Sariska National Park: Born to be Wild

Although much bigger than Corbett and Ranthambore, you will be lucky indeed – mind you very very lucky just like Lindsay Lohan was in the movie Just my Luck – to spot a tiger in this National Park. The reserve was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1958 and came under the “Project Tiger” as a tiger reserve in 1979. The moment of shame for this wildlife sanctuary came in 2004 when after CBI, India’s premier intelligence agency, conducted a probe and came out with conclusion that indeed there were no tiger left in the park. A mortified state forest department then planned the relocation of tigers in the park which inevitably took several more year to materialize – as they often do when state parties are involved.

Women doing their daily chores - Colors of Rajasthan


Although a part of project tiger, expect none if you visit here. And if you are planning a journey here just for tiger you may want to reconsider your plans seriously. But mind you near absence of tigers doesn’t take away the allure of this national park with vast undulating plains spread over the steep ridges of Aravalis. There is so much to be witnessed, discovered and explored when you take an excursion to this fascinating place. Every place has their dampener and Sariska no different. I agree you won’t have your moments of epiphany but then an assortment of small yet precious happenstance could really make your day as it did ours.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by/But in the long run; there’s still time to change the road you’re on. Well I know it’s by Led Zeppelin and I am not starting a philosophical treatise it’s just that I was referring to the available option of roads – literally – which are at your disposal when you go inside the park. One is that you hire a gypsy and take the path not that less travelled – as all gypsy take that. Or you may choose to use your own four-wheeler to explore a path frequently travelled and limited too – it doesn’t allow off-road excursions where you have more probability of beholding the sight of wildlife.

We were planning to use our own vehicle but then at the last moment – as we always do – decided to hire the gypsy provided by the park authorities. I won’t use the phrase that I often do when I go for hills that the decision was “abrupt and magical”. Abrupt part yes but magical…ummmm…not really but it was better and I am glad we took the decision. At the gate, sight of an array of bird might get you excited but hold on. You might experience emptiness as if you are on a desolation row as you mark your entry into the park. The forest is not very dense, even the scorched trees and sparse vegetation kind of exude an aura of bleakness.

But if you are a poet or person, you might hear or feel something akin to what Wordsworth did on revisiting Tintern Abbey. The sound of silence pervading the sanctuary is intense and it may mesmerize you or it might even alienate you. It’s totally subjective BTW. In the very beginning we spotted a family of Indian foxes and were elated by the prospect of what could be in store inside when peripheral area could offer such sight. In our elation and high hopes we didn’t even bothered to shoot them – from camera I mean. Well it did enlighten me a bit though. Adages are also as subjective as it can get. First impressions need not necessarily be the last impression as we find out to our disappointment.

After that first spotting as we rode on…well let me quote again “he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams; seeking grace in every step he takes; his sight has turned inside himself to try and understand; the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake.” John Denver was prescient to see what we witnessed. There’s much of sky and mountain which delight you with its sight painting beautiful canvases with charming palette which might moved Van Gough on a Starry Night as it did us mortal too who happen to rejoice in the fact that we have our imagination intact – at least we pretend to. Spotting Sambhar, antelopes, deer is easy. Sprinkled waterholes ensnare them onwards to savor the sweet nectar, an answer to unquenchable thirst of every living being until the moment of giving back to universe all the atoms borrowed for a pithy existence on this blue planet. Eureka…how about promoting some blue tourism.

The most haunting moment came at a place where there is a bridge over troubled water as in no water and a few trees and lifeless trunks standing starkly and in the backdrop Aravali with its barren façade conjured up an almost epiphanic moment. The silence was frequently broken up by eerie sound of wind adding to the mystique of the moment, a most vivid trance inducing experience. The moment haunts me sometimes and I vacillate between two extremes of choice which I could have chosen from, during my brief halt at that phantasmagoric place either to write something akin to Coleridge’s Kubla Khan or Neruda’s Tonight I can Write but then neither I was on opium nor was it night.

Moving onwards we got a chance to witness the violence for love. I mean two Chinkara fight it out for their beloved. Well the weather was to blame though poor things. We moved ever onwards and arrived at the place which was to become the defining moment of our excursion. We had arrived at a rustic dwelling at the convergence of two roads deep inside the Sariska tiger reserve. The Gypsy which we had hired made a halt there. Perhaps he needed refreshment or perhaps it was our destiny. There was a lady living in that house with her family which included 2 children. We got to our usual shooting business as there were a number of Red-vented Bulbul and Rufous Tre pies eager to be shot unafraid. We soon got to know the answer to that puzzle. The lady could have guessed our impatience as we took photographs after photographs in a frenzy literally running from one spot to another to quench our fervor and get that perfect shot. She beckoned us and offered us crumbs of biscuit which were close to powdered.

Wait! Hello! It was not for us. She made a strange sound – more like a chirp – and lo and behold! Of all wonders, Rufous Treepies came flying out as if to answer her call from all around. It was magical. No, it was unbelievable. Such taming or should I say such kinship with wild, it was an ethereal sight; seen and heard of only in movies or books. But they came and they sat. No, not on trees but on our hands and heads and started to eat and play. We were speechless for initial few moment almost overwhelmed by rush of emotions and an array of inexplicable things. Then we remembered we have cameras and that was our moment, our destined moment. One of those moment which lingers on, etched indelibly in your memories forever. One moment of fulfillment and joy which makes it all worth. All the hardship, toiling and even our existence, everything is accounted for; like finding rhyme and reason, “beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all you need to know…” Such beauty and such terrific moment! If life could be measured in moments then, I was – and I am sure we were – fully alive at that particular moment.

Rufous Treepie - Amazing Experience in the heart of Sariska National Park

Mesmerizingly unbelievable - Rufous Treepies

On our way back to Delhi, we made a number of halts. It happened whenever we spotted something along the way and we did spot a few fascinating things which include Pied Kingfisher, Red Wattled Lapwings, Pond Heron, Common Bee Eater, Camels and old ruins sprinkled here and there and later a walk around Siliserh Lake. Some amazing frames were captured and it was a wonder how much is there to discover along the highways. One only needs but look out and reach to the beauty and wonders of nature and man.

We usually begin our journey in night and this particular voyage made us wonder how much we miss. But that’s a curse of travelers like us who want to make the most of even 1 day break from our offices. The return journey was like the Beatles song Two of Us “you and me Sunday driving, not arriving, on our way back home, we’re on our way home, we’re going home. You and I have memories; longer than the road that stretches out ahead…” The road we travelled between Sariska and Siliserh Lake was the most eventful one with much to offer which included nature, lakes, birds and beers. The lake was quite outstanding offering panoramic view. Vast expanse of iridescent azure water and Aravalis in the background offers a most charming view. The halt at the lake was ceremonial since we were in a hurry to get back.

To say that I loved my trip to Sariska will not and cannot truly express the feeling. It was a unique experience with intricate tapestry of interconnected narrative woven by the landscape and wildlife and for most parts our imagination, culminating into our inescapable encounter with Rufous Treepies. You might not feel the way I felt and you may have a different fate in store for you when you visit Sariska National Park, but that is why we travel rite? To live the moments, to savor in the fact that we exist and life is beautiful. Traveling motivate me and inspire me because it makes my life more worthwhile when I look back and recall the moments of my existence. It makes me happy in now which was both my past and is my present. Future is still uncertain but if I remain, I will travel. As Al Pacino said in the movie Scent of a Woman… You never tango up, you tango on.

Once again inevitably and inexorably, I have arrived to the most ceremonial – I meant boring but it might offend some hence the euphemism – part of travelogue writing, that is the facts to be considered. I wish Ghumakkar will feature/attract more travelogues writer like Shubham who let you travel places, but leave them intact for you to explore in case you plan to go there yourself.So here for the facts:

Area: 866 km² total (497 km² core, 369 km² buffer)

Altitude: Between 300 m and 722 m MSL

Rainfall: Average 650 mm (per year)

Forest Types: Tropical Dry Deciduous and Tropical Thorn

Distance from Delhi: 230 Kilometers Via Alwar

Stay: We stayed at RTDC hotel which is outrageously expensive: a small room, a not so working TV and two points to charge from (we had 3 mobiles and 3 cameras to charge) for 12 hours cost us INR 3600. The breakfast is buffet and table d’hôte but quite average and the variety keeps on decreasing as time goes by I mean as guests keep arriving. So be as early as possible.

An enduring icon of Alwar

 

A family that stays together - On the Highway

 

A sambhar inside Sariska

 

Antelopes of Sariska

 

Peacock inside Sariska

 

Red Vented Bulbul in Sariska

 

Sand Grouse inside Sariska - They camouflage themself and are very hard to spot

 

The art of wooing Peacock inside Sariska

 

White Throated Kingfisher

 

Perspectives - Siliserh lake, Alwar

 

Pied Kingfisher by a small pond on our way back to Delhi

 

In the woods Red Wattled Lapwings spotted on our way back to Delhi

17 Comments

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  • Chandra81 says:

    Thank you Sandeep for liking the pics…once again :-)
    How about the content by the way…any comments?

  • Nandan says:

    From rocky-mountain-high to ‘this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you’, from Led to Words (Both I have never listened/read in any good way), you carry us in your gondola of imagination through this bushy-forest. Now they do have Tigers and I think you can spot them.

    Did you get a chance to visit the Hanuman Temple at Pandupol. They do this almost-every-time, group bhajan (reciting Ramayana) kind of thing, very immersive experience.

    Badhiya Nikhil Babu.

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thank you rahega Nandan ji :-)

      Well tiger spotting is still a rarest of rare happenstance. I happened to visit Sariska not too long ago. And well we were so overwhelmed by Roufus Treepie incident that we didn’t even come back from our own vehicle as we had planned earlier. But the visit definitely was worth it.

  • ashok sharma says:

    nice photographs

  • Jerry Jaleel says:

    Thank you Chandra for the wonderful post on Sariska with beautiful photographs. Yes, even without the tigers- thanks to the poachers – Sariska is an attractive place to visit. Hopefully, it will have tigers and leopards once again.

    • Chandra81 says:

      I too wish to see tigers roaming in Sariska but I guess they kinda like the landscape and ambiance of Keoladeo National Park better so they make long journeys to be there instead not the great migration as in Serengeti as wildebeests do but still that’s a long distance to cover mind you :-)

  • Aditya says:

    Gr8 post and beautifully composed pics…

  • Chandra81 says:

    I expected loads of comment but then I overestimate myself…I guess I was too prosaic :-)

  • Chandra81 says:

    Its like no country for old man :D :P

  • Vibha says:

    Hey Nikhil,

    Lovely travelogue and very beautiful pictures. I visited Sariska a long time back and one thing that I noticed about the place was that even though there were no Tigers there at that time, rest of the wildlife was casually hanging out in open. We saw the cheetals, sambhar deers, foxes, jackals, peacocks and monkeys in abundance.

    I guess they need a tiger or two to keep them disciplined. :)

    Keep travelling and keep writing.

    Cheers,
    V

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thank you Vibha for your kind words. Couldn’t agree more that tigers are needed to maintain some discipline :-)
      BTW what is this ‘V’ thing :P Kinda remind me of Hugo Weaving and lovely Natalie Portman :-)
      But thank god its not V for vendetta :D

  • vinaymusafir says:

    Beautiful pics…Incredible India!
    Cheers!

    • Chandra81 says:

      Absolutely Vinay! You are bang on when you say incredible India. Glad to live here and I kinda keep discovering new hues of the vibrant kaleidoscope of India every time I venture out. Just love this confounding country for its sheer diversity :-)

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