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The Lands Where the Tigers Rule –

Experiencing the enchanting forest of Tadoba

Chota Matka from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
Chota Matka

It has been nearly two years since I wrote my previous blog about Avian Typography, one of my design projects of wildlife illustrations.

However, after this prolonged gap, I decided to pen down my experiences from my recent wildlife tour at Tadoba. This place has always been close to my heart and has given me some of the most memorable sightings over the past few years.

Located in the Chandrapur district, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), rightly named “Jewel of Vidarbha”, is well known for its pristine forests, rich biodiversity and some of the legendary tigers who have ruled this park.

The name Tadoba is derived from the word “Taru”, referring to the Gond King Lord Taru Dev. The Taru Dev shrine now exists on the banks of Tadoba Lake. The word “Andhari” originates from the Andhari River flowing through the forest.

Like other Tiger Reserves, the park is divided into the Core and Buffer areas, of which only 20% is accessible to tourists, and the rest 80% is accessible only to the forest department. Both the core and buffer zones can be accessed by multiple entry gates situated around the park.

Lush green landscape of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
Tadoba Landscape

Tadoba has remarkable biodiversity within this area. The key mammal species, apart from the Bengal Tiger, are the Indian leopard, Indian wild dog (Dhole), Sloth bear, Indian gaur, Sambar deer, Spotted deer (chital), Barking deer and Blue bull (Nilgai). In terms of its avifauna, over 250 species are recorded in Tadoba, such as Grey-headed fish eagle, Crested serpent eagle, Crested hawk eagle, Oriental honey buzzard, Indian scops owl, Spotted owlet, Brown fish owl, Lesser flame-back woodpecker, Indian pitta, Greater racket-tailed drongo, Crested hawk cuckoo, Indian paradise flycatcher, Grey jungle fowl, Indian peafowl and the elusive Lesser Adjutant stork. Marsh crocodiles can often be seen on Tadoba Lake and Telia Lake banks. Other park reptiles include the Indian rock python, Spectacled cobra, Monitor lizard, Russell’s viper and Indian flap-shell turtle. The park has many insect species and rare Giant wood spiders.

The night safaris hosted in the park have also given an infrequent sighting of the park’s nocturnal beauties like the Striped hyena, Indian wolf, Small Indian civet, Jungle cat, Honey badger, Indian porcupine, Golden jackal, Barn owl, Mottled wood owl and Indian nightjar.

For my recent Tadoba tour, I took the safari from the Navegaon gate to explore the side of the Navegaon core and the Navegaon Ramdegi buffer zone. I have done most of my previous tours through the Moharli side, so this time, I decided to explore the forests of the Navegaon side. The choice of stay was Jharna Resort, which is very close to the Navegaon Entry gate and has maintained that raw feel of jungle inside its premises while still providing excellent amenities.

The first morning safari in the core zone didn’t yield much (in typical wildlife language, it was DRY). It had rained unexpectedly and heavily one day prior, and the tracks were wet and slippery. However, we could see the Monitor lizard and Marsh crocodile and birds like the Bronze-winged jacana, Grey jungle fowl, Indian paradise flycatcher and Indian pitta. The prominent water bodies of the core zone, like Tadoba Lake, Jamni Lake, Pandharpauni and 97 Waterhole, were all silent and devoid of movement.

However, the afternoon safari on that day had something very memorable in store for us. The Navegaon buffer zone has recently been famous due to a legendary male tiger Chota Matka. Son of the well-known Matkasur and Choti Tara, the Chota Matka now rules over the buffer zone areas and his tiger queens. And that afternoon, Chota Matka gave us a very remarkable sighting. He was sleeping in a waterhole under the shade when the gypsies around the zone started approaching. Though lazily relaxing in the pond, Chota Matka did take note of so many vehicles around him and occasionally yawned and growled to reveal his sharp canines and the prominent lip injury caused by another tiger during the territorial fight. Nearly after 3 hours, he stepped out of the pond to give us an excellent road show, occasionally spraying urine on the tree barks to mark his territory. On our way back to the hotel after this terrific sighting, we spotted an Indian scops owl resting silently in the tree crevice.

Our first safari day ended with this incredible sighting and excellent hospitality at Jharna.

On day 2, we again explored the deep forests of the Navegaon buffer. The morning safari started with the sightings of Indian gaur and Spotted deer herds. Due to the pre-monsoon rains, the forest was alive with the calls of the Common hawk-cuckoo (the call sounding like the word “brain-fever”, thus giving the bird its nickname “Brainfever bird”). Complimented with these calls were the frequent sightings of Indian pitta, Indian paradise flycatcher and Greater-racket-tailed drongo. With their excellent tracking skills, our driver and guide tracked tigress Jharni in the nearby patch of woods, devouring a wild boar kill along with her two cubs. After the long wait, however, Jharni gave us a brief sighting before disappearing again into the woods. As the safari closing time approached, we returned to the hotel. On the way back, however, we spotted the fresh pugmarks of Chota Matka near one of the fields near a village.

Our last safari in the core zone brought little luck regarding any big cat. However, we did have excellent sightings of Monitor lizard, sub-adult Crested serpent eagle and a beautiful courtship dance of Indian peafowl. Near Telia Lake, we also photographed Indian gaur feeding her juvenile calf.

The last night at Tadoba ended with heavy drizzles and a last sighting for us in the form of an Indian scorpion. We left Tadoba the following day with fabulous memories and formulated plans to revisit this Tiger Paradise.

In recent years, the rising number of tigers and the ever-increasing human population have resulted in several cases of human-animal conflict. However, the exemplary efforts by the forest department are contributing a lot to reducing such cases, ensuring that we and our future generations co-exist peacefully with the tigers, leopards and other majestic fauna of our country.

Details about Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve:

Nearest airport: Nagpur Airport (approx. 140 km)

Nearest railway station: Nagpur railway station or Chandrapur railway station.

Best time to visit: The core and buffer zones of the park are open from October to June for tourists. During monsoon, the core zones remain closed, but the buffer zones are open for tourists. The winter period is recommended for excellent bird watching, while the chances of sighting tigers and leopards are very high in summer.

Entry gates:

Core zone - Moharli, Khutwanda, Kolara, Navegaon, Pangadi and Zari.

Buffer zone - Junona, Devada, Adegaon, Agarzari, Mamla, Kolara, Madnapur, Belara, Alizanza, Shirkheda, Remdegi, Nimdhela, Aswal Chuha, Kesalghat and Zari Peth.

Species sighted in the park:

Mammals: Indian leopard, Bengal tiger, Sloth bear, Indian gaur, Sambar deer, Spotted deer (chital), Barking deer, Blue bull (Nilgai), Small Indian civet, Jungle cat, Honey badger, Indian porcupine, Golden jackal etc.

Birds: Crested serpent eagle, Crested hawk eagle, Grey-headed fish eagle, Oriental honey buzzard, Jungle owlet, Indian scops owl, Rufous woodpecker, Lesser flame-back woodpecker, White-naped woodpecker, Common cuckoo, Common hawk cuckoo, Indian roller, Greater racket-tailed drongo, White-throated kingfisher, Oriental magpie robin, Indian pitta, Orange-headed thrush, Black-hooded oriole, Golden-fronted leafbird, Indian peafowl, Pond heron, Barn owl, Mottled wood owl etc.

Reptiles: Indian rock python, Spectacled cobra, Monitor lizard, Russell’s viper, Indian flap-shell turtle etc.

For any feedback or queries regarding the post, don't hesitate to contact me through the details on the Contact page.

Chota Matka from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
Chota Matka



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