Tiger Tales From Tadoba

Shubh-yatra.in

, Travel
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With a thriving eco-system and green hotels, the Tadoba- Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra is the new chapter in India’s sustainable wildlife tourism, says Riaan Jacob George.

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Over the course of two days, beating the rocky paths of the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, we chase the tiger, but he chooses to remain elusive. On the second day, however, after much effort, and whispered rumours between safari rangers of a possible sighting, we are finally successful. We spot a tigress, nonchalantly napping between the bushes, unfazed by the adulating gaze of dozens of onlookers. A few moments later, she gets up, poses, almost vainly, for the cameras, and disappears into the bushes.

Even hours after the wild rendezvous, I can’t stop smiling. Akshay, a naturalist- turned-guide employed by the Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge, where I am staying, says it’s only natural to feel elated at a chance sighting of the big cat and proudly adds that Tadoba doesn’t disappoint.

The trail

Spread across 1,700 sq km, the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve is considered one of India’s finest. While the reserve’s main highlight is its tiger population, which is estimatedto be 120, it is also home to a thriving ecosystem comprising foxes, leopards, sloth bears, wild dogs, spotted deer, barking deer, sambal deer, nilgai and four-horned antelopes. It also attracts birdwatchers for its different species of raptors and owls.

Green efforts

While Tadoba has been attracting wildlife enthusiasts for years, a new discerning breed of travellers is now flocking to its rocky, arid plains. Among the many who are spearheading the movement to transform this relatively unexplored belt of India into a new, sustainable eco-tourism destination is entrepreneur-hotelier Sudeep Mehta. With his plush complex, Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge, located a mere 10 minutes from the gate of the tiger reserve, he is going all out to put this region at the centre of Indian tiger eco-tourism.

“When I first came here,” Mehta says, “there was nothing. I found this plot of land on Google Earth and it was completely barren. There were no more than four trees around the lake. I bought this land and began the process of afforestation, planting about 18,000 trees in the area. This monsoon, we will plant 8,000 more. I am not one for manicured landscapes. I wanted the area around my lodge to be natural, an authentic eco-system. We are inspired by what the African safari lodges have done, and we’d like to find a middle ground between them and the Indian ethos.” For the traveller, it’s about enjoying the wild in true wilderness.

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