Bor Wildlife Sanctuary
The Bor Wildlife Sanctuary is about 80km away from Nagpur (nearest airport) and 35km from Wardha. The nearest village and bus stand is Hingni, 5km away from the sanctuary entrance. The sanctuary is part of Maharashtra’s latest tiger reserve (notified in July 2014). The Bor Tiger Reserve is an important corridor between the Tadoba-Andhari and the Pench tiger reserves. The sanctuary straddles the Satpuda and the Maikal ranges and is home to sloth bear, nilgai, leopards, wild boar, porcupine, and a large number of birds and reptiles, besides the tiger. The Bor River cuts through the sanctuary. Accommodation is available at the forest department’s Balodyan Eco Tourism Centre and at the tourist resort (MTDC Nagpur – tel: 0712-2533325) near Bor Dam.
Chandoli National Park
Chandoli National Park is situated near the Chandoli Dam in the Sangli district, tucked in between the Koyna and the Radhanagari sanctuaries. Part of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, it is nearly 75km from Sangli, 80km from Kolhapur and 210km from Pune nearest airport). Leopards, sloth bear, gaur, giant squirrels, many kinds of birds, etc. share the forest with the tiger.
Melghat Tiger Reserve
An hour’s drive from Chikaldhara, a popular hill-station of Maharashtra, will take you to this less visited tiger reserve in the Amravati district. Lying on the state’s border with Madhya Pradesh, Melghat is literally where the hill ranges meet. Nagpur (260km away) is the nearest airport. You can also approach via Akola or Badnera. Apart from tigers, Melghat is also home to leopards, gaurs, jungle cats, rusty spotted cat, wild dogs, jackals, etc. The forest is a birdwatchers’ delight, especially those who are in search of raptors. The Semadoh Tourist Complex, run by the forest department, is the most convenient place to stay as the morning and afternoon forest safaris start from here. For accommodation in Semadoh and other forest rest houses (of which the one at Kolkaz is most popular), contact the office of the Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director at Camp Amravati (tel: 0721-2662792); you can also book them online. Or, you can stay at MTDC’s tourist complex (tel:07220-230234) in Chikaldhara (about 25km away). Trekking is also allowed on select routes but prior permission necessary.
Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary
The Nawegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) is about 120km from Nagpur, the nearest airport. You can also approach NNTR through Gondia railway station (60km away). The diversity of vegetation—teak and other trees, grass, bamboo, etc.—add a dramatic quotient to the forest safaris in Nagzira. The animals found here, other than the tiger, are leopards, sloth bear, wild dog, civets, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, etc. The Pitezari and the Chorakhamra gates are the popular entry points. During winter, the Nawegaon Lake is visited by many migratory birds. There are several forest rest houses in and around NNTR as well as eco-development committee facilitated Tent Houses. The luxurious MUBA Jungle Camp (mubaresorts.com) is located near the Pitezari gate. The Nagzira Nature Camp and the Nagzira Tiger Resort are located near the Chorkhamara gate.
Pench National Park
Also straddling the Satpuda-Maikal landscape, this famous tiger reserve and national park is shared by Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. A two hour drive from Nagpur (70km away) will take you right to the door of the tiger reserve. The park has a large number of faunal species—33 kinds of mammals, 164 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles, etc. The most convenient place to stay and explore the forest is near the Sillari gate of the forest. There is a tourist lodge (MTDC Nagpur – tel: 0712-2533325) and a forest rest house (Conservator of Forest; tel: 0712-2524624). You can also add the Madhya Pradesh section of the national park and Ramtek (where poet Kalidasa wrote the famous epic poem Meghadootam) to the itinerary.
Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve
The star of Maharashtra’s tiger reserves, the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is about 140m from Nagpur (nearest airport) and 45km from Chandrapur (nearest railway station). You have to book accommodation and safaris well in advance. There is a public road that runs through the forest and seeing a tiger from a public transport bus is not unusual. The park consists of thick teak forests and the huge Tadoba Lake. During peak summer, hardly any tourist returns without having seen a tiger in and around the lake. There are also crocodiles in the lake. Other animals that are likely to be seen are leopards, sloth bear, sambar, spotted deer, blue bulls, gaur, wild dog, etc. The park is also home to a large number of birds, almost 200 species. Besides safari in vehicles, you can also take an elephant ride in TATR. From Chandrapur, you can also visit the Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary. MTDC (tel: 08879222057) runs a sprawling tourist complex adjacent to a lake in Moharli. Among the private lodges, the Svasara Jungle Lodge is located near the Kolara gate; there are quite a few private hotels in Moharli; the Tiger Trail Resort is located near the Khutwanda Gate.
Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary
The proximity to Nagpur makes Umred-Karhandla one of the easiest tiger sanctuaries to drive to. A little over an hour’s drive from Nagpur (nearest airport, 58km away). The sanctuary shot to fame when NNTR’s famous tiger Jay surfaced here all of a sudden, apparently having migrated past public roads and villages. During weekends, it is not unusual to see long queues of visitors at the Karhandla entry gate. Accommodation is very limited and many people visit the forest on a day visit. There are a couple of lodges and a resort (booking available through www.mumbaitravellers.in) in and around the Thana village near the Karhandla gate. The forest is home to tigers, sloth bear, leopard, wild dog, ratel, Indian fox, wolf, jackal, jungle cat, gaur, blue bull, sambar, barking deer, wild boars, spotted deer, etc.
Information: Winter is a pleasant time for visiting the tiger reserves but if you want to push your ‘tiger’ luck, then peak summer (April-May) is the best time to visit. But always remember, wildlife sighting is a matter of luck. Also, do not disturb the animals of the forest in your quest to get that ‘prize-winning’ shot. Remember, the forest is their home and they have the right of way.
With the increasing popularity of Maharashtra’s tiger reserves, you have to book accommodation and safaris well in advance. Visitors are allowed to go on safaris in the designated tourism zones only. Even the number of safari vehicles permitted to enter through the particular gates are also often restricted. For details and online booking of safaris and forest department’s accommodation, see mahaecotourism.gov.in. The national parks and wildlife sanctuaries usually remain open between October and June; some of them may be closed on a particular day of the week during the ‘open’ season (TATR is closed on Tuesdays; Sillari gate of Pench is closed on Wednesday; Bor and the Karhandla gate of Umred is closed on Mondays, Nagzira is closed on Thursday, etc). Depending on the season, the morning safaris start between 5am and 8am and the afternoon safaris start between 2.30pm and 5pm.