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Category: Wildlife Safaris


Ratika at Svasara-Tadoba

Wildlife Safaris - 1 week ago


In Awe of Nature

What can Spiders Teach Us?

{Blog 1 of Series, What can Animals Teach Us}

Entering the pristine mystical forest of Tadoba after seven long months was pure bliss. The green serenity, the smell of wet earth, the fresh air was an instant dose of rejuvenation for one’s soul.

When the jungle has not had too many visitors for so long, its denizens have had the freedom and space to take over all parts of the reserve. One cannot, hence, miss observing (or avoiding) the encounter with the giant wood spiders & their large orbicular webs as one meander through the virgin tracts.

Arachnophobia (Fear of Spiders) is one of the most common phobias that people experience. A genuine fear, especially if one has had an unpleasant acquaintance with them or because one has been exposed to only their eerie anecdotes.  

This blog is an attempt to share a positive narrative about Spiders, one amongst millions of our co-existing inhabitants. Spiders have been on Earth far longer than us (longer than the now extinct dinosaurs). Pondering upon their long evolution history, their depiction in mythological fables, authors’ inspirations and their kind love for them not only teaches us so much about them, but there are lurking life lessons for us to learn from them too.

Below are just a few of them.

Focus on Mastery & Self-Approval

Spiders have been subjected to so much virulence all their lives, yet they have survived not seeking anyone’s approval or flattery. They have recognized their own mastery and chosen to weave life with dexterity, purpose, & beauty! For all the times when we are devoid of recognition and seek external appreciation, let us remember the humble spider that does not seek anyone else’s praise for moving on in life.

Perseverance leads to Great Works

Remember the Incy-Wincy spider nursery song? Or have you ever gotten tired cleaning up the cobwebs just to find a brand new one in its place moments later? As much as some of us might despise spiders and discriminate against them, the continued efforts on part of the spiders (without any assistance) to rebuild despite the recurring difficulty and trouble, is a lesson of perseverance, grit, & resilience for us.

Be Patient, Gratification is not always instant

Once the spider has worked hard spinning its web, casting it as big as possible, it then patiently waits for the “fruits” of its labour. It has faith on its hard work, and knows it is just a matter of time, when it can enjoy the reward. Similarly, when we have an objective in mind, we should put our best efforts, and remind ourselves that work comes before the result. Many of our lives’ aspirations might experience delayed gratification. Patience is key.

Small can be Significant

Svasara’s logo depicts the Tree of Life, illustrating everything on the planet is interdependent. And spider, no matter how small is a perfect example of nature’s inter-connectedness. Spiders are endemic to almost all continents and without them the balance in the ecosystems would be disrupted. As predators, they help in controlling insect populations (including flies & mosquitoes!) and as prey, they are an important source of food for birds, lizards etc.

From The Naturalists’ Desk: The Common Spiders seen in Tadoba

  1. Giant Wood Spider
  2. Black Wood Spider
  3. Wolf Spider
  4. Crab Spider
  5. Lynx Spider
  6. Jumping Spider
  7. Signature Spider 
  8. Fishing Spider
  9. Daddy Long-Legs Spider
  10. Spitting Spider

Research/Fact Checks/Identification Acknowledgements to Naturalists: Arpit Parekh, Imran Khan, & Jignesh Patel

Illustrations: Devina S. Ramchandran (5 yrs) & Esha Sinha (10 yrs)

Pictures: Sanjay Ramchandran

References & Further Reading/Viewing Recommendations (Book list is especially compiled for young readers):

Book: Animal Teachings, Dawn Brunke

Book: Spiders, Gail Gibbons

Book / YouTube – Read Aloud: I’m Trying to Love Spiders, Bethany Barton

Book / YouTube – Read Aloud: Be Nice to Spiders!, Margaret Bloy Graham

Book / YouTube – Read Aloud: Diary of a Spider, Doreen Cronin

Book / You Tube – Read Aloud: Are you a Spider, Judy Allen

Magazine / YouTube – Read Aloud: National Geographic Readers: Spiders, Laura Marsh

Blog: 10 Lessons from a Spider about Achieving Your Dreams, Arvind Devalia

Blog: Five Spiritual Lessons Spiders can Teach Us,  Nikki Harper

Blog: 6 Lessons from a Simple Spider, Neil

Blog: Four Life Lessons we can all learn from Spiders, Dr. Audrey

Blog: The Importance of Spiders to an Ecosystem, Nicholas DeMarino

PDF: Handbook Indian Spiders, B.K. Tikader

About this Blog & Author

My love for animals (first initiated through love for dogs) started from my childhood. My first ambition (which I recall being around age 11 years) was to work for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Assuming, I must have thought that would give me an opportunity to be in situations where I would get the time to spend with different animals and that I would be able to take care of them when the need arose.

Fast forwarding to today, grateful that thanks to my uncle (bade papa) who shared a common love with me for wildlife (although he was fixated with tigers…), and our family’s hospitality business background we ventured into the beautiful world of low impact eco-tourism / wildlife-tourism.

Svasara, our family owned jungle lodge has given me so much joy to be able to do what I always dreamt of doing – be amidst nature & around so many beautiful creatures!

One of the best parts about owning a jungle lodge is the endless knowledge and appreciation one gains through interactions with passionate naturalists who I feel our true custodians of nature, and on their shoulders lies this big responsibility of being advocates of wildlife conservation. Each of our resident and visiting naturalists have taught me so much and my respect for Mother Earth and every living creature has only grown deeper through my interactions with them.

This blog, is dedicated to my daughter (and every child who has the inherent and unbiased curiosity, love, & fascination about the natural world around us) and my naturalist team. I hope through my writings I am able to (in a few of you) inculcate a deeper appreciation for nature, respect for all living creatures, and embed the idea that all of us can co-exist in our beautiful planet.

p.s. All views are personal. Thank you for reading.

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Arpit | Field Naturalist

Wildlife Safaris - 9 months ago


Mystic Morning

Winter mornings are chilly yet so mesmerizing that one doesn’t wish to miss any of the safari moments. One also gets finest opportunities for photography, as the climate is very much suitable for all flora and fauna around. One such was the morning recently, when guests were blessed to sight three tigers (sub-adults) eagerly waiting for the sun to rise over horizon and to feel the warmth of nature after spending a chilling cold night. And as a photographer and naturalist, I got to capture this wonderful frame – the mystic surrounding and the beautiful beast of the forest. Do find the time out of your busy schedules in concrete jungles to visit and experience the pristine jungles / wonders of the natural world with passionate lodge naturalists at Svasara-Tadoba.

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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 11 months ago


“Preening”

One of the main behaviors that can be observed in birds is “preening”. Through this special activity, birds remove parasites, dirt, dust etc. from their feathers while repositioning that particular feather next to adjacent feathers. This process helps to keep the bird healthy. A gland named ‘Uropygial’ or simply the preen gland is situated at the base of their tail which produces an oily substance to keep their feathers glossy and shiny.

Pic & Blog Credit: #SwarnaChakrabarty #SvasaraNaturalist

#preening #birdbehavior #tadoba #birds #indianbirds #naturalistblog

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Arpit | Field Naturalist

Wildlife Safaris - 12 months ago


T2’s Sub-Adult Cubs

Safaris in tiger reserve are always unexpected. As you start your drive expectations are on peak, but in the end you are in wild and no one has control over sightings and after spending few hours if there are no movements of any big cats, you get little disappointed but you still enjoy the drive as there are lot many things to observe from Birds to Butterflies but in the end everyone wish to see our majestic animal to complete their dream. 

Today our guest experienced their first tiger in the wild, but most exciting for them was not one but to see two young sub-adults (T2’s subadult cubs) playing in the fields when they were on their way back to exit point (#kolaracore). This is why, we should never loose hope till you reach your exit gate and should enjoy the forest at fullest.

Picture credit: #TanviAgarwal #SvasaraGuest

Blog credit: #ArpitParekh #FieldNaturalist #Svasara #Tadoba

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Anusua | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 1 year ago


Giant Wood Spider Webs

Araneid spiders belonging to genus Nephila, also known as the orb-weaving spiders, are well known for the huge webs the adult females construct.

Post-monsoons, forest in Central India seems so mesmerising with soothing greenery around, very much unlike what it looks like otherwise throughout the year. The first safari surprised me not because of the superb Maya sighting but because of the huge webs the females of the Giant Wood Spider weave. I found them hanging all over the forest, in every direction, even when I looked up to spot a bird.

The adult females of most species are large and build strong webs of silk of considerable size. Research suggests that orb-weaving spiders can alter the web structure and composition in response to prey variation.

The genus exhibit bright colours and recently these bright colouration is considered to be important in predator-prey visual interactions, aiding in foraging success by providing attractive visual signals to prey.

Pic Credit: Giant Wood Spider – female, Anusua, Naturalist at Svasara Jungle Lodge, Tadoba

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Rishin | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 2 years ago


New Buffer Gates at Tadoba

The tiger numbers have been witnessing a rise in Tadoba and in their search for more areas they often settle in the buffer areas of the reserve. For this reason, buffers have played a crucial role in conservation of Tadoba’s biodiversity. Some examples of tigers that have made buffers their home include the oldest tiger of Tadoba – Waghdoh, Madhuri, Junabai, Jharni etc.

Opening buffers for tourism has many benefits. Local disturbances to the forest reduces because of planned tourism. Alizanza and Kolara Buffer for this reason has experienced such success. These additional zones also reduce tourist pressure on limited routes in core. And, because the forest is contiguous, tourists have been generally happy sighting the same animals. In some instances, blue bull sighting in fact is higher in buffer compared to core.

Buffer tourism is great for the local economy as well as additional guides and gypsy operators get an opportunity to reap in the benefits of wildlife tourism. This is always a positive contribution reducing the risk of alternative money-making avenues like poaching, illegal tree / bamboo cutting etc.

So next time you are planning a trip to Tadoba, do consider opting for a buffer zone safari too. Not only will you experience a different part of the reserve and contribute to forest conservation, but you will also positively touch the lives of additional locals from Tadoba’s adjoining villages.

Header Image Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/tadoba-to-open-5-new-gates-in-buffer-to-boost-ecotourism/articleshow/67763293.cms

Buffer Zone Photographs from our Archive:

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Rishin | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 2 years 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 - 2 years 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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Swarna | Naturalist at Svasara

Wildlife Safaris - 2 years 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 - 3 years 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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