your old and new passports!) We were asked for our passport every time we entered Tadboa & Pench, but not at Kanha & Satpura. It’s best to carry them always, as you don’t know when they may do a spot check and you would not be popular if you had to return to the lodge and your group missed something! Your passport is taken to the park office along with the vehicle permit by the driver, we also had to pay camera fees at Tadoba (200 rupees per camera with a lens longer that 250mm) so 400 rupees for our two cameras each drive.

 

Once your driver returns with your passports, the gate is lifted, you pull forward in turn and collect a park guide just as you enter the park. The national park guides are compulsory for every vehicle and in every national park. The quality of the guide and his/her ability to speak some English varied from park to park (and guide to guide!) – some were excellent, knowing the animals and their movements; others were just going through the motions and clearly it was just a job.

 

Formalities sorted we started our first morning safari drive. Word soon got around that a pair of tigers had been spotted so we rushed to the location. On the way I saw a brown fish owl – as we were speeding past it I decided not to call out to stop.

As it turned out, it was probably the right decision as we would have missed seeing the two quick glimpses of the male and female tigers! As we arrived we heard warning calls and the vehicles moved up and down the track hoping the tigers would appear out of the forest near to them.

 

The tigress appeared to the front of us and we saw her come out of the forest walk a short distance next to the vehicles up ahead and then along the fire break line to disappear. We moved up the road in the hope of getting another glance of her when there was some commotion behind us and we very briefly (so brief we didn’t even have time to raise our cameras) the male tiger crossed the trail and disappeared. Tigers 4 & 5 of the trip.

Tadoba Tigress
Ruddy Mongoose

We decided to have our breakfast at the side of the trail (sat in our vehicle of course) and waited just in case either of them came back out, they didn’t. We started our drive back towards the park entrance, stopping briefly to see if the brown fish owl was still around, it wasn’t.

 

We spotted a mongoose next to the trail and it was kind enough to stop and pose for a few shots.

 

As we got to the old abandoned Jamuni village there were a few vehicles stopped looking towards some of the old building foundations. Tiger! A sub-adult tiger had the almost fleshless head of a deer in its mouth and carried it to the base of a tree. We moved our position for a better view (they were some distance from us). We were discussing where the tiger was when we realised we were describing different positions and different tigers! And then another and another. Four tigers together - a mother, two sub-adults and a dominant male. Tigers 6, 7, 8 & 9 of the trip!

Day 4 continued on next page...

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