These days, Tiger tourism in India is big business, and the numbers of overseas tourists visiting such wellknown reserves as Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore and Kanha are unavoidably high. This exciting wildlife tour to central India, however, focuses on the lesser-known national parks and Project Tiger ‘Tiger reserves’, notably Tadoba-Andhari and Satpura. Indeed, you may even find yourselves to be the only foreign visitors! On this tour you will also benefit from the ease and convenience of flying right into the heart of central India’s ‘Tiger country’, as we use the scheduled service of Jet Airways from London to Nagpur, the capital of Maharashtra, via Mumbai. In so doing, we not only offer the wildlife enthusiast the ultimate luxury — a holiday to India that largely avoids sprawling cities, huge crowds, long train journeys, domestic flights, etc! — but we also minimise travelling times and maximise the time we may spend in these little-known reserves.
On our arrival in Nagpur we overnight in the city before taking a 3-hour drive to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, situated in the Chandrapur District of Maharashtra. The reserve, spanning over 625 square kilometres, incorporates both Tadoba National Park (which became Maharashtra’s first national park in 1955) and Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary, and became one of India’s 28 Project Tiger reserves as recently as 1993. Its hills support a dense tropical dry deciduous forest, largely made up of Teak and bamboo, carved by the Andhari River. As many as 40 Tigers are reputed to survive here, plus a great many other mammals such as Leopard, Sloth Bear, Gaur, Wild Dog, Striped Hyena, Jungle Cat and Chousingha (the Four-horned Antelope), not to mention a rich birdlife.
After three nights in Tadoba, a 5-hour drive brings us to Pench National Park. This previously little-known reserve was the setting for the popular BBC TV series ‘Tiger — Spy in the Jungle’, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Designated as Project Tiger’s 19th Tiger reserve in 1992, Pench today protects 758 square kilometres of prime Tiger habitat in the southern reaches of the Satpura Hills which lie in the Seoni and Chhindwara districts, the region which inspired Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’. The pools along the seasonal Pench River and a large dam provide the primary watering holes for Tigers and all other wildlife. Elsewhere the terrain is rugged and the region’s hills are cloaked in both southern moist deciduous forest and extensive dry, deciduous forest, dominated by Teak. Gaur, Wild Boar and Grey Langurs are common here, as are Sambar, Spotted and Barking Deer. With luck we might also see Asiatic Jackal, Nilgai and Dhole, or even a Leopard which are generally seen in the peripheral areas of the park where they are able more easily to avoid Tigers. Next we travel to Satpura Tiger Reserve, which we will not only explore from jeeps, boat and perhaps elephant-back, but also, most significantly, on foot — the walking safaris that we are able to do in Satpura not being possible in most of India’s other Tiger reserves. Only on foot is it possible to observe, appreciate, learn about and interpret the finest details of the jungle and its natural history — the smells, sounds, signs and tracks of so thrilling an environment as the home of the Tiger and so many other species, where wildlife encounters on foot are among the most memorable. This is by far the best way to enjoy a wealth of birdlife (perhaps a Rufousbellied Hawk Eagle or Malabar Pied Hornbill) and offers a chance of such smaller mammals such as Malabar Giant Squirrel, as well as many of the larger mammals that we’ll have seen in Tadoba and Pench.
After spending four memorable nights in Satpura we drive to Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, visiting the 10,000-yearold rock shelters of Bhimbetka en route. We overnight in Bhopal before our return flight to London, via Mumbai. For those wishing to extend their stay in India, or wishing also to visit one of the mainstream Tiger reserves, we recommend taking advantage of our optional extension to Kanha National Park, perhaps the best place in the world in which to see a Tiger, plus a wide range of other mammals and birds.