Created in 1955, Tadoba National Park is the largest and oldest in Maharashtra. Up until recent years, it was off-the-beaten-track. However, it's quickly gained popularity due to its high density of tigers. 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 1,700 square kilometer reserve, it's commonly not a matter of whether you'll see a tiger, but rather how many. It's estimated that the reserve has more than 80 tigers, with two thirds of them being in the 625 square kilometer core area.
What's also noteworthy is that the reserve is one of few places in India to charge the same entry fees for both Indians and foreigners.
In northeast Maharashtra, about 140 kilometers south of Nagpur and 40 kilometers north of Chandrapur.
How to Get There
Most people arrive via Chandrapur, where the closest railway station is. It's also a major connecting point for travelers coming from Nagpur (around three hours away), which has the nearest airport and more frequent trains. From Chandrapur, it's possible to take a bus or taxi to Tadoba. The bus stand is located opposite the railway station. Buses go frequently from Chandrapur to Mohali village.
When to Visit
The best time to see tigers is during the hotter months, from March to May (although summer temperatures are extreme, especially in May). The monsoon season is from June to September, post-monsoon (which is also hot) is from October to November. December to February is winter, although temperatures still remain quite warm as the climate there is tropical. Vegetation and insect life come alive with the onset of the monsoon in mid-June. However, the growth in foliage can make it difficult to spot animals. While the core area closes during the monsoon season most parts of the buffer area remain open for tourism.
How to Visit
Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve is divided into core and buffer areas. There are no villages in the core area and the only way to explore it is by safari, either in a gypsy (open-top jeep) or canter (open-top bus). Safaris also take place in the buffer area, along with other eco tourism activities led by villagers (see more information below).
It's important to plan your trip well in advance, as the reserve has become a popular wildlife destination in recent years, and the number of places to stay and the number of safaris per day are limited.
The reserve has six entry gates leading into three core zones -- Moharli, Tadoba, and Kolsa. The Moharli and Tadoba zones are interconnected by road.
- Moharli gate, in Moharli village, provides entry to the Moharli 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. The majority of safaris take place in this zone.
- Kolara, Navegaon and Khutwanda gates provide entry into the Tadoba zone, which extends over the Chimur Hills in the reserve's north. At the middle of the zone is Tadoba Lake, a crucial water source for the region. Kolara gate is readily accessible from Nagpur and is being developed. It's the second most popular entry gate, after Moharli. Navegaon gate is also accessible from Nagpur but accommodations are lacking around it. Khutwanda gate is nearest to Warora and Moharli.
- Pangdi and Zari gates provide entry to the quieter Kolsa zone, at the far eastern end of the reserve.
Do note that the gates are all spread out in different locations away from each other, so make sure you take this into consideration when booking your accommodations. Choose somewhere in the vicinity of the gate you will enter through.
The reserve also has 12 entry gates leading into the buffer area, five of which were newly opened in 2019. The gates are: Agarzari, Devada-Adegoan, Junona, Kolara, Ramdegi-Navegaon, Alizanza, Madnapur, Mamla, Pangdi, Sirkada, Zari/Peth, and Kesalghat.
Agarzari, Devada, and Junona are situated close to Moharli. The buffer area here is interconnected through these gates, and has been producing excellent tiger sightings. These days, the tiger sightings are almost as frequent as in the core area. Other top buffer entry gates are Kolara, Ramdegi, Mandanpur, Mamala and Sirkada.
Safari Times, Cost and Bookings
Safaris happen twice a day, except on Tuesdays in the core area. The starting times vary slightly depending on the year. Morning safaris run from around 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Afternoon safaris run from around 2.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
The cost of gypsy (jeep) safaris is made up of four parts: entry fee per vehicle for up to six people, vehicle hire, guide fee, and camera fee. These are currently as follows:
- Entry Fee: 4,000 rupees per vehicle on weekends for bookings made 120-60 days in advance, and 1,000 rupees on weekdays for bookings made less than 60 days in advance. 8,000 rupees per vehicle on weekends for bookings made 120-60 days in advance, and 2,000 rupees on weekdays for bookings made less than 60 days in advance. The entry fee is less in the buffer area.
- Vehicle Hire: 2,700 rupees for the core area and 2,200 rupees for the buffer area.
- Guide Fee: 350 rupees.
- Camera Fee: 200 rupees for lenses up to 250 millimeters. 250 rupees for lenses above 250 millimeters.
Tatkal (last minute) bookings can be made three days in advance at a cost of 4,000 rupees entry fee per vehicle on all days. Vehicle hire and guide fee are also payable.
Bookings for gypsy safaris can only be made online at this website, which belongs to the Maharashtra Forest Department. Booking instructions are available here. The Forest Department is currently in the process of implementing a new computerized, paperless booking system. This means that from October 1, 2019, visitors will only need show their identification at the gate and not a printout of their entry ticket.
Canter safaris are to be booked on the spot, at the office of Field Director in Chandrapur, on a first-come-first-serve basis. There are six canters. Four depart from Moharli gate, one from Navegaon gate, and one from Kolara gate. Tickets cost 400 rupees per person.
Cell phones are not permitted to be taken on safari inside the reserve.
What to Do
Apart from daytime safaris, there are a number of ways to enjoy nature in the buffer area. Eco tourism activities include nature walks, kayaking safaris on Irai dam (ideal for birding and spotting marsh crocodiles), wildlife viewing from machans, and night safaris.
Where to Stay
The most inexpensive options at Moharli are the Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation hotel, with rooms for 2,500 rupees and under a night, and the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra guesthouse and dormitory. Book online on the MTDC website.
Tiger Inn is a great new budget hotel near Moharli gate with rooms from 3,500 rupees per night. Royal Tiger Resort is right near Moharli gate and has 12 basic but comfortable rooms. Rates start from 5,600 rupees per night for a double, including all meals and tax. Serai Tiger Camp has quality tented accommodations for 7,000 rupees per night for a double, including all meals and tax. Cheaper dormitory beds are available as well. The property is situated 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.
Kolara has some outstanding boutique luxury accommodation options. Try Svasara Resort at Kolara gate, from 17,000 rupees per night for a double including meals and tax. Or, the Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge. Expect to pay 18,000 rupees per night upwards. V Resorts Mahua Tola is located at Adegaon village near Kolara gate and has attractive rooms for 6,500 rupees per night. Those on a budget should check out the recently opened Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra eco huts at Kolara.