The fascinating Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve rarely needs an introduction. Maharashtra’s largest tiger reserve comprises Tadoba National Park (116.55 sq km) and Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary (508.85 sq km). So the tiger reserve covers a total forest area of 624.5 sq km.
It was first established as a national park in 1955, which was expanded in 1995 to include the adjacent Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary. Located some 150 km from Nagpur, the tiger reserve forms a part of Chandrapur district.
Tadoba derives its name from the name of the God Tadoba, also known as Taru, who is worshipped by the native tribes of the region. You can still see a temple dedicated to the God Taru, located deep inside the forest.
All the tribal villages have been relocated outside the core forest to provide extended habitat to the wildlife. We were told by our naturalist that tourists are not allowed to visit this temple and even villagers seek special permission because it is situated in the core zone.
We visited Tadoba towards the beginning of March when the climate felt just perfect for exploring the jungle. It was pleasant weather throughout the day and a light woolen served the purpose during morning safari.
Almost 20% forest area of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is open for tourists. The reserve has three core zones, namely Moharli, Tadoba and Kolsa. Moharli is the most popular zone, which is also interconnected to Tadoba zone.
Also Read: 6 Most Amazing National Parks in Maharashtra.
Moharli zone is accessible through Moharli gate located in Moharli village. Kolara, Khutwanda and Navegaon gates lead to Tadoba zone.
Pangdi and Zari gates provide access to Kolsa zone. If you are considering a visit to Tadoba, scroll down to know what awaits you there.
1. Tiger Safari
Tadoba is known for its magnificent tigers and it lived up to our expectations. Out of the three safari rides we took in the core zone, we had close encounters with tigers twice.
A fully grown male tiger crossed our way during morning safari and we were barely 4 ft away from it. The tiger population in the reserve is pegged at 88, according to the Tiger Population Estimation in Tadoba.
Our guide told us that there could be around 20 tigers including males and females in the areas open for safari. Besides tigers, the safari offers plenty of opportunities to spot other forms of wildlife from the close quarters.
Explore the forest to spot other mammal species found in the tiger reserve. Sambar deer, nilgai, barking deer, spotted deer, dhole (Indian wild dog), gaur (Indian bison) and wild dog are common mammals seen in Tadoba.
Leopard and sloth bear are also found here but they are not easy to sight. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is home to an extremely rare black leopard and there is only one in the forest.
Black leopard is not a distinct species but the melanistic variant of common leopard. Its skin turns black due to melanism (hyperpigmentation).
The reserve also nurtures a large number of reptile species including the endangered Indian Python, Russel’s viper and Indian Cobra.
2. Spot Crocodiles in Tadoba Lake
In the middle of the Moharli zone lies the vast Tadoba lake, which serves as an important source of water for wildlife in the reserve. It is surrounded by lush teak wood forests.
The lake is teeming with mugger crocodiles. They are also referred to as marsh crocodiles, a native to the freshwater habitats from the Indian subcontinent.
Make a brief stopover the lake to catch a glimpse of the crocodiles swimming or basking in the sun at the shore. Since the lake is in the core forest, visitors are not allowed to get down from the jeep.
3. Birding in Tadoba Forest
In India, most of the wildlife experiences are centered around tigers. And, many of us forget to take notice of several other kinds of wildlife living in the forest.
As we started exploring the forest and visited some of the waterholes in the forest, we came across a lot of beautiful birds.
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is home to a large number of waterfowls, raptors and several other types of rare birds.
Asian openbill stork, bronze-winged jacana, serpent eagle, woodpecker, mottled wood owl and the Indian Peafowl can be commonly sighted in the forest.
Our guide exactly knew where this mottled wood owl has its nest. He guided the driver to take us to the spots popular for birding.
If birdwatching is on your list, then you can keep your guide informed so that you don’t miss birding hotspots in the forest.
4. Visit Buffer Zone
Buffer zones of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve are equally rich in wildlife. We went for two safari rides in the buffer zone and spotted a tiger as well.
There are six gates providing entry to the buffer zone – Agarzari, Devada-Adegaon, Junona, Kolara, Ramdegi-Navegaon and Alizanza.
Buffer zone forests have denser woodlands compared to the core zones such as Tadoba and Moharli. So, be alert and be ready with your camera for capturing some great wildlife moments.
You can see a lot of mammals but they quickly cross their way into the dense forests. All adult tigers are assigned a unique number by the forest officials. And, the guides and naturalists informally give them a name.
In Junona and Devada-Adegaon zones, a tigress named ‘Sonam’ was sighted quite often when we visited there.
5. Birdwatching in Irai Lake
We discovered this lake on our way to Moharli from Nagpur. Irai lake is the backwaters of Irai dam built on the Irai river.
Locally, it is popularly referred to as Tadoba Boating Point, which is precisely the boarding point for the boat ride in the lake.
The helmsman of our boat told us that the reservoir covers approximately 5000 hectares and touches the buffer areas of the tiger reserve.
The lake is absolutely a paradise for birdwatchers. There are many islets in the lake serving as breeding and nesting ground for the water birds.
You can see numerous migratory and native birds in the lake, such as bar-headed goose, lesser whistling duck and grey-headed swamphen. If you are visiting during the peak summers in May, tigers can also be sighted near the shoreline.
Tip: The duration of the boat ride varies from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. The 30 minutes ride is meant for boating only. You wouldn’t see many birds as the boat doesn’t sail through birding areas in this ride. Hire the boat for at least an hour for seeing a lot of birds. The longest ride lasting 1.5 hours takes you near the buffer zone of the forest.
Over To You Now…
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