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  1. It was the 15th day of January. While almost everyone was happy, celebrating the festival Sankranti, I was disappointed hearing the news on the ban of tourists to the Gudisa hills. It was one of the most awaited trips of the year. The very first one I’d be doing with my friends on my Ford. Alas… destiny has its plans… good or bad, we need to accept and move on… But how did the plans my destiny had for me turned out? Good or bad? For the busy bees, here is a quick digest. BRIEF Vehicle: Ford Freestyle Titanium 1.5 TDCi. Fuel Type: Diesel. Fuel Consumed: 90lts. Kilometers Travelled: 1160kms. ROUTE DETAILS Route Taken: HYD-TATR (HVK RouteO) HYD – Adilabad – Khelapur – Karanji (left towards Wani from under a flyover) – Wani – Warora – Chimur. Distance: 465 Road Condition: Excellent roads till Karanji. From Karenji to Wani the roads are average. From Wani to Warora the condition is beyond worst and a nightmare for low slung sedans, hatchbacks. Route Taken: TATR-HYD (HVK RouteO) Chimur – Warora – Jam (left from Jam Jn towards Karenji) – Adilabad – HYD. Distance: 580 Road Condition: Again, the worst Chimur to Warora stretch. We have taken a long route (115kms extra) to avoid the time consuming and tiring Warora - Wani route and took Warora – Jam - Adilabad which turned out to be the best decision. Butter smooth Nagpur highway and super stable Ford ensured I always maintain 120kmph+ speed. IN SHORT Route 1 – HYD – Adilabad – Khelapur – Karenji (left towards Wani from under a flyover) – Wani – Warora – Chimur. The shortest route but the roads slowly turn worst. Route 2 – HYD – Adilabad – Khelapur – Karenji (straight towards Jam) – Jam (right towards Warora from Jam Jn) – Warora – Chimur. 100kms longer but not as bad as route 1, Worth taking. Karenji to Wani is average. Wani to Warora is filthy dirty and worst. Warora – Chimur is bad. Route 2 - Can skip the Wani – Warora stretch. STAY DETAILS Resort: Beyond Stay Mahua Tola. (Beyond Stay Mahua Tola, Tadoba 086469 07777 https://maps.app.goo.gl/kLuk6dpaMN5R43iG8) Price: 7500 / day Inc 3 beds + unlimited food for a suite room. Review: This is my second time staying at Mahua Tola Resort and it again turned out to be an excellent stay option. 5-star rating for the food, quality, and service. Mr Shukla, the manager, again turned out to be an awesome guy as usual. Recommended many and will continue to recommend. Must prefer option if staying with family. SAFARI DETAILS Safari 1 (Day 2): Kolara Core Afternoon Safari. Price: 6500 for a Gypsy (6 per Gypsy allowed) + 250 for 600mm Telephoto lens. Safari 2 (Day 3): Madhnapur Buffer Morning Safari. Price: 4500 for a Gypsy (6 per Gypsy allowed) + 250 for 600mm Telephoto lens. Safari 3 (Day 3): Phalasgaon Buffer Night Safari. Price: 5500 for a Gypsy (6 per Gypsy allowed) + 250 for 600mm Telephoto lens. Special mention to the safari guide Amit and driver Anil for their superb spotting skills, knowledge of the forest and route. 6 Gypsys went in for the night safari and ours was the lucky 1 to spot a Leopard too close after a month almost. Special thanks to Amit and Anil. Strongly recommend having them as a guide and driver if you plan for a night safari. Contact details will be shared on request. PLACES EXPLORED 1. Photo walk with Mr Shukla to the lake beside the resort where pugmarks are often seen. 2. Gondmaholi kayaking with Mr Shukla to spot some beautiful birds. DETAILED TRAVELOGUE The previous day, the 22nd of Feb, I Topped up my fuel tank with 40 lts Diesel and Nitrogen topped up. Had my dinner, packed bags and it was my time to sleep. It was the morning of 23rd, 5:15 AM. The excitement was real! The D Day has arrived and we were all set to start in just an hour!! This very thought has made the really short 1 hour very long. I took bath, freshened up, for the final time checked all my camera gear, cleaned my sunglasses and I was all set for the amazing drive. Dumped all the luggage in the boot, cleaned the car, it was time for some quick snaps to boast in my Instagram, WA and Snapchat. Obviously, who wouldn’t!? 23 Feb, 2021 Hyderabad - Karenji Just a gentle press on the push start button depressing the clutch, the diesel beauty vibrated all over the place and started with the typical melodious diesel clatter. “Melodious!? Really!?” May ask the petrol heads. Only a true diesel guy knows the feeling I’d say. It took few minutes for the cold started engine to settle down and within just 15 mins I was below the ORR Medchal entry. Yeah, ORR is close to my home. It was 6:35 AM by the time I was on the proper highway on a good pace cruising the way. The traffic was not much and the roads were excellent. It was opposite to what my experience was during the 2017 Tadoba trip. It was a bad day, certainly a really bad day. Just 2 days before the trip I caught a cold followed by fever. Never worried if it was COVID, but was certainly worried if I would be able to make it for the trip and drive to Tadoba. The day has arrived and my worst fears came true. I started driving with really bad health. The time was 8:45 AM just a few kilometres ahead of Adilabad, I was having fever, bad night sleep, medicines that induce sleep the previous day mixed with some crazy thoughts of having a Tesla Autopilot in these situations. A tinge of dizziness took over me and I near-missed crashing a truck while overtaking it from the rightmost lane at high triple-digit speeds. My ORVM almost brushed past the truck. That was one scary moment in my driving experience. Finally, it was time for me to take a halt, have breakfast, home-cooked curd rice to avoid any further pain in my already soar throat, I halted just after crossing Adilabad toll plaza and the time was 9:30 AM. The day was sunny and sultry, I switched off my AC to sweat a bit and come to my senses, washed my face, had my breakfast and took a tablet that provided much-required relief to me. Clicking pictures are mandatory and is induced in our “Roadtrippers Culture”, after a good bit of photo session, I resumed my journey towards Khelapur (MH) at 10:00 AM. I always believe in taking short breaks every 300KMS-400KMS of continuous driving unless it’s an emergency. This although increases the drive time to a good 1hr, it’ll certainly help us maintain the balance of our mood and help us concentrate on the road without having sleepy eyes. It also gives much-needed rest to the car’s tires. I don’t believe in following the often-said norm “Non-Stop 800KMS drive”. I’m not an ambulance driver on emergency duty neither I’m planning to grab a place in the records book. Call me a newbie or an oldie, I don’t care as far as I’m following good practice. The time was 11:30 PM, I filled my diesel tank with 13lts fuel at Khelapur HP Fuel Station (MH). Did I say I suffer from “range phobia”? From Khelapur to Karenji is around 30mins drive. We reached Karenji at noon and now we have started the main stretch and tedious journey to the most awaited destination bidding goodbye to the butter smooth highways. Karenji – Wani Karenji to Wani takes 45mins and the drive is through some of the bad roads often traversed by the worst drivers. One such driver was the MHRTC bus driver who came close to me and we would’ve ended up head-on if I had not taken the rocky path on the shoulder of the road. These are the advantages of having a crossover, SUV or a CUV! No other car except these high raised cars can take such abusive roads with such ease avoiding some nasty crashes. This road takes us through coal factories, deviations, and some narrow bridges. This might sound interesting for some, but trust me, this is one horrible and energy-draining path. What lies further ahead is just the worst. After a bad drive, we arrived at a Wani junction which confused us during our 2017 trip. Having learnt a lesson from the horrible past, we took the left from the circle. Wani – Warora And this is the stretch. The worst part of the journey, energy-draining, body paining stretch. And in cars like the Ford Freestyle where the suspension is as stiff as a rock, more beatings were inevitable. The drive is for 1 hour takes us through the worst of the worst roads which are always under construction. The pathetic state of this road since 2017 describes the sad state of life of the native villagers. It's better not to speak much about these roads and carry to the further parts of the journey. Warora – Chimur The time was 1:45 PM. After a tiring 1hr 45mins drive we arrived at what is officially called “Vana Kshetr”. The roads were beautiful and it was obvious for a quick photo shoot. The roads covered with forests on either side give a beautiful look to the road. But the happiness was short-lived! There was mass deforestation on either side of the roads. This described the pathetic state we were in where we are “clinging for development & modernization”. What added to the misery was a bad Warora to Chimur stretch. Not as bad as the previous one though. Finally, the time was 2:30 PM and we have successfully crossed Chimur. Chimur – Tadoba / Beyond Stay Mahua Tola A 30mins drive to the resort through a mix of bad and good yet typical forest terrain and we have reached the resort. Those doing this trip be aware not to travel on low slung sedans and hatchbacks. The time was 3:01 PM. Ahh!! What a feeling! We finally, after traversing through the worst of roads, arrived at the place after a long wait of 3 years! Can’t describe the feeling and there are no words that do justice to it. We got down from our car, and Mr Shukla was standing with his fellows offering chilled juice and wet wipes. Sadly, I could never drink the chilled juice considering my sour throat. The time was 3:15 PM and we were extremely hungry having travelled from Hyderabad through some extremely bad roads. We straight away washed our hands and went to the outdoor dining area… What a sight it was!! The beautiful open garden without any boundaries that merge with the forest… we were immediately relaxed with the sight. “Nature is the best cure” and the saying never goes wrong. The server requested just 5 mins to serve the delicious lunch prepared exclusively to match our spicy taste buds and we finished it quickly gulping piping hot rotis and curry only to escape to our rooms jump on the cosy beds for a deep evening sleep… It was 5:00 PM. We were in deep sleep; the phone rang and it was Mr Shukla to inform us the evening tea and snacks were ready. He was quick enough to sense the laziness in my sleepy voice and quickly asked if we want it to be served inside our room. I said no, and we left to the open dining space. We quickly had our snacks and set to the evening photo walk with Mr Shukla hoping to see some owls and birds. We walked far inside the forest and reached the lake. We searched for some birds and owls but couldn’t find any. I peeped into my 600mm Sony G Master lens to see the treetops but was left in despair. “The wildlife is unpredictable. You don’t know what the very next second would transpire into.” The coming 2 days and 3 safaris are proof. We spent a good 1 hour inside the forest and were back to the resort and escaped into our cosy rooms. I spent another 1 hour in setting up my camera battery, SD card and cleaning my lens for the next day safari. It was 7:30 PM, we had some delicious dinner, had some talking with Mr Shukla and after a very hectic tiring day behind the wheel of my Ford, we called it a day. 24 Feb, 2021 The Kingfisher and its Cath! The previous day was a hectic one and we were fast asleep in the cool and calm mornings inside the woods. The AC was off, windows opened wide to welcome the cool forest air to fill the room. It was 5:30 AM, after a night of very deep sleep, we woke up to the fresh cool breeze, the chirpy birds and their melodious songs! We called up Mr Shukla and requested our breakfast to the room. The tea was served hot and the biscuits crispy. And the breakfast? That’s one tasty, mouthwatering parathas! It was 8:18 AM we went to the terrace attached to our room and enjoyed the warm morning views. The birds chirping, leaves rumbling and the trees and bushes till my sight has reached made me feel like a home away from home! The forests are somewhere I feel belonged to, I feel happy and I feel like a home away from home. After finishing breakfast, we went to the dining area to enjoy the view of the lotus lake inside the resort patiently waiting for a beautiful photo. “Wildlife is unpredictable. It rewards the patient eyes, sturdy hands and stoical postures.” After a good 30 mins struggle with the heavy 600mm G Master lens in hard postures, the wildlife rewarded with one of the best and the first photo of the trip. The Kingfisher with its catch. One of the best feelings for a wildlife photographer is when they find the most rewarding picture after a lot of struggles. Kolara Core Safari The time passed quickly. It was noon and time for lunch. We quickly had our lunch and hopped into our Ford with Mr Shukla. The drive was to Kolara core zone afternoon safari. It was a 20 mins drive from our resort and we were at the gate by 1:30 PM waiting for Mr Shukla to finish off the entry formalities. By 1:50 PM we were in our Gyspsys waiting for the gates to open and enter the sprawling forests. The Sandgrouse was the first bird to welcome us into the Kolara forest and patiently posed for a click. Followed by many beautiful animals and birds. How many beauties we may find in the forest, the eyes of a wildlife photographer will always desperately search for the big cat. I was no exception. We drove all around the forest. Multiple rounds around Maya Tala - Tigress Maya, The Queen of Tadoba’s habitat yet, we couldn’t even get a glimpse of her. The one golden rule in the wildlife is, “Avoid target safaris. Enter the forest not to see the Tiger but to witness the wild in its natural habitat. Be patient and enjoy nature and wildlife. It’ll reward the purest souls who find solace in the forest” And I never failed to follow this golden rule. However desperate I was spotting the big cat, I never avoided nor failed to appreciate the sheer beauty of the forest and wildlife. As said, it has rewarded me than all the other entrants in my entire trip. After multiple rounds inside the core zone and some beautiful moments at the Tadoba lake clicking some beautiful pictures, mother nature had her plans to reward me. The time was somewhere around 3:00 PM. We again reached the Tigress Maya abode. Langur calls and the deer were running, The Gypsys lined up and people standing alert while the photographers busy with those heavy lenses in their hands. There were shutter sounds all around and the guide signalling to calm down. The environment changes drastically all in a glimpse when the big cat arrives! It was real and there she was, sitting under cosy bamboo bushes with sheer magnificence. What a sight it was!! Finally, wildlife has rewarded me with the best pics of Maya. We spent good 30 mins at the place and left with not so heavy but happy hearts. There are few new rules in the core zone by the MH Forest Dept. 1. No Gypsy is allowed to stand at a place for more than 5 mins and 15 mins in case of tiger spotting. 2. No Gypsy is allowed to take a U-Turn. It must follow the designated path, turn all-around and arrive at the desired location. No matter what. 3. Every Gypsy is tracked by a GPS device. Though the tracking made sense to me considering the poaching risk, the other 2 rules did not. That just spoils the entire experience and excitement. Anyway, I have no power of reverting them. After a few more hours inside the forest, the time was 5:45 PM and it was the time for us to exit the forest. By 6:00 PM, we were outside the core zone gate talking with fellow photographers about our experience and checking out each other’s captures. It feels so good to be in a like-minded group of people sharing the same level of interest as we do. We were in the resort by the dawn, freshened up, had some tasty dinner and called it a day. 25 Feb 2021 Madnapur Buffer Safari The wind was cool and the windows wide open welcoming the cool breeze. I was fast asleep wrapping myself in the cosy blankets. The time was 3:30 in the morning and I woke up to the wake-up calls of the housekeeping. “sir, aapka aaj morning safari hain sir” said the voice behind the room. The man patiently waited there for my response and left quietly. The time was 4:30 AM, I was quick enough to have the last 10 mins of sleep and get ready to catch up for the morning safari and to see what the forest has to show this day. It was 4:45 AM, after a quick chatting with the ever-energetic Shukla, we hopped into our beloved Ford Freestyle, started the engine and we were all set to enter the Madhnapur Buffer Forest. I often come across people who say they were “disappointed with their trip because they did not see a Tiger!” Few say their money got wasted on a “useless trip”! and few say the other way. But I say mother nature has everything in its lap to show us. Mother knows their children. She only rewards the “purest souls” and not the “commercial souls”. For those who go to a wildlife sanctuary only to spot a tiger, better watch the Discovery channel! When I say mother nature has everything in its lap to show us, I mean it. This day I was lucky unlike the others en route. I have seen not 1 or 2 but 3 rare sighting animals on my way to the buffer safari gate. Fox and Wild Dogs they were. Quick enough to pass through the way and escape into the forest. The time was 5:30 AM. I was at the buffer gate. Mr Shukla, as usual, had completed all the formalities and we were inside the forest by 6:00 AM. There was no GPS tracking this time and the joy in the driver’s face was evident. We took an offroad path. The path not taken by the other Gypsys. The path that was not a path. We made multiple rounds to multiple locations and water bodies in the forest. We couldn’t spot even a single animal. Not even a bird! The co Gypsy occupants already started calling it a dry day, a wasteful safari and with other demeaning names. I was least bothered and had my tasty breakfast amid forest overlooking a beautiful water body just beside a forest check post having some quality discussions with the police staff. The time flew fast and it was already 9:00 AM. The cool and breezy wind has turned into the harsh sunlight. I removed my jacket, cap. I made myself light and comfortable. We were just aimlessly roaming inside the forest maintaining a slow pace wondering at the god’s creation. The time was 9:25 AM and a Gypsy was reversing fast. Then guide of that Gypsy has signalled to the driver of my Gypsy and I understood what it was! I quickly stood, switched on my Sony camera, removed the lens cap and held the heavy 600mm G Master lens in my hand and there she was! 10 months old female subadult of Tigress Junabhai, the first Tiger I have ever seen during my 2017 Tadoba trip in the same location. This is the early separated one. The youngest of the second litter of Junabhai. She was frightened, possibly seeing a bigger animal. She was running fast crossing the path and hit a tree trunk! She gave a frightened look, a growl, sniffed the trunk for any possible danger and disappeared into the woods… The brief encounter of just 8 mins was memorable. It was close, really close. It has given me some beautiful shots, my parents some memorable moments and Mr Shukla some memorable videos. As I always say, “Forest will reward the purest souls who find solace in the forest” Out of all the 6 Gypsys that has entered the forest, It was only ours and the other Gypsy to have found the tiger. It was 10:00 in the morning and we were out of the forest as the previous day, with happy hearts. After a quick shopping buying some hats, shirts and some souvenirs at the nearby store, we were at the resort, checking the photos and updating WhatsApp status! Gondmaholi Lake Kayaking We had a delicious lunch at the dining hall and it was already 2:30 PM. I slept for a few hours and by 4:00 PM after having some delicious pakodis and hot tea, I was all set to “explore the unexplored” on my Ford Freestyle. Mr Shukla, well aware of liking had planned a Kayaking and birding trip to the Gondmaholi lake. It was 4:30 in the evening. After a good soft roading session on my Ford, we were at the lake bed. We entered the Kayak quickly wearing the life jackets and carefully holding the camera. The Gondmaholi lake, a beautiful lake situated amid the Phalsgaon buffer zone, home to a variety of beautiful birds which is not known to many. The Govt. of Maharashtra and the Forest Department had started Kayaking at the lake to boost local tourism and to provide a livelihood to the otherwise uneducated and unemployed youth. We did a full round inside the lake on our Kayak followed by the local youth on a lifeboat. 4 per Kayak are allowed and each Kayak must have a guide which takes the count to 5. It was a nice 1-hour trip with the sun setting, our Kayak slowly rowing and some beautiful birds in the water with the golden hours as a backdrop! Some of the best moments they were… I had spotted Pond Heron, Gray Heron, Egret, Northern Pintails, Spot-Billed Ducks, Red Crested Pochards and The Oriental Darter – Snake Bird with the beautiful sun setting backdrop. Such beautiful scenes never I’ve seen in my life. Phalasgaon Buffer Night Safari The time was 5:30 PM and we quickly hopped into our Ford and left for the final safari of our trip, the Phalasgaon Night Safari! It’s a 10 mins drive from the lake and at 5:45 PM we were at the Phalasgaon safari gate. Destiny had its plans for the last safari. Mr Shukla who was there with us for all the safaris had to leave to the resort on some urgent work skipping the much-awaited night safari. Now it was me, my camera and my parents in the Gypsy. The sundown, dark pitching in and the gates open taking us to the deep forest. The night was cold and I had no protective gear. It was just a thin half hands wildlife T-shirt and camouflaged shorts covering my body. The trees were tall and thick and it was a dark gloomy forest which all of sudden wore a very deep and frightening look. The total opposite of what it was just a few hours back! The driver, Mr Anil and guide Mr Amit need a special mention. You ask me the reason? I ask you to read till the end. The driver upon our guide’s request quickly took us to a water body where Tiger is often seen. On our way, we’ve seen a Nilghai drinking water. I asked my driver to stop. And I begin clicking photos. The driver said let’s move but I ordered him to stop! We spent a good 10 mins shooting a Nilghai! The driver was looking at me like a madman staring at a Nilghai. But only a photographer can understand the real reason that I was accustoming myself with the condition and understanding well to strike the perfect balance between aperture, ISO and shutter speed to get a perfect shot for the night is dark, wildlife is unpredictable and I have to be ever ready. After spending a good 1 hour at the lake, I asked my driver to move. I had a very bad headache because of the strobe lights used by the guide. I turned off my camera and dozed off in the super bouncy Gypsy. It was 9:15 PM already. Just 45 mins for us to get out. We were roaming in the forest like a madman and I was sleeping with a bad headache. The guide woke me up. “utho sir, udhar kuch dikhayi diya” said the guide Amit. I was hopeless of any spotting yet, optimistic at the same time. I woke up, switched on the camera and checked all the controls. The driver Anil took the Gypsy a bit inside the forest deviating from the path. The night was dark and scary. The wind blowing sharp and cool and the leaves rumbling making noises… the strobe light on and the headlights off! I peeped into my camera and the 600mm G Master zoomed to just half its limit and there it was sleeping! The beauty that I’ve never seen. The beautiful beast that many of us have only read and heard of but have never seen. The rarest of the animals, the Leopard!!! What a sight! What a sight! A close 13mins encounter left us with lifelong memories and tales to tell to people and friends… the sighting blew my mind and my headache vanished too! The animal woke up and jumped only to disappear into the pathless woods… It was 9:50 PM, we were outside the forest before 10 mins excitedly talking to the forest guards. I hope now you got the reason why I said the driver, Mr Anil and guide Mr Amit need a special mention. At 10:00 PM sharp, we have left to the resort in our Ford in the empty forest roads… Beyond Stay Mahua Tola We had our dinner, spoke to Mr Shukla telling him how much he missed the sighting, we showed him some pics, sent a few to Mr Amit and Anil, updated the same as my WhatsApp status and called it a day. 26 July 2021 Beyond Stay Mahua Tola The last day of our trip… This very thought has given me a sudden saddening vibe. The much-awaited trip came to an end! As the saying goes, all good things have an end, this good vacation too had to end. The only thing that mattered was the way it has ended. In a good way or not so good way. And this very thing, I leave it to the readers to judge… This day, we planned we will wake up late, enjoy the noon and start late. The time was 9:15 AM. We woke up to the worker's voices. Freshened up, we went to the dining area and had our breakfast. We left for Kolara gate at 10:30 AM and spent 30 mins buying some more souvenirs for our family and friends. It was 11:40 AM we returned to the resort to pack our bags. We finished our lunch early, went to our rooms and took a quick nap. The time was 3:30 PM and we started our drive back to Hyderabad bidding goodbye to Mr Shukla the team and the Forest. Coming back to the first question, How did the plans my destiny had for me turn out? Good or bad? Leaving this answer to my readers to guess, I’m putting an end to this beautiful journey. Goodbye until the next wildlife road trip on my XUV500 AWD. Few More Photos From The Trip A group of Spotted Deers at Kolara Core Zone Red-Wattled Lapwing at Kolara Core Zone A Female Sambar Deer and Doe at Kolara Core Zone Red-Vented Bulbul at Kolara Core Zone - Breakfast Views. Red-Vented Bulbul at Kolara Core Zone - Breakfast Views. Side Lit Picture of a Spotted Deer and Doe at Kolara Core Zone Side Lit Picture of Spotted Deer at Kolara Core Zone - Tadoba Lake A Male Sambar Deer at Kolara Core Zone Spotted Deer at Kolara Core Zone Side View of a Male Sambar Deer at Kolara Core Zone - Tadoba Lake Honey Buzzard at Kolara Core Zone A Male Sambar Deer at Kolara Core Zone - Maya Tala (Tigress Maya's Zone)
  2. Best Route from Hyderabad to Ooty : 875 kms Hyderabad --> Kurnool --> Ananthapur --> Bangalore --> Maddur -> Mysuru --> Masinagundi -> Ooty This road includes sharp hairpins curves between Masinagundi and Ooty, it is fun to drive. Keep you car tyres and brakes in top condition. Route Condition from Hyderabad to Ooty : Hyderabad to Bangalore - 4 lane toll road, excellent Bangalore to Mysuru - 4 lane, high traffic highway Mysuru to Ooty - 2 lane scenic ghat road Best Time to Visit Ooty: July to February March to June (Heavy tourist crowd) Best Restaurants in Ooty: Angaara Google pin : https://g.page/angaaraooty?share Earl's Secret Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/BDrAMZgmaGqejkVD6 Hotel Junior Kuppanna Google pin : https://g.page/JK-Ooty?share Best resorts in Ooty (Luxury): Savoy, IHCL Gyngarth Resorts Sinclair's Retreat Best resorts in Ooty (Nature view) : Green Leaves, The Country side Inn Mountain Trails Sherlock Hotel Sterling Ooty Fern Hill Aventura Fern Hill (Hobbit hole accommodation) Western Valley Resorts Day - 1 Start time : 5 : 00 AM Breakfast stop : 7 :00 AM to 7 :30 AM Location : Food Pyramid, Kothakota (Spacious parking, Good Food, Decent Washrooms, Kids Play area) Google pin : https://g.page/Food-Pyramid-Highway-Restaurant?share Fuel Stop : Reliance fuel, Anantapur Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/rtL9J69vGRFPKkJy6 Lunch stop : 2 : 00 PM Location : Apoorva Multi Cuisine Restaurant Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/hZuW5ubr1XKwW4sy6 Fuel Stop : Reliance fuel, Maddur Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/yUVW5Tb3St6J3yGZ7 Coffee break : 5 : 30 PM Location : Empire Restaurant - Maddur Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/io1ky8ATta27EPrf8 Final stop : 7 : 00 PM Best hotels in Mysuru: Grand Mercure Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Roopa Elite Hotel Le Ruchi The Prince Day - 2 Start from the hotel at the earliest hour possible if you are planning to do the forest safari at Bandipur Start time : 6 : 00 AM Reach Bandipur by 7 : 00 AM Book your tickets for Forest safari (Private Jeep and Bus are the options available) Safari Price - 300 INR per head Safari Timings - 6 : 30 AM to 9 : 30 AM and 3 : 30 PM to 7 : 30 PM Breakfast stop : 9 :00 AM Location : Safari Land Restaurant, Masinagundi Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/RagHQK24aKNLnhfr8 or Location : Coffee Day, Masinagundi Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/AyV7vUWyGKRbN3XaA Reach Ooty and Check into Hotel by 11 AM Start Tour after Lunch Places to visit : The Ooty Tea Factory and Museum (Closing Time 6 : 30 PM) Tea Estate View Point Ooty Hill Station Day - 3 Places to visit : Avalanche Lake (Start early to beat the rush and attend the safari) Doddabetta Peak Emerald Lake Day - 4 Start time : 6 : 00 AM Reach Mudumalai 7 : 00 AM Book your tickets for Forest safari (Private Jeep and Bus are the options available) Safari Timings - 7 : 00 AM to 9 : 00 AM and 3 : 00 PM to 6 : 00 PM Breakfast stop : 9 :00 AM Location : Safari Land Restaurant, Masinagundi Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/RagHQK24aKNLnhfr8 Drive back to Bangalore Route : Mudumalai -> Mysore -> Maddur -> Bangalore Lunch stop : 2 : 00 PM Location : Cafe Udupi Ruchi - Bellur Cross (Veg) Google pin : https://g.page/cafe-udupi-ruchi-bellur-cross?share Location : Empire Restaurant-Kunigal Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/NfSQsVkgoJhyb89h7 Reach Bangalore hotel by 6 : 00 PM Stay options on Bangalore to Hyderabad highway: Attide Boutique Hotel Click Hotel Bengaluru Shivas Galaxy Hotel Day - 5 Start back to Hyderabad After Breakfast Start time : 8 : 00 AM Lunch stop : 12 : 30 PM Location : Matsya Amazon Kitchens Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/ZMYJAabpo6zgiwGi8 Coffee break : 2 : 30 PM Location : Hotel 97 Google pin : https://goo.gl/maps/DUBsqRvvUqwxrYTw5 Reach Hyderabad: 6 : 00 PM Note: Additional Day-5 for Coonoor and Kotagiri
  3. This is about June 2016 travel to Tadoba Tiger reserve from Hyderabad. In Jan-2016 I had traveled Chopta and Munsiyari in Uttarakand with another three new travelers met first time at Delhi. One of them Mr. Pandey is from Nagpur and he asked me to come down to Nagpur for visiting Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and booked safari a couple of months before for 12th June 2016 . Till then I had no experience of any forest safary and I was excited to see many wild animals. Mean time our travel friends planned for Ladakh tour in the last week of June, 2016 (25-06-2016). It was one of the dream destination and I know it will be difficult and expensive if I go alone and said OK and booked flight/train to Delhi and back. Then started thinking it will be hectic for two tours in two weeks. But Pandey who is also coming for Ladakh trip did not agree and made me to visit Tadoba. Day 1 On 11th June we started at 5.00 Hrs in my car from Hyderabad. My wife and son were with me. We are two drivers and had a back seat to sleep if needed. We reached Nirmal by 8.00 Hrs entered town leaving NH44 and had breakfast at Hotel Mayuri. Breakfast was good but when we had lunch next year, it was very bad. We joined NH44 through old NH7 road. Reached Nagpur by 13.00 Hrs and Pandey's home by 13.30. Roads up to Adilabad were excellent. Four lane work and Underpass works at Hingenghat (about 30 Kms) not completed and have to change lanes and pass through the villages. Road at places in this section also not good. After that till Nagpur roads are good. One more travelmate Mr. Jagtap from Betul (MP) who is mine safety officer in Western Coal Fields (WCF) and a native of Nagpur was supposed to join us with his family in his car. But due to some fire accident in a coal mine he could not join us. Our plan was to reach WCF guest house at Murpar which is about 15 Kms away from Navegaon Gate of Tadoba Reserve and stay overnight and reach the gate early in the morning. We started from Nagpur at about 17.00 Hrs and reached Murpar by 19.45 Hrs. While entering Chandrapur district at Umred check-post, local police stopped our car for checking and found one whiskey bottle in our luggage which was kept by Pandey. The police told me that alcohol is banned in chandrapur district and we can not carry. I said I am from Hyderabad and I do not the local rules and never imagined that a particular district will have a ban. He looked at Pandey in the car and asked he is from Maharashtra and how come he do not know. I said he does not know about it and i brought it my self. Some how he took away the bottle and allowed us to proceed further. So those who are travelling to Tadoba please do not carry alcohol. By the time we reached Chimur which is a little bigger town close to Navegaon Gate, it started drizzling and when we took right turn at Khadsangi for Murpar, heavy downpour started and visibility was hardly 20 mtrs in head lights. Left turn at Khadsangi will lead to Navegaon gate. Mr. Jagtap booked the guest house at WCF mine area, Murpar. We found one Telugu cook in the guest house and when we told him about Umred check post incident, he said we are too lucky to be let off, otherwise they arrest and harras for carrying alcohol. When we asked about dinner he said other than non veg, he will prepare any thing. Non Veg has to be brought from Chimur some 12 Kms away and it is not possible at that time and that too in heavy rain. We ordered roti, dal and sabji with omlets. Mean time me and pandey went to Khadsangi in the rain and enquired about safari vehicles. we were told that there is no need to book in advance and Gypsy cars will be available at the gate as per the serial and as many as permitted for the day/session. We had dinner and had good sleep. Day 2 We got up early and reached Navegaon gate before 5.30 Hrs. We found only one car before us at the gate. We went to gate office and booked a safari car and engaged a Guide. Safari car is for Rs. 600 and Guide Rs.350 (That's what I remember). Sky is clear and we found water of previous night's rain on the roads pot holes. We entered the forest by 5.45. Our guide said it is always advantage of more sightings if your car is first and it proved correct. Myself with wife and kids of Pandey The first site before entering the core area Second sighting a glimpse of bear Then a Jackal There were lot of birds and I could not shoot them as I do not have a proper lens. The same bear came out of the forest and crossed our path. We were told that Tiger will come here but after waiting enough time he did not turned up. There are many deers and Neelgai Obviously not happy with our presence Canter from Moharli gate Now many jeeps arrived and waiting at a water hole for the arrival of the Big Cat. But it did not show up and the our morning session ended. Little disappointed and our guide was telling us that people make more than six safaris and go back without seeing a Tiger. We had a booking for afternoon safari also. With a little hope we returned to our guest house. On the way back from morning safari Padey with our Driver and Guide. Will continue with after noon Safari..
  4. Whoever has said – hills are green when they are far way – I so want to meet and dispute and take the character to Thekaddy on a free vacation with me! What you are looking for – Jungle Safari? waterfalls? meadows? cultural festivity in daily life? Let me give you few more – tea gardens, spice gardens, vineyard, meadows and valleys? Still you need more – Alright! Let me add it- Elephant Safari, Boating and how about off-road driving??? Ladies and Gentlemen…. Read the list again – give yourself this gift - Taste Thekkady!!! Airways to Thekkady Cochin, Madurai are two airports very close to Thekkady. I decided to opt Flight to Madurai and book a cab from the airport straight to the mountains. Early morning flight, not only gives you the entire day, it also gives you leisure, time to explore your way to Thekkady and luxury of nature. The distance between Thekkady and Madurai Airport is under 250 KMs and in four hours you can reach your destination. The road is beautiful, runs through small villages, towns, medical colleges, canopy of trees, hills, windmills and vineyards. Stopping at some great locations for a click will not be a mistake and should not be missed. Try out windmills at your back or the seasonal waterfalls on your way. Our cab driver was great as a local guide throughout our journey. We had our breakfast (Typical Tamil style and it was delicious) at Hotel Gowri Krishna and recommended for a definite try. The restaurant is quite decent and can accommodate over 60 to 70 people at a time if not more and the efficiency in serving the orders is just amazing. On your way at Periyakulam, do click photographs and images that thrills you and seek your attention. Our stay for the next three days was at a very decent and customer oriented Hotel. The stay was too perfect at this place. From the variety of food offerings to cleanliness, complimentary breakfast, evening tea/coffee, snacks …with view of mysterious mountains and valleys, floating cloud rom your hanging deck just gives you peace of mind and true sense of luxury and vacation together. The resort has a great garden, activity area, swimming pool, spa and of course three different option for residence! We requested for the top most floor to enjoy the scenic beauty of nature from our balcony and room. Activities at Thekkady Kathakali and Marshall Arts You should and must have two hours available for this show. You can do the bookings online or you can go and buy the tickets from the booking counter for the show. Both are really rich in their own way and reflects a strong fiber of our tradition and culture. Spice Gardens There are many spice gardens in Thekkady and Periyar. There is no harm learning half an hour the kind of medicinal plants cultured around and the variety of spice available in the region. A lot of medical company do research and purchase these ayurvedic medicinal plants in building their medicines and brand. Try yourself with some herbal soaps, fresh spice, some great medicinal powder for cleansing life and diet. Gavi Forest Drive The forest just thrills you from the time you enter the main gate and runs till the time off board the jeep. My trip was in monsoon so I did enjoy the beauty of greenery, the fun of sitting in a jeep, sightseeing elephants like humans everywhere, deer all around, bison of massive size, brown bears against trees and birds all around. The forest is thick and green, surrounded with valleys and mountains. The guide takes you around, stops every possible place where you can spot a wild life! Gavi Forest is almost all-day program. It starts from your hotel at 5.30 AM and continues all day. This includes beautiful boat riding, hiking over valleys and mountains to spice plantation (rubber and cardamom), a small visit to a museum and lunch. This trip was really a lucky trip for me. Every time I had a guide, they always tried to make it little different. During boating, the guide took us to a beautiful seasonal waterfall which appeared from nowhere and surprised us for quite sometimes. The waterfall was huge and strong, we anchored our boat in between two rocks and walked down the slippery water and rocks towards the waterfall. The hiking over to different parts of the mountain and seeing different scenic points are way too beautiful and fascinating. Enjoy the mist and clouds floating by, sip a bottle of water or two, click some pictures and enjoy the vacation like a vacation. Ayurvedic Spa No trip is complete in Kerala without Ayurvedic massage. However, you should be careful enough to review and select the right place for the massage. I did go for three hours package and ensured I used strong influence of the local network I made during my stay to ensure I get the best spa treatment. Local Sight Seeing Thekkady has a lot of local places to visit . Please make most use of it when you are in Thekkady. Murrikaddi spice garden, Chellarkovil, chellarkovil view point, Pandikuzhi, Idduki District, Kumlily, Mullaperiyar dam , Vagamom are some of them that I could finish during my stay. I am highly indebted to the guide and Periyar cab team to help me with my most demanding requests on planning my day. The owner did not only gave us the most helpful and knowledgeable guide, he ensured calling me every day , take feedback, suggest next day plan and stay in touch anytime. When you visit Chellarkovil waterfall, ensure you cross the waterfall and go to the other side and climb up for having a stunning beauty of the valley below and mountains around. I wish I had luxury of time in my hand to sit all day long and see the clouds and day light pass by. Periyar Lake and Boating Bamboo boating or boating on a launch both are quite exciting on Periyar lake. The boat takes you around the forest . The boating has fixed timing and you can book your slot either online or buy tickets from the counter. However it is recommended to do the bookings online. Nature Walk, Trekking, Overnight Camping Though I didn’t opt for this one however I would still recommend if you are going in summer or winter, go for nature walk , trekking down the forest for almost 10 kms , cloud train, jungle trail, tiger trail and experience the stay at camp spots overnight inside the Periyar tiger reserve park. The arrangements can be done by your guide or online websites or probably through your hotel. I do have some idea how thrilling and beautiful the camping can be because the view of thick jungle, view from the mountains and safari through the jungle already injected the feeling in me. Off tracking This is all day event and is a great trill for those who are crazy for off road tracking. Though I could not experience since it was monsoon and the road trips were closed but it’s going to be a whole of an experience for sure Elephant Rides Definitely a great experience to interact and spend two to three hours with such a humble life. There are many elephant safari and ride programs across Thekkady. You can go for half an hour ride through plantation, elephant bathing, elephant training session and take a moment to greet the elephant and feed with your own hands Vineyards On our way to Madurai airport, we did visit a waterfall and a vineyard at Uttapalaiyam. Though the waterfall was not that exciting and over crowded, the visit to the vineyard was short and nice. You can talk and have a look at the way things work, hear how grapes are fermented, picked from the plantation and processed. The story will remain incomplete if I dont speak of the Kerala Lunch! Highly recommended - Visit this restaurant incase you dont know anything better. We were stuffed with rice, Malabar Paratha, beef, prawns, chicken, mutton, fish, some awesome veg curries , salad and chutneys/pickles for INR 600 per head. If you dispute, I dont mind because I already had my share that afternoon and didnt eat anything for dinner. I realized one thing for sure - Happiness is portable! Just carry it with you wherever you go! Give this place a try, it wont be disappointing.
  5. A day to be remembered forever, 2016 is the year that I have joined in this beautiful group since then Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve was always on my bucket list. many attempts planned since then and nearly after two years, I got the chance to go. I don't want to stress more on the routes and other details as there are enough threads regarding the same. rather I would like to share my favourite photos that I have shot in my three days stay and safari at Pangdi and Madnapur gate. never the less I will share with you people some necessary information like stay, safari details, gates, and some knowledge of wildlife that I have gained. Started at 6:00 in the morning from Kompally and reached by 3:00 in the afternoon. remember that no one can help you with the routes. it's always better to contact someone at the resort and ask them to guide you in person. except for Jio, no other sim card is going to work. I stayed at Mahua Tola Resorts, I can say that it is the best in the place. a bit on the higher side, yet friendly staff, manager and good food. we were the only family the three days and never we felt insecure. Manager Shukla is a very nice person, he will come with us to the Safari and make it a very memorable and enjoyable one. Coming to the safari, it's always good to ask the resort people to book. because at the gate I have seen few facing some problems. if it's the resort people, its hassle free. this is personal opinion though. As people say, it's not so easy to spot a tiger. a tiger spotting depends on our luck. a tiger mainly sits just beside or few meters away from us inside the forest, yet not visible most of the time. it's just because of the bamboo trees. Tadoba is full of bamboo trees and that makes it very difficult to spot one even if it near us. you will be tempted by the pugmarks, but not always you'll see a tiger. I was really lucky to spot Tigress Junabai with her cubs on my last day safari with the resort manager Shukla at Madhapur gate. Ultimate sightings I can say. It is my father who spotted her while she was resting under a tree shade few meters away from us covered with bamboo trees. I'm not a pro, yet telling my experience with the camera focusing modes and how I got a perfect focus mode settings by experimenting and with the knowledge I have on focus modes which I have learnt studying few books, articles and discussing it in our WhatsApp group. The device, Sony Alpha A6000 with 55-210mm zoom lens. manual mode, shutter speed around 1/500 and above, ISO range 4000 (thanks to my cameras high ISO range ie, 25600), Aperture F:6.3 Focus Mode: Auto, Focus Area: Wide, Metering Mode: Multi This was the mode that I have shot at first only to get the defocused face of a tiger. Thought "this is over, I'm not going to get any more beautiful photos". thought of the focusing modes and settings I have learnt before and adjusted it again to try my luck. Focus Mode: Auto, Focus Area: Centre, Metering Mode: Spot And then I got some amazing pictures. Used Auto Focus Continues while the subject was moving and I can say that this is the camera for super fast autofocus. never missed a detail while shooting with this in AF-C mode. You can check out the langur monkey and male spotted deer jumping. shot in AF-C mode with shutter sped around 1/1000 or above. couldn't get a zoomed one because of the lens.
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