“This beautiful, vast, diverse country is made for open-hearted explorers. With some preparation and a positive attitude, India’s wilds will reveal infinite magical moments to nature lovers. Enjoy your trip!” Julian Matthews, Founder TOFT
“The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is.” Jack Hanna
As we roll pre-dawn into Tadoba National park, the grasslands are stunning, with an early morning sunrise across a misty vista dotted with many white spotted deer, whilst massive Golden orb spiders clutch shimmering insects in webs the size of fishing nets, that billow in the breeze as you drive past. Nature always offers wonderful scenes of beauty and drama for those that look, even when the big animals are elusive.
India travel marketing is keen to highlight the “Big 8” safari advantage; On your travels you can see the Asian elephant, the Asiatic lion, the Indian leopard, the Asian one-horned rhino, the Asian water buffalo, the Guar or Indian bison, the Sloth bear and of course, the one that most people are focused on seeing, the magnificent Bengal tiger.
Tadoba-Andahari Tiger Reserve (TATR) or Tadoba, the largest National Park in Maharashtra, is off the well-trodden tourist track, offers excellent accommodation, and until recently, was one of the few parks open all year. They have the highest density of Bengal tigers in all the country and they have tight controls over the numbers of jeeps allowed in per day, which improves your chances, and makes things less busy. The park is getting better known all the time for its sightings, with an estimated 100 tigers (including 27 cubs) across the park and its surrounding areas. Three tiger families were commonly sighted in Tadoba in 2016, and things look even better for 2017.
Tadoba has a beautiful tropical deciduous forest, with dense woodlands dominated by teak forest and bamboo that cover most of the park. It’s a rugged landscape comprising cliffs, caves, marshes, perennial lakes and boulder strewn streambeds, all excellent for biodiversity. Not to be missed: The Tadoba range, with entry through the Khutwanda Gate covers the Tadoba Lake where you can see the Indian Marsh Crocodile and a vast number of migratory birds during the winter. The park has continued good sightings of leopards, sloth bears, wild dogs, gaur and tigers. Walking is also available in the buffer regions, which has good forest. Like all parks, it is closed one day a week.
Nearest Airport: Nagpur (then 3 hours/140km to park by car).
Train Station: Chandrapur (49km)
WHEN TO GO
July - October: is Monsoon season and most parks are closed. (Tadoba is one of the few parks open all year round).
November to January: Cold in the mornings and evenings, wonderful misty sunrises. You need gloves, scarves, hats.The lush vegetation can make sightings more difficult, but the parks are definitely prettier and less burned out than in the hot safari season. Just after the monsoon most species give birth, so there are a lot of babies and mothers to see then.
February-March: Optimum balance between sighting opportunities and blisteringly hot weather. After March temperatures begin to soar until the monsoon. Many operators say go as late in the dry season as you can, depending on your tolerance to the heat.
April-June: Water is scarce, so tigers and other wildlife sightings are at their best, as they come out of the forests to get water. But with temperatures in the mid 40’s centigrade, you need to be well prepared. Do not take children at the hottest times of year, as this is tough even on the most acclimatised adult.
Indian public holidays and festivals are times to avoid (eg January 26th for Republic Day and Diwali which falls October or November).
What to bring
Along with field guides you may want to bring, there are also may apps that you can download on your smartphone or tablet, to help identifying wildlife and even bird song.
See our book review for more information.
Take plenty of small change. It is the custom to tip virtually everyone and it can get expensive.
A fine red dust will cover you every day. This can be a real issue for sensitive equipment such as Digital SLR cameras and lenses, so make sure you bring a case or appropriate cover, along with cleaning materials.
Torches, candles, headlamps and a universal sink plug is useful as hotels do not use them.
Quick dry towels, loo rolls/tissues, plenty of mosquito repellent, and a good hat.
Questions to ask your ground agent/operator
Let them know your level of experience, and if you have you done safaris (in India) before.
Confirm if you have any special interests, special requirements, or any specific mammals, or birds you wish to see.
Tell them if you will be celebrating any special occasions during your safari.
What category of hotels/resorts would you prefer to stay? Whether Luxury, 5 star, or 3-4 star, or homestay (highly recommended).
Will accommodation be near to the gates/buffer zones for the Safaris?
Who will be your guide? (drivers and guides can be fixed by the agent, but the park guide/guard is on a roster basis).
Is the jeep sharing, or for my group only?
Which parks have cubs at the moment?
Bring plenty of sun protection and water, but prepare for cold weather in winter. Malaria and dengue fever is a risk in India, so take precautions. Recommended vaccinations for general travel to India are Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid. Stick with bottled water, and avoid ice if you are not sure. Take a basic medical kit, including Imodium for stomach upsets. Rehydrate using the following ratio: 1 tsp salt/8 tsp sugar/1 litre of water.
not only tigers!
The Empress of Tadoba, Maya pads silently through the forest. Photo: Himanshu Badge.
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The Best Way to Find a Tiger
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Tadoba like most of the other parks, is home to many other mammals, including Indian leopards. Leopards normally become strictly nocturnal whenever tigers - which are much more powerful - are present in the area. During our trip we saw more leopards than tigers, and always during the day. This is perhaps unique to this area of India.
How it works - Tiger safaris generally take place in small open jeeps called “Gypsys” that prowl around the parks on dusty roads and paths, within their daily designated areas. 2-4 people per jeep is ideal. There are typically two “drives” a day, both around 3 hours the first at dawn, and the afternoon one around 2pm. A cantor/ open bus is much cheaper, but is generally full of noisy local tourists.
As there are only a limited number of jeeps/tours allowed into the park on any day, it is strongly advised to book well (many months) in advance.
Tigers in Tadoba
Photos and information taken during a trip 3rd-14th November, 2016 across Bandhavgarh, Kahna and Tadoba parks. Special thanks to our wonderful Ground agents, Nature Safari India.