Tadoba: The Jewel Of Vidarbha
Posted: Jan 15, 2014
Although Maharashtra’s oldest and largest national park is fast gaining popularity, it still remains off the beaten track.
TILL ABOUT A FEW YEARS AGO, not many people knew much about the Tadoba Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra. It was not in the itinerary of serious wildlife enthusiasts. In their pursuit of the big striped cat, they would invariably head off to Ranthambore in Rajasthan, Kanha in Madhya Pradesh, or Corbett in the foothills of the Himalayas. So Tadoba remained the poor cousin of all these bigger and better-known national parks.
Then suddenly, without any indication, Tadoba burst onto India’s wildlife landscape. As if prompted by an unseen cue, everyone started making a beeline for Tadoba. Today, Tadoba is touted as one of the best places in the country to spot and photograph tigers. Spread over 625 sq km, the park has more than 60 tigers, which is a healthy figure. It’s easy to spot tigers in Tadoba, and even the tigers don’t mind humans in close proximity.
It’s not that nobody knew about Tadoba all these years. It is, after all, Maharashtra’s first national park that was set up way back in 1955. It’s just that die-hard Tadoba fans managed to keep it away from public spotlight. But with the non-stop cacophony about Tadoba’s wonders by social media and blogs, the tiger reserve could no longer remain the `hidden jewel of Vidarbha’, as much as its ardent fans would have liked it to be.
Reaching Tadoba can be a tad tricky, but for anyone with a fair interest in wildlife, it should not be difficult. Usually, the first halt for the uninitiated is the bustling city of Nagpur that can be reached either by train or flight. From Nagpur, it’s a smooth two-hour drive to Chandrapur. The town is situated at a kissing distance from Tadoba Tiger Reserve, and it is advisable to purchase all essential items in Chandrapur itself. The bookings for safari rides inside the park are done at the forest office, and given the nascent popularity of Tadoba, one must get all permissions well in time.
Driving away from Chandrapur, one would expect Tadoba to spring into view immediately. Contrary to this, it is situated in the middle of the busy town, and silent Tadoba is a huge coalmine, with a super-thermal power plant. It’s an irony, actually. But it also proves the point that tigers are hardy survivors and can take on challenges, which are usually deemed to harm their environment.
A leisurely 45-minute drive from Chandrapur takes you to Moharli village. It’s a picturesque spot, reminiscent of how life in India would have looked like half a century ago. Moharli is situated on the border of Tadoba. It retains it rustic charm because there are yet not too many resorts or hotels here, although visitors’ numbers have been on the rise for the past two years.
Once inside the park, the magic of Tadoba completely envelops you. For a new visitor to Tadoba, the first stopover inside the park should be the beautiful Telia lake. The sprawling grassland covered by bamboo forest near this lake offers a first glimpse of Tadoba’s immense possibility.
Bison, or gaur as it is commonly known, is another speciality of Tadoba. Normally gentle and peace loving, it is nevertheless still advisable to keep one’s distance from this animal. A lone gaur, possibly kicked out from the herd after losing a fight for leadership, can be a nasty encounter.
A number of waterholes dot Tadoba at strategic places, and these have become the best meeting points for a tiger and wildlife photographer. The field director of Tadoba, Virendra Tiwari, is justifiably proud of the reserve. He is happy that Tadoba has gained a well deserved ranking as one of the country’s best natural wonders. My pressing schedule as CMD of Raheja Developers kept me away from Tadoba, but my team members at Raheja Productions took beautiful shots of the park and its varied wildlife.
The interesting landscape of Tadoba keeps one hooked to the place for hours, including the massive Tadoba lake spread over 120 hectares. Enjoy the view, but don’t go too close to the water as it’s full of crocodiles.
There’s also a historical angle to this place. Tadoba derives its name from Taru, a Gond warrior who lost his life here after a heroic battle with a tiger. The tribals of the region worship Taru as a god, and a temple dedicated to him occupies a corner of Tadoba lake.
Fortunately, even with wildlife tourism fast gaining momentum in Tadoba, there still remain places inside the reserve where one can enjoy long stretches of uninterrupted bliss. One such place is Kolsa, a charming forest rest house, which can be booked in advance for an overnight stay. This makes Kolsa the first choice of the connoisseur.
Recently, the National Tiger Conservation Authority issued a red alert to several states, about organised gangs of poachers planning a strike at their national parks and sanctuaries. Among the vulnerable targets, Tadoba naturally comes to mind. But I am confident that the dedicated forest staff of this spectacular tiger reserve is more than a match for the poachers.
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