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A date with Tadoba Tiger

Spread over 625km2 in the Chandrapur district, Maharashtra’s oldest and largest National Park, the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is rich and varied with tropical dry deciduous forest. Though Tadoba is a teak realm with crocodile bark trees, Tendu and Mahua prominent amongst the other species, I was seeing Bamboo everywhere! A healthy tiger density, virgin forest, indigenous tribal culture, eco-sensitive and less commercialized tourism define Tadoba. From January to March, Tadoba explodes into a riot of colour, painting the tiger-downtown yellow and red. The Park is rich in wetland, too - the Tadoba and Kolsa Lakes and marsh vegetation. Jamni Village is situated inside the core area and is soon to be resettled outside the park which is awfully needed.
We reached Tadoba via Nagpur at 11 o’clock on a late December morning. That afternoon around 2 o’ clock, my friends and I decided to go on our first safari inside the “Tadoba zone” of TATR. Sighting a tiger in the wild is always a chance, and we must take ours!
It was just an hour we had been into the park when we noticed a large number of vehicles parked on the main road. As we joined the gang, we saw huge Pandharpauni (P2) tigress coming out of the thickets towards where we parked ourselves. No scorching summer; on a chilling winter afternoon, we got our first and most awaited “darshan” of this magnificent beauty crossing the path mutely and majestically giving us a good 10 minutes to stand, stare and capture the grandeur in cameras and memories forever. This is what incredible tadoba is. And being rewarded with a sighting of the apex predator so early on in the safari, made it even more incredible! 

She was fully grown 4-years old female searching for her mating partner in the wild and came across “well-informed” us sitting in gypsies and yearning for a glimpse of her appearance. Her skin texture was rich, those black stripes standing out gaudily against the orange. Such natural elegance! She looked relaxed about the presence of our jeeps, and yet alert - looking out in every direction, sniffing around for clues. Was she worried about us - the intruders, or was she herself intruding? She went about her business of inspecting and soon vanished into the undergrowth.

We moved our gypsies and followed her pug-marks along the trail wondering if she was lurking around or has moved on, leaving us breathless and fanatic. That “if” caused all our excitement to meet an anti-climax. After about half-an-hour, we found her again on the bank of a lake. She was getting ready to take her afternoon bathe and we, waiting at a distance of a few feet, were getting all the more obsessed to witness and arrest each of those wild moments. She took a swim, head above water, paddling to the shallow edge of the lake and climbed back onto the land on the other side of the lake. She sprayed urine on one of the Arjun trees over there to scent-mark her territory and soon managed to disappear again into the bushes leaving no clue for us to stalk her any longer.  

It kept us in awe for quite some time. We were left to wonder how vulnerable this wild young Tigress to us – the humans. What if she gets too close to us - radical, social networkers? What if she falls prey to the poachers? Certainly this gorgeous young girl of Tadoba is worthy of a fair shot at life - to be able to have her own sphere of influence and raise her cubs.

Following that, Tadoba surprised each of our next safaris with a galore of extraordinary flora and fauna.
The highlights are Marsh or Mugger Crocodile found in Tadoba Lake, strong and massively built Indian Bison sloppily browsing on tree leaves, a pack of 8 Wild Dogs crossing our way and feeding on a dead crow, sloth bear scrapping trees with his fore-paws and a variety of birds, besides a plenty of Sambar stag, barking and spotted deer, Wild Boar, feisty Ruddy Mongoose and Hanuman Langur.

Here is my story of Tadoba! And my experience is surreal, to be treasured for all time….!

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