EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Sariska : face to face with the king
Forewarning : Sariska is actually bigger in total area than Rantahmbore NP or Corebtt NP. But it has only 6 tigers. Getting to see a tiger in the wild is always 99% luck. The jungle in the safari area is generally of dry type with very little cover of bigger trees. A safari often means scouting the jungle under a blazing sun and dust. Thus if you do not get to see a tiger, you may feel terrible. You may even feel whether the park has any wildlife!
The park is located around 38 km from Alwar on the Alwar- Jaipur SH13. The road condition of last 5-6 km to the park is very bad. Not much traffic, but you will get some big trucks plying on the highway.
Leave the NH8 at Dharuhera. You need to get off the highway just before you get onto the flyover. This is a point where the local bus stand is and you will see lot of crowd. After a couple of hundred meters, you will take another left turn to get away from the crowd and onto the main road, which is NH71B to Bhiwadi. There are no raod signs though. Another couple of kilometers down on this road you need to turn right for SH25 to Alwar. Road directions are virtually non-existent and hence you need to ask people around. The road to Alwar is a mix bag. Widening of highway is on. Wherever the job has been completed, driving is a pleasure. On reaching outskirt of Alwar, you will get a round about with Ashok Leyland logo. Turn left here and continue on SH25. Do not take the road straight which appears to head into the city. If you search in Goggle map for direction, then they will show this straight road. It is actually closed under the railway line for some construction. Turning left at the Ashok Leyland circle; proceed about 4-4.5km where you will have to turn right to get into the city. Keep moving ahead, cross a flyover and then turn left when you reach Bhagat Singh circle. Statue of Bhagat Singh would be visible to you. Turning left at this point keep moving straight till reach a forked road. Fortunately there is a road sign here. The right road of the fork moves upward into a hillock. This is the road to Sariska. This is road MDR27 (major district road). Somewhere ahead it will meet SH13.
Driving from Kaushambi, Ghaziabad, the total distance clocked on my odo was 219km. From Gurgaon it took about 3 hours.
The RTDC run Hotel Tiger Den is located close to the park gate and next to the safari booking office campus. The only other hotel Sariska Palace is also located close to the booking office. Sariska Palace is a luxury resort. Tiger Den is ideally located and reasonably priced. It provides best value for money for budget travelers. I saw another resort named Sariska Tiger Camp on way from Alwar. This is located quite far away, around 15-20 from the park.
Safari at Sariska:
The best chance of meeting the king is by a jeep safari. Though one is allowed to enter the park in your own vehicle, you are required to stick only to the carpeted main road. Private vehicles are not allowed to go on the kutcha roads or the core areas. It is not that tiger is not seen by the main road, but the possibility of getting to see the tiger in your private car is near to nill. In fact one of my colleagues had seen it close to the main road.
The cost for a jeep safari is as under (as on 19.03.2010):
Rs.1050 -- hiring charges for the jeep (compulsory)
Rs.250 – vehicle entry fee (compulsory)
Rs.150 -- guide charges (compulsory)
Rs.60 – entry fee per head. Max 6 person per jeep.
There are enough jeeps for safari. Each safari consists of 3 hours. Morning safaris start at 7am, which is actually quite late. You will be better of taking a late afternoon safari.
Wildlife at Sariska:
The jungle is mainly dry type. There is not much lush green type vegetation or tall trees around. Most common animal seen are Nilgais and Sambher deer. You will also get to see few spotted deer. But the numbers are not very high to excite you. You will also get lots of peacock.
The star attraction is the 6 tigers. These tigers have been relocated from Rantahmbore. The current save tiger furor had all started after the revelation that all of 14 odd tigers that once roamed Sariska had been wiped out either by poachers or locals. There are at least 2 villages we saw well inside park. One of them was not very far from where we spotted tigers. People were seen grazing cattle inside. The human – animal conflict is quite apparent here.
Meeting the King:
We took an afternoon safari. The official at counter said that 2 tigers were spotted that morning and hence possibility of seeing them again this evening is quite high. After scouting the jungle for about an hour we had reached the point where Sambhars gather near a waterhole. While enjoying this fairly large of animal, we saw a couple of Gypsies belonging to the forest deptt appearing at high speed from nowhere and disappeared into the jungle other side of the road. The guide and the driver were quick to realize that the forest vehicle had tracking equipment and have got some message of tigers. All gypsies around that area started a cat and mouse chase of the forest deptt cars. It was scene out of a movie. Our driver was finding direction only from the dust left by vehicles. Soon we had reached the spot where forest vehicles have located a tiger. We were almost covered in dust. But happy to locate the foresters with tracking equipment. Other gypsies had started arriving there. As advised by our guide, we waited patiently. He was sure that if there is a tiger, it will come out at around 5pm when the sun goes down behind the hill. Tiger always walks on sides of open roads when they move. He was dead right. Around 5 pm, the first tiger, a female named ST2 appeared in the scene. Everyone was looking in the direction of the forest deptt car which had actually located a tiger. But this one walked into the scene from opposite direction. Even the gypsies in that end did not notice it. Our guide was the first to see and alerted others. Soon there was a commotion. At this the tiger stopped its majestic walk on the road and took a turn around behind the bushes. Meanwhile the other tiger, a male named ST4 also appeared briefly and started moving in the direction from which ST2 had come. It did not come out onto the road, but continued walking behind the bushes close to the road. ST2 made reappearance, this time at our end, providing us unhindered view and a couple of good photographs. Despite the fading light I could a couple of good shots. It was about 100 feet away from our vehicle. Crossing the road, it started to follow the male tiger. The two tigers had been seen in pairs for past couple of days. We had our moments of lifetime. Actually we were lucky to spot the speeding forest vehicle. Couple of minutes on either side, we would have returned empty handed.
There is an old Hanuman temple at Pandupole. This is 21km from the park gate. Most people go their in their private vehicle. You need to pay the vehicle and per head entry fee. The road is intentionally kept bad so that one can not drive above 30. You will get to see few animals on the way as you drive 21 km into the park. There are lots of Langurs in the temple premises. The trip takes about half a day. This is generally not covered in safari. If you come here for an overnight trip, the choice you will have to make is between a morning safari and this trip. You would not miss much if you give it a skip.
Fantastic if you get to see a tiger. Otherwise read my forewarning. We were lucky to see not one, but two tigers. Sariska is 866 Sq KM as against Corbett 520 Sq KM and Ranthambore 392 Sq KM. We did not see a tiger in two attempts to Corbett (staying once at Dhikala FRH and then at Gairal FRH). Corbett has 160 tigers, yet we did not see any. Sariska has only 6, yet we got to see two. Overall it is a good weekend trip from Delhi (200km) or Jaipur (100km).