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Rishin | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 1 month ago


A Guest’s first tiger and dhole sighting!

The guest came a little unexpectedly and we were a little perplexed, as there were no safaris available. After interacting with her, we gathered that she is a solo traveller and comes to India every year; but has not seen a tiger ever and she has no idea about the way safari bookings etc. work. After some discussions, we informed her that we would be able to arrange one core and two buffer safaris. She promptly said yes! And further discussions led to the revelation that I have met her in Majuli, Assam two years back. A bit more pressure on me to assure her of a good experience in Tadoba, and the jungle has always helped me in these situations.

 

First AM safari, we missed a tiger early in the morning! But, a little later the Junabai female and her three cubs appeared from the bush, checked the tree along with the mother and then disappeared back in the woods. In the afternoon, there were no clues about them, so we decided to check the other parts of the buffer and got lucky with a sighting of another tigress; this one belonged to the Devdoh clan. Next morning, we entered the core with the intention to look for wild dogs, as she has never seen them but heard a lot about them. While having breakfast at the Khatoda gate, we got the good news of wild dogs and for her sheer delight, we managed to sight a pack of six dholes. The 85-year old lady was all smiles and I was thanking mother nature for all the blessings.

Dorothy Knott loves India and her smile, her happiness gave a good kick for me!

Pic & Text Courtesy: Rishin Basu Roy, Svasara Naturalist

Header Image, Edit Courtesy: Anjan Lal, Svasara Guest

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 1 month ago


First Safari, New Season

While I was in Kolkata for 3 months (during my monsoon break), one fine night I got electrifying news! T7, our very own Choti Tara Tigress had given birth. In her last two litters, she had two cubs each, but this time, news was that she had amazingly delivered three cubs. So now getting back to Tadoba, to the enchanting Central Indian Dry Deciduous Forest suddenly became a matter of urgency for me. These three months, not only Choti Tara, but also other tigers like Matkasur (T54), Maya (T12), her two cubs, and Choti Tara’s two sub adult cubs always remained in my thoughts.

 

So, on 1st October 2018, with the memories of my favourite tigers, I proceeded with excitement for my first safari post monsoons at Tadoba National Park. I was accompanying guests from Kolkata. When we reached the Kolara Gate early morning, a small Gate Opening Ceremony for the new season was happening. We received a very warm welcome from the guides and from the park rangers, a red rose and a piece of little sweet was given to us as they were celebrating the Forest Week also. And then, we heard the unmistakable metallic sound; the gate of Tadoba National Park had opened for the season of 2018-2019.

 

This time Monsoons was generous in the region and as soon as we entered inside the park, after moving couple of meters we saw the beautiful result of bountiful rain. In Hollywood, they use the red carpet but here Mother Nature used a dark green carpet to welcome us, which was absolutely stunning. The smell of the wild green and dew on the zelen (Bosnian word for Green) texture totally enthralled me. On the way, we once again passed by the historical “Gond Pillars” standing tall! Slowly, through the rustic road we reached the spot where, just a few years back, was the Jamni Village. At Jamni, we saw a couple of busy eating Langurs on treetops and a few running Spotted Deer in the meadows.

 

We started moving towards the Jamni Chowk (intersection), and took a right turn towards Pandharpauni. Just few meters down on that road, we suddenly noticed few jeeps standing in a line pointing at something. We couldn’t understand first but then spotted, a Bengal Tiger, our very own dominant male tiger, Matkasur T54. Soon he vanished inside the tall green grass. Position wise, our jeep was the last one so we could barely manage to get a glimpse. Everyone on board, hence, was a little bit crestfallen. Our guide told me “let’s wait here, he can come out again”. After waiting there for seven to eight minutes, we decided to move forward.

 

We then reached Ainbodi 1, where one of the Choti Tara’s sub adult cubs was out of the grassland, in clear view. Over here the driving skill of our driver accorded us a brilliant position. Several pictures were taken by the guests already, when we heard a sound of leaf crushing and heavy twig breaking and then the second tiger also came out from the bush. So the two striped brothers once again came in front of us, oh what joy! But who was the sound engineer? A huge Male Gaur was disturbed by the presence of those tigers. So he charged them and they came out of the bush. Everybody in my jeep thanked the Indian Gaur profusely. Sighting was for more than ten minutes, where we observed different tiger behaviors, one of which was also that one tiger was eating grass, a sign of an upset stomach.

 

Whenever I have encountered these two striped brothers something special has always happened. And true this time too, one of the sub adult cubs came towards our jeep and looked at us, as if saying  “Hi Everyone”. And actually, we were quite delighted with this special interaction. He then went back inside the bush again.

After this brilliant experience, we made our way towards Tadoba Lake. On way, we had a surprising rendezvous with two Indian Wild Dogs or Dholes. They were busy marking their territory. Because of the good rain this year, the lake was full with water. The old Indian Blackberry Trees on the shore, once again came in contact with the lake water. The vastness of the lake and calls of different birds mesmerized us. We spotted a big Marsh Crocodile. Then we moved towards Panchdhara and then on the tar road, reached Khatoda Gate for Breakfast. After having breakfast we decided to take the Kosaikanar road, in search of Choti Tara (T7). As soon as we reached Jamni Chowk again, we heard news from another jeep that Choti Tara crossed a couple of minutes ago. We had missed, but it was ok, this is the natural rule of the forest. Some times you are lucky and sometimes you are not.

 

From the core of my heart I wished Good Luck to Choti Tara T7 and her new cubs. Once again, a new battle will start. Surviving in this brutal world and competition of staying alive in a vast dry deciduous forest will be difficult. They have to be strong and face all challenges in their way. A challenge, where I hope they will prove themselves to be the fittest of all. With those last thoughts, along with the beautiful memories and experiences of our first safari, ending at 10 AM, we came back to the Lodge.

Pic Courtesy: Rishin Basu Roy, Naturalist at Svasara-Tadoba

 

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Bhautik | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 5 months ago


Giri’s Geckoella

The Giri’s Geckoella (Cyrtodactylus varadgirii) is a lizard endemic to India. It was discovered as recently as 2016 and was named after scientist Varad Giri. This lizard is a ground-dwelling lizard and found frequently on leaf litter on forest floors. They are nocturnal lizards; during the day can be found under wooden logs and rocks . They grow to a size of 6 centimetres in length. Widely distributed in India,  besides in forests they have also been found living in human-habituated urban landscapes.  The photographs featured as part of the blog have been taken at Svasara Jungle Lodge, Tadoba.

Blog Write-Up: #BhautikRDesai #SvasaraNaturalist

Pic Credits: #BhautikRDesai #PrasunMajumdar #SvasaraNaturalist

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 6 months ago


Tadoba’s very own Bagheera!

Very seldom does it happen that Tadoba fails to thrill the wildlife enthusiast, especially when they are expecting to see tigers! But what happens when you have already seen a beautiful family of tigers (Kuhani), then a sloth bear, and then driving towards Shivanjhari water hole, hoping to be even luckier and spot the other famed tiger family of Kolsa (Shivanjhari); you reach the spot to find not the striped feline but a spotted one, and that too BLACK? Thrill to the point infinity!!!!

 

So unexpected! That the Forest Guide, when first spotted the black creature, assumed it to be a Palm Civet, but Svasara’s accompanying naturalist with our guests from Belgium, instantly remarked, “cannot be a civet as the tail seems much longer than the body!” Swarna, our naturalist quickly grabbed his binoculars to zoom in (the waterhole is at a distance of about 20’ from where the jeep track is), and then what he experienced having spotted for the first time a melanistic Indian Leopard at Tadoba, is impossible to express in words………

 

We thank his presence of mind, to quickly request the guests to photograph this once in a lifetime sight! Although there have been prior discussions at Tadoba on the existence of a black panther in the Kolsa Zone, it has never been photographed till last evening.

 

22nd May 2018, around 6 PM IST, Kolsa Range, Tadoba (Please note there was a camera screenshot shared earlier which mentioned Belgian time 13:52): Indeed a historical day here! And sooooo special for Svasara as it was our guests and naturalist who got to be the lucky ones to witness this sighting.

 

p.s. contrary to the media reports, their jeep was the sole jeep that witnessed this sighting. All sighting pictures published in this blog are taken by Guest Juliet Decaestecker and are the only veritable pictures of this sighting.

Group Photo: From Left to Right Praful Yerme (jeep driver), Shalik Yerme (forest guide), Jean Francois Aernouts, Kids Lina, Zia, and Ruby, Juliet Decaestecker (svasara guests) and Swarna Chakrabarty (svasara naturalist)

 

Sighting Pic Courtesy: #JulietDecaestecker #SvasaraGuest

 

 

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Rishin | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 9 months ago


Tiger & Sloth Bear Confrontation

It was a normal afternoon safari. After the excitement of the morning sighting of T-54 (Matkasur), the dominant male tiger of the tourism zone we were thinking about enjoying the forest. In the morning it was a relatively late move by the big male and when we started driving back to the exit gate where he secured a place near the waterhole under the shade of a big Jamun tree. One classic picture that depicts the arrival of summer in this forest! We decided to check his whereabouts in the afternoon and planned to explore the other parts of the forest later on. We climbed up the Jamunbodi road to reach the gallery view of  Jamunbodi. We reached, he was still lying down and the guest was expressing his disbelief about how lazy a tiger can be. Five hours! and he was still there… Then suddenly within five-minutes of our arrival he stood up, looked behind and started walking towards the back. I was telling the guest that it was a good decision that we decided to check on him.

Little did we know what was in store for us for the next half-an-hour. As soon as he went away from our view a long stress call of a sloth bear was heard. We got alert and decided to check. We were overwhelmed by the face-off sight of a mother sloth bear and a sub adult sloth bear with T-54. The desperate mother sloth bear came in between T54 and her sub adult. A royal rumble started. The sub adult left the place with  the agony of loosing its mother. We could hear the deep sounds coming from the back while the mamma bear showed us what it takes to be a mother and how desperate a mother can be to defend her offspring. T-54 tried his best to knock her down and there was moment of 5 minutes when we thought the mother had given up as she lay still in the trap of T-54. Then the magic started one or two ‘Jhatkas’ (sudden movements) ensured us the mother bear was not giving up and then she got herself free from the jaw and paw of T-54. With great disbelief we saw her giving a full aggressive  blow to T-54 and the unique design of the sloth bear hair allowed her to prevent T-54 from giving her a killer bite. With the evolutionary adaptive strategy the bear’s most vulnerable part of the body is its snout and the chest. She rolled into a fur ball and didn’t allow T-54 to access that part of her body. Then with a full thrush she gave a tight slap and went away from the T-54.

For this entire period of the show there was not a single sound from the jeeps around. Everyone was glued to the fighting duo and the air was filled with the sound of the Bear and the tiger. A sighting of a lifetime indeed which will remain etched in the memory of all the spectators who were there.

Blog Write-Up: #RishinBasuRoy #SvasaraNaturalist

Pic Credits: #PrasunMajumdar #SvasaraNaturalist

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Rishin | Naturalist at Svasara

Relax & Explore - 1 year ago


The Tussar Silk Moth

The silk that made India famous! The silk that created the trade route, the silk that generated revenue by creating employment. Silk that personifies Indian women and men. The creator of the raw material is the Tussar Silk Moth. Unlike the mulberry silk moth, tussar silk moth is not reared in captivity. Hence Tussar Silk is also known as wild silk or peace silk. This is because silk is only extracted from the cocoon once the adult moth emerges. I.e., the larvae are not killed inside the cocoon to obtain the silk.

Location: Svasara Jungle Lodge, Tadoba, Maharashtra, India

 

Credits: Text – Rishin, Svasara Naturalist, Photographs – Sanjay Ramachandran, Identification – Prasun, Svasara Naturalist, Sighting – Raju, Svasara Safari Driver & Tracker

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Niraj | Svasara Guest

Wildlife Safaris - 1 year ago


First Encounter with Male Tiger

Since 3 years, Juhili and myself, go to Tadoba during second weekend of February. Some say we celebrate our Valentines’ day in the forest. The reality is February is the best month to visit the forest, as it is the change of season from Winter to Summer. This encounter moment is from February 2017 visit ( 10, 11 and 12 February 2017 ).

As usual we camped at Svasara Jungle Lodge, our second home, and very well taken care by Ranjit Mandal and Nandita Das. One of the best part of visiting Tadoba is meeting this evergreen couple and enjoying jungle stories with them. Normally we spend more time in their cabin than in our room.

We had 4 safaris booked ( 1 from Navegaon, 2 from Kolara and 1 from Pangdi ), out of which first 3 safaris went completely dry, not even tiger calls. Obviously we were frustrated to the core. On 11th evening Juhili made an unreasonable request to Nandita and she arranged for her favorite lucky number Gypsy for 12th morning safari. Anything and everything for Tiger sighting.

We entered at 6.30 am from Kolara gate with lots of hopes. It was a chilly morning and the sun was about to rise. In open Gypsy it gets unbearable in winters, and although it was a time when winter season was about to get over, it was still cold enough. We passed through the Jamni village, then Jamni Nalla and meadows. We were hoping to sight Choti Tara and her 2 male cubs as this territory belong to her, but there was no sign of her. The jungle was totally silent, did not sight even a deer. Only various calls of different birds were bringing life to the jungle. Our guide Sandesh was completely alert and was directing the driver as per his intuitions. At the crossroad after Jamni, Sandesh opted to go towards Pandharpauni. We checked 97 and Yenbodi waterholes for any sign of the Tiger but again nothing. As we were approaching Pandharpauni 1- PP1, we spotted waiting Gypsies in between PP1 and Pandharpauni 2 – PP2 waterholes. There were atleast 40 to 50 Gypsies. Excitement was at peak with this sight as it indicated either tiger is sighted or atleast calls are there. When we reached the spot, the waiting gypsies told us that somebody had sighted a male tiger on one fireline and that he may come on this side. It was still a good chance to take, as usual in jungle, and we parked our gypsy alongwith the waiting crowd. It was around 7.30 am by then.

It was a long wait. No movement, no calls. Only birds singing. This is a place, when you are facing towards PP2, you have a wide meadow with tall yellow grass on your right and on the left the road goes and meets the Navegaon Tadoba lake road. A big triangle is formed by these 3 roads ( PP1 to PP2, road on left and Navegaon – Tadoba lake road ). In this triangle were lots of deers and wild boars. No calls at all. I was convinced that tiger can not be in the vicinity. But hoping against false hopes is the mantra in the jungle ride. At 8.15 am we started eating breakfast in the gypsy. Sandesh was as usual scanning the surrounding for any sign or movement.

Halfway through the breakfast he suddenly said, “ Sir Tiger “. I literally jumped. He pointed towards the yellow tall grass and said “ Tiger just stood up and is standing “. I was totally clueless and I think even my wife too. I did not see anything, may be it was there may be not. One thing was sure none of the other gypsies were looking in that direction, rather they were also waiting restlessly. In one of the gypsy my good friend Rasna Vaidya and Svasara naturalist Rishin Basu Roy were there waiting next to us. I continued with my breakfast and as I was packing, again Sandesh said the tiger has started moving towards PP1 and he asked the driver to move towards PP1. We were the only gypsy to leave that place and go to PP1. Again we parked ourselves at PP1. It is around 500 to 600 meters distance. Sandesh again located the tiger and said it is approaching us. Sadly I did not see anything. Sandesh was constantly updating us about tiger movement. I was not sure if I believed him. Then finally I was convinced when he said tiger has turned around and not coming towards us. We left again for the old spot. When we reached there every person in every gypsy was looking towards right and I realized our mistake of leaving the place. When we reached there, we just saw from a great distance the tiger moving away from us and that too for just 30 seconds. The tiger was spotted at the same place which Sandesh had mentioned. I surrendered to Sandesh. Was it over ? No the fun starts now.

Rishinda said the tiger will cross the Bamangaon fireline and that we should go there. That moment our driver realized there was something wrong with our axle so he drove slowly and Rishinda went ahead. We were just 2 mins behind them. Suddenly we saw a gypsy moving very fast towards Chikhalwahi. We could not go fast due to axle issue. When we reached there Rishinda told us that Maya, Pandharpauni Queen, just crossed the road and that they could get good pictures of her from a close distance. I could only curse the axle. Maya was moving and then deer calls started. It was confusing as calls were coming from all the sides. I said to Juhili that we should wait for Maya to emerge from bushes. Suddenly behind us around 30 to 35 deers ran and crossed the road and were giving calls simultaneously. At that moment Sandesh mentioned that the tiger which we had seen from the back must have come in the triangle and he was sure that it was a male tiger. Juhili mentioned to him that we have never seen a male tiger in 3 years of our jungle tours. Sandesh said we should go and be the first to track the tiger, so we turned around while everyone waited for Maya. I had already surrendered to Sandesh.

We reached on one side of the triangle and Sandesh started screening the triangle for the tiger. All 3 of us located the tiger in the triangle almost at the same time. Cameras were out. Some people followed us and waited behind us. Again the tiger was going away from us. I asked Sandesh to follow the direction which tiger was taking. Sandesh was confident that tiger will come in our direction only as the direction he was moving towards was jam packed with gypsies. So he insisted that we stay where we were and give space to the tiger to cross on the other side of the road. As he was saying this I could see the tiger turning around and started walking in our direction. I was amazed by the knowledge and intuition of Sandesh.

Now the tiger was clearly visible from around 80 feet and it was coming towards the road we were waiting on. Both of us were excited to see the first male tiger, that too huge one, the great Matkasur. It walked and came onto the road, stood there for 2 mins, looked towards us from 80 feet. What a marvelous sight it was, beyond words. I thought it will cross to the other side of the road into the jungle. But again I was wrong. Tiger had other things in it’s mind. It was as if it knew that we were seeing the male tiger for the first time and it decided to surprise us. The tiger turned towards our gypsy and started walking towards us. We were speechless and had never encountered such an amazing movement. We were the first gypsy in the line, nothing between us and the tiger. I could get some of the best shots. It was hugely built, walked towards us until the distance between us and tiger was mere 8 feet. Stopped, gave us a parting look, turned left and disappeared into the jungle. I was stunned, speechless and did not know what to do. I think I must have thanked Sandesh atleast 100 times. Always listen to guide became my mantra going forward.

One of the greatest wild moment in my life. I will cherish this experience for lifetime, waiting for more to come.

 

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Rishin | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 2 years ago


Maya Tigress of Tadoba

Maya Enchants, Maya is the crowd puller, Maya generates economy for this place, Maya made Tadoba popular to the extent that whenever we talk about Tadoba Maya’s name definitely comes up.

If she goes missing for a few days we start feeling helpless, because she has garnered a larger than life fame! Her contribution is beyond what we can see. Her contribution towards her own stripes is TOO enormous. She is amazing because since she became an adult, almost all the male tigers of Tadoba started venturing into her territory. This trend is still continued if we look into the different males who have visited her in the three years of her life, it adds up to 6 to 7 different males. There were days when she was sighted with 2 to 3 different males in a single day. But she managed well, then she had a first litter of cubs, she in fact lost her first litter, she slowly matured as tigress, as a mother, she kept allowing the male tigers to visit her, then she had her next litter.

BIG ? Who is the father of her cubs? Amidst utter confusion and too much speculation, she kept her cubs well secured, then she declared the identity of their father. Surprise again! she went for the “Handicap principle” in that none of the supposedly cool dudes got the chance to father her cubs. Then on she kept on amazing us by the way she reared her cubs and kept meeting all the “visitors” be it tourist or the different striped males. But the story doesn’t end there, because of her the other females neighboring her territory got the chance to rear their cubs without being bothered too much by the other males. In a crisis period of gender imbalance in the tiger community that is a huge contribution and for me just because of that fact she is one of those most amazing tigresses I have seen.

p.s. Now a days, the visitors seem to be already entrapped in Maya’s aura way before seeing her, it is frequent request to us naturalists at svasara to especially see “Maya” even if they have had the good luck of sighting other tigers.

To follow new updates about her and see her beautiful pictures, please see and like her photo album Maya (P2/T12), the reigning Queen of Pandharpauni on our facebook page.

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Rishin | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 2 years ago


The Little Star

I am indeed lucky with her…She is very different than her neighbor Maya. She looks more composed more cautious… My golden sighting of her happened on 6th November 2014 635 AM when she came to jamni village school to get her cubs perhaps admitted in the school! I have had indeed fortunate luck to see her cubs in the wild.

Her male cub from the first litter unfortunately died but the female cub is surviving well. It had been a while since seeing her with cubs. And then exactly two years later, on 6th November 2016, I found her sitting with her cubs on the side of the road. I watched them for a while then I photographed a few memories and returned happily to the lodge.

Unlike Maya, Choti Tara is not so secretive about the father of the cubs, last time she introduced “Gabbar” as the father and this time it was “Matkasur.” She definitely likes the heroes to get acquainted with the cubs. This is such a happy memory which made me feel special at the same time…thinking about it a lot raised a question in my mind, why two cubs on both occasions?

Generally the other females in and around the tourism zone has a higher number per litter three to four then why her only two? Both the occasions, the father of her cubs is different so this outcome does not seem to be from the father side…Few more questions…Her pattern way of movement, coming out with her cubs, the basic routine of her nurturing the young ones shows that she is more confident now and maybe she understood that more than the number, the quality of the young is important. The competition, the pressure everything is increasing on them and she as a mother has experienced both happiness and sadness. Now it’s time to see how she manages her new litter. She was known as CHOTI TARA as she is the daughter of TARA now she has grown enough and most probably she is a granny by now! So in my mind she is no more a Little Star, in fact she is one of the important, brightest Stars in the map of Tadoba!

To follow the story of Choti Tara and see more pictures of her and the cubs, like her photo album The Bold & Beautiful Choti Tara on our facebook page.

 

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Ranjit Mandal

Relax & Explore - 2 years ago


“Sona”

#BauhiniaPurpurea is a tree that bears seasonal violet flowers enhancing the subtle beauty of our Teakhouse, when in bloom.

Local Name: Sona in Marathi (local language)
English Name: Purple Bauhinia, Orchid tree ,Camel’s foot tree, Butterfly tree, Geranium tree 
Hindi Name: Kota, Raktakanchan, Khairwal, Karar, Kanchan

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION

Sona a small to medium-sized deciduous fast-growing shrub or tree with a round, symmetrical, moderate dense crown to 10 m tall, young branches becoming glabrous or nearly so (glabrescent). In dry forests like #Tadoba the size is smaller. The bark is pale grey brown, fairly smooth to slightly fissured and scaly.

At #Tadoba, the flowers appear on the trees from October and are a beautiful sight to see, creating a vivid splash of colour in the autumn landscape. The flowers are followed by 12-inch-long, slender, brown, flat seed pods which usually persist on the tree throughout the winter.

There are about 300 species of this genus found in tropical regions. The genus includes trees, vines, and shrubs that are frequently planted for their showy flowers and ornamental foliage.

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