Debarshi & I have been fortunate enough to view a lot of endangered species in the wild – Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, Rare birds in Eagle nest, Lemurs in Madagascar. Of course, we have seen the Royal Bengal Tiger in Nagerhole, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, but the sightings in Tadoba are truly incredible.
In December 2019, the Tadoba Andhari National Park beckoned us, so we drove down from Kolkata to the western part of India.
Drive to Tadoba
The drive to Svasara Jungle Lodge from our home is about 1300 km one way. Debarshi & I decided to halt for the night in Sambalpur on the way and in Angul on the return journey. I have added the route map as well.
We contemplated making a detour to view the Hirakud dam on the Mahanadi, considering the long way ahead we drove on. The road to Sambalpur crosses the verdant green Tikarpara Sanctuary and the Hindol & Bamur Forest ranges.
The National Highway 16 & 53 through the entire route was well paved and maintained especially NH53 from Sambalpur. We were gliding through the highway nodding our heads to mellifluous songs.
Our joy was fleeting; we began an agonizing ride as soon as we turned left from Lakhni into the Maharashtra State Highways. The last leg of the journey from Chimur threw us into a slight tizzy as we had to enter narrow paved lanes, which soon gave way to forest roads.
Drive to Nagzira
The drive to Nagzira from Tadoba was a different story altogether. We traced our way back to Lakhni and continued left from there. The State Highway here was much better and the last 20 kilometers drive was through the leafy deciduous forests.
Drive back to Kolkata
We halted at Angul on our way back to Kolkata and were pleasantly surprised at our stay in the Hotel Shakti Continental. The return journey was fraught was apprehensions considering the onset of the nationwide protests. Thankfully, it was event less, and the highways were unencumbered as we traveled back.
Svasara Jungle Lodge
Svasara Jungle Lodge had been recommended by our friends visiting Tadoba earlier. This is right next to the Kolara gate. We recommend this lodge for any visitor to Tadoba. The hospitality is overwhelming, and the naturalists are very knowledgeable. They will regale you with their anecdotes and stories around a bonfire through the evening.
Meghnad in F & B ensures a smile and a hot cuppa before and after the safaris. There is an unlimited stack of supplies for the safaris. The dinner menu is a cornucopia of tastes; we had Rajasthani, Punjabi, Bihari and Bengali dinners on the 4 consecutive nights.You can also try out the inhouse special SANTRA massages with orange oils to soothe your aching muscles.
Anusua was our naturalist in Svasara . She is a young passionate nature lover and makes the forest come alive with her anecdotes and stories of Tigers in Tadoba. Not to forget Swarna and Bhautik , who regaled us with their exploits as we sat around the bonfire each evening .
The Co-Owner & MD of Svasara , Ratika had flown down from Gurgaon to check on all the guests in the Lodge. She was up early every morning and supervised all the safari Preparations for the guests and personally met all before they departed for the safaris.
I have also put in a detailed note on TripAdvisor.
Nagzira Nature Camp
We stayed at the Nature camp in Nagzira. It is quite basic, but the staff their best to make your stay comfortable. The food is simple and the hot towels refreshing after the long dusty drives.
The Tadoba-Andhari Reserve is extremely biodiverse. The Andhari river meanders through the park adding to its unique. This tiger Reserve was established as the second Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra in 1994-95. This is probably the oldest and largest national park in Maharashtra and has gained widespread recognition in the last decade. The vegetation is Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous. Teak and Sal along with bamboo groves provide abundant cover for the wildlife here dotted with rugged cliffs providing hiding lairs for the leopard
Gates in Tadoba
Tadoba has three core zones — Moharli, Tadoba, and Kolsa. Today, there are about 12 gates out of which 5 opened in 2019.
The buffer zone gates are Khutwanda, Agarzari, Devada-Adegoan, Junona, Kolara, Ramdegi-Navegaon, Alizanza, Madnapur, Mamla, Pangdi, Sirkada, Zari/Peth, and Kesalghat.
Safaris in Tadoba
We stayed for 4 nights in Tadoba, the first night of course being the rest night with a morning safari in the Kolara Core zone and the afternoon safari in the Sirkada Buffer Zone.
Debarshi & I had booked the Full Day Photography safari for the next two days. This is a special type of safari for which you need to take prior permission from the Forest Ranger or Field Director. One can enter or exit the park only from the same gate. The distinct advantage being that you can enter fifteen minutes before the scheduled opening time of the forest gates and exit fifteen minutes after the scheduled closing time. Truth be told, we have done this in Kanha as well as here in Tadoba, but a good sighting is dependent on your luck only. There are no camera fees for this, but the cost of each safari is many times higher.
One can not carry cell phones inside the national park.
You can avail of two safaris in a day – Morning & Afternoon except the Core Zone on Tuesday and all zones will on Wednesday.
The safaris start at shifting times depending on the season
You can book Gypsy Safaris (for up to six people) or Canter Safaris for much larger groups. The cost of the safaris includes entry fee per vehicle, vehicle hire, guide fee and camera fee.
You will have to pay Camera fees in a Gypsy or canter safari to the tune of 200 rupees for lenses up to 250 millimeters. 250 rupees for lenses above 250 millimeters.
You can book safaris online in the Maharashtra Eco Tourism Department . It is completely paperless now, and you just need to show your Identification at the forest gate.
Flora & Fauna
The prime attraction is the Royal Bengal Tiger and hence often referred to as the Land of the Tigers. The Tiger density is quite high and thus sightings are very frequent. Photographers consider this as a haven for tiger photography especially photos like this – a tiger beside a watering hole offering a slight peek through the bamboo thicket.
Tadoba is also home to a few of their own Bagheeras – melanistic Indian Leopards. We did not spot one, but another Australian guest at Svasara did get an opportunity to view it at close quarters.
Tadoba also boasts of healthy populations of Indian Leopard, Sloth Bear, Dhole, Gaur, Rusty Spotted Cat, Indian Mouse Deer, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Flying Squirrel, Chital, Chausinga, Nilgai, Wild boar and more.
We spotted the Sloth bears in Tadoba & Nagzira and a small group of Dholes.
You can spot any of the over 200 species of avian species here – crested serpent eagle, honey buzzard, paradise flycatcher, grey-headed fishing eagle, shy jungle fowl, Indian Nightjar, Spotted owlet and so on.
How to Reach Tadoba?
Air: Nagpur is 140 km with the nearest airport.
Rail: Chandrapur is about 50 kms with the nearest rail head, but of course Nagpur is also there.
Best Season to visit Tadoba
The most comfortable months are the autumn and winter months November to February). Both the morning & afternoon safari drives are quite snug with mild wintry mornings and sun soaked and cozy afternoons
Animal Sightings are guaranteed in the summer months between April and June. Thirsty parched animals come to quench their thirst in the Tadoba lake or the Andhari river and offer great sightings .
Tadoba remains open through the year, and the buffer zones are open even during the monsoon months.