Sariska Tiger Reserve

A hot favorite on many tourist itineraries, Rajasthan is an exotic and heady combination of desert, history and culture. Come winter, and the state’s flooded with tourists eager to go on camel safaris, to shop, to visit medieval palaces- and, in an increasingly large number of cases, to go wildlife-watching. Of Rajasthan’s more than a dozen Protected Areas, Sariska is easily one of the best.

Sariska Tiger Reserve lies amidst the Aravali Hills- 800 sq km of grassland, dry deciduous forests, sheer cliffs and rocky landscape interspersed with the ruins of medieval buildings.

Nearly 90% of the area is covered with thickets of scrubby dhok trees, within which lives an impressive array of wildlife - including the elusive and majestic tiger. Apart from the tiger, a variety of other wildlife like the leopard, sambhar, chital, nilgai, four-horned antelope, wild boar, rhesus macaque, langur, hyena and jungle cats are found in the park. Also a highly visible section of Sariska’s inhabitants are its many birds- the park is home to India’s largest population of peafowl, and harbours quail, sandgrouse, golden- backed woodpeckers and crested serpent eagles, among other species. The Siliserh Lake, on the edge of the park, has a large number of crocodiles.

Like many of India’s other wildlife reserves, Sariska too has its own set of issues relating to poaching, pollution and conservation. Despite these problems, however, Sariska has endured. Local forest protection societies have been set up in neighbouring villages, and efforts by regional NGOs have helped generate a certain level of interest among the decision- makers as well as the local villagers.

Entry Requirements

All visitors to Sariska Tiger Reserve need entry permits to get into the park. These permits, available at the office of the Field Director, or at the gate to Sariska, cost Rs 25 per person. Extra charges are levied for cameras (about Rs 10) and vehicles (Rs 100 for a minibus, Rs 75 for jeeps and cars).

Access

The town closest to Sariska is Alwar, and the park itself lies off the Delhi-Alwar-Jaipur highway, just over 100 km from Jaipur, and about 200 km from Delhi. Alwar, a mere 21 km from Sariska, is the nearest railhead, and has frequent trains from Deeg, Bharatpur, Jaipur and other towns. In addition, the high-speed Shatabdi Express comes daily from Delhi, except on Sundays. The train stops only for two minutes at Alwar, so you’ll have to be quick on your feet, getting on or off.

The nearest airport is Jaipur, which, by virtue of its being the state capital, and an important tourist destination, is well connected to the rest of the country.

Regular buses connect Alwar to Delhi and to other towns and cities within Rajasthan as well. From Alwar, there are buses to Sariska, and rented vehicles or taxis can be taken to get to the park.

Within Sariska, jeeps can be hired from the Forest Reception Office to tour the park. The other option for avid wildlife-watchers is to hire a machan or `hide’ near one of the waterholes.

Best time to visit

Sariska is open to visitors throughout the year, although certain jungle tracks are closed during the monsoon and the breeding season. The best time to visit the park is late in the winter around January or February. If you don’t mind the heat, April to June is a great time to see animals at the waterholes.

Accommodation

Hotel accommodation is available in close proximity but outside the park limits. The RTDC has two hotels on the periphery of Sariska, and the forest department operates a small resthouse. A room at the resthouse costs between Rs 300 to 700 per night, while rooms at the RTDC hotel range between Rs 700 to 1,900 per night.

A little further from Sariska is the Hotel Sariska Palace, a heritage hotel where a double room costs between Rs 3,000 – 4,000 a night. Rates at the nearby resorts are also approximately the same as at the Sariska Palace.

The other option is to stay at Alwar, which offers accommodation facilities ranging from budget to deluxe.

Further information on Sariska can be obtained from the Field Director, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Dist Alwar, Rajasthan, or from the offices of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC).