The following is account of a 10-day tour that my wife and I took visiting 3 parks in India from April 28-May 9, 2015. First stop…Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in the state of Maharashtra. We stayed 3 nights at the Svasara resort – http://www.svasararesorts.com/ It was comfortable there, and the staff took good care of us. The biggest plus for staying here was that the lodge was right by the entrance to the park. It was hot (40C/104F) and dusty…but that was quickly forgotten as we started to get our first glimpses of the fauna of India. Our first drive, an evening one, produced plenty of Chital and Sambar Deer as well as the much less common Gaur, or Indian Bison. Hanuman Langurs seemed to be around every corner as well. Although this was not the best time of the year for birding, resident birds were in abundance. Lake Tadoba produced some nice birds such as Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Asian Openbill, Bronze-winged Jacana, and Lesser Whistling-Ducks as well as a few “Mugger” Crocodiles. Asian Paradise Flycatchers and Black-naped Monarchs were fairly common and one of the watering holes produced great looks at a Brown Fish-Owl. We also got our first looks at Indian Pitta, a summer visitor, and Jungle Owlet.
The first two drives did not produce much in the way of predators, although we had been hearing alarm calls from Chital, Sambar, and Langurs often. On our third drive, an evening drive on Day 2, we were rewarded with looks at two Leopards – One was a female that was drinking at a hole about 40 meters from the road that eventually crossed the road in front of us. The second was a large male seen briefly as it eased into a bamboo thicket and out of the sight of many tourists that were clicking away at their cameras. On our way back to the lodge on the same drive, we were very fortunate to see a pair of Dholes (Asian Wild Dog) feeding on a Chital carcass. This was the only time we saw these rare predators in the trip.
On the morning of Day 3, we finally saw what we primarily came to see. After just entering TATR, we heard a Chital alarm in huge meadow. Scanning the edges, our guide, Rajen, saw our first Tiger. She was about 300 meters away and her head looked like a light dot in the grass from that distance. However, she eventually got up and made her way along a berm by the edge of the woods and towards us. Much too our pleasure (mixed with brief anxiety and an adrenaline rush) she came out of the bamboo thicket right by our vehicle. We literally could have jumped in her back! She then proceeded to amble back out into the meadow and out of sight. A Stork-billed Kingfisher flew by as the tigress left us. On the same drive, we encountered our second Tiger, but it was sleeping contently in the shade along the banks of Lake Tadoba.
Our final day in TATR was a little less eventful, but we did pick up a few more birds, including a roosting Savanna Nightjar. We also saw our first Barking Deer of the trip. On our last evening trip we used a different gate away from the lodge. On the way back, in the dark, we spotted a Jungle Cat cross in front of us. The next two parks were in the state of Madhya Pradesh, starting with Kanha National Park.
Kanha was beautiful (and a lot cooler!). We stayed here for 4 nights at Tuli Tiger Resort – http://www.tulihotels.com/tuli-tiger-resort-kanha.html We stayed in the luxury tents, which were quite well appointed and the food was great. The park was bit different from Tabdoba – taller forests, many large expanses of meadows, clear streams. We had some luck early – on the first drive we had a large male Tiger walking along the road, although he turned into the woods and disappeared quickly after we caught up with him. He turned around once for us, but the dust we kicked up when we hit the breaks caused him to grimace instead of giving us a piercing stare – oh well…Later on that drive we had a female Tiger a couple hundred meters away on a berm between two water holes. She unfortunately did not move far for us. We also had more birds to look at including Crested Hawk-Eagle, Scarlet Minivet, and a brief glimpse of a Blue-bearded Bee eater.
Afternoon rains came during our last 2 days at Kanha, which can affect animal movements. However, it was said that rain improves sightings for Sloth Bear. On that note, we actually did find a Sloth Bear digging at something behind some small trees. Although bees were swarming around its head, it may having been getting at a termite mound – does not matter what it was eating…it was a cool sighting! The next morning we found another female Tiger – a rather large female, with a gash above her eye. Although seen just briefly as she crossed the road, she was close and we got good looks. The next evening we came upon another female Tiger that was lying in grass near a creek bed. Before we had to leave, she got up and started showing interest in a group of Chital. We got good looks at her, but unfortunately we had to get out of the park before we could see if she was going to try for a kill. Kanha was also the only park that had the localized Hard-ground Barasingha. We saw plenty of these large, tan deer. We had Golden Jackals as well here, including an adult pair and 4 pups (unrelated to the adult pair). The final park to visit was Bandhavgarh.
At Bandhavgarh, we stayed at the King’s Lodge http://www.kingslodge.in/ This park has been said to have one of the highest densities of Tigers of all the parks in India. We were here for 3 nights, so it was a little surprising when we actually only had one sighting of Tigers here, but it was of a mother with three 8-9 month old cubs. The cubs remained fairly hidden in the grass until they went up a wooded ridge and posed nicely together. Unfortunately, they were a couple hundred meters away and photos were tough to get. The mother, however, eventually gave us good views as she passed close by the car when she walked through a small ravine near the road. The final two drives were a bit slow on the predator front, but the birds were good. We picked up Sirkeer Malkoha, Indian Nuthatch, Amur Falcon, Small Minivet, Lesser Adjutant, and Painted and Wooly-necked Storks to name a few. Bandhavgarh was a pretty park as well, especially in zone 1 where the old fortress is located among the small mountains.
So in our 10-day tour, we saw 10 Tigers, 2 Leopards, 1 Jungle Cat, 1 Sloth Bear, 2 Dholes, and 6 Golden Jackals as well as many species of ungulates and around 135 bird species.
All in all, it was a great tour and a great introduction to the fascinating country of India. There is so much to see there, and we will surely be back soon. Many thanks to our guide, Rajen, for all his work on the drives. And of course, many thanks to Wild Word India – Sanjay Khurana in the U.S. for all the logistics and booking and Vikram Singh (owner) for all the organization and help along the way while in India. If you come to India to experience all it has to offer, Wild World India is the outfitter to choose.