Tadoba National Park is the oldest national park in Maharashtra and since 1993, a Project Tiger Reserve. It is also referred to as "The Jewel of Vidharba". The park lies about 45 km. north of the industrial town of Chandrapur and covers an area of approx. 116 sq. km. The drive from Chandrapur to Tadoba was rejuvenating. It had rained for the last couple of days and there was green tree cover on both sides of the well laid black tar road. The pleasant jungle smell with a multitude of butterflies fluttering around was a sight I will always remember.
At the entrance gate of the Reserve, we saw a family of elephants (dad, mom and a baby elephant) chained by their legs to trees throwing dust on themselves. The guide informed us that these elephants were used during the animal census and occasionally for safari.
The Tadoba forest type is classified as South Indian Dry Deciduous forest. The terrain is undulating with panoramic views of hills, lakes and meadows. The Tadoba lake is situated more or less in the middle of the park. Our dormitory was located near the lake.
Tadoba is famous for its 'Gaur' or wild ox and crocodiles. As its main carnivore, the park supports tigers, leopards, sloth bears, 'Doles' or wild dogs and hyenas. We were lucky enough to spot two tigers and a leopard. Other animals that are commonly seen are the 'Nilgai', 'Sambar', spotted deer or 'Cheetal', wild boar, mongoose, civet cat and langurs. And we spotted all of these except the civet cat. Troops of langurs would greet us everywhere we went. They even paid a visit to our dorm in our absence and carried away our soap and candles. The spotted deer also can be seen near the tourist area. There was a Nilgai called 'Raju' who had made his home near the guest house. He was found abandoned in the jungles when he was a young calf. He has grown up in human company and now does not venture out into the jungles.
The sloth bear is usually found in the hilly areas, behind the main tourist guest house, and deep inside the forest at 'Katezari'. 'Katezari' is a rocky area with innumerable bee hives. It is a favorite spot for the sloth bears. Unfortunately, we did not spot a single bear. Saw their foot marks though.
The Tiger population is around 25. And we saw a couple of them. On our return from the safari to the guest house in the afternoon, we were informed that a tiger had been spotted nearby. We rushed back to the said spot only to find five vehicles already there. And to add to our woes the tiger was sitting in a clump of bamboo. It was difficult to spot him properly. After spending some time there and unable to get a good view of the tiger we left. But our second sighting more than made up for this. It was evening time and we were returning back to the dorm. And at one of the turns, near a water hole was this beautiful tiger. He was sitting there and cleaning himself. The best part was that we were the only group in the jungle at that time and so we had the tiger all to ourselves. The tiger looked nonchalantly at us and continued his cleaning work. He was enjoying all the attention he was receiving and was not perturbed by the photo-clicking crowd of 9. After spending around 10 minutes we headed back reluctantly to the dorm. We would have loved to stay back but the guide was concerned as it was time to be out of the jungles. Sighting a Leopard is a rare chance, though the number of leopards is estimated to be around 30 in Tadoba. But we were lucky yet again. We caught a glimpse of a leopard as it retreated from a water hole into the thick bushes.
The park is also rich in bird and insect life. The birds we spotted were - the Crested Serpent Eagle, the Honey Buzzard, the Paradise Flycatcher, the Lesser Golden backed Woodpecker, the Wild Babblers or 'Seven Sisters', Kingfishers and Peacocks to name a few. The Paradise Flycatcher was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen. We also saw an array of butterfly species including Pansies, Monarch, Mormons and Swordtails. We also saw a 'mud-puddling' for the first time.
Among the reptiles, the top spot goes to the 'Mugger' or fresh water crocodile, which is found in substantial numbers in the lake. There was a board near the lake which said - "Swimming strictly prohibited. Survivors will be prosecuted". This was the first time we saw a crocodile from very close quarters. It was a female and she was guarding her newly hatched babies. We ventured a little too close to her and she was at us instantly with her jaws wide open. My heart was pounding with fear but I was thrilled too.
Tadoba had a Crocodile breeding farm, which was started in 1977. It was very successful and many lakes were stocked with crocs from this breeding farm. The farm was shut down in 1994 as the breeding centre had met its objectives. The guide showed us the ruins of the farm. All the breeding enclosures were covered with vines and it looked as though the jungle was out to reclaim that area.
Tadoba has extensive growth of bamboo thickets and the tigers find a perfect camouflage among them. The trees growing commonly in Tadoba are 'Teak' and 'Tendu' - the fruit of which is eaten by herbivores and humans. 'Mahuwa' is another important tree for the tribals and the bears. The 'Mahuwa' flowers are a source of liquor. The sloth bears love to eat this flower. The guide informed us that often they see intoxicated bears. Around the Tadoba Lake there were a large number of 'Jamun' trees. We had the sweetest of jamuns here.
After spending two days at Tadoba, we headed to Nagpur to catch a train back to Hyderabad.
How To Reach:
Nearest Town: Chandrapur - 45 kms
Railway Station: Chandrapur - 45 kms
Airport: Nagpur 205 km via Chandrapur
For accomodation inside the reserve, contact
Dy. Conservator of Forest
Tadoba National Park,
Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India
Tel. : 91-7172-3414