So why does one go on a Safari in tiger land? Umm well … to see various birds, to spot hordes and herds of spotted deer, to gaze at bewildered looking Sambhar deer, to watch the antics of langurs and monkeys or maybe to spot a few small mammals too, right? Yeah right 😎
The various superstitions that are followed by the guides and guests, include not mentioning the name of the You Know What because some believe that talking about it or openly craving to see it, could result in failure to sight the star of the show which is the magnificent Tiger, also known as Wagh in the local language.
So if you can put on a really nonchalant swag while internally desperately praying to spot one, then you are said to have a better chance of seeing the sWagh of the Wagh as she/he does the catWagh for you right in front of your jeep.
So did we succeed in fooling fate into thinking we did not care? Shall we read till the end to find out?
But no, I am too excited to delay this and I must say, for me the good fortune that Pugdundee Safaris always bestows, came to my rescue yet again and my camera did manage to trap one beautiful specimen called Roma as she languorously lifted her 3 year old frame out from the thicket and performed a short, stylish parade in front of several waiting jeeps with their gasping passengers.
But don’t go away, now that the climax is revealed. Stay and browse through because there is much more that you need to know about what you can do, with the professional guidance of the excellent team at the Waghoba Eco Lodge.
While the lodge is primarily visited by guests who are safari bound, there are a few other things you can also do both within and outside the lodge. So let us explore those for a start.
In and around –
Property tour –
The ever obliging staff will accompany you and show you the various features of the property, as mentioned in the Overview post.
Bird walks –
There are several species of birds in the region and they are easier spotted early morning or at sunset when they return to roost. If you are on time, you can see several ‘Birds on a wire’ as they line the overhead cables in a charming pattern. I was busy with the safaris, hence missed trapping this scene in my camera. But please make do with this picture from my earlier visit to Pench Tree Lodge by Pugdundee safaris, to get an idea what a pretty sight it is.
Read or Watch documentaries –
One can spend time reading in the library or watching wildlife movies and documentaries in the lounge.
The film on Tigers of Tadoba which I watched, was very informative and gave a glimpse of the park’s journey and progress in the last few years.
There are also films on the tigers of the other parks of India like Sariska in Rajasthan etc.
The inviting pool is a good place to be especially in summers. The lounge on the first floor acts as a cover for the pool because in summers the temperatures are near 50 deg c and it is tough to be in direct sunlight. The changing rooms are adjacent to the pool and there are also deck chairs for those who prefer land to water like yours truly.
Tadoba is not really a cold place other than in winters. Hence they do have barbeques and bonfires at times by the poolside but not so frequently.
Cycles are available and can be used to tour the property.
Photography Hide –
The pond in front of the hide is expected to be exciting in summer, where several birds would visit to get respite from the soaring temperaturs.
At other times when bird traffic at the water is low, one can still manage a few regulars like pond herons, kingfishers, doves etc.
Organic garden visit –
Shaheen the young and highly talented naturalist, was kind enough to take us around the farm.
We met Mandar ji who is the head of the department of gardening across all Pugdundee properties. Highly motivated and passionate about his craft, he has created a 4.5 acre space where they grow local vegetables like long beans, radish, methi etc as well as a whole lot of exotics like zucchini, pak choy, lettuce etc.
They use natural fertilizers that are cow dung and cow urine based as well as some herbal options. Mandar ji is very particular that no chemical fertilizers or pesticides should be used in the farm.
When I visited I was truly excited to harvest a few male flowers of the zucchini, which the chef transformed into the most delectable Bengali style fritters using poppy seed paste (posto) and a special batter of Gobindo Bhog rice flour. Remember, this is what I was telling you about in the previous post on the cuisine 😀
Guests can likewise choose to harvest or even help out in the farm.
Outside the lodge –
Boating on the Irai river –
The boat jetty is near the entrance of the Moharli buffer zone and the drive is around 45 minutes from the lodge.
The Irai river adjoins the Tadoba park and boating on the large expanse of water is simultaneously quite a serene, as well as exciting activity.
The boats are operated by a private party and one can hire an exclusive boat or join the crowd on a common one.
The rides are of various durations, beginning from 1 hour. A 2 – 3 hour ride is ideal, as it takes you to the periphery of the buffer zone of the park where you can spot several birds especially the migratory ones in winter.
And if you have been really really good, not Santa but fate will allow you some exciting sightings like the tiger. I was probably just very good and not very very, for there was no tiger but my reward was a huge crocodile that stayed put like a rock and allowed me to click my pictures at leisure.
We had a 2 hour ride and on the return half we were enthralled by the show put on by the setting sun and its reflection.
Sevagram Gandhi Ashram –
This is about 100 km away and is said to have been Ganghiji’s residence for a few years. There is a museum and other centers related to Gandhiji and his work.
It is not sadism that made me talk about this at the end but just a desire to get all the other details out of the way before focusing on this topic 😎
As I mentioned, the safari is the highlight of the experiences here and there are various options that one can book either directly or through the lodge.
There are early morning, afternoon and night safaris which one can choose to go on. One can also decide between the core or buffer areas.
The morning and evening safaris are each of 4 hour duration and the night is 3 hours.
Timings are season dependent. On my December trip it was 6.30 am – 10.30 am in the morning, 2 pm – 6 pm for the evening and 7 pm – 10 pm at night. The summer timings are usually 30 minutes earlier in the morning and 30 minutes later in the evening. Please check the official timings too, in case of any changes.
The Kutwanda gate is 8 km from the lodge and takes around 20 minutes to reach. This is the entrance to the core zone where sightings are statistically better.
The Moharli region is around 45 minutes away. This area has a few gates to access the buffer zone.
In the Tadoba Moharli zone, one can cover the same region during the safari, regardless of which gate one enters through.
The lodge helps the guests with prior safari bookings and the naturalist also accompanies them on the trip. The safari jeep picks you up from the lodge and continues on to the safari whereas the lodge organizes alternate transport to get to the buffer zone before getting to the safari jeep.
My Safaris –
I experienced 3 safaris during my 3 day stay. A morning one at the buffer zone, a second morning one at the core and a third one at night via the Junona gate which is the only access to a night safari.
I was ‘second time’ lucky and the rendezvous with Roma happened on this occasion.
Be aware that the Tadoba safaris do not permit cell phones at all and they have to be deposited in a box in the jeep, which is under the care of your guide. So one has to depend only on cameras. The camera fee is Rs 250 per camera.
The first safari – in the buffer zone of the Tadoba Moharli zone was via the Dewada-Adegaon safari gate. We left at 5.30 am to reach the gate at 6 am, with packed breakfast and all. This was a largely fruitless one where we did not get to see the tiger and to add insult to injury we also had a few near misses as per the other jeeps, despite seeing fresh pugmarks too😏.
Half way into the safari, we made time for the breakfast goodies that chef had packed for us.
The 4 hour ride however, was pleasant in its own way and we did manage a few birds, deer of course, Sambhar, large spiders, pretty butterflies and other such little things.
We also saw a tree bearing tiger claw marks and also a pattern on the bark that resembled a tiger. Or maybe I was hallucinating in desperation. I will let you decide 😃
The second safari – next morning we left at 6am to get to Kutwanda gate by 6.30 am. Hope again came to the fore because this safari was at the core zone. We experienced birds, butterflies, deer and more deer, langurs, Sambhar … and eventually a loss of hope.
With disappointment that we tried to hide, we finally set off for the exit because the park authorities are very strict about time and one has to exit from the same gate that one enters through. And then fate relented and we suddenly came upon rows of jeeps with their passengers whispering in hushed tones and gazing at a particular point behind the bushes.
The excitement level suddenly went up by several notches as our driver maneuvered skillfully to allow us to get our share of the striped eye candy. Making do with photographs shot through foliage which covered her face, we spent a few minutes with our cameras romancing Roma, the 3 year old female cub of Choti Tara.
With the driver and guide fretting to leave since it was late, we started moving with a deep sigh of both contentment and regret, at spotting her and yet not clearly, respectively, when probably our tiger deity at Waghoba Eco Lodge took pity on us and decided to get Roma to budge.
And budge she did and how!
She languorously yawned, then got up and sauntered out of the thicket and through the tall yellowing grass and stylishly paraded across onto the main road, right into the gap between the jeeps. We were the recipients of her rear view while the jeeps on the other side were blessed with a full frontal but this was more than what I had expected, so I will not Look Behind with regrets (pun definitely intended) 🐅🐯
It was time to leave in a hurry, so we left her sashaying towards the last 3 jeeps as we rumbled away fully satisfied with our encounter.
The pictures are from my video grab. Do see the video too to get your adrenaline racing like mine did.
Oh yes we did have our breakfast earlier but I forgot to tell you that, in all the excitement 😁. There is a convenient location called Panchdhara Visava at the half way point in the core safari zone, that serves as a rest area for visitors. There are reasonably tolerable washrooms, tables and chairs to have their meals, running water and also a small hall exhibiting posters with information about the Tadoba forest.
Our third and final safari was at the Junona Gate, which is the only access to the night safari. The timings are 7 pm – 10 pm. This is also 40 minutes away so we drove up to the gate in a car and then shifted into the safari jeep at the gate.
Night safaris are obviously quite distinct from the daytime ones and one gets to see night birds and a few mammals too. It is not uncommon to also spot tigers but our quota was depleted with Roma 😏
So we made do with grumpy looking Night jars and bewildered Eurasian Thick Knees, both of which mostly lay comfortably right in the middle of the road and flew only on approaching very near. Of course the latter was promptly named Thick-knee Chameli by me 😎 My camera also caught a lone and very distant hare but missed a sloth bear which was too fast despite being quite near us.
Apart from this, there was another futile tiger chase during which I clicked a few pictures of the moon which was far more obliging and whose craters looked like paw marks to my tired brain 😏
Despite the tigerless ride, the experience was enjoyable and it was not as cold as I had feared. But then, I was sitting in the front seat with the heater on (that is a pro tip by the way, for thin skinned people) 😀
During a night safari, one can opt to have an Early-Early dinner at 5.30 pm at the lodge or carry a packed meal. The last option is to get back at 11 pm and eat at the restaurant or ask for in-room service. We had carried our meal but chose to spend the time hunting instead. Hence we came back hungry and had hot soup and fluffy rice, which was just the right thing for a cold, tiring night.
The night safari was a very different experience and I was glad to have done it. As usual, Pugdundee gave me precious memories to take back with me and left me craving for more.
So as I say goodbye, I raise my soup bowl and make a toast to many more such adventures with them and many more xSighting safaris!
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Pugdundee Safaris. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Dec 2nd – Dec 5th, 2022