Rise of the troubled Phoenix

Sariska Tiger Reserve

Sariska has seen popularity and notoriety in equal measures. Once popular with wildlife lovers due to its proximity to Delhi, this Project Tiger listed reserve became a national embarrassment and a laughing stock when it lost every single one of its tigers to poachers in 2005.

A recovery program was launched by relocating tigers from Ranthambhore and appointing dedicated officials to protect the reserve from poachers and the vicious mining lobby. Gradually, it has turned the corner, and is now a viable destination for visitors to the Golden Triangle seeking an alternative to the ever popular and busy Ranthambhore.

Rise of the troubled Phoenix

Sariska lies near the town of Alwar, in the Northern Aravali Hills of arid north-east Rajasthan, has steep hills, long narrow valleys, low slopes and dry but dense forest covering its rugged landscape.

It is an important biodiversity area in the Northern Aravalli leopard and wildlife corridor. Beyond its famous relocated Tigers, the reserve is also home to species such as the Leopard, Hyena, Ratel, Caracal, Jungle cat, Nilgai, Sambar deer, Spotted deer, langur, Rhesus macaque, Four-horned antelope, Wild pig, Indian civet, Rufous-tailed hare, Common Mongoose, Ruddy Mongoose, Palm Civet, Pangolin, and Porcupines.

The Siliserh Lake on the edge of the park also houses a large number of crocodiles. Sariska is an excellent site for bird watching, more than 200 bird species have been recorded here.

Nearly 90% of the area in the sanctuary is covered with Dhok (Anogeissus Pendula) trees. During the dry summer and winter months, the forest looks brown and parched but comes alive with the vivid orange-red blooms of the flame of the forest tree in March-April. Troops of langurs relish their fleshy petals and birds feast on the nourishing nectar.

The displacement of villages from within Sariska’s protected area has proved to be a boon for wildlife. Tiger numbers are recovering, and in January 2023 tigress ST-14 gave birth to two healthy cubs. There is heartening evidence that with the reduction of human interference in the forest areas, wild animals have started behaving more naturally and moving freely.

Nuggets from the region’s history

The hilltop fort of Kankwari is located west of the reserve’s core area, a sprawling ruin of a 16th-century castle. It’s hilltop location provides panoramic views of the forest and the city. Kankwari Fort is where Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor allegedly imprisoned his elder brother Dara Shikoh.

There are ruins of Hindu and Jain temples from 8th -12th centuries, the most prominent of these is the ancient Neelkanth Mahadeva temple, located deep in the buffer zone of the reserve with beautiful Khajuraho like stone carvings.

Legend associates Pandupole, a 35-ft-waterfall arising from the crest of the Aravalli Ridge in the park’s south-east, with the Pandavas of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. It is believed that the Pandavas spent part of their exile here.

The popular temple of the god Hanuman is a favoured spot with monkeys.

The Sariska Palace built by the late Maharaja Jai Singh of Alwar between 1892 and 1902 is now a luxury hotel.

Experiences

While the reserve isn’t as popular as Ranthambhore, and sees hardly any international visitors, our visits here have been enjoyable and successful due to our excellent guides who know the reserve and its tigers well.

A visit to Sariska deserves consideration on a Golden Triangle holiday, not just to take some tourism volume away from Ranthambhore during peak times, but also to ensure the long term success of Rajasthan’s second viable tiger population.

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