With the Nature and Wildlife photography bug having bitten both of us a few years back, we have been planning for the last 2 years to visit a real jungle, reserve, forest to see the Big Cats. Somehow things were not working out and K had to satiate his lust by only drooling at the pictures being posted by others on all the photography pages he is part of on Facebook.
The last couple of months, were pure torture as everyone was suddenly posting pics of only Tigers and Leopards clicked at the various Reserves/parks. Now the one rule that all Tiger Reserves follow is to close for Monsoons between July 1st – Oct 15th. I think Kabini in Karnataka is the only one to be open throughout the year. We were approaching June and suddenly just made up our minds to head to TADOBA ANDHARI TIGER RESERVE in Maharashtra, the closest one to Hyderabad where we stay. Maharashtra eco tourism has made the safari bookings so easy through this site-http://www.mahaecotourism.gov.in/Site/Common/nationalParks.aspx
Safaris are booked on a first come first basis and so once we decided we were going I pounced on my laptop and started the booking process. There were only a few slots left for the 2nd week of June and it was a race against time to book each slot. Luckily for the 3 days that we planned to stay we got 5 safaris-and I booked all of them from the Mohurli gate. There are 2 safaris per day – and I got all the info I wanted from this page about the reserve, the different places of stay etc – http://goindia.about.com/od/wildlife/p/Tadoba-National-Park-And-Tiger-Reserve.htm
Ohh boy, excitement started a week before and all I could dream of was about Tigers and Leopards posing for us. K being the calm one kept on telling me not to get tooo excited lest we return empty handed. Oh that was something I couldn’t think of. Oh No!! That would be a shame and how can we come back without a sighting!!! The thought itself was horrifying…there were people all over the net sighting the Big cats by the dozen and would those felines not grace us with their presence???? 😥 Nooooooooooo!! Bhagwan ke liye humhe tigers chahiye. (For God’s sake we want Tigers).
I needn’t tell you that I just couldn’t sleep the previous night due to all the excitement. Early morning we woke up at 4am and I had a bigggggg grin on my face. Suddenly all I could see in front of me was Buddha himself in his seated position with his calm face and sweet eyes pressing his hand in my face and telling me to control my excitement—in a second Buddha vanished and there was K pushing his hand into my face. He is of course my Buddha who keeps me on my leash 😆 😆 .
So off we went…..We had a wonderful couple for company-K’s team mate from office and his wife (S & H), the latter who is also a victim of the photography BUG bite. They are a young couple (yes ten years younger to us…boooo hooo hoooo) and as mad as us…so the 4 of us make a good loony team. We decided to drive down and it took us 9 hours to reach Tadoba with breakfast and small stops on the way. We started from Hyderabad at 6am and reached Tadoba by 3pm. We stayed at the Serai Tiger Resort a small place with rooms covered by tents to give visitors a feel of living in tents. We had lunch as soon we reached there – must say the food was just awesome, homemade and very tasty. The food is cooked by the care taker’s wife so there is no buffet spread like as in a big resort. The only drawback was the entry of insects into the rooms as it had rained…well living in the midst of the jungle, that’s how it will be. The care takers were extremely courteous and service was lovely. We spent that evening lazing around, clicking pics of the resort and playing Uno. We were sooo tired by the drive and went to sleep early. Unfortunately rains came down – the 1st rains of the monsoons and it kinda dampened our spirits – what if the tigers don’t come out due to this shower??? 😥
Next 3 days we woke up at 5am and the jeep picked us up at 530am for the safari. The gate opens at 6am and there were already about 10 jeeps ahead of us. Each vehicle is in a hurry to get through first and head off to spot the cats. Four hours of driving around from the Mohurli gate-almost 80kms up and down we went with no luck. Afternoon safaris start at 330pm and that is another 3 hours of driving around. The safari guides would stop and talk with each other from other jeeps on where the others have had a sighting. Some people were lucky sighting a leopard and Tigers just before or after us. One jeep even saw a Tiger just after our jeep had crossed that spot. How unlucky we were!!! But we were lucky in seeing and clicking all the other habitants like the Sloth ear, Mating Mongooses, Monitor Lizards, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Indian Gaur, Wild Dogs and a wide variety of Birds.
It was the last day and the final safari. Our hearts were heavy and we had disappointment written all over our faces. We begged our guide to show us something, a glimpse, a look. Everywhere we see our eyes could only see orangish thingies—which turned out only to be dried tree trunks and leaves. It was almost the end of the safari and our guide decided to try this waterhole one last time…we were the only jeep whizzing past and suddenly there on our left about 50mts away HE stood like a stupa, looking directly at us, standing tall and majestic in a clearing. Oh my oh my I literally had goosebumps all over my hands, legs and head too. Out came up the cameras and all we could hear were only clickety clicks and clicks. There were 2 more jeeps behind us and they knew we had seen something. But before they could get lucky, he just turned and walked away into the bushes. Word had spread by then and all the 15-20 jeeps had reached our spot. We all could see him walking through the trees and kept following him at a safe distance.
Someone screamed that he might try and cross the road and all the jeeps started back in reverse to reach that spot and outrun each other. We were damn lucky this time too as we were the first in line and there – he walked right in front of us taking his own sweet time, waltzing like a King and giving us a look. We had seen a Tiger!!! A Tiger in all its glory in a forest, in its own habitiat!!!! Yippppeeeeeee….gosh we had to literally pinch ourselves, even punch ourselves to believe we got lucky! Yesssss Yesssss Yessss…… it was Orgasmic. Our first sighting on our very first Trip! Hurrrrray! 😀 😀 😀
We couldn’t stop talking about it. H was thanking her stars and the guide profusely that her pride was intact…she was worried what she would have to answer to all her colleauges and family if we had gone back without a sighting and a picture proof. We laughed silly teasing her…we were delirious! This gave us the much needed energy and boost for our 9 hour long drive back home. Leaving you with some pics from the trip
One of K’s ex-colleague was kind enough to share with us his route map
Drive from Hyderabad to Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR)
- Take the Karkhana>>Alwal>>Bolaram>>Shamirpet route towards Siddipet.
- On reaching the outskirts of Siddipet, the road forks, pls keep to the right and head to Karimnagar.
- On reaching Karimnagar, take left at the T junction and proceed over a flyover. On the left of the flyover is a dam.
- 300 yards after descending the flyover, at a floodlight, take the right, a by-pass route.
- On reaching a T junction about 5 km away, take left. You will see Shadab hotel on the T junction. You have 2 options here. Right goes to Ramagundam, left head to Luxettipet. The road to Luxettipet and Mancherial is fab with great birding spots. The road to Ramagundam has a bad stretch of road for aout 10-15 kms. .
- After 1 km, suggest you ask passersby, the road to Luxettipet, which is 70 km away. It’s one straight road from Karimnagar outskirts to Luxettipet. You will pass by Apollo hospital and Prathima Institute of Medical Sciences about 2-3 km ahead.
- Continue going on the same road straight. You will go past a big bridge and will reach a T junction, as you approach Luxettipet, take the right towards Mancherial. On reaching Mancherial’s main junction, take left at the Hanuman statue junction and head towards Bellampally>>Asifabad>>Maharashtra border.
- As you cross into Maharashtra, the 1st town you will hit is Rajura. Continue straight, and as you exit Rajura you will arrive at a fork—- take the left towards Ballarpur town. About 3-4 km on the road, you will cross a railway crossing, continue straight. You will eventually reach a T junction, take left to go to Ballarpur.
- Continue straight thru Ballarpur, and head towards Chandrapur.
- As you approach Chandrapur outskirts, you will come to a fork, take right and head 5 km.
- On reaching a main junction, take left and continue for 1.5 km until you come to a circle (HDFC bank is on the circle). Take right at the circle, and 200 yards ahead, on the left is a hotel – Siddharth.
- Opp Siddharth, the road heads towards Tadoba. Continue on the road for about 7-8 km, and take left at a T junction. After 200 yards, take the 3rd exit and go on for another 0.5 km. You will reach a fork.Take the road that heads to Tadoba.
- You will reach the 1st gate to Tadoba, where you will need to enter your personal details. Continue for the next 15 km and you will reach Moharli village where most of the Resorts are located.