The wooded flatlands are a treat to navigate. The grassy meadows are where the predators hide in waiting and the undulating hills curtain the glorious sun behind them. Such is the varied beauty of Tadoba National Park in Chandrapur. The tricky part of the journey, though, lies outside its gates, with all the planning and permissions required to enter the park. So we got naturalist and wildlife tour guide Swanand Deshpande to share insider tips that will help you navigate through the process and make the most of your next safari trip in the forests of Maharashtra.
In a decade of traipsing through the wild, Swanand has spent six years guiding the guests at Waghoba Eco Lodge (Pugdundee Safaris) in Tadoba. He now leads specialised wildlife trips all across India. Here’s what to know when planning your visit to Tadoba Andhari National Park:
What makes Tadoba National Park special?
What sets Tadoba apart from other national parks is the unique mixture of habitats. There are 20 different zones, allowing tourists to explore the national park from all corners while reducing the pressure on any one particular zone. Each zone here has a different topography, with wooded flatlands, grassy meadows, hilly terrains, and even deep valleys and river beds. High coverage of bamboo thickets and teak wood canopies create the ideal habitat for tigers to roam freely.
Tadoba also offers safaris at night. “Few national parks in India offer safaris after dark. One can spot a plethora of wildlife at night at Tadoba, including the Indian flying squirrel, two species of civets, smaller felines like the rusty spotted cat and the jungle cat, owls and nightjars,” says Swanand.
What to spot in Tadoba-Andhari National Park?
Tadoba is the land of Royal Bengal tigers, and spotting one could be a regular sight. But every now and then you could be taken by surprise. Swanand’s greatest spotting was that of a tiger followed by five cubs at dawn. “We were on our way to the main tar road from where we chart our course of action. Halfway there, and bam! A tiger is spotted in a grass meadow. We figured it was Lara, as she had an unmistakable round face—more like the face of a male tiger. But she wasn’t alone. Following the mother was her cub, and another one, and another two: five of them on the main road, making a move towards us. We kept a distance of about 20 metres. Ultimately after a full memory card and jaw-dropped faces, Lara and the gang exited the road and went into the bushes to head toward the buffer area of the forest.”
But apart from tiger sightings, Tadoba is also popular for sheltering a healthy population of Indian leopards (including two black panthers, which are essentially melanistic leopards), Indian wild dogs, sloth bears, marsh crocodiles and the Indian gaur. Among herbivores, the reserve Tadoba has a thriving population of spotted deer, nilgai or the blue bull and northern plains langur.