DESIGNATED a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger  in 1979, Sariska National Park, formerly the private hunting ground of the princely state of Alwar, sprawls over 800 sq km (309 sq miles), with a core area of 480 sq km (185 sq miles). The Aravalli Range branches out at Sariska, forming low plateaux and valleys that harbour a wide spectrum of wildlife in the dry jungles.

The tiger population at Sariska is now believed to be between 20 and 30. Forest guides keep track of where a tiger was last seen and can sometimes lead visitors to spot this elusive predator.

There are a series of watering holes in Sariska, at Bandipol, Bandipol, Slopka, Kalighati and Talvriksha, that make good vantage points to view wildlife, especially at sunset when hoards of animals ‘lock to them to quench their thirst. The gentle chital or spotted deer is commonly sighted at the park’s watering holes, while the chausingha t heir-horned antelope), unique to Ssriska, can he spotted around Pandupol. Other species that can be seen here Ace panthers and black-faced languor monkeys, jackals and hyenas, nilgai or blue bulls, wild boars and porcupines. Among the birds that can be spotted, especially from the hides at Kalighati and Slopka, are the crested serpent eagle, the great Indian horned owl, woodpeckers, kingfishers and partridges.

The dry deciduous forests of Sariska come to life during the brief spring and early summer when the flowering dhah (Butea nionosperma ) and laburnum bloom. The date palm begins to bear fruit, while berries known locally as hair (apparis decided ) appear on the bushes. The ICankwari Fort, dating to the 17thcentury, and several ancient temple ruins, such as those of the Pandupol Temple, lie within the park. The Sariska Palace, built at the end of the 19th century as a hunting lodge for Alwar’s rulers, is now a luxury hotel – with period furnishings and a collection of vintage shihar photographs.

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