Tigers, hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget!
The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is arguably one of India’s most exciting Tiger reserves, a forest that used to be famous as a favourite of shikari’s or hunters. Dominated by teak forest and bamboo, it’s a rugged landscape comprising cliffs, caves, marshes, perennial lakes and boulder strewn streambeds that cater to a host of biodiversity, not least the Tiger, who are seen increasingly in its borders, but also many other endangered species including leopard, sloth bear, leopard cat, ratel and gaur.
Overlooked by tourism till recently because it was off the beaten track and lacked accommodation, today it offers comfortable accommodation and some wonderful wildlife experiences. It is also one of the few parks that are open all year round, offering visitors an opportunity to visit in the monsoon season – this extraordinary active time for all manner of plants and animals, yet otherwise closed to keen nature lovers in most other parks of India.
The reserve was named after the deity Taru, who is worshipped as Tadoba and the Andhari River. According to local folklore, Taru was a village chief who was killed in a mythological encounter with a tiger. Today, there is a shrine dedicated to him on the banks of the beautiful Tadoba Lake.
The region was once ruled by the Gond kings who used these forests as hunting grounds till it was banned in 1935. In 1955, 116.54 sq km of the forest was declared as Tadoba National Park and then in 1986 another of 509 sq km adjacent to the reserve was notified as the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary. The two sanctuaries were subsequently integrated and in 1993, it became a Project Tiger Reserve.
Tadoba lies in the Moharli hills of Maharashtra. It has a hilly terrain with an average altitude of about 200-350 m. The Tiger Reserve is spread around the serene and beautiful Tadoba Lake which lies in a basin at the central region. Local tribes consider the lake sacred and sprinkle its water in their fields before sowing, for protection against pests. It is also the oldest National Park of the State. Tadoba and other adjacent reserves form a well-protected unit for the long-term survival of endangered species such as the tiger, today’s count of which stands at 74 with 26 cubs counted to date.
The Tadoba Range is the Northern most range of Tadoba with entry through the Khutwanda Gate. This is the most popular range because of the good number of tiger sightings it has offered visitors so far. There are an estimated 31 tigers in the Tadoba Range and in 2011, 27 cubs were noted in the park. This range also has the Tadoba Lake where you can see the Indian Marsh Crocodile and a vast number of migratory birds during the winters. Within this range, there are two prominent spots - Katezari, which is an evergreen valley and Pandharpauni meadows that has two waterholes that ensures visits by the wild denizens of the forest.
The Mohurli Range is part of Andhari Tiger Reserve and entrance to this range is via the Mohurli gate to the south and Khutwanda gate to the north. The Mohurli gate is the commercial gate of the Reserve since it connects to Chandrapur city. Nearby are two large open-cast Western coal fields mines and the MSEB-Super Thermal power station touching TATR. Two prominent areas in this range are the Telia Lake, which good place to spot migratory birds and Andhari Nala for Gaur sightings. There are 16 tigers in known to roam in this range.
The Kolsa Range is also part of Andhari Tiger Reserve and it shares its entry gates with those of the Mohurli Range. This is not as popular as the other ranges since there haven’t been many reported sightings and the road networks are not comprehensive. However, it can be the perfect spot for those looking to take the road less travelled.