SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Tadoba's wild side

AMRUT S. DHANWATAY

JUNGLE GET-AWAY: The lake at Tadoba is an ideal place to spot the big cat.

JUNGLE GET-AWAY: The lake at Tadoba is an ideal place to spot the big cat.  

IN the heart of the central Indian wilderness is a lesser-known tiger reserve. Tadoba

Located in the eastern corner of the state of Maharashtra and in the geographic centre of India in the district of Chandrapur, it is home to nearly 100 Royal Bengal Tigers. A protected area since 1955, the Tadoba National Park became a tiger reserve in 1995. The name "Tadoba" is derived from the Gond King Tharu who ruled over Gondwana, a domain stretching from Telangana to Chattisgarh. His main palace was at the Chanda Fort — now a railway station on the Chennai-New Delhi trunk line. From Chand he would visit his youngest queen at Jamni in the dense Tadoba forests. It was during one such a visit that a tiger killed him.

The Gond tribals built a shrine on the banks of the Tadoba lake in his memory.

Today, the reserve is spread over 623 sq.km of high hills and lush valleys and under dense teak and bamboo forests. Through the reserve flow the Tadoba and Andhari rivers. There are 11 large lakes that attract the nearly 50 tigers, the leopard, the sloth bear, the gaur, the wild dog, the hyena, the civet and jungle cat, and deer species like the sambar, the cheetal, the nilgai, and the barking deer, and even the Indian marsh crocodile. Tadoba is also an ornithologist's paradise.

The reserve consists of two forested hill areas in the north and the south, joined by a narrow valley. Through this gorge flows the Tadoba river into the Chichghat valley. This valley — surrounded on three sides by the high hills of the reserve — is outside the boundary. It was once a barren and degraded land, which "Tigertrails" has nurtured. The Chichghat valley is a dense natural forest with ponds and waterholes, grasslands and meadows. Colonial hunting lodge

Tadoba's wild side

Overlooking a picturesque lake, and nestled in a dramatic amphitheatre of the densely forested hills of the reserve, is the location of "Tigertrails", a colonial hunting lodge. Because of its location, it is possible to hear a tiger call as it traverses the valley, or the frantic alarm calls of a Cheetal on sensing a leopard by the lake. In the surrounding hills live seven sloth bears, a pack of wild dogs and three tigers, all of which visit the waterholes around the lodge.

The lodge is built on a small knoll, overlooking the main waterhole. Except for the courtyard around the house, the rest of the estate has been left wild. The details of the three-star quality suites, with attached H and C bath, can be accessed at: www.tigertrails.in

Barbeques and campfires are arranged in the courtyard, where guests can sit around and spend a quiet and reflective evening. Since the forest starts just a few feet away, close encounters with wildlife are possible. Nature walks, bird watching, observing and taking part in animal census techniques, waterhole machan sit-ups are some of the activities a guest is encouraged to participate in.

The estate forest has numerous waterholes, which have observation machans overlooking them, providing the guest undisturbed wildlife viewing. At night, the soft lights inside the lodge, are mounted so that the radiance does not affect wildlife. There is a regular movement of wildlife past the lodge, towards the farms and lake at night especially during summer.

Fact file

The Tadoba tiger reserve, and "Tigertrails" remain open throughout the year.

Road: The camp is a three-hour journey from Nagpur, and one-hour from the Chandrapur/Ballarsha railway station in Maharashtra.

Rail: Nagpur is on the Kolkata-Mumbai,

New Delhi-Chennai/Bangalore/Hyderabad/Kochi railway lines. Chandrapur is on the main

New Delhi-Chennai/Hyderabad railway line.

Air: Nagpur is well connected to Kolkata,

New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

The park stays closed every Tuesday.

Phone: 9822930703/9422147518

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