Only a few days back we got married & we decided to leave for his favorite forest Tadoba “so called his second home”. This was my first forest trip; I was skeptical about it as to leave immediately after marriage but I knew somewhere in the near future, my life would be revolving around it. I had a doubt in mind- what if I don’t like it! Hence, I left everything to him. I wanted him to plan this trip so that I too fall in love with the wild. Being a city girl I never got a chance to visit any forest before and have only seen animals in zoos.
Finally the day of my first forest trip at Tadoba arrived & we were on our way to Tadoba via Nagpur. It was a 3 hrs drive & before I could realize we were in our resort’s (Irai Safari Retreat) premises. I don’t think I could have expected this level of luxury in a small village. As soon as we checked-in, it was already time for our first safari so we quickly got ready and reached the forest gate ‘Mohurli’. Then I learnt that there are other gates as well for the entry and each gate allows different numbers of cars.
Immediately after the safari began, our naturalist informed us there has been no sighting since the past four days. My husband got disappointed as he wanted me to meet his first love as soon as possible. I had heard many stories about his encounter with tiger and other animals that I thought it must be very easy to locate them in one safari. But as time passed, we were able to see only deer, sambar, chital, langur and many bird species (which I fail to recall).
2 hrs passed and no encounter with tiger made me disappointed; I started blaming myself for such sheer luck, then I understood it’s not that simple to see a tiger in one safari. Soon, our first safari got over and no trace of tiger left me disheartened.We now had only one safari left of my first forest trip at Tadoba, our last chance to see a tiger. For morning safari we woke up at 5 am. Right after waking up I told my husband about my little wild dream in which I was playing with tigers and we laughed about it. We got ready, reached the gate right on time and started our safari. Initially our guide and driver were tracing the signs of tiger and reached a spot where another vehicle’s guide showed us the path where tiger sighting was already happening.
We immediately rushed towards it; then what I saw was breathtaking, for a moment I could not believe my eyes. It was a female tiger sitting on the road, surrounded by 10-15 jeeps. Although, it was a bit disturbing sight but the tiger was comfortable with people around her. Cars were already surrounding the tiger, so we could not place our car in the front. When everyone was busy in clicking photographs the tiger Maya stood up and started to walk towards the bushes.
Tigress at Tadoba
In fraction of seconds all the engines started and began to reverse. Before I could understand what was happening, I was ordered to sit at my place & hold the handle bar tightly.
After hustle bustle, moving jeeps and a few jumps later I found myself in another area where the tiger was expected. Few jeeps were already present by then, later more jeeps joined us. 15 minutes had passed with no sign of the tiger made my husband restless and he shared his doubt of tiger being moved to another area parallel to one on which we were standing. Our naturalist and guide agreed and immediately drove towards the other road, where possibilities were high. We along with two jeeps were waiting. I noticed some movement deep in the bushes and gained everyone’s attention as I confirmed it was a tiger. It was tigress Maya again; coming out of the bushes towards the road. Driver moved the vehicle little forward so as to give way to the tigress to walk on the road. We were continuously moving forward, keeping a safe distance with the tigress, she was right behind us. I stood up and started to admire her beauty. She was walking gracefully with confidence. Each step was firm, while moving forward; she kept marking her territory by peeing on the tree trunk.
Tigress marking teritory
Also, she looked around maybe in search of prey. After marking she moved towards the side of the road and again went into the bushes, soon disappeared. It was a close encounter I could see her coat clearly it seemed soft, I felt like touching her. I was not at all afraid maybe because I was accompanied by very experienced people.
After this amazing encounter I found myself content and satisfied and felt very happy during my first forest trip at Tadoba. Our team and other safari vehicles began to track her again; an hour passed, we were waiting for her near a water body as she was expected to come there with her cubs. Long wait in the harsh sunlight made me impatient, so I asked my husband to go back. By god’s grace immediately there was some movement in the shrubs and some people were able to see cubs walking. When we followed the direction of the cubs we realized that tigress Maya was already sitting in the bushes.
Tigress with cubs
Soon she got up and began to come towards the road, and cubs followed her. It was a rare unexpected sight of mother and three 7 months old cubs together, one after the other in a row; that too right from the front, which left everyone dumb struck.
Tigress with cubs
This sighting was completely god’s blessing and pure luck. Had it being not luck then we would have left the spot without seeing anything.
On our way back to the Mohurli gate we saw a wild dog, which is rarer than tiger in India. The driver of the other car narrated us the scene that had just happened. The wild dogs were chasing a deer near the pond and suddenly crocodile came and snatched the deer and took him into the water. This made me realize that in a moment there is so much happening in the jungle as it happens in our lives. Likewise, everything cannot be experienced in one go. To come across one thing you have to let go of the other. My first forest trip at Tadoba was full of adventure and memories to cherish!
Tadoba is a beautiful place to witness the wildlife. Do taker a look at my following recommendations:-