Well, the Tiger land’s magic cast on us made us visit Tadoba once again. Last year we had an unsuccessful trip without sighting the big cat. This time, visiting in peak summer, we hoped things would change! This trip was full of adventures and misadventures with lot of filmy twists and masala added.
Part1 – Reaching Tadoba – Our tickets were booked well in advance in the 2AC coach of the Sanghamitra scheduled to depart at 9am and reach Chandrapur by 5:30am the next day. We hoped to drive straight into the morning safari ride. With news of “Laila” pouring in on the day of our departure, we left as scheduled keeping our fingers crossed. Comfortable seats, chai, coffee, biskut, chips, samosa kept us occupied and till Chennai there were no issues. Then started the drama… As Ongole and Prakasam and the coast were severely pounded by the Laila cyclone, the Sanghamitra was diverted from near Gudur itself, thus started the journey into the districts of AP.
From Chennai, Gudur (Nellore dt), Cuddapah dt, Dhone (Kurnool dt), Kurnool town, Mahabubnagar, Kacheguda, Secunderabad, Jangaon (Warrangal dt), Kazipet (Warrangal dt), Uppal (Karimnagar dt), Sirpur Kagaznagar (Adilabad dt), and then entering into Maharashtra! Bangalore to Secunderabad took a wonderful 30 hours (normal duration max 12 hours) and overall the train was delayed by 16 hours and the entire day was lost in travel. We had a good free trip spanning 8 districts of the hot, dry Andhra Pradesh. Innumerable consumption of snacks, chai, coffee, ice cream, watching movies, sleeping (as much as you want), roaming kept us busy and with the comfort of 2 tier AC berths we managed to pass out the entire 36 hours extended journey. Finally we landed at Chandrapur station at 9pm the 2nd day. (2 safaris went straight out of the window owing to “Laila” – o – “Laila”).
Part2 – Shalik came in his Indigo and took us to the MTDC at Mohurli, in between I got a chance to drive his Indigo XL, was amazed by the amount of interior space available. The weather was warm indicative of what we would be facing the next day. Journey sick bodies and instant sleep and we were asked to be ready by 5am for the safari ride.
Changes at TATR when we were there – The main tarred road from Mohurli to Tadoba was closed for free movement of the tigers (and as the man made waterholes are on the roadside and the dominant tigress had cubs. Good move for their safety!)
Now, a queue system is introduced to limit the number of jeeps entering the park. Only 20 jeeps are allowed during the day and evening rides at Mohurli and Tadoba. So if you have to enter, your jeep needs to be in the list of 20!
Now to reach Tadoba zone as the main roads were closed, an alternate road has to be taken that is about 20+ kms roundabout dirt track.
Our first drive was in the Mohurli zone and Telia dam area is the main attraction here. As the approaches to the main roads are blocked, it’s a kind of restricted movement with very few places to go around. Yenbodhi, Jamunjhora and Telia are the hotspots and all vehicles go around these playing the waiting game to catch a glimpse of the big one! Tadoba was supposed to be hot and we were feeling it now as expected. The temperatures were rising by the hour and we were moving between places, but roaming in the jungle has its own charm which no heat or cold can deprive you of and that’s exactly how we were. Painted storks, Egrets, lots of Peafowl, Brown fish Owl couple, Indian Roller, Treepie, Lapwings, Oriental Honey Buzzards and a male Shikra was all that we got to sight in the morning round. We were back at MTDC for a breather, some rest and food. The afternoon our rounds were in the Tadoba range and sightings in the last 3 rides there kept us excited.
The entry to the park was at 4pm and we had to travel from MTDC till the entry gate on the deviated route that would consume another 40 minutes. There were another group with us and Shalik had arranged an open gypsy in which 10 us travelled. The sun was really blowing hot with temperatures hovering above 45C and the breeze was like a hot dry blower ramming into your face as the gypsy sped along. Burning sun, hot blowing breeze, burning eyes and there was absolutely no respite from the heat. Standing under a shade of a tree was like heaven and that really proves why you need to protect the trees from being chopped down!
All the action in Tadoba range is at the waterhole (I can’t recollect the name…), the only source of water is the manmade waterhole that is filled regularly by the forest department. Cars, gypsies, sumo, a few of them had already gathered there playing the waiting game. Varieties of birds had assembled there, all for the water (If they could speak, they would spell out the importance of WATER). The heat had taken a toll and dried them out and the major activity was only near the waterholes. Waiting patiently, we got to sight…
Red vented Bulbuls (in hordes), Red Whiskered Bulbuls, Orange thrush (in multiples), Drongo, Racquet tailed Drongo, Oriental White eye (in multiples), Greater Coucal, Treepies, Brahminy Mynah, Golden Oriole, Common Woodshrike, Black naped Monarch (lifer for me), Sunbirds, Shikra, Asian Paradise Flycatchers and a few more. In the meanwhile I tried out the Canon 300mm F4 prime lens of Shalik and Oh boy! I was mighty impressed by the speed of the autofocus and the images were really good.
With the birds, came the spotted deer, barking deer, langurs and sambar deer all to quench their thirst due to the excess heat. It was sound all around; both the chirping of the birds and the sound from the machines and this continued for almost 100 minutes and then everything changed…
The birds all flew in frenzy; the sambar never got to drink water, with loud alarm calls he just zipped back the way he came, the langurs were busy issuing warning calls to everyone from atop the trees and it was absolute chaos (or you can say, just as we welcome a king, there was activity all around with sounds), the shutterbugs started off clicking… finally we got a glimpse of the majestic tigress coming to quench her thirst. She came straight to the waterhole watching all of us with a look of annoyance on her face, stood in front, frowned at the incessant clicking, dropped herself into the water to cool, started drinking all the while having an eye on us, sat for few minutes, stood up and walked away without any care in the world not even amused by the hordes of people watching her. Our gypsy being in the 2nd row and we had to squeeze to have a glimpse of the majesty and I even had to stand on the grills of the gypsy to get a few shots. It was like a stage play with all the participants playing their part to perfection and the guest of honor came and left, funny isn’t it! Sighting a tiger in the wild is no mean task and the sense of joy you get while seeing one cant be described in words. Every wildlife photographer dreams of shooting the big cats in the wild and its not everytime you get a chance to see one.
Probably this is how it is in the jungles of Vidarbha, MP and others up North (As you never get such time, nor chance down south as till now what we have experienced). It was exciting, sometimes irritating, moments of joy, disappointment, a mixed bag in true sense. Only hope visitors behave and not let things go awry. Back in the comfort of the resort and the AC room, and then finally rest for the “heated bodies” after dinner. Phew! Within the last 36 hours, we had experienced a lot of things!
Next day being Sunday and the morning safari was our last at TATR and we chose to go around Tadoba range once again. This time we were informed the gates would open only by 7am (not the usual 6am). We were there ahead and reached the same waterhole to play the waiting game again. By this time there were already many private vehicles assembled there (entry through another part of TATR who supposedly were left in early!). Next what happened was rude behavior with few vehicles opening their doors for air, some parking too close to the water hole, all in all a mess! We retreated back and the FD had to intervene after a phone call and chase all the vehicles out of the area. In the meanwhile, tigers being supremely intelligent animals, the tigress came and drank to her fill when the vehicles were chased out and left before they reappeared. Smart, isn’t it? Only 2 vehicles got to see this amidst the melee. We roamed around other parts of Tadoba and then retreated back to Mohurli by 11am.
Part3 – As expected our train AP express at 12:30 was delayed by more than an hour and we had to wait at the Chandrapur station. The temperature meter was showing 50C and that made us go frenzy on the heat. Ah! The train was full to the brim (with lot of unreserved passengers) and finally got some places amidst the crowd. The seats, cabin everything was blowing hot and this continued till almost 5pm when the sun had to inadvertently start his way down to glow another part of the world. Finally! We were gobbling up anything and everything that came by to keep our cool, liters of water together. The train chugged along slowly and reached Hyderabad station a good hour behind schedule. The weather in Hyderabad was similar to Bangalore and that lit up our faces. Went to the hotel for dinner right opposite the MGBS in Hyderabad and were taken by surprise when greeted in Kannada. After dinner we came to the bus stand and boarded the Airavat Volvo KSRTC bus headed towards home. 3 Idiots movie was being played and the words I could last hear from the movie was “Joy, Joy” and I woke up only when the conductor called out “Yaar ri… Hebbal, Hebbal…”, a good 9 hours later :)
You can contact Shalik Jogwe on 09420303020 / 09595936369