Into the wild

School holidays were coming up and it was time to plan a trip. Every year a few friends of ours and us go on a holiday with the kids. We don’t necessarily look at it as an annual affair, but luckily it has ended being like that. This year too after discussing a few contenders, Tadoba was selected to be our destination. I don’t know about the kids, but I was super thrilled! The idea of being able to see a tiger out in the wild!!

As always, Ananth found out all the details and made the booking. We were leaving Hyderabad on 14th October morning. 6 adults, 4 kids and 2 cars. As we were leaving home, my queen of hell “Hela” (our Mudhol Hound) escaped from the house. After successfully terrorizing milkmen, policemen and a lot of unsuspecting people on the streets, she allowed me to capture her (Rolling my eyes). After an eventful start, we were on our way to Nandu’s house which was close to the highway.

Day 1

We had aimed at starting around 6 but ended up around 7:30. As usual Ananth and family with my son in their Thar and the rest of us in Nandu’s brand new Isuzu. We took the Nagpur highway and mapped our destination to the place we were staying at, Jungle meadows resort.

For breakfast we stopped at Way Adigas restaurant, which just came on the way when we were too hungry. If you are going on the same highway and plan to stop there, PLEASE DON’T! The staff couldn’t care less who came, what they wanted to eat or anything normal a restaurant would. I felt I was the one working there and had to keep them happy! After a horrible breakfast, we were back on our way. This time, all the kids joined Abhinav and Nandu in the Isuzu, and Chandana and I joined Ananth and Vasu in their car.

I couldn’t hear my thoughts or feel my internal organs in that vehicle after 10 minutes. My agony came to an end after a few hours when we decided to stop for lunch and realized that the other car had taken some other route. With the wonderful, almost non-existent network in those remote parts of the highway, we had an equally wonderful time trying to co-ordinate with them and meet. We finally did and then the hunt for a restaurant began. We urbanites opened our zomato app or googled for a restaurant. We finally found one with a 4 star rating and followed the directions to get there. We almost drove by it and completely missed it. Well, you would too. The “restaurant” (yeah, they are air quotes) was as big as your street side barber’s stall.

After hunting for a bit, we finally found a place which looked luxurious compared to what we had encountered till now. It had an AC section too! Well, the AC wasn’t on and there was no grocery or food. They took our order and then went grocery shopping! Well, let’s just say we had a 2.5 hour long lunch break with no idea of what we were eating in the end.

We had to do the most important job of scoring “barley water” before we reached the resort, as Chandrapur was a dry district. But, we were already too late and didn’t find any place to stock up. We were at the resort by around 5:45 p.m.

As soon as we got down from our cars, the staff came in with warm towels and cool sherbets. The place looked lovely and so did our rooms! There were charpoys out on the lawns and we sprawled on it while the kids ran around exploring. The owner, Kunal came around 6:30 along with some other guests after a safari. After introductions, I couldn’t wait for dinner and bed. While we waited for that, Kunal took us to show a few owlets who had been coming into his property. It was impossible to take a picture, but we did see 3!

The dinner was lovely! It was like eating at home, just a little more oil than I use, but definitely not a deal breaker. I went to bed while forcing Aren to sleep too, post dinner while the other adults sat around for a bit longer, as usual.

Day 2

We had to wake up around 4 to make it to the morning safari which starts at 6. The wake up call comes at 4:30, but as expected I was up before that. It was so so cold! The kids had milk and biscuits and the adults tea (except me as I don’t drink tea or coffee) and we were ready to go. They packed us some breakfast and put it in our safari jeeps. Ananth and family were in one Jeep whereas the rest of us were in another. We were closer to the Kolara gate and that’s where our entry was going to be from. Waiting outside, we bought a few caps and head socks. I am glad we did, cause we were covered in dust the moment we entered the forest reserve. We were the second jeep in the queue. It is quite important to be the first few jeeps as your chances of sighting goes up. The animals may get spooked and hide when too many people are around. There were some wild life photographers who were waiting at the gate from 5 in the morning to make it to the front of the line.

10 minutes in, and we spot a tiger!! At the closest it was 3 feet away from me. What a gorgeous creature! It didn’t give a f*** who was around. Was lazing and walking around. The first 3 jeeps got a great view, which luckily included us too. The others missed out on it, as the tiger disappeared into the woods after a while. He was apparently Choti Tara’s (tigress of Tadoba) son from her earlier litter. Currently she had 3 cubs and was still deep in the forest which is out of bounds for the tourists.

We drove around sighting deers, sambar and bisons. A lot of them actually posing for us freely by the road. We stopped by a water body, actually far away from it, on the other side waiting for Maya and her cubs (another popular tigress of Tadoba) who had made a kill in the vicinity a day ago and were expected to come again. After a long scorching wait, we decided to give up and drove around spotting a lot of other animals and a few pug marks. We had the super yum breakfast of sandwiches, boiled eggs and fruits. But, were starving by the time we were done at around 10.

Back to the resort for some lunch and snooze before we were out again for the next safari at around 2:30. It was bloody hot and didn’t help that we didn’t spot any tigers. We waited for a long time again for Maya and her cubs to appear, but they stayed elusive. We drove upto the Moharli gate and took some pictures of ourselves.

Back to the resort, a drink of “barley water”, a great dinner and the bed that awaited me.

Day 3

Up earlier than needed, as Aren woke up puking. Decided to go for this safari but skip the next one in the afternoon. We spotted the same tiger from the day before lounging in the sun. It was too far away for me to take pictures from my phone, and just then our camera lens decides to conk off! Our guide helped me take pictures from the binoculars! 😀

A little further away, we saw another tiger walking around, we followed him and took pictures to our heart’s content. We drove away and stopped the Tadoba lake, where we spotted a crocodile and we could see the Tiger in the distance walking towards a herd of deer. He didn’t hunt though.

We drove around trying to spot more animals and Vasu was quick to spot a sloth bear which peeked from the bushes for a split second before running back in. We stopped at the mid point between both the gates where we met one of Aren’s soccer buddy. What a small world! It was time to go back. The kids skipped around while we waited for lunch.

Our last safari in the afternoon. We drove towards the Moharli gate. The scenic beauty is definitely prettier that side. We also saw the pillars that were erected by the former king in the olden times, which used have torch on top of them, helping travelers find their way.

We drove till the Moharli gate and were taking pictures of some of the reserve’s tame elephants, when we heard a leopard’s call. Our Jeep driver reversed some 100 meters to get back to the point where the sound was coming from. This got them into trouble with the forest officials, who wrote a complaint against them. Felt really bad for them but we couldn’t do anything to help. The leopard was nowhere to be seen, we gave up after a while and went driving near the Telia lake. Telia is famous for the documentary Telia sisters, the girl gang of Tadoba. These 4 tigresses overthrew the jungle law by hunting together as a pack.

As we were driving towards the lake, we spotted the tiger playing in the water at the opposite end. Our driver then drove quickly, taking us to that spot. But once we were there, we couldn’t spot her in the waist high grass. We sat still, scared to even breath loudly. It was so eerie. The tigress could just pounce at us from grass and we wouldn’t even see it coming. The kids were getting spooked. We were cracking jokes about turning up into the tiger’s meal, but honestly we were nervous too.

The tigress we had spotted was Sonam. One of the Telia sisters and the most dominant of them. She had finally thrown her mother and sisters out of Telia. The guide said that her two cubs could be with her too. Imagine! As we sit and try to spot the tiger, the tigers are silently and stealthily watching us! Freaky!

We gave up after a bit and went for a ride, spotting birds and such. There was only 40 minutes left for the safari to end. And, suddenly the guide got the information that at the other end, a tiger was walking right in the middle of the road. We drove like the wind and reached there as the other jeeps were turning back. We thought we had missed it, but lo and behold! He comes out again! At a point the tiger was just 10 feet away from me, staring right into my eyes. The kids were really scared now and we had to constantly calm them. We could have stayed there forever but, we had to get out before the safari time ended. They were quite strict about it and anyway didn’t feel very safe to be in the dark surrounded by those powerful creatures.

This was our last safari for the trip and we couldn’t have asked for a better end. Back to the resort and to that great hospitality! Warm towels, great food, absolutely polite and friendly staff. Post dinner, I crashed as usual. I had to force Aren to go to bed, because I wanted to sleep! I was the baby there!

Day 4

I couldn’t sleep till late as always and woke up to take some workout videos. Perfect setting! Chandana had woken up too and was my videographer for the day. In a while, the rest of the bunch woke up. We had a mini holiday bootcamp with the kids and Ananth and Vasu. Was so much fun! For me. 😀

We were suggested to go to the Muktamai temple which as legend has it, has a vertical cave tunnel and if you can pass through it, you are supposed to be free of black magic! Well, there was nothing at the temple and after looking at the tunnel, there was no way I was crawling into it! It was a vertical drop starting at a rock on top of the hill and opening up way below. There wasn’t a chance of crawling into something like that in the middle of nowhere. Ananth and Vasu contemplated for a bit, Ananth tried but his belly refused to go through and so, it was decided(LOL!). We were getting outta there. We drove onto the highway, away from the district and bought barley water at an overpriced restaurant.

There was nobody at the checkpost and we escaped. We all decided to take a nap and meanwhile Kunal took the kids to a farm nearby where they saw goats and honestly, I don’t know what else. 😀

We had a little barley water with dinner in the night and again I went to bed early. I am so consistent, am I not?! 😀

Day 5

Time to head back home. It was such a great holiday! The tigers, the nature and the hospitality at Jungle meadows. All a must do for a Tadoba visit!

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