In the days of yore, Sariska used to be the hunting ground of the Maharaja of Alwar. It was declared as a National Park in 1955. The park is spread over an area of 479 sq. Kms. and is divided into three zones – core, buffer and tourist zone. In 1979, Project Tiger initiative was launched in Sariska National Park.
Sariska National Park is teeming with wildlife and some of the resident species include sambhar, nilgai, wild cats, wild bear, chital, four horned antelopes and a variety of deer.
The central point of Sariska National Park is the Pandupole watch tower which is located 22 kms. inside the forest. The Pandupole area is believed to be an area where the Pandavas took shelter during their exile. A Hanuman Temple is located near the watch tower.
In Sariska not only can one marvel at the haunting wilderness but one can also add a bit of culture into one’s safari. For instance, there is the Kankoyari fort, located 20 kms away from Pandupole where Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had kept his brother Dara Sikho as a captive prisoner. If one goes further ahead, there is the Nilkantha temple which is believed to be 1,500 year old.
Sariska National Park can be visited year round except during the rainy season (July/August) when the animals move to higher grounds. Sariska is possibly one of India’s most renowned wildlife parks. A peculiar characteristic of the park is that one comes across a plethora of speed breakers both within and out side the park premises. They have been built in order to check the velocity of vehicles which otherwise have the habit of speeding down the tracks. There have been instances in the past when the speeding vehicles have over run the animals that strayed onto the track.
Sariska’s topography is generally hilly. As one goes deeper inside the forest, the hills keep growing on you. As far as water bodies and wetland areas are concerned, they are few and far between. To mitigate these lacunae of water bodies, the park authorities have built artificial reservoirs at strategic places which provide welcome relief to the resident animals of Sariska during the scorching summer months.
Sariska’s forest cover is of the dry deciduous variety. In the summer months, the forest cover gives way to the arid landscape while post-monsoon, the forest is conspicuous with its lush foliage. Of course, the rate in which the total forest cover of Sariska is depleting is a case for concern. Already the park authorities with the support of environmental NGO’s are working together to educate the local tribes about the serious consequences of tree felling and the subsequent vanishing of the forest.
Apart from Pandupole watch tower, the park authorities have very cleverly built a number of hides which are concealed in a veil of secrecy surrounded as they are with dense foliage of the forest. Two well known hides are located in Kalighati and Salopka which provide excellent wildlife panorama.