Tigress "Madhuri" emerging from the forest bush onto jeep track.

Tigress "Madhuri" emerging from the forest bush onto jeep track.
PHOTO :- Co-Tourist Mr Suvrashis.Sarkar

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A tour of Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve with "Mumbai Travellers" tour group.

I have photographed myself with a baby tiger as well as a pair of adult tigers at the Bangkok zoo but yet to see a tiger in the natural wild forests of India.
In June 2013 had toured "Bandhavgarh tiger reserve"  with "Mumbai Travellers" but returned back home without spotting the elusive animal.
The "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve" in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra state in India  has one of the highest tiger densities among the Country's  tiger national parks and hence decided to try my luck at this park.
May is peak season for "Tiger Spotting Tours" in Indian National parks as the dry season is conducive to sighting these elusive carnivores during their prowls to water ponds and artificial water reservoirs. As all the tour groups were booked i just took a chance on Thursday(8-5-2014) by posting a "F.B(Facebook) AD" for enrollment in any tour group venturing into "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve(TATR)". Tiger luck favoured me and i got a reply from Mr Saurabh .Thakekar of  "Mumbai Travellers" to a vacancy in their tour group departing on Saturday(10-5-2014) from Mumbai and returning back on Wednesday(14-5-2014).The tour charges were Rs 9000 excluding  train travel expenses to Chandrapur Station ,the meeting point for the tour group.


Map of State of Maharashtra in India.
 "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve". A brief history :-  This reserve is one of India's 41  project tiger reserves and the most successful. According to the tiger census released in 2012 there were  43 tigers in the "CORE AREA" and another 23 in the "BUFFER AREA" while  35 existed in the surrounding park area..Accuracy in "Tiger Census" is subject to debate but the fact that tigers are numerous in this forest indicates the factual truth of the census. The Gond Kings once ruled the Chimur hills  of these forest areas and later in 1935  hunting was  totally banned .Remember that this was in a era when hunting as a sport was in its prime all over the Indian jungles and "TIGER HUNTING" the most popular aristocratic pass-time.The park gets its name from  "TARU" the local  tribal deity  while the Andhari river that flows through it  completes the name  "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve(TATR)".The Tadoba  National park(116.5 Sq Km)  was created in 1955 as a small reserve and later the larger  Andhari national park(508.85 Sq Km) in  1986. Both these adjacent jungles  were merged  to become the now existing "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve(TATR)". The total area of the reserve is 625.40 Sq Kms approx  . The Erai Dam, Kolsa lake, Junoria lake,Tadoba lake and the main Andhari river provide the necessary water for this wild-life forest system.Man made waterholes provide water during the driest and hottest months where temperatures surge to 45-48 * C!The forest topography is Dry deciduous forests with bamboo clusters  and hence totally dry in peak summer.The reserve has three "Tourist Zones" 1) Moharli 2) Tadoba and 3) Kolsa with numerous entry gates into these zones. Moharli and Kolsa zones are part of the Andhari  tiger sanctuary.Entry to the "Tourist Zones" is closed on Tuesdays.
Sunday(11-5-2014) :- Arrival at Chandrapur Station, the base for the "TADOBA ANDHARI TIGER RESERVE"  safari.

Saturday(10-5-2014) :- DESTINATION "TADOBA ANDHARI TIGER RESERVE" :-  Tadoba is 140 Kms  South of Nagpur and 40 Kms North of Chandrapur, the closest railway station.On Friday(9-5-2014) received the  E-Ticket(S11/0020/LB) costing Rs 700 from "Mumbai Travellers"  for travelling on the "12139/Sewagram Express" from Mumbai to Chandrapur , a rail distance of  877 Kms.Boarded the train at Dadar Station and as usual began reading  to while away the train journey. "The loneliness of the long distance runner" by Alan.Sillitoe was my journey companion. Mid-way at a station "Mumbai Travellers" tour proprietor Mr Suarabh.Thakekar  boarded  my compartment and introduced himself , explaining the tour itinerary.We were a total of 16 tourists, including tour proprietor and manager  Mr Saurabh.Thakekar.The book reading kept me busy and noticed the compartment packed  after departure from Nashik.A crude nights sleep and was surprised at the three hour stop of the train at "Wardha Junction" from 0400 hrs to approx 0715 hrs! At Wardha Station met Mr Sameer.Gulavani a co-tourist during my tour of "Gir National park" with "B.N.H.S" group in 2012.He was on his way to Tadoba with his family for a private tiger safari. From "Wardha Junction" the train is converted to a common passenger train and hence the protocol delay.Finally reached Chandrapur station at approx 1045 hrs. 
Entrance to "TADOBA ANDHARI TIGER RESERVE"
Sunday(11-5-2014) Arrival Tadoba :-  On alighting the train  we got together at the station entrance and Mr Saurabh.Thakekar guided us to our respective travel jeeps for transport to the Moharli zone of the tiger reserve. We were a total of 16 people and accommodated into three vehicles.It was approximately a one hour drive from Chandrapur station  through the famous coal mines and later the entrance gate of the "Tadoba National Park"  into the   buffer zone of Moharli  forests  ,finally culminating  at "Hornbill hotel" in Moharli village. The tall "Reliance Telephone tower" was a major landmark of  Moharli village  erected just adjacent  to our hotel.Black Ibis birds nested on top of the tower and were prominent by their constant noise, the first bird-sighting in Moharli village. We were the first to arrive followed by the other two cars. It was blazing hot but dry heat unlike the humid weather of Mumbai.    At approx 1200 hrs the other  two tour vehicles  arrived in the hotel compound and we were allotted our hotel accommodation.All tourists were allotted A/c accommodation by tour proprietor/Manager Mr Saurabh.Thakekar..Bachelor Single tourists Mr Suvrashis.Sarkar and Mr Vishal.Bijlani  were allotted a hotel slightly further away from  the main "Hornbill hotel".                                   
Single tourists Mr Sohail.Sayani, Mr Saurabh.Thakekar and myself were allotted "Cottage No 3", a cute single room cottage in a separate cottage complex  ,a recently built extension of  the original  "Hornbill Hotel". This small cluster of single room cottages were  the best in the small village of Moharli. .The rest of family tourists  were allotted  accommodation in the original  hotel  building where we gathered for meals and discussions on its enclosed   dining hall situated in its  compound.I was the eldest among the tour group and was aghast at being referred to as "Uncle Rudolph" by the entire tour group. I wonder what teenagers call my rock  Guru and youth idol  Sir  Mick.Jagger ! Moharli village is a small tiny village with the basic necessities and a few cottage industry hotels.After refreshing ourselves we gathered in the hotel dining hall for a vegetarian lunch. After lunch Saurabh explained us the "Safari Tour Itinerary" which consisted of  three safari jeep tours in the "  core zone areas of Moharli and Tadoba ranges   but not the "Kolsa Range" as it was closed for tourists. Our last day morning safari before departure on Tuesday morning  was to  be  "Buffer Zone" as  the  "Core Zone  ranges " remain closed. 
"Hornbill Hotel" in Moharli village. "Cottage Single rooms for tourists.
                                                                                                                                                     
"Tourist Jeeps" queue for entry into  "MOHARLI GATE" of the core  "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve".
Sunday(11-5-2014) 1500-1830 hrs Afternoon safari tour to Moharli core zone(Safari No 1) :- Three Maruti gypsy jeeps were arranged for our tour group .Among us, the professional camera  owner photographers with high power zoom lens were Mr Saurabh.Thakekar, Mr Dhaiwat.Maniar,Mr Suvrashish.Sarkar and Mr Pritish.Palekar,The Family of Mr Manoj.Francis, his wife Mrs Mabel.Francis their  young child Miss Isabel.Francis  shared the jeep  with us   single tourists Mr Vishal.Bijlani and myself.At 1430 our jeep driver Mr Sandeep  drove us  from the hotel to the entrance gate of Moharli.The usual format of being allotted a guide and identity verification of jeeps was undertaken and at 1500 hrs we entered the "Andhari Reserve" from the Moharli gate.A hot sun was blazing overhead, absolutely dry heat with zero humidity and hence no sweating.The forest was absolutely dry with clusters of bamboo bush  mingling with teak trees.Our first large sighting was a Gaur, the large majestic bovine also called the "Indian Bison".We drove past Telia lake  but did not spot any tigers, just small mammals like the Hanuman Langurs and spotted deers. Observed large stone pillar columns along the side of the  main Chandrapur highway road inside the Moharli core zone, a historical relic of the "Gond Kings" that once ruled this area and were also responsible for preserving the tiger population .Came across a huge tree infested with honey bee combs,the source of forest honey, a favourite of the sloth bears. It was a barren drive without any tiger sighting and at approx 1545 hrs we entered the "Tadoba Reserve Gate".

"Hanuman Langurs"
Driving through the Tadoba core forests we came across the largest congregation of Hanuman langurs i ever saw on a safari.They were as curious of us as we humans of them. Spotted a small herd of Sambar and a majestic lone Gaur. The Gaur also called the "Indian Bison" is the largest herbivore in Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve as there are no elephants or rhino's in this forest.I doubt if a tiger would have the guts and temperament to attack this mighty Gaur , the epitome of muscular strength and piercing horns..We later  drove towards the "Tadoba Lake"  and spotted a grey fishing eagle but not a single tiger. Was the "Tiger Curse" on me still holding ? My previous safari at "Bandhavgarh Tiger reserve" was a big zero as far as tiger sighting was concerned and i was hoping that i wouldn't be "Second Time unlucky" ! As we drove  along the edge of Tadoba lake we suddenly spotted a few tourist jeeps in a queue on the road ahead.A tigress was sleeping at the edge of the lake, oblivious of the jeeps and the tourists busy clicking photographs from a distance. At last i had finally spotted a tigress in the wild in its natural habitat, the "Tiger Curse" having finally been broken.Every tourist jeep took turns at passing along the road to get the  best view of the sleeping tigress "Maya". A Forest Guard on  a motorcycle stood at a safe distance to control the tourist traffic.
Tigress Maya sleeping  on the banks "Tadoba Lake".
                                                                     The scene reminded me of "Lion Spotting" in the Gir Forests of Gujarat.From the lake we drove further and came across a large herd of wild boar, the largest herd i had seen on a safari tour. The prey base in Tadoba Andhari reserve was large  and could be the reason for this tiger reserve having the largest number of resident tigers in India besides the reduction in poaching .After being totally satisfied of viewing our first tigress we drove further away towards a large pond.Spotted a few Chital deers and wild boars at the pond.Among the bird species spotted the rare red headed black ibis.We finally made our exit from the "Tadoba Gate" into the "Moharli Gate" and back towards the  forest exit.At approx 1830 hrs we departed from the "Moharli gate" and out of the "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve" towards our hotel, a short drive away.On reaching the hotel had a refresher wash and later  tea with delicious  pakoda's.Went back to my room and had a bathe, the A/c making me feel the difference between 40* C + temps and 22*c controlled A/c room temp ! Reminded me of my "Shipping Years"  employment where extreme temperatures existed  between the hot "Engine Room(Work Place)" and the  " A/c Cabin Accommodation(ships Residence)".Got to know my room-mate Mr Sohail.Sayani better and was surprised to know that he was a former "R.J(Radio Jockey)"  on the "Rainbow Channel" of Mumbai F M radio.Had some interesting conversation as i myself am a "Music addict", the  F.M radio or Vh1 channel always audible in my house.Dinner was at 2030 hrs and got acquainted with my co-tourists at the dinner table. All of us were from different professions,sexes and religions but shared a single devoted passion for "WILD-LIFE" and "NATURE".Dinner was excellent fresh lake fish curry and i could have won a eating competition. After dinner a few of us went for a walk around the forest path with our torches.The dangers of roaming in buffer zones of any wild-life reserve is the fluke  encounter with leopards or bears that sometimes lurk near human settlements and cultivated fields.Mr Saurabh.Thakekar was a "Tiger Specialist" and knew the local villagers  and the  vicinity of Tadoba  tourist reserve very well as he conducted frequent tours and private visits.His  camera photographs were  proof of his jungle encounters with wild tigers.As we walked in the dark silent forest he explained us various peculiarities of this jungle.Near the entrance to the "Buffer Zone" gate  he  showed us a enclosed compound  where three suspected trapped  man-eater leopards were  caged.It was pitch dark and hence we couldn't see the leopards in their cages.We spotted a few owls in the dark with our torch-lights. Finally at approx 2200 hrs we returned to our accommodation and i got a decent nights sleep in the chill A/c  hotel room.
Typical "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve" forest topography. Bamboo bushes with teak trees.
Monday(12-5-2014)  :- ( Safari No 2)  Mohali Core zone [0600 -1030 hrs] :- As usual  my partial insomnia  unconsciously woke me up at 0400 hrs and after a quick wash and toilet routines got ready for the days safari. Saurabh  and Sohail woke up later and at 0515 hrs we headed to the main reporting centre, the main hotel lawn dining compound.After a quick refreshing  early morning tea we boarded our respective jeeps, the same routine as the previous day.Drove to Moharli gate and after the normal formalities began the reserve tour with our guide.It was a repetitive drive along the same familiar route of the Moharli  tourist route and spotted the same familiar animal suspects the chital, sambar  and  gaur. At Telia lake we spotted a crocodile for the first time and two whistling ducks flying overhead across the lake.From Moharli tourist zone we next entered the "Tadoba tourist zone" and underwent the same routine safari drive. We waited at a water pond in anticipation for a tiger sighting as a tiger was observed in the vicinity at dawn.After a long wait we drove away disappointed and a little ahead came across another pond.A jeep ahead of us suddenly stopped and on close observation with binoculars spotted a tiger sleeping on a small elevation at the edge of the large pond.It was brilliantly camouflaged and reminded me of my boyhood idol Jim.Corbett's tiger encounters.A person could walk  over that tiger without realizing it was sleeping ! My heavy binoculars paid dividends as i could observe it through magnification, akin to the zoom lens of a powerful camera.This was the same tigress Maya that we spotted the previous day on the banks of the Tadoba lake .She resembled a dead tiger, absolutely still and no movement. Suddenly she woke up and walked down towards the pond, the first time in my life that i spotted a tiger walking in the wild jungles.She then went out of sight , resting on another part of the pond embankment.My tiger sighting had progressed in two safari's, first safari was  "Maya" the tigress sleeping and today "Maya" the tigress walking.Seems she was pregnant and hence lethargic and preferred  sleeping near water landscapes."Gamblers Luck" was in my favour, the "Tiger Curse" banished.Happy of at least sighting a single tigress we drove away along the usual tourist safari route.Drove along Tadoba lake  and so the odd deer and sambar grazing on the banks of the lake.Just after exiting the lake vicinity we spotted the largest owl sitting camouflaged on a tree.A carbon copy of the owl shown in the famed bestseller "Harry Potter" movies and novels.Spotted a herd of wild boar approaching a water pond as also a herd of gaur.Tadoba tourist zone seemed more rich in herbivores than the Andhari zone of the Moharli range.We finally exited  "Tadoba Zone gate" and halted outside to visit the souvenir shop.The shop was closed but the halt was a blessing in disguise. Came across a Tourist Mr Altaf.Mir who was bragging about his "Jackpot luck" of photographing 4 tiger cubs along with their mother in the "Buffer Zone" of the tiger reserve during the morning safari.He owned a expensive zoom lens camera and his photographs were replica's of the likes seen in "National Geographic".He had previously wasted a fortune and time at the "Kabini Reserve" in Karnataka trying  to sight a tiger  but the "Tiger Curse" getting the better of his efforts. Finally he decided to try his luck at Tadoba and fortune smiled providing him with photographs that would be the envy of any professional wild-life channel.After congratulating Mr Altaf.Mir on his luck we drove away into the Moharli zone gate and began our routine safari drive.The same boring drive without any tiger sighting or the most elusive of them all, the one and only leopard.On passing along Telia lake came across a pair of Honey buzzards flying high up in the sky.A beautiful photo of one of these birds is captured on photo by co-tourist Mr Suvrashis.Sarkar with his powerful zoom lens camera, poetry in flight. At approx 1030 hrs we exited from Moharli gate and drove to our hotel. Breakfast was "Phowa" with "egg omelettes".Saurabh decided to change the tour itinerary and visit the "Buffer Zone" in the afternoon instead of the "Tourist core zone" as planned earlier. The reason was Mr Altaf.Amir's flash news of sighting tiger cubs in the buffer zone during his morning safari."TIGER SIGHTING NEWS" is the big anticipation on tiger safari's.After  breakfast went to my room had a bathe and later explored the small village .I was happy that the villagers were happy with their living lifestyle and realizing that a tiger alive is better than a dead tiger. A huge "Tiger Tourism" business provides employment for entire villages, beginning from motel and hotel accommodation to human resources.The only saviour to preventing tiger extinction in protected jungles are the villagers living within the buffer zone and core areas of the park.There were previously five villages in the main core area of Tadoba Andhari reserve of which three have been relocated to other areas.Tiger poaching is impossible without help from locals and hence the locals have to benefit from "Tiger Tourism" rather than resort to "Tiger Poaching".Lunch was at 1330 hrs, a vegetarian  buffet.After lunch discussed the safari and came across a interesting tourist  Mr Hari from Chennai  staying at "Hornbill Hotel"who had done 40 safari's in Tadoba. Mr Hari owned a Rs 10 lakh camera, the first time in my life i spotted such expensive camera equipment.A lucky tiger eccentric tourist  who had the time as well as money to splash on tiger tourism and conservation.
"Waghdoh" the largest living  tiger in India and pride of Tadoba Andhari Sanctuary.He happened to raise his "PAW" and was dazed to see the largest paw through binoculars:- Photo Mr Saurabh.Thakekar.
"Buffer Zone Moharli Range  (Safari No 3)(1500 -1800 hrs)" :-  Mr Vishal.Bijlani and myself were allotted a different jeep in the afternoon safari. This jeep had the family of co-tourist  Mr David.Thomanna    his wife Mrs Deepa.David, daughter Diya  and  son  Daniel. Entry to the "Buffer Zone" is cheaper requiring no pre-booking and  is open on Tuesday when the "Core  safari Tourist "  reserves are closed.In fact we had wasted the "Core Safari Tour" which has to be pre-booked in advance and was expensive.In hindsight this decision proved to be the wisest and luckiest decision taken by tour guide/organizer Mr Saurabh.Thakekar.Thats where "EXPERIENCE" triumphs over theoretical knowledge as he was  very familiar with the tigers in the park and their peculiarities and idiocies, akin to house cats. At 1430 hrs we drove to the "Buffer Zone" entry gate and the place resembled a amateur zoo entrance rather than a prestigious tiger reserve.As this part of the reserve gets less tourists the job opportunities for guides are at a premium and hence the booking line for jeep entry tickets and guides was chaotic.The guides were not in uniform unlike the "Core zone" guides but dressed in civil clothes.Our guide was a boyish looking  young man, happy to have got employment.Guide jobs are informal temporary jobs, especially in the "Buffer Zone" reserve.At 1500 hrs the "Buffer Zone" gate was opened and we headed into the forest.Our initial drive was through the electric fenced boundary of the "Buffer Zone" that separated it from farmland and a village. I was wondering as to the reasons for tigers preferring the "Buffer Zone" rather than the core forested areas.Its normally aged tigers that venture into "Buffer Zones" as they are  driven out by their younger rivals.Leopards also prefer "Buffer Zones" to avoid conflict with tigers in the core zone areas.Sighted  Hanuman langurs but not a single Rhesus Macaque, the most common monkey in India. Seems the "Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve" forests are home to only the Hanuman Langurs among the monkey species.All tour jeeps were rushing towards the site where the 4 tiger cubs were seen playing with their mother "Madhuri" raising a huge red mud dust-storm. On the way we came across the huge skull with antlers of a chital stag. This was a "Forest Landmark" in the buffer zone area of Moharli forests.We finally reached the spot which had a serpentine queue of tourist jeeps. Seems that the great "Wagdoh" was sleeping in the ravine below the main road.What surprised me most was that the tiger was oblivious of the commotion created by tourists and jeeps.Forest guards were directing the tourist jeep traffic.
       
"CHITAL STAG SKULL".A Landmark in  the "Buffer Zone".
                                                                                                                                                         I was just hoping that he wouldn't walk off before our viewing turn arrived, the ultimate
disappointment.Finally our jeep was directed towards the spot where a birds-eye view of Wagdoh was visible.He was sleeping near the side of a small puddle , camouflaged by shrubs.Although it was just a glimpse  we were happy of seeing one of India's largest tigers in real flesh.My binoculars paid dividends and compensated for my "Digital camera". I got a close-up view of "Waghdoh through my binoculars  and as i trained my focus on him he suddenly raised one of his mighty paws.I was dazed to see one of the largest paws in my life,and it amazes me as to people keeping wild animals like tigers as pets. A harmless pat on a human from such a giant paw could  create serious damage at the minimum.Co-tourist/Tour proprietor Mr Suarabh.Thakekar has a beautiful photo of "Wagdoh" sleeping, the same on view.The raised paw must have missed his camera click. .Each jeep was allotted approx 5 minutes of viewing time and had to drive away to give the next jeep a chance, a total house-full live theatre.Its not everyday that a "Tourist Jeep" gets to view "Wagdoh", the pride of India and the Tadoba Andhara tiger reserve.From the "Wagdoh Site" we drove  into the forest pathways and later onto the main Chandrapur highway that passes through the tiger reserve.Drove towards the marshy land of the Erai dam and spotted a herd of Gaur with a calf. This was the first instance that i had seen such a large herd of wild gaur, the animals being normally solitary by nature unlike Chital or Sambar .Spotted a variety of aquatic birds, most common being cormorants, snake darters and painted storks.deer species.There was a concrete "Watch-Tower" for tourists and we were allowed to alight our jeeps and climb up the tower.It was a magnificent view from the top and posed for a photo  for the "Memory Bank".After a brief stay at the Watch-tower we boarded our jeeps and began our journey back to the "Water-Pond" where the cubs normally stayed or played.Spotted large clusters of dried bamboo shoots along the road which was  to be sent to Ballarpur for manufacturing paper.Waste nature products of the forests never ever go to waste, always re-cycled in some other form of life or human usage.We finally arrived in the jeep queue and to our good-luck the baby cubs had arrived at the small ravine water-hole.We were last in the queue and to the horrors of horrors the cubs disappeared when our turn of viewing arrived.It was  1700 hrs, just one hour of safari ride in store and hence this was total disappointment, the ultimate "Tiger Curse"! Our boyish guide Mr Deva.Vishram insisted that we wait at the water-hole  convinced that the cubs would return back to their small lovely natural playground. We were the only jeep as all others departed.As for us tourists we had no other choice and tried the "Gamblers go for broke" formula and hence decided to heed Deva's advice.
2 of the 4 tiger cubs we spotted in the "Buffer Zone". :- Photo Co-Tourist Mr  Dhaiwat.Maniar.
                                                                                                                             As we all lazily sat in the jeep cursing our luck there was a sudden hush as the first tiger cub was spotted barely 30 meters from our jeep in the ravine below.Slowly two other cubs arrived and our jeep was privileged to have "Front Row Seats" of the greatest wild-life spectacle in Tadoba buffer zone."Tiger News" spreads like wild-fire and soon a few jeeps arrived behind us, all tourists trigger happy with their camera's. As for me, it was a wild-life natural dream come true.The cubs played in the small puddle of water akin to kittens and chased each other. One cub tried showing off by attempting to climb a tree while another thought of approaching our jeep. These cubs were approximately 5 months old.The cubs finally climbed up the main road and headed in a single file towards the dense undergrowth in the opposite direction of the jeeps.We had spotted only three cubs, the fourth cub and its mother "Madhuri" missing from the pack.After the cubs disappeared from view we drove back to the exit, thrilled of being lucky at the last instance.On exiting from buffer zone gate at approx 1800 hrs  we thanked guide Deva.Vishram as it was his perseverance and confidence that made us wait at the water-hole while other tourist jeeps had given up hope.The ultimate "GO FOR BROKE" success.This scene will be etched in my memory for life.
Oriental Honey Buzzard" in flight :- Photo Mr Suvrashis .Sarkar.

On arriving at our hotel  had a quick refresher wash and later tea with  finger-chips while discussing the days tiger sightings.Co-tourist Mr Suvrashis.Sarkar  owed the entire tour group a party at his cost as he had  told  Saurabh on the day of arrival that if "WAGDOH" was sighted by him then a party at his cost was the reward.16 tourists  with a few of us being  non-teetotalers meant that poor Mr Suvrashis would have to bear huge miscellaneous expenses to his tour budget and hence we all joked about his bet and its reality.Being a gambler in real or reel life is not a easy profession.At times the impossible becomes possible. We never ever dreamt of getting a glimpse of "WAGDOH" the tiger that was the  pride of Indian forests and yet we spotted  him in the least forested reserve, the  "Buffer Zone" area of Moharli.Dinner was at 2030 hrs and consisted of  delicious chicken curry for non-vegetarians. After dinner played the millennial generation game "MAFIA" and realized that akin to real World Mafia's it was also difficult detecting fictitious game mafia's !After the Mafia game went back to the hotel room and had a chilled A/c sleep after being in 40*c temps, the subconscious mind thrilled at being able to at last view tigers in their natural habitat.
Gaur(Indian Bison),most dangerous prey animal of the tiger in Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve akin to African Buffalo.
Tuesday( 13-5-2014) "Buffer Zone[ Safari No 4]Moharli Range 0600 -1000 Hrs" :-  As usual was awake at 0400 hrs and after normal routines got dressed and went to the dining lawn.After tea we all boarded our respective tour jeeps, myself and Vishal switching back to our original jeep with  Mr  Manoj.Francis & Fly. Saurabh accompanied us on this last safari, sitting in the guide's seat besides the driver.At 0600 hrs we entered the "Buffer Zone Gate" and began our usual safari detour.Seems Waghdoh was sighted roaming in the vicinity by forest guards and Saurabh decided to track him through his pug-marks.We first drove to the main tiger site which was the ravine water-pond below the road, the hideout of the cubs and its mother.As there was no sighting we drove towards the Erai dam swamp. Nearing the swamp we spotted a huge pug-mark on the soft sand of the jeep road. Wagdoh was somewhere in the vicinity, either on a "Kill" or just sleeping somewhere in the bushes.Saurabh tried his best to track him along with our driver but the search seemed futile.We finally decided to give up the search and go back to "Cub lair" hoping that the cubs would return to their normal playground.A queue of tour jeeps were on the pathway leading to the "Cub Lair" the cubs having returned to their favourite playground.Again it was a question of luck and we missed the sighting as the cubs drifted in the thick undergrowth. All jeeps scattered and our jeep made its way through a lonely load parallel to the thick undergrowth near  "Cub Lair".We stopped our jeep hoping that the tigress with cubs would go back to "Cub Lair" or just walk into our pathway as they were definitely in the vicinity.Ahead of our road was another intersecting pathway, a crossroad from the jungle.Staring into the thick undergrowth i suddenly saw some yellow  movement in the dense undergrowth  and sounded "Tiger News" alarm to Saurabh. We kept quiet as also the other tourist jeeps behind us.
Tigress "Madhuri"  walking across the road, the ultimate candid photo from my "Digital Cannon  camera".
Suddenly one of the cubs passed through the crossroad ahead of us followed by the other three cubs. They were playing like kittens and this time i spotted all four cubs. After the cubs had crossed over  we finally saw the grand finale  of a "Tiger Walk". Tigress "Madhuri" gradually walked across stopping briefly to look at our jeep and in the process giving us a beautiful picture. Saurabh must have got some of the best tiger photo's with his high power zoom lens as we were the first jeep facing the tigress.After tigress Madhuri crossed our path we all dispersed, the end of one of the most beautiful and unbelievable natural tiger sightings in a natural forest environment. I was the happiest tourist as i was the first person to sight the tigress in the bush and sound the "TIGER NEWS" alarm to fellow tourist guides.During my youth in the late  1970's i would spend my entire months holidays hunting birds with a air-gun in my parents ancestral villages in Mangalore.Thats the reason for my sharp trekking skills although i now wear spectacles. Now a conservationist, the air-gun is a museum relic in my house.We next decided to track a panther as the "Buffer Zone" had maximum panthers compared to tigers. Drove to a artificial water pond and waited for a panther to show up in the hot morning.After waiting for 10 to 15 minutes we decided it was futile to expect seeing a panther and hence headed back to the main exit gate.This was our last safari and last day in the "Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve" as also the most memorable  for the simple reason that we spotted a total of seven tigers in four safari tours. A "Ripley's Believe it or not" was the fact that the best tiger sightings   were in the "Buffer Zone" of Moharli range and not in the Core ranges of either Tadoba or Moharli ranges.
"Mumbai Travellers Tour Group" to "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve".

On reaching our hotel it was puree/bhaji for  breakfast .Went back to my hotel room and after a bathe got dressed and ready to say good-bye to the Moharli range of the "Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve".
Lunch was at 1400 hrs, a vegetarian buffet.After lunch paid Mr Saurabh.Thakekar the total tour  expenditure that  amounted to Rs 10,400 and  which included  the  train 3/tier A/c ticket fare to Mumbai.
Finally at approx 1500 hrs we left our hotel and Moharli village  in three cars.Two couples ,Mr Pritish.Palekar and Mrs Payal.Phatarpekar along with Mr Dhaiwat.Maniar and Mrs Kruti.Shah.Maniar decided to travel to Nagpur in one car, one couple deciding to travel by air to Mumbai  and the other by  train from Nagpur.The rest of us travelled in the other two cars to  Chandrapur train station.  At approx 1530 hrs we reached the main Entry/Exit  gate of the "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve" and further down the road came across  a coal mine. We stopped our cars and toured the coal mine from above, the first time i had seen a coal mine.From the coal mine we headed straight to the railway station.
at approx 1615 hrs we reached Chandrapur station and made ourselves comfortable in the waiting lounge. The temperature at Chandrapur was 45*c but not uncomfortable as it was "Dry Heat" and not "Humid Heat" as in coastal Mumbai. I was a bit worried as my train ticket was not confirmed, a last minute "tatkal booking". At 1800 hrs we boarded "B5 A/c" bogie" and began the long journey back home to Mumbai. Saurabh  gave me his seat while he later managed another berth.Dinner was a "egg omellette" at Wardha station where the train stopped for about two hours.After a restless nights sleep woke up early as usual.The days  journey was comfortable in the cool A/c  bogie as we discussed various topics , all of us being in the same compartment.Finally reached Dadar station at approx 1215 hrs.Walked up the Dadar overbridge  to Dadar West and boarded a taxi to Prabhadevi.

NOTE:- All opinions are my own personal views and the blog written through my personal experience of the wonderful and unforgettable "Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve" tour.

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