Wildlife in Rajasthan is among the major tourist attractions of the state. The arid climate and a varied topography have resulted in a wildlife which is, in many ways, unique to the state. The desert, the old Aravalli hills, lakes, and natural forests have been resided by many animals for millions of years. As human population encroaches into the wild habitat, the problem of conservation arises. Sariska National Park and tiger reserve is one of the most imp and well known protected forests in north India. It is one of the few pockets of forests that have survived along the ancient Aravalli hills. The National Park attracts a lot of tourists and wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world, thus contributing towards the growth of tourism in Rajasthan.
The protected area in the park measures about 800 sq kms, out of which about 480 sq kms is the core area. The Siliserh Lake is located besides the tiger reserve, besides the road between Sariska and Alwar. The flora of the forest includes dry deciduous vegetation typical of this region. The major species include Dhok, Tendu, Khair, Surwal, and Goria, apart from bushes and grasslands.
Sariska was formerly the private hunting reserve of the royal family of Alwar.
Tigers were once abundant here, supported by a self sufficient eco system. However, indiscriminate killing brought down the tiger population on the verge of extinction. The first protection came from the maharaja himself. Maharaja Jai Singh, the ruler of Alwar brought the forest under protection in the late 19th century. After independence the forest was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955. National park status came much later, in 1982, although a core area was identified and declared a tiger reserve in 1979, as part of project tiger. The tiger population in Sariska has improved ever since, although poaching and limited area remain major concerns. Tigers are not sighted commonly here, though pug marks and other signs can be picked up by experienced guides.
Panther, jungle cat, hyena, jackal, caracal and wild dogs are the other important carnivores of the forest. The last two species named have been sighted but are very elusive and accurate data about their population or behavior is lacking. Crocodiles can be seen at the Siliserh Lake, besides other reptiles like the monitor, snakes, and chameleons. The herbivores include cheetal, sambar, nilgai, chinkara, porcupines, and hares.
The park is home to a large number of birds. These include the commonly found species in this region, like gray partridges, pea fowl, quail, white breasted king fisher, sand grouse, crested serpent eagle, tree pie, wood peckers and the great Indian horned owl.
A wonderful feature of the park is the strategically placed and comfortable hides that enable the tourists to observe wild animals from up close. These are placed near the water holes that are frequented by animals. The other way to explore the wildlife is by jeep safaris. One should start at dawn, or alternatively, before dusk. The surfaced roads and trails are convenient to travel by forest vehicles, and experienced guides will guide you as you go deep into the jungle.
Sariska is also home to many historic sites, among which the Neelkanth temples located nearby, the medieval Kankwari fort and the palace that has been turned into a hotel are the chief ones.
Tourists can find accommodation in the two hotels near the park, the Tiger Den Hotel (RTDC) and the Sariska Palace hotel. The forest bungalow is another option. Tourists can also find many hotels in Alwar.
The nearest airport is located in Jaipur, 110 kms away. The nearest railway station is Alwar, 36 kms away. November to march is the best time to visit Sariska National Park.
For more information on Sariska National Park and the other tourist attractions in Rajasthan, log on to touristplacesinindia.com.