Tadoba tends to claim top spot for tiger territory in Maharashtra, but the lesser-known—and much less travelled—Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve is worth considering as well. More so now that the government has sanctioned an additional buffer zone of over 1,200sqkm around the reserve.
Located about two hours by road from Nagpur, the Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve is an important wildlife corridor between Maharashtra’s Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and Madhya Pradesh’s Kanha Tiger Reserve. The core area, which encompasses 700sqkm of forested land, is home to the striped cat as well as the gaur, sloth bear, and a wide variety of birds. As naturalist Shardul Bajikar says, “what you expect to see in Kanha and Tadoba, you can see here”.
While the buffer zone includes villages, “all activities including teak plantation and felling will be stopped,” according to an article in the DNA. Residents won’t be displaced, but offered schemes to reduce their dependence on the forest and promote peaceful coexistence with the wildlife.
For travellers, the Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve affords all the benefits of being in the wild without the hassle of crowds. Accommodation in the area is basic. For a no-frills, rustic experience, Bajikar recommends the guest house run by the Forest Department Corporation of Maharashtra. It’s located in the middle of the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary, on the banks of Nagzira Lake, a watering hole for the wildlife. The sanctuary reopens 15 October 2016.
The Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve is in northeast Maharashtra. There are multiple entrances to the reserve, but the best approach is via the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is approximately 120km/2hr from Nagpur, which has the closest airport. The closest railway station is Gondia (68km/1hr40min), though Nagpur has better connections. The tiger reserve is shut during the monsoon from mid-June to early October.
Fabiola Monteiro was formerly a member of National Geographic Traveller India's digital team. Since then, her words have featured in The Hindu, Mint Lounge, Roads & Kingdoms, The Goya Journal, and Condé Nast Traveller India. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro and is on Instagram @fabiolamonteiro.