The Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve is home to tigers, panthers, sloth bears, crested serpent eagles, oriental honey buzzard and more. Here’s a first hand account of a trip to the Reserve. Pictures: Aishwarya Sridhar

Notwithstanding the sweltering heat of summer, destination Tadoba was my first choice. Popularly known as the Jewel of Vidarbha, Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was created in 1995. The park derives its name from the village chief Taru who was killed in an encounter with a tiger. There is a shrine under a tree near the Tadoba Lake in his memory. Andhari is the name of the river that meanders through the Tadoba forests. It is called Andhari because the actual source of the river can never be found. According to local folklore the river's source is somewhere in the Pandharpaoni region of Tadoba.

An interesting aspect of TATR is that there isn’t a core area and buffer area at present. The whole forest is a core area and people are free to move around anywhere within the forest. The Reserve is divided into three zones — Kolsa, Tadoba and Moharli.

Infinite treasure

The Reserve is an infinite treasure trove of innumerable species of trees and plants and wildlife that includes tigers, panthers, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs (dhole), bison (gaur), barking deer, nilgai, sambar, and spotted deer. Its pristine ecosystem is endowed with a rich biodiversity and contains some of the best forest tracks. It has a dry deciduous forest; a haven for various species of birds like the crested serpent eagle, grey headed fish eagle, changeable hawk eagle and the oriental honey buzzard to mention a few along with a variety of mammals and reptiles too. The Tadoba Lake sustains the Indian marsh crocodile, which was once common all over Maharashtra. Many species of fresh water turtles, monitors lizard and hordes of aquatic birds also live in and around the lake.

My first sighting of a tiger cub was at the water hole in the Pandharpaoni area. The cub was in the water and I could barely see his ears. It was soon joined by another. The stillness of the air was broken only by the steady click! click! of my camera.

At Takka No 2, my next halt I was welcomed by a tiger cub on a tree. This sighting of a tiger on a tree in the wild is absolutely priceless. The cub then decided to climb down and in the process slipped and fell. A live circus it was…funny and yet so endearing.

On the second day I was determined to see Shivaji, an elusive guy. With anticipation in my heart and hope in my mind I set off. With every kilometre I scanned the vast expanses for a glimpse of the King. Suddenly I heard the alarm call of the Sâmbhar. I waited until he emerged from the bushes and walked down to the waterhole with a distinct swagger as if he knew the whole world was looking at him. After that he sat on his hind paws and gave us the perfect pose. A few minutes, irritated by the sound of the noisy gypsies vrooming he chose to saunter back into the bushes.

As I drove back, the sun was setting over the horizon; the tranquil lake glimmered, as the light kissed its flowing surface. The moon emerged from its deep sleep and a whole new world was born.

The writer is a Grade 12 student of Dr Pillai Global Academy, Navi Mumbai

About Tadoba

The second Tiger reserve in Maharashtra, the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), is situated in the Chandrapur District of Maharashtra, 205 km from Nagpur airport.

The area of the Reserve is 625.40 sq. km. This includes Tadoba National Park, created in 1955 with an area of 116.55 sq. km. and Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary created in 1986 with an area of 508.85 sq. km which together form TATR.