Friday 7th April -
Sunday 16th April 2017
Leader: Inger Vandyke
Group Size Limit: 7
Tour Category: Easy walking and comfortable accommodations
Tiger! Surely one of the most evocative creatures that still shares our crowded planet with us, but for how much longer? Of all the mammals that wildlife photographers dream of photographing, this one surely tops the bill! But it is not an easy thing to do, unlike, for example, Lions in Africa, Tigers in Asia are extremely rare and far more secretive, at least in most of their remaining range.
Those visiting the wildlife reserves of India are sometimes lucky enough to see a Tiger on their travels, but often views are brief and quite often there are no sightings at all. To see Tigers well it is necessary to spend plenty of time and also to visit the very best and most reliable places. Furthermore, the very best months for frequency of Tiger sightings are April and May.
In order to make those Tiger dreams come true, we will be exploring what is probably the best sanctuary in India for Tiger sightings at the present time, the little-known but brilliant Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. This huge and remote park, situated in the hill ranges of central India that were immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in the Jungle Book, protects vast tracts of largely deciduous forest which still hold many Tigers. Tadoba is currently recognized by discerning wildlife photographers as one of the very best places to go if one wants encounters with Tigers.
In this wonderful reserve you can expect, not just hope, to get multiple sightings of these extraordinary and beautiful predators, often at close range, and sometimes one can watch them for long periods at a time! Staring into the huge, cold yellow eyes of a Tiger just a short distance away is an awesome experience, and Tadoba is where it can happen. We will explore the park by jeep and some of the Tigers are now so used to the presence of people that they seem unconcerned by their close proximity. From the well-sited lodge we use at Tadoba, with its expert guides, our group members have a good chance of sighting over 10 Tigers during a 10 days stay, and we could even see as many as 20 or more!
Tadoba holds many other large mammals, and those offering good photographic potential include the huge Gaur (or Indian Bison), the beautiful Chital (or Spotted Deer), Sambar (a large Red Deer-sized species), Nilgai (or Blue Bull, one of the world’s largest antelopes), Wild Boar, Rhesus Macaque and the characterful Hanuman (or Grey) Langur. The sanctuary also produces regular sightings of Leopard, Jungle Cat and Golden Jackal, and we even have a fair chance of coming across the rare and declining Dhole (or Indian Wild Dog) and the largely nocturnal Sloth Bear.
The reserve holds a rich selection of birdlife and amongst the species that often provide superb portraits are Indian Peafowl (the males will be in full display at the time of our visit), Lesser Adjutant (a huge stork), Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk-Eagle, Indian Scops Owl and Jungle Owlet.
Day 1 The tour begins this morning at Nagpur airport in central India. From there we will drive southeastwards through partly cultivated and partly forested terrain to the edge of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in the state of Maharashtra for a nine nights stay at a comfortable jungle lodge. We should arrive in time for our first jeep safari into the reserve this afternoon.
Days 2-9 The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (sometimes referred to as Tadoba National Park) covers a vast area of forest in northeastern Maharashtra state. The reserve has an area of 625 square kilometres (241 square miles), is mostly clothed in teak, sal and bamboo forest and holds a good population of over 60 Tigers, as well as Leopards, Indian Wild Dogs and other important mammals. In recent year it has sprung from obscurity owing to the quality and frequency of its Tiger sightings. Tadoba is an amazing and rapidly up-and-coming destination for the wildlife photographer.
We shall be spending most of our time in the park itself, where the habitat diversity is excellent and the density of Tigers high. Each day we will make morning and afternoon excursions into the park by jeep (but please note that the park is closed on Tuesdays), exploring a range of habitats including tall sal and teak forest, patches of evergreen forest and a number of wetlands including a large lake, marshes and pools. Large grassy meadows, the sites of former villages and their surrounding cultivation and pastureland, dot the park and in the early morning these meadows can be covered in low-lying mist, creating some beautiful landscapes. In places hills rise high above the rolling forests.
As we patrol the park tracks we will be keeping a constant lookout for Tigers. The best times of day are early morning and late afternoon, when Tigers can regularly be found walking along the tracks or stalking across the meadows, or even drinking or taking a bath in one of the pools.
We will be using open-topped jeeps to explore Tadoba, with skilled local driver-guides who are experts on the geography of the park and have an intimate knowledge of the park’s Tigers and other key creatures. Our driver-guides seem to have a feel for where a Tiger will appear, so we should have a high chance of multiple encounters. We could watch one of the huge territorial adult males on patrol, at times walking right past the jeeps showing utter indifference to our proximity, or strolling past the cubs he fathered last year and showing equal disdain (to the distress of the cubs, who clearly want dad to stop and play!). We could find some well-grown cubs playing around in the meadows or woodland, chasing each other, stalking imaginary prey or running around with an old bone in their mouths. Or perhaps a female sprawled in the shade with her younger cubs around her, glaring balefully at these interlopers in her world. On other occasions we might watch Tigers drinking or even bathing in a forest pool. Tiger movements are of course unpredictable, so it is quite possible to go for some time without seeing one, and then have a fantastic series of magical, close-range encounters in succession! It is all a matter of chance with these incredibly beautiful carnivores.
Although Tigers dominate the scene at Tadoba, they would not be there were it not for a healthy population of prey animals. We should also have some good opportunities to photograph the beautiful Chital (also known as Axis or Spotted Deer), which is much the commonest large mammal in the park and we will soon get used to their yelping calls, which rise in pitch when they sight a Tiger.
The other really conspicuous species is the Hanuman (or Grey) Langur – they are everywhere in the park, sitting in playful, rowdy groups by the roadside or climbing high in the trees. (The local form is now sometimes treated as a distinct species: Northern Plains Grey Langur.) Monkeys often make for great ‘photo ops’ and the langurs, the Bandar Log of Kipling, with their long, long, curling tails, graceful loping movements and cheeky faces fringed by a ruff of hair are certainly rich subjects. Mothers with small babies are commonly met with and often pose unselfconsciously for some really gooey shots! (Or try long distance telephoto shots of sunlit solitary monkeys sat by the roadside, or crossing a dusty, shadowy track). There are so many possibilities here.
The huge Gaur (or Indian Bison) can be seen regularly here and we are likely to come across a herd of these placid bovines feeding in the forest, or wandering across the track in front of our jeep. Close-ups of the massive heads and horns of these impressive beasts are often the shots that make the most impact.
Tadoba is a good place for Leopard sightings and we have a reasonably good chance of at least one encounter during our visit. Tadoba also hosts packs of Dholes (or Indian Wild Dogs) and the chances of seeing a group of these attractive predators is pretty reasonable, although they tend to be quite unpredictable in their movements. When encountered, the dogs are often quite unafraid, continuing to go about their business together, whether hunting or some other kind of social interaction, regardless of the presence of a jeep or two. This is also surely one of the best places in India for seeing Sloth Bear, although the chances during a single visit are only fair.
Other mammals that are regularly encountered at Tadoba include Rhesus Macaque, Golden Jackal, Ruddy Mongoose, Jungle Cat, Wild Boar, Indian Muntjac (or Barking Deer), Sambar, Chowsingha (or Four-horned Antelope), Nilgai (or Blue Bull), Northern Palm Squirrel and Indian Hare. There are slim chances for Indian Porcupine, Ratel (or Honey Badger) and Small Indian Civet. Marsh Crocodiles (or Muggers) can be found in some of the wetlands.
Although it is the prospect of close encounters with Tigers and other large mammals that will have brought us to Tadoba, this extensive park is an excellent place for birds too. The dry Sal forest and clumps of bamboo that dominate the park and its buffer area hold a wide variety of species and amongst those that may offer good photographic opportunities are the huge Lesser Adjutant, Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, White-eyed Buzzard, Crested Hawk-Eagle, Indian Peafowl (which should be displaying at the time of our visit, a magnificent sight), Grey Junglefowl, the delightful Indian Scops Owl, the quizzical little Jungle Owlet, Crested Treeswift, Indian Roller, Green Bee-eater, the striking White-naped Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback and the huge Stork-billed Kingfisher. Sometimes a Brown Fish Owl or a Mottled Wood Owl can be seen roosting close to the park roads, but at other times they move position and disappear for weeks on end. Tiger kills attract dwindling numbers of White-rumped, Indian (or Long-billed) and Red-headed Vultures. The impressive Malabar Pied Hornbill can also be found here.
On Tuesday when the park is closed we can still have some interesting photographic opportunities. There is a wetland area that we can visit and anyone who fancies an interesting cultural experience can explore the local village where the friendly Gond tribal people are usually happy about being photographed as they go about village life. Indeed the children want to be in every photograph!
Day 10 After a final jeep safari at Tadoba we will return to Nagpur airport, where the tour ends this afternoon. (There are flights from Nagpur to Mumbai and Delhi.)
Accommodation & Road Transport: The lodge is of a good standard and has a swimming pool. All rooms have private bathrooms. Road transfers are by cars, but we use open-topped jeeps (with up to 3 or 4 participants in each) inside the reserve. Roads are very variable, but average mediocre.
Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout. There is little walking involved.
Climate: Typically it will be warm to hot, dry and sunny (early mornings are sometimes cool). Although overcast weather is not infrequent, rain is uncommon at this season.
Photographic Equipment: For the larger mammals a 200mm or 300mm will often be the most useful lens, but we also recommend a 400, 500mm or 600mm lens for many bird shots, mammal close-ups etc. (If your budget does not run to prime lenses, a high quality 100-400mm or similar zoom can be a great alternative.) Alternatively, you can get wonderful results with a high quality digital compact camera with a 20x or higher optical zoom. If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact us.
These are confirmed prices
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike many tour operators who are still showing prices based on hugely higher and very outdated pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assurred that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is a significant recovery by the Pound you will receive the benefit by way of a price reduction.
Tour Price: £2720, €3210, $3560 Nagpur/Nagpur.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices will be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a significant change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Room Supplement: £333, €393, $436.
Deposit: £300, €400, $450.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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