A feeling of child-like glee bubbles up when one tends to spot something that one has only read or heard about, or seen on television. Sighting a magnificent striped beast, a tiger, in the dense forests of Tadoba was no exception.
Our quest for a weekend getaway made us stumble upon the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, not far from Mumbai. Situated in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, this hidden jewel of a place proved to be a treat for us wildlife lovers. After a flight to Nagpur and a three-hour drive to Tadoba, we arrived at the MTDC resort. On arrival, we set off on an afternoon game drive in an open jeep, accompanied by our driver and a guide.
Forest fascination: Driving through the dense cover of trees in the scorching heat, we stumbled upon a family of langurs perched on the branches of a tree. Half-curious and half-fearful at our attempt to click pictures of them in their natural habitat, the whole group seemed to let out a sigh of relief as we drove away. Eager to catch a glimpse of a tiger, we set off on a pathway frequented by the animal, as reported by forest officials. After thirty minutes of an arduous wait, disappointment began to set in as there was no trace of the royal beast.
Deciding not to waste any more time, we drove down to the nearby lake, where we spotted a sloth bear from a distance. As we ventured further, three different species of deer graced us with their presence, namely the barking deer, the sambar and the spotted deer. The great Indian gaur was seen grazing, unfazed by the noise around it, while the wild boars scurried away in fright as our vehicles drew close.
On a tiger's trail: We had an early start the next morning as we headed to the woods again, this time taking a different route. It looked beautiful in the light of the rising sun and was strangely silent. As we drove through, the startling call of the sambar deer alerted the guide. We were told that such calls by the deer signified the presence of a tiger in the vicinity, and they seldom were wrong. Excitement mounted as we headed in the direction of the call, which was estimated by the guide to be about 5 metres away from the big cat. Switching off our engines we parked our jeeps in a corner, waiting with bated breaths.
To our immense delight, the majestic animal strolled by rather haughtily on its way to the waterhole a few meters away, and settled down for a lazy cat nap.
Wilderness beckons again: The afternoon safari commenced with us bumping into another family of langurs and deer in plenty. We managed to spot another tiger, which glided into the undergrowth in search of prey. We were told about a family with tiger cubs, spotted a couple of months back. While driving back, we caught glimpses of a jungle cock, peacock and honey buzzer. Our last safari set us on a tiger's trail again; we had a half-hour audience with it, until it was frightened away by a water tanker.
We carried away joyful memories of our expedition into the animal kingdom. With the overall number of tigers in India just about 1,411, we consider ourselves blessed to have sighted three. While Kanha, Corbett and Bandhavgarh are on the top of the chart among tiger reserves, Tadoba is set to reach there soon.