BAMBOO FOREST SAFARI LODGE
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve or TATR, as it is popularly known, is situated in the state of Maharashtra at a comfortable 2 hours + 30 min ride from Nagpur airport. It can be easily connected with Pench (4 hours drive) too, from where one can again drive to Nagpur airport to catch a flight. Tadoba is one of India’s 47 project tiger reserves located in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra state. The name ‘Tadoba’ is derived from the name of God “Tadoba” or “Taru” believed to be a village chief who was killed in a fierce encounter with a Tiger and thus a shrine was made in his memory. “Andhari” is a river that flows near the park hence the name TADOBA ANDHARI.
TADOBA, surprisingly, has been on the Wildlife Map of India for more than a decade and a half but never received the limelight it deserved. This fact came as a surprise when i met people who have been running their lodge since that long. Travel agents continued to promote other jungles nearby such as Kanha, Bandavgarh, Panna & Pench (in M.P) and Ranthambore (in Rajasthan). Entire concentration of Tigers was somehow centered around these five parks but like an underdog, Tadoba kept a low profile and stayed in the competition. It also continued to host die-hard wildlife lovers, who visited it and never made any bones about it. Then, the images of Tigers started dominating the social media scene and everyone had goosebumps looking at 3, 4 and even 5 tigers at times in a single frame. The Park had come out of its shell by emerging to be a favorite one for visitors and photographers. It further boasts of not having sent back a single traveler, without having shown him a couple of Tigers.
This popularity and rise to fame prompted many new lodges & hotels to come up to cater to the increased number of visitors, especially the serious ones, who like to rough it out in the jungle and return to the comforts of a luxurious lodge.
My first visit to Tadoba in Nov’ 2015 was to understand the park so i decided to stay at both the far-ends namely Khutwanda and Kolara for 2 nights each. While driving from one gate to another to change hotels, i drove past BAMBOO FOREST SAFARI LODGE which didn’t look complete and was only partially functional. i paused, got down from the car, turned around and drove on. Somehow it didn’t look inviting.
The first safari into the Park and i wasn’t very happy to see a tar road in the middle, as straight as an arrow. Though there was dense bamboo plantation on both sides of the road, a vehicle speeding at 70kmph gave the impression of a highway drive. However, after having undertaken a couple of safaris and seen the best variety of animal & bird life a park can offer, i had nothing to complain about.
My second visit, ironically, this year in June was to check the same BAMBOO FOREST SAFARI LODGE which had developed itself over the last few months into a favorite base for the elite traveler. The lodge looked greener with beautiful manicured mini trees & plants, tastefully designed pathway lamps, modified Africa-style Safari jeeps parked outside and a lovely entrance gate looking extremely inviting.
With every step i took towards the reception desk, i could appreciate the effort that had gone into creating this piece-de-resistance. Reception area is cozy and tucked between an adjoining reading room on its left side, that became my haunt for next three days whenever I wasn’t out on a safari, and the common dinning room, where all the meals are served, to its right. The walls here have colorful murals, painted by the local artists.
The lake facing villa that i stayed in had a huge living room and an equally big bathroom with shower cubicle, vintage wooden chests, life size mirrors, haute toiletries, a wardrobe and even an open-air shower for that special dust off. The four poster bed, a well equipped mini-bar (sans alcohol though as the district is a dry area), a flat-screen TV with satellite connection on a swivel stand for a from-my-bed-view, a sit-out with a small private garden between the villa and the lake, comfortable sofa & chairs encouraging the evening chit-chat with friends, two split AC units, bedside lamps, a powder room and the works. All my co-travelers were in awe of the room and wondered how it took care of each and every requirement of an avid traveler and yet did not appear overwhelming. Despite trying hard to find any shortcoming with the comfort it provided, we did not succeed. It was the first time that i stayed in a jungle lodge, which had so much to offer that it often became a challenge to decide between a safari or lazing around with a book in hand.
This second trip to Tadoba for me had all the makings of a Jungle book. During the first safari we sighted a sloth bear that offered us twenty minutes of close-up photographs and observing animal behavior. Next to spot was a full-grown tiger cub, who was probably going to the riverside to unite with his mother, the famous Tigress, Maya.
I also managed to capture various birds with my camera such as Asian Paradise Flycatcher, a bird that had been alluding me since a few years, a Serpent Eagle sitting right opposite it, white breasted Kingfishers, Indian Roller, Egrets, orange headed Thrush, Nightjar, Indian Pitta, Chestnut shouldered Petronia, Gree bee eaters, Brahminy Kite, Ashy Prinias, Glossy Ibis, Paddyfield Pippit, Honey buzzard, Spotted Owlet, Black Cormorants, Drongos, Grey Jungle Fowl to name a few.
Not only i had amazing sightings over two nights and three safaris, i also experienced a new high in jungle hospitality. Bamboo Forest Retreat has set the bar very high now for anyone else to meet this standard and quality.
The customized luxury vehicles and one of the in-house naturalists that accompany the guests are extremely knowledgeable, passionate about wildlife, proud of what they are doing and always eager to help and answer any questions related to the park & the wildlife. The all-rounder team also manages the reception and is ever ready to come along with you on the evening nature walk by the lake. I had close interactions with a friendly, young & energetic Pranad, the chief naturalist cum Manager, who is not only a gifted photographer but also a story-teller and a contributor to various wildlife magazines for his writing skills. His wife is often out cycling in a break and has stories to share, one of which was of encountering a sloth bear just 50 mts in front of her bike.
BAMBOO FOREST SAFARI LODGE is a dream project of a nature-loving family, whose first love called TREE HOUSE RESORT on the outskirts of Jaipur has had roaring success. The passion for wildlife & nature drew them to Tadoba, where, besides running the lodge, it is also involved in many conservation activities, working closely with the Jungle authorities. The lodge stands apart among six other that are available on both the park gates, but it has surely carved a niche for itself in exceeding guests’ expectations.
Vagabond Shoes, 6th June’ 2016