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Wild Dogger

Alarm Call

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Well, Safari in India.

Obvious step, if you are looking for a wildlife Tiger sighting.

As the sub-continent is home of 57 Tiger reserves the trip has to be well thought out.
Quickly we find with “Wild World India” a renowned tour operator.
They finalize a nice trip for us:
arrival in Delhi and overnight
3 days Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra (6 drives)
3 days Kanha Nationalpark in Madya Pradesh (5 drives)
finally 3 days Bandavgarh Tiger Reserve also in Madya Pradesh (5 drives)

 

First Indian surprise: we were only allowed to change € 75 cash per passport and week into Rupies.
Okay, we´ll have to find ATMs then on route.
After arrival in Delhi we were picked at the airport by Abhishek, a representative of WWI.
He again explains the itinerary to us, while we check in our airport hotel for the first night.
The night is short, at 5.25 our flight to Nagpur will leave Delhi, so it´s wake-up time 3.30, a foretaste for the safari times.

Second Indian surprise: on the airport they take all of Claudia´s lighters due to security reasons.
This starts great.

 

 

In Nagpur we meet our guide Rajan Jhariya, who will be with us the whole trip. He´s normally Naturalist in Kanha NP, but he´s often booked by WWI for overland Safaris. It´s good, that he´s our guide.
His first task: get a lighter for Claudia!

 

At lunch time we arrive in Tadoba.
Our Lodge is the Svasara Jungle Lodge.
The state of Maharashtra does not allow the sale of alcohol. We knew that in advance, we took precautions:
2 small 100 ml drink boxes of wine for each night.

 

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In the afternoon we go on our first Indian safari.
We find out quickly, that they are different to the kind of African safaris we were used to.
The used vehicles are little Jeeps, they call “Gipsy”. They are comparable with Suzuki Vitara, we know in Germany. Just no roof and 3 rows (with the driver’s row).
It is a very tight business, not really comfy.

 

Our driver in Tadoba is Raju, a small man, who, like we will find out, tends to erupt like a volcano on occasions. None the less, he´s a very nice guy.

 

Safari times here are:
6 – 11 in the morning
14 – 18 in the afternoon, not a lot time to relax in between

At the entrance of the Park we get assigned to another National Park guide. Now we are five in the small vehicle, which is not that as bad as it sounds as the driver and the guide are in the driver’s row and Rajan is taking care of us.

 

Before we left home, we discussed how many Tigers we might get to see. I interposed a sporty 10 Tigers, while Claudia betted on 3.

 

After a few minutes we find out how a safari works in India.
In Africa you mainly use your visuals to find animals, be it with binoculars or tracks on the ground.
Due to the dense forests in India this is much more challenging here and there are not so many wide open spaces. Besides looking for tracks you mainly listen to sounds: alarm calls of deer and monkeys. If the guides here these sounds they follow the source as good as possible.
We have spent hours on this trip just standing still listening to the sounds of nature.
After a while, we were able to recognize these calls and could match them to the animal.
From time to time we were wrong as it was just a mating call of an animal.
Or do I confuse something and we were from time to time right?

The next method to find the animal are the other guides. There is a lot of stopping and discussing with others about what they have seen or heard.
There are not many roads in Tadoba, only 20 % of the Park is open for tourists (like in all Indian parks). In relation there to there are about 60 cars allowed in the Park, then you get to see others quite often.

While we are driving, stopping and listening we see the first Indian wildlife:

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Sambar deer

 

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Chittal Deer, Langur

 

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Green Bee-eater

 

 

Then:
Gipsy road block.
There must be something interesting.
There she lies in the distance: a Tigress well known under the name of Maya.
She´s taking a nap.

Rajan and Raju are not agreeing with each other where she will go, when she gets up.
Rajan wants to stay but the Volcano is impatient and wants to use another place. So we drive around the “block” and end up at the end of the line of Gipsys.
Too stupid that Maya decides to cross the road at exactly the place we were before.

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Maya is bugged by all the vehicles and loud lamenting people and decides to disappear in the forest, which is at Tadoba for 70% bamboo.

That´s the kick-off for an Indian rally. All rev up there engines and drive.
Where has she gone?
After approx. 500m we turn left up the hill.
We reach an open area and all of a sudden: there she is. How did she get up that hill so fast?

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3rd Indian surprise: Tigers are no Lions (really?).
Compared to their African cousins they are highly mobile. They really cover ground, even during the day. Rajan explains, that females cover about 20km, the males about 25 km the day.
In the Indian jungle, there is always something to do, it seems.
Maya(or T12) marks her territory and disappears again.

 

It´s getting late now and we have slowly to get out of the Park,
On our way down the hill:
Tiger

 

 

Precautionally I ask Rajan, if that is Maya again. No, no, this is now another Tigress.

 

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Her name is Choti Tara (or T7, as they numbered all Tigers for good reason, otherwise you could get confused).

Focussed she marches up the hill, just were we left Maya.

Tigers are very territorial predators, they defend their territory to the bitter end if necessary.
We should really drive to the exit as the clock is ticking, but Rajan wants to see if something´s happening between the 2 cats.
All others are already on their way but we take the opposite direction.
And then they come walking side by side, you can really feel the tension between the rivals.

 

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They take a loop over the open area and finally disappear.
Now it´s time for us.
We speed to the exit.
As we are the last car, we eat the dust of the others, but that was well worth it.
Back in the lodge I show the employees the pictures of the 2 cats together and they are very excited.
Seems that no one before has photographed them together, whatever it´s worth for.
The evening in the beautiful Svasara Lodge ends quickly.
We are happy and to mark the occasion we enjoy 2 packs of wine each!

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Two tigers on drive #1, that's off to a great start! I bet you beat Claudia's guess of 3 :D

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@@Wild Dogger, what a fantastic first day you scored. The guides heated, and I'm sure animated debates, engines revving, you've summed up the excitement of an Indian safari. The Tiger photos are beautiful of course, but I also like the Langur sitting above the Chittal.

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@@Wild Dogger...beautiful tiger photos!

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Fantastic first drive!

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Posted (edited)

Day 2 of our Indian adventure
If there is one constant thing on Safaris worldwide: get up before you want to and India is no exception to this.
Wake up at 5.15, quick coffee and up we go.
The best thing staying at the Svasara Jungle Lodge is its proximity to the Kolara gate. You could easily walk.
At the gate there´s already plenty of Gipsys waiting to get in. Everybody seems to want to be first in the Reserve.
As if this was so important. To be at the right time at the right place, that is the main thing.
Late January it´s still chilly in Central India, so we wear gloves and ski hats and so on.
There´s a little mist lying over the landscape.

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No signs of Tigers. But we don´t want to be greedy.

 

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Sambar and Chittal in the morning mist are a nice, moody motive.

 

Parts of Tadoba look very similar to African landscape. The vegetation is different, esp. the thick bamboo forest. But outside the forests you could think you´re somewhere in Africa.

 

On our coffee break:
Indian surprise No 4: no smoking in the National Parks allowed.
That´s not a problem for me, but Claudia likes to have a cigarette after some time. And 6 hours is a long time for a smoker. I do not understand that rule. I understand that they want to avoid fire in the Reserve. But then it would be much more effective to allow smoking in a restricted area were you are able to control it, rather then make smokers smoke secretly behind a bush or a tree. However, we somehow manage to let Claudia have her secret cigarette.

 

In Tadoba it seems you somehow always come to Tadoba Lake.
All pads seem to lead there.
And sometimes there is no getting further anymore.

 

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On the left side in the bushes there lies the Tigress T7 with her cubs, we are told.
After a while, we get a short glimpse of something that could be a Tiger.
Others pass by abnd rave that they had great sights on these cats. But I don´t always trust these messages. Rajan also says, that we should not take these statements always serious. It seems that some tourists like to tend to exaggeration.

There´s it talking and calling, those Indians are really noisy.
As we slowly reach the closing time of the Reserve, the chaos starts.
Some Jeeps have to leave as they have to go out a gate which is further away. But somehow they don´t get thru. As if this was not enough a big bus wants to get way.
Our little Volcano now explodes and has a noisy discussion with another guide.
I have enough of that wildlife feeling, Tiger or not, I ask Rajan to leave this scene.

 

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This morning´s Safari brought us back to reality.
There´s not always 2 Tigers to see, but I nonetheless enjoyed the sightings in the morning mist.

At lunch time we are surprised how good the food tastes hear.
Some years ago as we´ve been the first time in India we did not like the food at all.
But here it´s nice and tasty.
A glass of wine would be great, by the way.

Edited by Wild Dogger
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The more I hear about Tadoba, the more I feel that it is not really my cup of tea, with or without Maya. Turning into a circus, it appears. Hopefully you had better experience in MP.

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@@Chakra
I don´t want to talk so bad about Tadoba.
It is true, that there are too many vehicles, they even allow private vehicles in the reserve, and too few roads.
It is also true, that there are silly rules, who nobody cares about btw., but they apply to all Indian National Parks, if I´m right.
If I remind right, there were even more silly rules in Bandavgarh, like driving the roads in a distinct order.
Misbehaviour of tourists & drivers you may also encounter in the Masai Mara or Serengeti or even in Kruger National Park.
But if it comes to the wildlife we´ve got to see, Tadoba was a great place.
Nonetheless I would not go back there again, esp. as I´ve now been there. But I do not at all regret to have gone there.
Thomas

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@@Wild Dogger - you must come down to South India next time!

 

I was in Tadoba in 2012, I think ....... whilst I had good Tiger viewing - I don't think I was impressed enough to return to the park. I would return to Bandhavgarh or Ranthambore in a heart beat!

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@@Wild Dogger : point taken. Of course at the end it is the wildlife that we all want to see. Tell me about Kruger jam !! I felt I wa also behaving in a very selfish way after a few days. Interestingly the more north we went the less the Kruger Jam we encountered and our overall viewing satisfaction improved.

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Posted (edited)

So it can get crowded , having so many people stand up is silly and potentially dangerous

having people stand up could easily make it harder to see animals, those who stand can block the view of everyone else

Edited by COSMIC RHINO

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@@COSMIC RHINO
I partly agree. But we never really had the feeling that others blocked our view. Our driver managed always to get us into a good spot and there was a good cooperation with the other tourists, so this was really no problem.
But it is dangerous to stand up and I almost fell out of the Gipsy.

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The afternoon drives start already at 2pm. Short Siesta time at Tadoba.
Rather early in my opinion, as it is warm in Central India, not to say it´s hot.
The animal world is also quiet.

 

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We use the already well-known roads and stop often for the suspicious sounds of the Indian jungle.
Rajan spots a Green Bee-Eater sitting on a wire.

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After a while we reach Tadoba Lake and see:
Gipsy Congress

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As we have already learned, that means in most cases: Tiger

 

And there she is, having a nap at the lakeshore: Maya

Discussion starts again:
where are we going to position us, where will she go, when she gets up, if, yes, if she gets up before the gates close (but we are in good hope, as we know in the meantime: Tigers are not Lions).
Rajan and Raju agree each other. Exactly where we are now she will come up, cross the road, climb the little hill and disappear again in the jungle.
Sounds serious, but does the Tiger know?
There´s a lot of coming and going as T7 and her cubs have been seen by others elsewhere.
But give up our position as we exactly know, that Maya will soon, every moment, walk right in front of us over the road.
Noooooo, not with us.
Now, the moment climbs up to be 2 hours of waiting. Claudia was clever enough to carry a good book.
On the lake shore there´s lots of birds like ducks and egrets, also crocs live in this water.

Some Langurs cross the road on the same place, where we expect the Tiger to do.

The first vehicles have already to leave, as they have a long way to their gate.
The Tiger still does not move.
We also start to turn. Our time´s elapsing also.
But then, she moves.
She stands up, walks to the lake and drinks.

 

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Somehow our position is not really a hot spot now and Raju starts one of his ambitious maneuvers. Over rough and smooth we pass half a dozen of Gipsys.
Much better!
Maya marks her territory and decides to walk on the road.
Guess what: in the opposite direction where we supposed her to go.
Somehow it does not click between our guides and this cat :huh:

3 rows of vehicles before us as she walks on the pad.
I don´t believe my eyes: loudly leaded by Rajan, Raju maneuvers his Gipsy past all others.

 

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Maya´s now walking directly in front of us.

 

The spectacle is great, the Indians almost collapse.
“Stop” and then “Go”, we hear out of all Jeeps.
We slowly drive maybe 5 m behind the cat and stop once in a while for another shot, a bumpy business taking photos.

 

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The cat´s not really impressed by the jam she´s causing. She trots for a while in front of us and then disappears in the Jungle.
Now it´s time to get to the gate and the others are now eating our dust :rolleyes:

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Posted (edited)

ah yes, Tadoba! And majestic Maya! This brings back memories (was it just last year?!!) And indeed, Rajan (who was our guide as well) uncannily knows just where to put the car and get past everyone else. Well, most of the time he was right ;) Tadoba is crazy, and hot, and frustrating but somehow in retrospect it all seems worth it, right? :D

 

(I do have to say though that the crowds in that photo above look even worse than what we encountered!)

Edited by janzin
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@@janzin
True. Rajan really knew in which distance to position the car.
He asked me on the first day which lens I was shooting with. With that information given, we never were too close on the animals, something I really miss in Africa at times.
In Africa they tend to get you right in the eye, as close as possible, which is not always good for photography.
I think from a photographer´s perspective, Rajan was the perfect guide, besides being a nice guy.

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