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. The most recent census, carried out in 2016, estimated that the reserve has 86 tigers. Of these, 48 are located in the 625 square kilometer core area.
In northeast Maharashtra, in the Chandrapur district. Tadoba is situated 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.
The reserve has three core zones -- Moharli, Tadoba, and Kolsa -- with six entry gates.
- Mohali gate, in Mohali village, provides entry to the Mohali 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 quieter Kolsa zone, at the far eastern end of the reserve, is entered through Pangdi and Zari.
- Taboba, in the reserve's north, covers the Chimur Hills. At its middle is Tadoba Lake, a crucial water source for the region. The zone's three entry gates are at Kolara (provides good access from Nagpur, and is being developed), Navegaon (also provides good access from Nagpur, although accommodations are lacking), and Khutwanda (nearest to Warora and Moharli).
While Moharli has traditionally been the most popular zone for safaris, there have been many tiger sightings in the Kolsa zone in 2017.
Do note that the gates are all situated far 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 six buffer zones where eco-tourism activities (led by villagers) and safaris take place. These are Agarzari, Devada-Adegoan, Junona, Kolara, Ramdegi-Navegaon, and Alizanza.
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.
The reserve is open daily except Tuesdays for safaris.
There are two safari slots per day-- one in the morning from 6 a.m until 11 a.m, and one in the afternoon from 3 p.m. until 6.30 p.m. Theses times will vary slightly depending on the time of year.
Entry and Safari Fees in the Core Zones
Open top jeeps can be hired for safaris. Alternatively, it's possible to use your own vehicle. However, either way, you'll need to take a local forest guide with you. Plus, there is an additional entry charge of 1,000 rupees levied on private vehicles.
Reflective of the reserve's growing popularity, entry fees were hiked substantially in October 2012 and then increased again in October 2013. The cost of a jeep has also been increased. The revised rates are:
- Entry Fee: 750 rupees per jeep and 1,500 rupees per minibus, Monday to Friday. 1,000 rupees per jeep and 2,000 rupees per minibus on weekends and government holidays.
- Camera Fee: 200 rupees for lenses 250 mm and above.
- Jeep Hire: 2,200 rupees per vehicle (seats six).
- Guide Hire: 300 rupees (to be paid at the gate).
In addition, there's a special Platinum Quota available for foreign tourists. The entry fee per jeep is 10,000 rupees.
Safari bookings are to be made online at this website, which belongs to the Maharashtra Forest Department. Bookings open 120 days in advance and need to be completed before 5 p.m. on the day prior to the safari. 70% of the quota will be available for online bookings, while 15% will be on-the-spot bookings on a first-come-first-serve basis. The remaining 15% is for VIPs. Or, you simply turn up and ask other travelers if there's room in their safari vehicles. Proof of identity will need to be provided when entering the reserve.
Gypsies, drivers, and guides are assigned at the gate.
It's possible to go on an elephant ride from Moharli gate (this is a joyride, not to track tigers). The rates are 300 rupees for Indians on weekends and government holidays, and 200 rupees during the week. For foreigners, the rate is 1,800 rupees on weekends and government holidays, and 1,200 rupees during the week. Bookings are to be made at the gate an hour in advance.
Where to Stay
Royal Tiger Resort is located right near Moharli gate and has 12 basic but comfortable rooms. Rates start from 3,000 rupees per night for a double. Serai Tiger Camp has quality tented accommodations for 7,000 rupees per night for a double, inclusive of meals. It's located 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.
The most inexpensive options at Moharli are the Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation hotel, with rooms for 2,000 rupees and under a night, and the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra guesthouse and dormitory. Book online on the MTDC website.
S.S. Kingdom & Holiday Resort Lohara is a convenient place to stay in the vicinity of the Kolsa zone, with rates around 5,000 rupees per night.
If money is no object, Svasara Resort at Kolara gate gets great reviews and provides an indulgent experience. Rates start from 13,000 rupees per night for a double. At Kolara, The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge is also magnificent. Expect to pay 18,000 rupees per night. Tadoba Tiger King Resort is also a decent place to stay at Kolara, for around 9,500 rupees per night. V Resorts Mahua Tola is located at village Adegaon, about 8 kilometers from Kolara gate, and has excellent 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.
Jharana Jungle Lodge is the place to stay at Navegaon gate.
If you want to stay far inside the reserve, book one of the Forest Rest Houses through the Forest Department.
It's important to plan your trip well in advance, as the reserve has only recently found a place on the tourist map and the number of places to stay is very limited. The number of safaris is also restricted.