It was a fine January afternoon and I was lazing around in the swimming pool, without a care in the world. I was staying close to the entrance gate of the Sariska Tiger Reserve, mildly surprised that a place in such close proximity to both Delhi & Jaipur was bereft of tourists! I was in Sariska & Alwar for a travel project and had four days to explore the popular tourist attractions and also find some offbeat sights (a travel blogger has to earn his living, you see!)
The jungles around Sariska seemed inviting and because it was a tuesday, there was no need to book a Tiger Safari. Private vehicles are allowed inside Sariska National Park for Rs. 250 on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is a great opportunity to be in the Tiger Reserve and see it from the comfort of your vehicle. I am all for a jeep ride too, but the dust can be unnerving and there is no dearth of it in Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary.
Check : Tiger spotting in Ranthambore
History of Sariska
Set in the majestic Aravalli mountains, Sariska is believed to be the place from the Hindu epic Mahabharata where the Pandavas found sanctuary during their last year of exile. There is also a shrine dedicated to Hanuman at Pandupol (inside the core zone of the park), which literally translates to ‘gateway of the Pandavas’ in Sanskrit, which is thronged by pilgrims from nearby places on tuesdays and saturdays.
Among other important places located within the core of the reserve is Kankwari Fort. It was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the 17th century and has recently reopened to visitors. I was lucky to have even reached Kankwari Fort, it is sure in a remote location and permits are difficult to procure. Kankwari Fort is the place where Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had imprisoned his elder brother Dara Shikoh.
Sariska Tiger Reserve
Initially, Sariska was the private hunting ground of the Rajas of Alwar. In 1955, hunting was banned in Sariska. After that, Sariska was notified as India’s 11th National Park in 1978-79. In 2005, it notoriously became the first tiger reserve in the country to lose its entire tiger population as a consequence of killing and poaching. In the present day after translocation of big cats from Ranthambhore, a lot of conservation initiatives and village relocations, Sariska is fast becoming a popular Wildlife Safari destination and has 14 tigers according to the last count in 2017.
The beautiful jungles of Sariska are home to not just wildlife; but also ruins, temples and unforgettable tales of history and mythology. It is highly recommended to roam these jungles with a local guide, to know more about the birds, fauna and flora.
Enjoying the Jeep Safari in Sariska National Park
The best way to enjoy the dense jungles of Sariska is to have no expectations of spotting a tiger. There are increasing indications that most people visit National Parks to see a tiger. While on the wildlife safari; I remember thinking that Sariska has a much larger concentration of other wild animals than Corbett National Park & Ranthambore National Park.
I went on both the morning safari and afternoon safari. The early morning rays filter through the leaves and bathe the forest in a golden hue. Peacocks strut around nonchalantly, and spotted deer and nilgai co-exist beautifully. The occasional call of a leopard puts the jungle on high alert. Everyone watches with bated breath. The 850 odd square kilometers of dry deciduous forest has a rugged charm in the glorious forests of Aravalli ranges in stunning topography. The landscape is simply amazing with arid forests set among jagged rock mountains.
Avid birdwatchers will surely have a great time in Sariska on a jeep safari. There’s plenty of bird life to spot – peafowl, grey partridge, tree pie, bush quail, sand grouse, crested serpent eagles and the great Indian horned owl.
Sariska is denoted as a tiger reserve but the forests are also home to numerous wild animals like the leopard, jungle cat, civets, hyenas, jackals etc. The smaller animals like herds of sambar, chital, nilgai, wild boar, mongooses, langur and rhesus monkey can be easily spotted in Sariska. The best place to see animals is to spot them near one of the many waterholes.
Also read : Romancing the monsoon in Corbett
Although Sariska is known as a dry deciduous region but there are many lakes and water bodies around Sariska National Park. The monsoons bring the whole area under a lush green cover for visitors to appreciate the natural beauty. The topography of Sariska and the Tiger Reserve is comprised of small hills, narrow valleys with shrubs amidst the fabulous rocky terrain.
The majority of trees are of salai, ber, tendu and also jamun, arjun which comprise the forest. In some pockets of Sariska, there are towering date palm trees with small waterfalls flowing that make Sariska National Park feel like an unexplored paradise.
How to Reach Sariska from Delhi / Jaipur?
Sariska is at a distance of approx. 190 kms from Delhi and around 120 kms away from Jaipur. Sariska National Park is located only 35 km away from Alwar by road. Alwar is the closest railhead to Sariska, while Jaipur is the nearest airport. With regards to the proximity to both Delhi & Jaipur; I highly recommend it as a weekend destination from Delhi and Jaipur.
Basic Details For Tourists for a Visit – Sariska Tiger Reserve
Timings of entry and exit : 6 am to 5pm
The best way to explore Sariska is by jeep or canter safari. Safaris can be taken twice a day. Timing : 6 am to 9.30 am and 3 pm to 6 pm. The per seat cost for the jeep safari and canter is around 600 and 400 respectively. The canter is more economical(and has 20 seats), but the jeep offers greater possibility of exploration on narrower trails.
There is a variety of wildlife in Sariska Tiger Reserve. The park is divided into many zones and zone 1 & 4 are said to be the best for tiger sightings. Besides the main gate, Sariska is accessible via a second gate at a place called Tehla. If you have obtained prior permission, then it is also possible to enter or exit with your own vehicle from Tehla gate.
Read : Offbeat Explorations in Leh