Bengal Tiger Safari in Tadoba

Tadoba located in Chandrapur district, Maharashtra state, India is one of the best places for Bengal Tiger safari. This is Maharashtra’s oldest and biggest national park.

It was summer and not the right time for Bengal tiger safari. In Tadoba where temperatures reach 45 degrees and we a batch of wildlife enthusiasts were never short of great excitement, irrespective of the climate.

I had always dreamt of Bengal tiger safari and of going to this place in the past, but could never make it. Finally, with the help of renowned wildlife photographer Praveen Pai, I was able to make it and there I was.
The Tadoba national park is surrounded by dry deciduous forest and the core area has dense woodlands.

Day 1 of Bengal tiger safari
We started our evening safari drive, with the temperature being humid at 40 degrees. Nevertheless, our team was, in great spirits, as we were about to start an enthralling evening safari.

And there you go, our safari vehicle was ready to pick us up and we were all set for the drive. We started the safari in the best known possible route.. The first few minutes were spent in exploring the surroundings nearby and could notice quite a number of birds like Indian roller, Black drongo, Kingfishers, Scoop owls, eagles and animals like Indian Gaurs, wild dogs, spotted deers, sambar deers and so on.

Photographing these eye-catching birds were always a delight. But as we moved a few steps further we could see several other safari jeeps lined up in a sequence. With great curiosity even our jeep went to the same place….Ah!,,,what did we sight…Bengal Tiger,tiger,tiger….Yes that’s true. It’s well and truly a Bengal tiger. The first ever good sighting I have ever had. And it was just not some tiger. He was the King of Tadoba…The mighty Matkasur..Ah..! what a gesture he was in the waterhole drinking water..He looked like a real hulk and appeared quite nasty.

He seemed a bit lazy not getting up from his usual place. Just a few steps away from him, there were two other species, i.e a barking deer and an egret. We all expected Matkasur would catch the prey, but he seemed pretty idle and quite content in just admiring them.

PS : The below photo was taken from a far distance ,and hence the quality is not great.

Well, that’s the way at times things in the wild could surprise you. The barking deer was pretty lucky to survive and it eventually moved to the other part of the jungle. Matkasur then woke up after a few minutes and seemed to be doing his evening walk chilling and relaxing. We just spent most of our time(more than an hour) just watching his movements as he too, moved to the other part of the jungle. Even though Matkasur was at quite a distance from us, that sighting was really memorable and breathtaking.

Well, what more do you want, that too just on the first day of this tiger safari. We as a group were really satisfied and went back to our rooms and looked forward to a good night’s rest before the impending morning drive.

Day 2 of Bengal tiger safari
It was early morning around 6 AM and we were set to explore the Moharli zone and trying to figure out tigers. There were incessant calls from langurs and few other deers, but no luck of sighting a tiger. We did sight a few sloth bears and wild dogs, but just not good enough to get a decent photograph. As usual birds like cattle egret, peacock were making its presence felt. We waited for some more time to try our luck on tigers, but we realized it was time for us to leave the jungle.

In the evening drive, we again started to explore the Mohurli zone…This time as we moved straight across the road and just a few minutes away from the gate, there were signs of people sighting a tiger, and yes it was true. We just reached the same spot and what we saw was another majestic male tiger “Bajrang”. 

We were waiting for him to come much closer to us, but he stopped by and sat near a well. He looked to move a bit more forward, but again changed his mind and sat at quite a distance from where we were…We could see him going and searching for a prey, and then sleeping and lying idle etc etc.. Again not so many great photographs, but nevertheless a sighting which is to be remembered for a long time. 

We spent close to 2 hours waiting for him to come much closer for better poses, but he never came beyond that point. Since time was also running out, we were heading back to the room. Just as the drive was about to end we could see some good birds like black drongo with a catch, and also Indian roller with a spiderweb catch. Unfortunately the light wasn’t great on all these occasions, hence the photos were pretty ordinary

Day 3 of Bengal tiger safari
We had a different plan for day 3 and were set to explore the Agarzari Zone (buffer zone) which is in the backward direction from the room where we stayed and roughly 7 to 8 mins drive. The specialty of this buffer zone is the existence of villages and the forest area, where both villagers and animals (mainly tigers) co-exist.

As usual, we were ready in the morning at 6 AM in front of the main gate of Agarzari Zone. The drive started and just after a few minutes, a small leopard cub was spotted inside the dense jungle, but it passed away so quickly to the other side in such a way that nobody could get a single click of it. Then we moved to the lake side of the Agarzari zone, where a few tigers were expected to come and quench their thirst…Hence we decided to wait there as long as possible.

After a long wait, close to 20 or 25 minutes, we saw the arrival of what seemed to be like a real queen walk as she entered the waterhole. Yes, she was one more popular tigress from the buffer zone called “Sharmilee”. She made a real grand entry into the waterhole as though it is her territory. But that’s true, it is really her usual zone and you can’t deny that. Her entry was like a royal queen and it was so soothing to watch her.

The best part was that even her cubs started entering into the waterhole to quench their thirst and had their dip in the water. She had three cubs of which one is male and the rest are females.

As they came, we saw them bathing, drinking and enjoying themselves to the core. Wow..! what a sight that was. They weren’t bothered about any of the safari vehicles around them and were just enjoying every bit of their dip in the water.

Truly, this was an unforgettable moment for me. As time passed by, they finished their dip and moved to the other side of the forest. But nonetheless, I got some truly good images and great moments of tigers which will be cherished forever. It was time and we came back to the room with some good memories.

The evening game drive was scheduled in the Mohurli zone and we were expecting some more fun. Yes, it’s true. This time it was the queen of Telia Lake “Sonam” who gave her first visuals in the evening. She was glowing brightly in the evening sun and all safari vehicles were lined up as though there was a celebrity.

And here’s the first glimpse of Sonam:

She was in between the bushes for a long time enjoying the view of people and after some time she woke up from those bushes and crossed the road to take a dip in the water with her cubs.

As usual, the evening summer thirst was visible on their faces and hence the result was this image.

PS : The below image was shot in extreme low light conditions and its not a technically great image.

The cute cub was as adorable as it could be, giving great poses and enjoying her evening bath. Now they planned to come out of the lake and move forward to the other side of the forest with their usual walk.

This meant that we can get some more captures of their movements and their behaviors as well, but just that we didn’t have good light.

The images taken during this time were not completely to our heart’s fulfillment, but they were all great poses and memory shoots.

After these many shoots, it only meant, it was time up for the day and we had to start our journey back to the exit gate. But what a day and what a safari it was, with our heart’s content we headed out for a good nights rest with big smiles on our faces.

Day 4 of Bengal tiger safari

Final day Morning: With just one safari remaining, we went to the Agarzari Zone (buffer zone) just like the previous day morning and went to the same spot near the waterhole expecting “Sharmilee” to arrive. We again waited for 20 to 25 minutes. But during this waiting time, I thought of shooting some small species around, i.e a dragonfly and a few small birds which were visible.

And after this, our focus well and truly shifted to tigers. Also meant our guesses were true to the cor. Tigress Sharmilee and her cubs made their way to the waterhole and enjoying their bath.
Adding more to our joy , we got some more good shots together with her cubs and they were simply adorable showing their love and bonding between each other.

I had already seen my share of tigers for this tour, but the bonus kept on adding and bringing me more delight.
One of the cubs just wandered furiously from one side to the other giving us different poses from different angles and were curious to shoot them as much as possible.
We had the same hunger and enthusiasm as we had on the first day of the tour. That one cub gave us some beautiful moments to capture throughout.

She gave me as many poses which any photographer would have dreamt of. We saw Sharmilee and her cubs in close vicinity as we did for no other tigers.

And with this, it meant our time was coming to an end. What a way to end the trip with so many tigers and other wild animals in the memory line. I just wished I could have stayed there for more time to see Maya (Queen of Tadoba) & Choti tara, but our jeeps made their way back to the exit gate.
And that was Bengal Tiger Safari of The wild Tadoba for me. A great wild experience where tigers take center stage.

I would like to thank Praveen Premkumar Pai for organizing this Bengal tiger safari, a unique wild trip and guiding me in the right directions to find and capture tigers.

How to get there :
Option 1 : Take a flight to Nagpur and its about 2 hours drive from there.
Option 2 : Take a train to Chandrapur Railway station, and it’s about 40 minutes drive from there.
Where to Stay : I would recommend taking the homestay organized by Praveen Premkumar Pai where you get some delicious food (be it veg or non-veg) and a humble aunty who treats us really well there.

This beautiful story of the Bengal tiger safari is written by Ajith Balakrishna, whose mission is to give others a taste of what goes on in his mind and convey the same to others through his photography and blogs.

Take some time to explore his blog, read something interesting, watch his photography on his instagram page and feel free to reach out if you would like to collaborate on a project together.

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