“Eki drishshyo dekhi onnyo, ey je bonnyo ey oronyo”
(This is a different kind of scenery, this is a wild wild forest)
DAY 1: Our first safari was in the afternoon of April Fool’s Day. The only thing that made us forget the blazing sun was our excitement of anticipation. I have already written about the general information about visiting this park in Tadoba Trip: A curtain raiser.
The first thing that struck me about the park was how beautiful and green it was. I live in Kenya now and just as my safaris there are never only about lions, I did not come to Tadoba just to see tigers. Of course, I was desperately hoping to see one, for the first time ever, but that did not make me oblivious to the birds and other animals of this place. And the amazing diversity of the flora and habitats in this small area.
We were lucky to see the famous tigress Maya (P2) with her cubs at Pandharpauni within an hour of our first safari. The amazing camouflage provided by the dry long grass has to be seen to be believed. How beautifully the stripes merge with the golden colour of the reeds and grass. Keep looking and you suddenly get to spot this magnificent animal.
She had 3 boys and a little girl who came out to pose for us in the open. But the mother and her sons continued feasting on the sambar they had killed the previous night. Watch the slideshow below. The female cub was so much smaller.
Suddenly , we saw a wild boar come to drink water near them and I was sure that he would be killed but thankfully, the tigers were not interested. There were some thirsty birds around too, all flocking around the waterhole.
A herd of chitals (spotted deer) also drank water quite cautiously and went on their way. On our way back, we passed by Lake Tadoba and saw quite a few aquatic birds, langurs and sambars.
We were also lucky to sight a serpent eagle on our way. As the weather was getting cooler, the dholes were coming out of their slumber and becoming active. We also spotted a Rufus Treepie which is known as the tiger’s dentist. Unlike the fearless ones in Ranthambore, they shied away from human contact.
A male sambar was grazing by the roadside. A magpie robin was about to call it a day. We also spotted the very shy barking deer. A pair of golden orioles playing in the bush looked a very pretty sight. The sun was beginning to set and in the dusk light I saw a green pigeon for the first time. I could not make out the colours well but I saw their unique colouring in the morning light the next day. We saw quite a few peafowls scurrying around but they were so frisky that I could just about get a bad shot.
But the day belonged to the magnificent setting sun!
DAY 2: The next day turned out to be a day of of mostly birds and an interesting dhole sighting. But we had to get out when the moon was still in the sky at 4am (because we could only get an entry through Zhari gate which was quite far away) but were rewarded with a mesmerising egg-yolk sunrise.
We saw many rollers as usual and a pond kingfisher patiently waiting for its breakfast and a langur sitting near it. We also spotted a jungle fowl scurrying away to god knows where. While we waited by a watering hole where leopard sighting was “guaranteed”, I had a chance to observe quite a few interesting birds around me. Especially my favourite ones – the gorgeous green pigeons.
The leopard never came despite an hour-long wait – instead chitals came in great numbers, drank water and left. However, I had a great sighting of a Changeable Hawk Eagle who was probably trying to steal a crow’s eggs/chicks and was challenged bravely the much smaller bird.
I also got some interesting shots of langurs. And a very unique ant nest made up of leaves. Never seen something like this before.
In the afternoon our entry was through Mohurli gate, we had a glimpse of one of Sonam’s cubs at Jamunjhora. Later in the afternoon, Sonam and the other 2 cubs had also emerged, we were told by another guest at our lodge.
On our way back, we passed by Tadoba Lake which always is a treat for sore eyes.
Our driver then dashed towards Pandharpauni again to check on Maya. We didn’t have much of a say though. We had a good sighting the previous day and the waiting place is infested with flies who don’t give you a respite. So remember to carry insect repellants if you want to wait here. We did sight Maya in the long grass and she seemed to be initially interested in a kill but then the sambars got a wind of her presence and scampered away, alerting all and sundry. The chitals followed suit quickly.
On our way back, we saw the ghost tree (that changes colour every season; white in winter, pink in spring and brown in summer) and some more birds. When it is white, its silvery bark glistens in the dark, especially on a moonlit night. We were there in April and a few of them quite ghostly white, although it was beginning to change colour.
The we saw a pack of dholes on a hunt. They seemed to have some kind of plan as they disappeared up on a hillock after coming close to the group of sambar. We could not wait long as it was getting dark.
I spotted a ruddy mongoose with some kind of berry in its mouth. Also, a Brahminy starling, treepie, peacock and barking deer.
And then we got back to the lodge for the night. The sunset was nothing spectacular like the other day. We saw a peacock engaged in a mating dance but promptly showed us his back as we came closer. In any case, the object of his attention had moved away.