Created in 1955, Tadoba National Park is the largest and oldest in Maharastra -- and, although it's growing in popularity, still remains quite off the beaten track. Dominated by teak and bamboo, and with a magical landscape of rugged cliffs, marshes, and lakes, it's full of diverse wildlife and was once favored by shikaras (hunters). Together with the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary, which was formed in 1986, it makes up the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve.
If you want to see tigers in the wild in India, forget Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore. At this 625.40 square kilometer reserve, it's commonly not a matter of whether you'll see a tiger, but rather how many. The most recent census, carried out in 2012, found that the core area has 43 tigers. There are another 22 tigers in the buffer area, and a further 35 in the area surrounding the park.
How to Get There:
When to Visit:
The reserve is open daily except Tuesdays for safaris. Morning safaris operate from 6.00 a.m to 10.00 a.m. (entry allowed until 8.00 a.m.), and afternoon safaris from 3.00 p.m. until 6.00 p.m (entry allowed until 4.30 p.m.).
All entrance gates, except for the Moharli gate, are closed for the monsoon season during July-September. The 20 kilometer tar road from Moharli to Tadoba Lake remains open. A limited number of vehicles are allowed to enter via Moharli during the monsoon, but they must stay on the main road. Vehicles aren't permitted to visit any waterholes inside the reserve during this time.
The reserve has three zones -- Moharli, Tadoba, and Kolsa -- with numerous entry gates. Moharli and Kolsa are part of the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary. Mohali gate, in Mohali village, provides entry to the Mohali zone. It's the reserve's most commercial entrance point, due to its proximity to Chandrapur, and is where the bulk of accommodations and tourist facilities (including wildlife interpretation center, safari vehicles, and forest guides) can be found. It also provides convenient access to picturesque and quieter Kolsa zone, at the far eastern of the park (this zone's other entry gates are Pangdi and Zari).
Taboba, in the reserve's north, covers the Chimur Hills. At its middle is Tadoba Lake, a crucial water source for the region. This zone's three entry gates are at Kolara (provides good access from Nagpur, and is being developed), Navegaon (also provides good access from Nagpur, although accommodations are lacking), and Khutwanda (nearest to Warora and Mohali).
It's important to plan your trip well in advance, as the reserve has only recently found a place on the tourist map and the number of places to stay is very limited. The number of safaris is also restricted, and it's best to hire a reputed guide (rather than one at random) to ensure optimal wildlife sightings. Ideally, it's recommended that you go on three to four safaris to fully see the park.
Entry and Safari Fees:
- Entry Fee: 750 rupees per car/jeep and 1,500 rupees per minibus, Monday to Friday. 1,000 rupees per car/jeep and 2,000 rupees per minibus on weekends and government holidays.
- Camera Fee: 200 rupees for lenses 250 mm and above.
- Gypsy hire: 2,000 rupees per vehicle (seats six).
- Guide hire: 300 rupees (to be paid at the gate).
In addition, it's possible to go on an elephant ride from Moharli gate (this is a joyride, not to track tigers). The rates are 300 rupees for Indians on weekends and government holidays, and 200 rupees during the week. For foreigners, the rate is 1,800 rupees on weekends and government holidays, and 600 rupees during the week.
Safari bookings are to be made online at this website, which belongs to the Maharashtra Forest Department. Bookings open 60 days in advance and need to be completed before 5 p.m. on the day prior to the safari. 70% of the quota will be available for online bookings, while 15% will be on-the-spot bookings on first-come first-serve basis. The remaining 15% is for VIPs. Or, you simply turn up and ask other travelers if there's room in their safari vehicles. Proof of identity will need to be provided when entering the park.
Where to Stay:
Royal Tiger Resort is located right near Moharli gate and has 12 basic but comfortable rooms. Rates start from 2,500 rupees per night for a double. Serai Tiger Camp has quality tented accommodations for around 7,000 rupees per night for a double, inclusive of meals. It's located quite far from the gate though. Irai Safari Retreat is a gorgeous new property in Bhamdeli, near Moharli, with luxury rooms for 8,500 rupees a double, including meals. Its luxury tents are cheaper. The most inexpensive options at Moharli are the Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation hotel, with rooms for 2,000 rupees and under a night, and the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra guesthouse and dormitory. Book online on the MTDC website.
If money is no object, Svasara Resort at Kolara gate gets great reviews and provides an indulgent experience. Rates start from 13,000 rupees per night for a double. At Kolara, Chava Kolkara Resort offers basic but well managed accommodations. Those on a budget should also check out the recently opened Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra eco huts there (bookable on the MTDC website).
For a rustic stay amongst nature, try award winning Tiger Trails Jungle Eco Lodge at Khutwanda gate. It's all about location, location at this "bush camp" (so, be prepared to pay extra for it).
If you want to stay far inside the reserve, book one of the Forest Rest Houses through the Forest Department.