Tadoba Andhari, also called the “Jewel of Vidarbha”, is a lesser-known park situated in Central India in the Chandrapur District of Maharashtra. This little jewel offers the chance for some unique wildlife spotting opportunities and is comprised of the two declared regions of the Tadoba National Park and the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary.
Allan Blanchard of Wildlife Trails UK suggested I include a trip to Tadoba before a visit to Bandhavgarh National Park. It proved to be an inspired suggestion as I managed to spot and photograph many species that would have been hard to find in Bandhavgarh. As with all my trip reports, I have tried to show a good cross-section of wildlife species that you might encounter on your trip. I will be going into more depth on the tiger in further blogs over the next few months.
After a pleasant flight into Delhi courtesy of Kingfisher Airlines, I spent the night in the warm, bustling city before catching an early morning flight to the central Indian city of Nagpur. I arrived in Tadoba around noon before the afternoon Jeep session, and although I was a little tired, I was excited to get going. Alan had organised a guide for me as many of the local chaps aren’t fluent in English. Joyti was waiting for me at Nagpur airport and took care of me throughout the trip. To understand the real value of having a local guide on your trip, please read my Nightjar post. A special word of thanks to Joyti for his good company and the expansive knowledge that he so freely shared. A great birder too.
The accommodation and eating hall of the MDTC resort where I stayed was extremely basic, but I wasn’t going for a holiday, so I spent a limited amount of time using the facilities. It was clean, comfortable and with a good supply of electricity to charge all my equipment. What more does a wildlife photographer need?
Joyti had organised a top driver and forest guide, and by getting to the gate early, we pretty much entered the park first every session. Although I didn’t go to Tadoba to see tiger, I have to admit I did get caught up in the tiger fever that grips each session as everyone heads off on different routes. We did see a male tiger on the first trip, although he was tucked away from the afternoon sun and prying eyes. It was great to see a tiger so early into the trip as the pressure was immediately lifted, and we could go about photographing the other wonderful Indian wildlife that Tadoba has to offer.
We were also lucky enough to see Sloth Bear on two separate occasions. One of the sightings lasted for 40 minutes as the bear went about foraging in fallen leaves. Both were in the afternoon and in good light. Sloth Bear was on the top of my wish list for the trip, so it was great to get some banker shots by the second day.
Early on the third morning, we had a male leopard cross the road up ahead of us. He was marking his territory, and as we were the first jeep in the park, I managed to get a few profile shots before he disappeared into the bamboo.
A Birders Paradise
Two other species on the wish list of photos were Gaur (or wrongly named Indian Bison) and Dhole, or Asiatic Wild Dog. I had several sightings of both and managed to get some decent photos of the Dhole, which is much akin to the African Wild dog that I grew up seeing in Southern Africa. This small jackal-like canid hunts in packs and runs its prey into exhaustion. I also recently learned that both species strangely allow the pups to feed first on a kill.
The birdlife in Tadoba is fantastic, and I constantly saw new species that I had not seen before in India. Finally got some good stock photos of some of the regulars, like Magpie Robins, Junglefowl and Paradise Flycatcher. I was especially pleased to have a decent chance to photograph the Shikra, a small goshawk-like raptor, as it stayed on a perch looking for prey on the forest floor.
A gem of a park
The four days I spent in this little park were a pleasure, and the people that I met were wonderful and full of excitement at every sighting. All in all, we had three tiger sightings over the four days, which was great as it was the first time I had seen a tiger in the wild. There are fewer jeeps allowed into Tadoba than in other parks, so the experience will not be too unpleasant when you are at a sighting. Tadoba could use some investment, but it seems that the local Forestry folks don’t want it to become as commercial as some of the other bigger parks. I can fully understand this, although it is still a bit of a rough diamond…but I guess that just increases Tadoba’s charm.
Top 5 Jeep Safari Tips:
- Make it clear to the guides and drivers what species you want to see (if other than tiger).
- Keep slowing the driver and guide down. They’ll want to race from waterhole to waterhole to chase Tiger.
- Many drivers will brake too quickly. Explain to them that screeching to a halt will guarantee the species will take flight. If they cannot stop quietly in time, get them to go past and turn around if they can
- If you get the same driver and guide for your whole trip, it will be of real benefit. In some parks, this is not always possible.
- I was the only client/photographer in the jeep and had plenty of space. I used a tripod to support my 500mm lens but in future, I would only bring a monopod, which is lighter and doesn’t take up much space in your check-in luggage.
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