Trip Report : Tadoba

#1 Mar 30th, 2017, 21:56
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#1


Title -A classic Rip-off

Myth buster:

First a myth buster, I had an opportunity recently to spend a few days at Tadoba . An incredibly beautiful jungle of central India but the overbearing number of posts in Facebook, Instagram, even IM on Tadoba are focused mainly on Tiger sightings. All these gave me a wrong notion that " Tiger show" would start the moment I stepped inside the park . This might be true for few extremely lucky guys but believe me out of my 5 safaris, I had the big cat sightings in only 2 of them. Just like other National parks or Tiger reserves, sightings here happen by the tough way of tracking pug marks & alarm calls, historical knowledge of territorial area & tiger behavior and after endless waiting around water holes. If someone could give up own tiger fixation, the other flora and fauna of the park will be equally rewarding.

Rain Rain go away :


With a shock I woke up inside my New Delhi Hotel room , the cacophonous mobile alarm set at 3-00 AM. I had booked an early morning flight to Nagpur, so we hustled and somehow packed everything inside my backpack. Reached the hotel reception after another 1/2 hour & found the attendant to be fast asleep on the main couch. My UBER taxi was already waiting at the doors, so I woke him up and cleared my final dues. The moment, we stepped inside the cab , it started to drizzle. As we sped along the empty streets , the drizzle turned into heavy shower accompanied with thunderstorm. My heart sank seeing the amount of rain. More rain meant presence of more water sources inside the jungle. My selfish heart knew with abundant water sources the tiger would be more difficult to track . It had rained 2 weeks ago but I hoped the rising mercury would dry up the temporary water holes . Right now, I just couldn't think ,kept my fingers crossed and repeated " Rain , Rain , go away. Come again another day"

Man eater on the prowl:

Everything went as per planned, we landed at Nagpur by 7-00 am, after collecting our baggage boarded the pre-booked car. The drive was mostly along good to excellent road except for the last 30 km or so when we entered the single lane village road. The vegetation was distinctively dry deciduous with abundance of cotton farming all along. Just after the road makes a fork towards the MTDC , Moharli, my driver pointed towards the Serai Tiger Resort and showed an open field outside the gate and narrated a ghastly incident of tiger attack that happened there a few weeks ago. According to our driver, a local man who was in his late 50's and probably worked at the resort went for a Nature's call behind the bushes where he was ambushed by a sub-adult male Tiger. The tiger probably mistook him for an herbivore prey but he was nonetheless devoured by the beast. The tiger has now developed taste for human flesh and have been sighted stalking the nearby villages at night , pug marks were regularly found outside village houses.
I have vetted the story with other local drivers and guides , the facts and figures vary but one thing is certain, a man was killed recently in the vicinity .The family was compensated by the Govt but the lukewarm response of the Forest department led to the villagers agitating. Though the situation has calmed down, an eerie silence prevailed in the area and the presence of an unseen man eater further added to the mystery of the place.


MTDC, Moharli ( Far from madding crowd):

MTDC , moharli is the perfect place to stay and get away from the hustle bustle of city life. The resort has some very well placed cottages and the beautiful Irai Lake is located just behind the boundary walls. It was not so long ago when Bears would enter the compound to eat Mahua flowers. But now the area is completely fenced. Also, there is very less mobile network available inside the compound, both my Vodafone and BSNL didn’t work, service provider that seemed to work were Reliance and Idea. If someone is annoyed by the constant tring tring of their mobile phones and wants to have the far from the madding crowd experience , head to MTDC, Moharli without any second thought.

Day1 Safari ( Agarzari Buffer zone):

The tiger sighting is very less this season, there were no sightings in core area from last few days”-the MTDC receptionist gave us our first disheartening news “ It must be because of the recent rains”, he added. I cursed the heavens and hoped my fortune won’t be all dud.

Meanwhile, I had no safari booked that day as I assumed we would be too tired. But surprisingly , we felt fresh and raring to go.
So, we drove to the Moharli gate which is just 1km from the MTDC and enquired for any vacant seat in the canter ride . But the guard informed us that the canter originates from Chandrapur and was completely booked from there. Then I called Shubash who is a known guide and asked him for his help. He told me he could probably manage one safari in Agarzari buffer but the gypsy cost would be 300/- more than the core area gypsy cost. With no other alternative , I agreed to that and paid him the bills.

Our unexpected safari started at 3:00 PM. The buffer is located 6-8 km away from the MTDC , driving past the magnificent Irai Lake . The forest has primarily teak and other indigenous trees such as Mahua,jamun,ain,dhawda etc. Just as we entered we sighted a Blue jay (Indian roller) parched right above the buffer gate , after that we broke away from the other gypsies and rode towards the lake shore .
Indian Roller (Blue Jay)







Madhuri’s cubs were sighted in this zone during the morning safari . The guide informed me that Madhuri whose territory is in Devada Buffer area had shifted her cubs to Agarzari area. While we were waiting, I saw the first “ Gaur or Indian Bison” happily grazing. There were also abundant bird species at the lake side- painted stork, Egret, Cormorant, Heron, Darter, Lapwing, Tern, Moorhen, Crested serpent eagle, Bee eater etc to name a few.

After about 1 hour driving around the jungle, we saw a congregation of a few gypsies at one place, with thumping heartbeat we drove towards them and voila a sub adult tiger, one of Madhuri’s cubs was cooling off inside a water hole.
We witnessed a Royal bath








To be continued ...
#2 Mar 31st, 2017, 00:10
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#2
great going , waiting for the rest
#3 Apr 1st, 2017, 10:37
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#3
The tiger/tigress remained in the water hole for close to 30 minutes or so when we found him giving us enough opportunities to shoot him/her from different profile. He/she was continuously harassed by the flies , so finally he/she rose from the water hole and moved inside the high grass. But my experienced guide knew he/she would cross the road and I was in a perfect position to shoot him/her making the cross. Just like sharukh khan my heart cried " palat, palat meri jaan " but the beast didn't give me a second glance. May be she was a he afterall .

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The tiger finally disappeared behind the bushes and couldn't be seen any longer. Some guides claimed that there is another cub with him and there is a shambhar kill, so they theorized they would make frequent trips to the water hole to cool off and also to wash off the flies. So, we waited for another 1/2 hour and finally the prophecy came true, another one emerged from the bushes and crossed over to the water hole again. But this time I was on the wrong side , at the end of a long queue of gypsies .

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As the tiger was making its slow paced walk to the water hole, somebody tried to click him using camera flash and this frightened the animal.The tiger began to run and disappeared behind the bushes without any trace. I have saved my choicest curses for him in my mind.


Finally, the time was running out , so I asked my guide to show us around the jungle, we saw a peacock in his full display of colors and a big Gaur when we were exiting the gate.

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At MTDC, we heard the news of a tiger attacking a cattle herd close to Junona gate which is the closest to MTDC. Before dinner , we went for a walk outside MTDC . The moon was full and reflected on the Irai water far away creating a mirage of silvery glow , water birds flocked around the lake , the road had no electric light only other source are the dim bulbs of distant houses at the periphery of the lake . A gentle breeze was blowing, fireflies glowed around the bushes and there was a constant buzz of cricket. Every instance there was a movement behind the bush, we shivered and it seemed a tiger would soon jump out of its hiding.
It was too much for us and after about 100 mtrs , we decided to turn back to the safe confinement of the MTDC walls.
#4 Apr 2nd, 2017, 02:21
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#4
Amazing photos! Thanks so much for sharing these!
#5 Apr 2nd, 2017, 09:32
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Thanks Incog.
#6 Apr 2nd, 2017, 10:42
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Thanks a lot Daisy
#7 Jul 11th, 2017, 22:29
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#7
(The title I referred to in the first post was the rip off from Dr. Strangelove & I named it " How I stopped worrying about Tiger and loved the jungle , this title i had to later shorten to accommodate few more characters in my blog signature)

So after a long hiatus, I am back and hope to wrap it up in few more posts. I will stick to more photos and less talking routine, here we go..

Day2 : Our morning safari was once again at the buffer zone -Devada . Early morning safaris are the most exciting as the chances of sighting the big cat is highest early morning and the jungle looks mysterious under the morning mist. Few minutes into our safari our driver noticed fresh pugmarks of a tigress, it must be Madhuri , the queen of the buffer zone, we have seen her cubs yesterday afternoon.So we were very upbeat and our guide surmised that she should have gone to some waterhole to quench her thirst. It began the frenetic search of a group of gypsies and we moved from waterhole to waterhole without much luck. Our guide later noticed pugmarks over our tyre marks , it only means , the tigress walked the same path after we left the spot. This is also the territory of the wagdoh male but we chose to stalk Madhuri instead , at the end we only returned disappointed. As it is said ' a bird in hand is worth two in the bush' , by that count we had a lot many visitors during the morning safari.

First there was a lone serpent eagle.
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Then there was another , I stalked it long enough to capture its range of emotions varying from surprise, disregard to contempt

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#8 Jul 11th, 2017, 22:52
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The afternoon safari in the core zone also drew blank , we had a chance of sighting the pair of sonam and its mate but they swam across the todaba lake away from our sight, we could only hear the alarm calls .

A pied Kingfisher in flight:


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A Cormorant:

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A rare sight of a Malkoha :

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#9 Jul 11th, 2017, 23:15
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Nightjar , perfectly camouflaged

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Beeeater

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Fish owl :

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Oriental Honey buzzard:

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Finally a wild pig in its flight

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#10 Jul 15th, 2017, 18:07
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#10
Nice photos. I am considering going there or Pench this November.
#11 Jul 16th, 2017, 12:09
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Day3 : The morning safari was again a dud and we returned to the Guest House dejected to listen to others having good sightings , I felt like crying " God why me?" . Anyways, by the time we got ready for our last safari of the trip , we were more relaxed, we completely gave up any hope of tiger sighting and rather wanted to enjoy the jungle one last time. But lady luck smiled on us this time and we hit the jackpot. This was when I thought of the initial title of the TR.

We had a sighting of the choti tara and its family of two cubs and the big male matkasur. There were tall grasses and one of the cubs remained hidden but the other one was bolder and gave everyone many good chances for photography.
There were a number of Gypsies jostling for space but thanks to my guide and driver , we managed to get a decent view of the royal family.

The crown prince and his subjects:



The stare:



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The big male, Matkasur:

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The Tigress Choti Tara and her palyful cub:

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#12 Jul 22nd, 2017, 21:41
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#12
Lovely trip report & pictures.

Ronak.
#13 Jul 29th, 2017, 19:18
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#13
Thanks Ronak
#14 Jul 29th, 2017, 21:56
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#14
Great report and very good photographs. I particularly like that you enjoy all aspects of the forest and are not just tiger centric like many are. Have not yet been there and must plan .
#15 Jul 30th, 2017, 00:24
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An enjoyable read , Himadri. Beautiful shots. Loved the kingfisher photos , really nice
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