20th Dec 2011
Amidst our busy schedule we had managed to extract 5 days in December to visit TATR. Travel reservations were done 90 days in advance. We were just waiting for the arrival of the big day.. dec 20. The wait was over, next day at 9.00Am all of us me [Amit, Sindhu, Kathik, Veena, Ganesh, Pavan] team was geared up to TATR aka [Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve] at Chandrapur, Maharashtra.
This is my second trip to TATR after a long gap of 2 years. Me and sindhu reached railway station on 20th Dec 2011 at 8.30 am, just in time to know that our trains were delayed by 4 hours due to heavy fog in Itarsi and other northern parts of India. With low spirits I started calling fellow team mates to postpone their arrival.
Though Pavan, Karthik and veena landed up at 9.00Am. Mr. Ganesh my cousin grabbed the opportunity to treat his taste buds at the ever crowded Vidyarthi Bhavan to have mouth watering masala dosas…
I won’t take much of your time in narrating how we passed the time from 8.30Am to 12.00Pm. We went to Ayyappa temple next to railway station and had coffee after every half an hour.
After the long, boring wait the train finally pulled into the platform at 12.00 noon. Happily we boarded the train and settle down. An hour later we broke for mouth smacking variety of food packed from home.
Everything was smooth and nice until we were bored… the question on all our faces was what to do?? …. Pavan had the solution for this, he carried playing cards called UNO with him though he was also new to this game, he made an attempt to get KT about the game… believe it or not for next 5 days UNO became addiction to us…
We called our day by having dinner in the train.
21st Dec 2011 – Evening Safari
The train reached Chandrapur at 8.00Am. Shalik our good old friend who is a govt. school teacher and a wildlife enthusiast and photographer had arranged our pick-up from Chandrapur to Tadoba. We missed our first safari due to late arrival to TATR. Checked-in to resort Saras which is located just out skirt of moharli, relaxed for some time.
A jeep was dedicated to us for the next 2 days. At 2.00Pm the forest gates were opened for safari, we all were thrilled to be on the game road. Neelkanth was our guide for next 5 safaris. I will take few lines to introduce Neelkanth; He is one guide with very good knowledge on wildlife and tracking of tigers and other mammals. He was a dedicated guide for NGC filming “Secrets of wild India” which will be on air in mid 2012 at TATR.
The safari yielded in sighting of birds like Grey Headed Fish Eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Jungle Owlet, Plum headed parakeets, Drongos, Bush chats, Bea eaters, Munia, Yellow footed green pigeons and with few mammal sightings of sambar deer, spotted deers, Nilgai. We called our day with nice dinner at Saras resort.
22nd Dec 2011 “D-Day” – Morning Safari
The safari started at 6.30 Am and it was chilling outside. Few minutes drive we spotted White Eye Honey Buzzard which flew and perched on top of the tree. The light was very dim and could not photograph it. Neelkant wanted to visit “Koshe kana” range. Other jeeps that entered along with us took different routes like telia, katezari, kolsa ranges.
The game road was silent and exciting; all of us were keen on observing any movement of animals or birds which took flight. Neelkant observed the fresh pug marks on the track, he told us that a female tigress has walked on the track, we almost tracked the pug marks for more than a km.
Suddenly Karthik shouted “TIGER!! TIGER” seeing on left hand side. The first glimpse of tigress was a treat for all of us. the tigress went into nearby thickets on spotting us. Neelkant advised us to maintain pin-drop silence as it would come out of the bush after some time. It was hardly 5 mins of silence and patience, TIGER came out of the bush and started walking towards us on the jeep track. Luckily no other vehicles were lined up to see the beauty of koshe kana range. Clicked!! Clicked!! Clicked that is all we did. We watched the TIGER for more than 15 mins on the track walking towards us, and we were retracing our route to give enough space for the tigress. it was our day and you can say a perfect date with tigress…
First glimpse of tigress rushing inside the bush…
Stopped our jeep for 15 mins in anticipating whether tigress would return back, but it dint turn up. The body & soul was filled with joy never expected a tiger would walk towards us with in such close proximity.
We moved on further, and again Neelkant observed the new pug marks on the same track after 2km of sighting the tigress, this time it was a male tiger. Hearing this from Neelkant it was unmatchable bliss to see a male tiger.
Neelkant shouted “TIGER!! TIGER” simultaneously pavan too joined the voice, he saw huge creature sitting beside the jeep track from binoculars. It took 10 secs to spot where the tiger was sitting. AHH right there…
First glimpse of a KING…
I could not believe my eyes, as I am seeing 2 tigers back to back in less than 30 mins of time on the same jeep track. It got up majestically and went inside the bush, this time too Neelkant suggested us to be silent and we moved back our jeep 300 mtrs away.
Pheww!! TIGER came outside the bush and stared at us for more than a min. It was huge male tiger; I never dreamt in my life I would sight such a huge male tiger. The luck poured on us; it emerged on the track and started walking towards us. May be I can’t narrate more on how we felt; one should feel it.
Thrice it went into bush after coming nearer to our jeep and again we took back the jeep away for 100-200 mtrs and within 5 mins tiger would peep out and come to track. This happened three times and I don’t think we should expect anything more. TATR trip was fruitful kudos to Neelkant and cheers to team.
Finally 3 other jeeps came behind us and this time TIGER went into bush and dint turn up after a long wait of 1 hour. We moved forward with contented smile on each of us.
22nd Dec 2011 “D-Day” – Evening Safari
The morning energizer – TIGER sighting was fresh in our mind evening safari commenced at 2.30Pm, it was scorching outside, meanwhile Neelkant decided to move towards “Kate Zari” zone as there was a tigress with 4 cubs and if we were lucky we could sight the cubs too. Slowly we moved on the road observing both sides… hmmm no signs or movement of animals or birds, we reached Kate Zari range at 3.30Pm also we found the pug marks on the track, again everyone of our expectation of sighting TIGER was in full swing. But every day is not a Sunday… we spotted chitals and sambar deers in abundant.
Neelkant spotted “Lesser Adjutant Stork” which is a migratory bird and vulnerable according to IUCN.
The eco system is balanced perfectly with mixture of chitals, langurs, lapwings and storks and many more animals in one single waterhole and grasslands.
The much waited tigress and its cubs dint turn up after waiting for long hours. We returned to moharli as it was time to leave.
After dinner at saras we all sat playing UNO cards for 2 hours and went for a nap.
23rd Dec 2011 – Morning Safari
It was chilly morning drive inside the game root, Neelkant insisted to drive along koshe kana range once again, but we did not find any pug marks on the jeep track nor could we track the tiger in any form.
Further on we reached Telia range; this was the waterhole where I sighted tiger for the first time in TATR in 2009. Rest others were shocked to see the grasslands and serene beauty of TATR.
We stopped at telia for 10 mins and then drove towards pandra pavani, already 2 vehicles were lined up near waterhole they saw 2 tigers crossing the pandra pavani few mins back this was our first miss call of the day. Team dint move any further anticipating any movements. Time was slipping by we had to reach mohrali gate by 10.30.
Returning from safari we shared our experiences having poha[Avalaki] as breakfast at saras resort. We had shifted our stay from saras to MTDC.
Time was 1.00Pm when we settle down at MTDC and started playing UNO till our jeep arrived.
23rd Dec 2011 – Evening Safari
The evening safari started at 2.00Pm. The plan included a slow drive towards telia, visit jamon jhura, wait till 4.30Pm and then again move on to telia.
We sighted sambars, chitals, brown shrike, mag-pie robin, ashy swallow, lapwings, rose-ringed parakeets, white eye honey buzzard, and jungle wabblers.
24th Dec 2011 – Morning Safari
Our last day at TATR, we had 2 more safaris and opportunity to sight wildlife. Morning cold had made us numb but it was the last chance to experience the amazing forest drive in the chilled weather. As planned, we decided to visit Vasanth Bandara range, drove along koshe kana.
Compared to other ranges, vasanth bandara is very calm with lush greenery. It has lot of birds to watch and photograph. On the move we just missed a drama which unfolded in front of us, it all happened in seconds and we were not able to capture the drama.
Time elapsed slowed as we drove through the jungle hoping for any movement. A sudden rustle of leaves drew our attention and we stopped the jeep. We witnessed the escape of a monitor lizard from the claws of death. A brown fish owl was denied of its prey.
The safari ended up in sighting sambars, lesser adjutant stork, chitals, and brown fish owl.
24th Dec 2011 – Evening Safari – Missed Call drive.
It was our final safari; I would say it was a miss call evening, where we missed seeing 2 tigers and 1 leopard. Firstly we went to pandra pavani the time was 3.pm and RRU [Rapid Response Unit] patrolling team spotted a tiger on the same trail that we had just passed. This was our first missed call.
Further we moved on the track suddenly 2 wild dogs came into sight, it is the only animal which I have not missed in all my wildlife odysseys till date.
Forest itself is a treasure of surprises, we were following the wild dogs on the jeep track for more than 20 mins, and suddenly we encountered huge sambar deer on the jeep track. Prey and predator on the same frame, can’t believe it. Sambar became very alert and stamped the foot hard to ground when 2 wild dogs approached it. It was on high alert. It stared 2 wild dogs in fear, but wild dogs moved on silently.
First time in my experience I have encountered prey and predator in single frame. It was mesmerizing scene to all of us. Time was 4.30Pm when we planned to visit telia in the evening, on the jeep track while returning a group of chitals were on high alert starring in a particular direction. I insisted to stop the vehicle for some time and observe, but Neelkant told it might be a false alarm and we moved without stopping. When we approached the road we spotted a Jungle cat.
Stopped for sometime and clicked few photos, it was a record shot to me. Then came the jeep which was behind us and showed us the photo of tiger which crossed when the deers where on high alert. Oh man this was our second missed call.
Had only few minutes in our pocket and Neelkant planned for jamun jhura, while travelling suddenly Neelkant stopped the jeep and told driver to take back. That is when we saw a sloth bear rushing inside the bush. It proved once again Neelkant is master tracker.
Time was 5.10Pm when we approached jamun jhura waterhole, driving along the waterhole we heard the alarm calls of langurs and chitals. Neelkant suggested to stop the jeep and wait for some time, quickly a vehicle in front of us moved and even we too moved slowly, we could only witness something moving very fast in front of us. Not realizing what it was we continued to look in the direction of the alarm calls. Guide who was sitting in the jeep in front of us told it was leopard. We noticed a langur lying dead on the ground; a fresh kill was made by the leopard. A third and final missed call of the evening.
To our fate train was delayed by 7 hours from the time of departure!!!
Hats of to TATR!! For the surprises it offered.
More pics on : Wildlife Odyssey
Birds spotted at TATR:
1. Indian Roller
3. Purple sunbird
4. Brown fish owl
5. Oriental Honey Buzzard
6. Grey headed fish eagle
7. Oriental mag-pie robin
8. Grey wagtail
9. Jungle Peafowl
10. Rose-ringed parakeet
11. Plum headed parakeet
12. White throated king fisher
13. Common kingfisher
14. Pied king fisher
15. Indian Pond Heron
16. Little Cormorants
17. Open Billed Stork
18. Lesser Adjutan Stork
20. Jungle Babblers
21. Lesser flameback woodpecker
22. Scaly Breasted Munia
23. Yellow footed green pigeon
24. White Ibis
25. Spotted Dove
28. Racket tailed drongo
29. Rufous tree pie
30. House crow
31. Jungle crow
32. Jungle Mynah
33. Green Bee Eater
34. Brahminy kite
35. Crested serpant Eagle
36. Red vented Bulbul
37. Red whiskered Bulbul
38. Large Brown Shrike
39. Barn owl
Mammals spotted at TATR:
1. Common Langurs
2. Spoteed Deers
3. Sambar Deers
4. Jungle cat
5. Nilgai / Blue bul
8. Ruddy Mangoose
10. Sloth Bear
11. Barking Deer
12. Wild Boar
13. Black napped hare