A complete guide to visiting the Sariska Tiger Reserve

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Looking for a resort to stay near Sariska Tiger Reserve? Want to know the things-to-do in and around Sariska Tiger Reserve? Then, you have come to the right place.

For, we have it all covered in this exclusive post on Sariska Tiger Reserve, and how!

A recent weekend getaway to Sariska Tiger Reserve and a stay at Sariska Manor, turned out to be perfect antidotes to my post-COVID fatigue.

It’s one of the tiger reserves and historical region that’s conveniently located between Delhi and Jaipur. And, you could even visit the place in the comforts of your car, when you choose to book a transfer to Delhi from your accommodation in Jaipur.

So, I thought of introducing this beautiful historical region as well as the luxurious property of Sariska Manor to readers, through my words and captures.

Disclaimer : I was hosted by Sariska Manor on this trip in the year 2021. But I have had several trips through this region and to Sariska on my own before. Hence, the views expressed in this write-up like always is my own, and shall always be honest as is the motto of this blog.

First things first.

Let me introduce you—my readers to Sariska Tiger Reserve, its brief history, and the places to see in and around the tiger reserve.

The Sariska region

For the uninitiated, the Sariska Tiger Reserve is located in the Alwar district of India’s Rajasthan state, whose history is steeped well in the Mahabharata times and beyond, as it supposedly is the oldest regions of the Indian subcontinent.

Earlier, this region cuddled in the lush folds of the Aravallis was known as Matsya pradesha, and Viratanagari (present-day Viratnagar or Bairat) ruled by the Suryavanshis, and served as their glorious capital.

By the way, Lord Rama was a Suryavanshi!

Today, Sariska region in Rajasthan is known for its royalty, masculine valour, scrumptious food, Rajput war stories, and of course wildlife, especially the striped feniles aka tigers.

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Sariska Tiger Reserve

If you are still sceptical about finding tigers in the India’s desert state of Rajasthan, then, fret not.

Although, the Thar desert occupies a sizeable area of south-west and western Rajasthan, rest of the state is verdant with as many as 3 tiger reserves: Ranthambore, Sariska and Mukundra hills, and a fourth being carved out of the Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary. 

Moreover, the Sariska Tiger Reserve now has almost 23 tigers in total, while there are 102 tigers in the three reserves put-together. And, Ranthambore tops the list. This piece of information was shared by Mahes Gurung, a naturalist with over a decade of experience and manager of Sariska Manor.

The Sariska Tiger Reserve is also one of the oldest tiger reserves in India, with a wide range of wildlife from leopards to striped hyenas, close to 200 bird varieties, lush flora and fauna, and of course tigers galore.

Declared a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1955, Sariska went on to become a national park in 1979.However, it went tiger-less for close 3.5 years after the Sariska shock episode.

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Sariska shock and its connect with tigers

According to Gurung, in the year 2004, Sariska was India’s first tiger reserve to lose all of its tigers to poaching and man-animal conflicts [dubbed as the ‘Sariska Shock]. He then went on to narrate a series of unfortunate events associated with a notorious poacher by name Sansar Chand. 

Sansar Chand was on a killing spree at Sariska in the early 2000s and had turned the reserve into a graveyard by completely wiping it off the big cats.

It was only in the year 2005 when Sansar Chand was jailed, that the authorities accepted their negligence.

In a nut-shell, the tragic incidents, which led to Sariska becoming India’s first tiger reserve to lose all of its tigers to poaching and man-animal conflicts is dubbed as the ‘Sariska Shock’.

India’s first tiger re-introduction

After the above shocking and shameful episode, Sariska became the first tiger reserve in the world to have successfully relocated tigers, and how!

In June 28, 2008, the first male tiger, was airlifted from Ranthambore in an IAF’s MI 17, and was translocated and released in the wilderness of Sariska at Nayapani. He was marked Tiger- ST1, and was joined by ST 2 in July 2008.

Today, Sariska flaunts a sizeable number (23 in toto) of the majestically striped felines, thanks to conservation initiatives like ‘Project Tiger’ that helped in translocation of big cats from Ranthambore to Sariska, after rehabilitation of villagers from the reserve.

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Now, that we have known its fascinating history and happy success stories, it’s time to embark on a safari inside the wilderness of the Sariska

A trip to the Sariska Tiger Reserve

On the morning of the safari, we jumped into a jeep along with the owners of Sariska Manor, who were kind enough to act as our guide, inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve.

Once inside, as we drove on marked trails during the safari, Mahes and Sunita Panwar [the owner of Sariska Manor] shared anecdotes about their sightings, encounters with ‘Yuvraj or Prince’ [a popular Sariska tiger] and folklores, all the while watching out for fresh pug-marks.

While I soaked in their stories and the scent of the jungle, my eyes darted continuously in all directions to catch a glimpse of the orange skinned beast. 

However, we could neither be stunned into silence nor pinch ourselves for spotting the striped or dotted felines inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve. For we spotted none! 

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What to see in Sariska Tiger Reserve ?

You must be wondering, if not for a successful tiger spotting, what else is there to see inside the the Sariska Tiger Reserve. Right?

Well, there are bound to be dry safaris for sure. Not just in Sariska Tiger Reserve, but in any of the wildlife sanctuaries.

They aren’t zoos, where you can spot a tiger in a cage. They are living and breathing spaces of wild animals. Rather we are intruding into their home! So, we ought to surrender to their moods and daily routines.

Nevertheless, as a silver lining, on the day of the safari inside Sariska reserve we did watch chitals or spotted deers frolicking around, langurs having merry with their antics, wild boars haphazardly rushing into bushes and birds animatedly deep in discussions near waterholes.

Of course, breathtaking views of rugged cliffs, bountiful gorgeous streams and perfect weather were a bonus.

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Also, keep in mind that Sariska isn’t just about wildlife, but also historical ruins, revered temples and forts.

It’s a region steeped in history dating back to the Mahabharata period. So, I highly recommend that you take time out to explore the below places of interest inside the Sariska region.

Pandupol and Neelkanth Mahadev

The Pandavas are said to have found sanctuary inside the Sariska during their last year of exile.

Associated with this widely believed legend is Pandupol, and a temple dedicated to Hanuman built at the site where Bhima ( the strongest of the Pandava brothers) is said to have been defeated by Hanuman.

Rightfully, Pandupol translates to “gateway of the Pandavas” in Sanskrit, and is thronged by villagers from in and around Sariska on auspicious days.

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To the west of Sariska National Park lies the Mangalsar dam — a paradise for birders.

A little further high up on a hill-top is situated the 7th-century Neelkanth Mahadev temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

In and around this location are ruins of more than 200 Hindu and Jain temples with fascinating sculptures that were vandalized by Aurangzeb, who is unfortunately being eulogised by some western scholars as part of a propaganda campaign.

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Naugaja Temple

A short adventurous walk from Neelkant with farms on either side leads to the spectacular 9th century built Naugaja Digambar temple remains.

Here stands a lone statue of the Jain Tirthankara Shantinatha on a raised platform, carved in pale-red sandstone surrounded by ruins of the temple complex against a backdrop of the Aravalli and forests of Sariska.

Bhangarh Fort

A trip to Sariska remains incomplete without a visit to the medieval Bhangarh fort, situated on the south of the reserve, at a distance of 21km.

Although built beautifully out of a mountain under the rule of Maharaja Man Singh I, it does look eerie with its now dilapidated palace floors and market place ruins, especially after listening to the lores surrounding it.

Maybe that’s why it’s considered the most haunted fort in Asia! 

And, I have put together a complete guide to visiting the Bhangarh fort on my blog. Do give it a read. The place has a fascinating and spooky past and present.

One could also visit the famous, yet under the radar Chandbaori step-well, that’s not far from Bhangarh fort. The whole trip from Sariska’s Tehla gate-Bhangarh-Chandbaori-Sariska Manor, comes to just around 3.5 hours.

on a private car tour from Jaipur. This way you could cover both these fascinating places. However this would consume a whole day, as Abhaneri – the village where the Chandbaori step-well is located is almost 3 hrs journey from Jaipur.

Which gate to choose for a safari in Sariska?

Like any other big wildlife sanctuary, there are more than one gate even at Sariska tiger reserve. They are Sariska gate and Tehla gate. And, the distance between the two is 80km.

Spread over an expansive 1200 sq.km, the tiger reserve has been divided into three zones. While, Tehla gate has one safari route, the Sariska gate has three.

How to book a safari at Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary

Search for “Sariska safari booking”, and you’re bound to be shown umpteen non-authentic sites by His Highness Google.

However, the only legitimate website to book safaris in any of the Rajasthan Wildlife sanctuaries is the Rajasthan Forest Department’s Official Website . Also, when in doubt with anything pertaining to tourism in Rajasthan, kindly check their official tourism website.

Before you click on the above link, do have a look at the screenshots below to understand how the official website looks and works:

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Once the official homepage opens, click on Wildlife information on the Top menu bar to select ” Booking for Online Safari/Permit” as shown below:

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Now, you are just a couple of steps closer to booking a safari in Sariska or in any other Rajasthan wildlife sanctuary, by clicking the Select Place dropdown menu. Then choose the date, slots and booking type, based on availability.

The tiger reserve offers two types of safari vehicles : a jeep ( for a group 6 and below), and a canter ( for larger groups upto 20 people). Choose according to your preference.

Voila! You have successfully booked a safari with just a few clicks:))

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Alternatively, you could also check with the property at which you are staying for arrangement of safaris at Sariska Tiger Reserve.

In my case, Sariska Manor took complete care of arranging a safari from the Tehla gate!

Where to stay in Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary?

I personally prefer properties that are located near the gates of tiger reserves, as you need not waste time in commuting from the property of stay to the boarding point of the safari.

I remember from our earlier trip to Landsdowne in Uttarakhand, where we ended wasting close to 2 hours just to reach the Kalagarh Tiger Reserve entrance, and embark on our safari. Hence, always prior check the distance from the property to the safari gate. More on this a little further.

Hence, Sariska Manor, a property that served as my home away from home to explore the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to stay, and is highly recommended.

You could also opt to stay at the many resorts available in and around both the gates. Or even better, opt to stay at one of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation run guest houses. They are affordable, simple and neat. I had stayed with them on my trip to Alwar earlier.

Where is Sariska Manor?

Sariska Manor is a luxury jungle lodge located in the Sariska National Park, Rajasthan. The sanctuary is spread across the rolling mountains of the Aravalli, stretching over approximately 1200 sq km, in the oldest regions of the country.

Sariska Manor near Tehla Gate

Yes! Sariska Manor abuts the fringes of the Sariska Tiger Reserve, while being located comfortably next to the Tehla Gate in the buffer zone — one of the two gates to embark on a safari into the tiger reserve [ the other being the Sariska gate].

Could there be a more perfectly located stay option to embark on a wildlife safari? Absolutely, not!

So, the perfect location laps up a few brownie points, right away.

Am I being too generous? Not all.

As a family traveller and a wildlife enthusiast, the very first aspect that I take into consideration is : the distance between a property and the wildlife reserve’s gate [ to embark on a safari].

Because, if I am going to travel for two hours to reach the gate from my property of stay, and then end up with another 3-4 hours of safari, then it would be truly a back-breaking and restless experience.

And, I don’t think anyone would be able to enjoy the whole trip completely.

I learnt this the hard way though, when we ended up travelling on bumpy roads for close to 90 mins to reach a tiger reserve in Uttarakhand, missed the golden hours, and completely spoiled the trip ourselves in spite of liberally shelling out currency notes.

Exactly why I like to opt for properties like Sariska Manor to embark on hassle-free wildlife safaris.

Ultimately, nothing like waking up early, hopping onto a jeep, and embarking on a safari as quickly as possible during the golden hours, isn’t it?

Rooms at Sariska Manor

The second aspect that I often consider while reviewing a property are the rooms [to hit the bed after a day long sightseeing and safari].

And, this property did not disappoint me at this as well. With its colonial cottage-like vibes yet rooted in the local ethos, and a pleasing decor complementing its luxuriously spaced interiors, the rooms at Sariska Manor are truly elegant and functional.

The property surely does tick all aspects of a luxury jungle lodge, but the cherry on cake are the balconies facing citrus orchards and lush greenery.

For guests with a keen interest in bird-watching, this is a paradise.

What can be greater joy than sitting leisurely while sipping piping hot-tea, and the birds themselves visit to pose for your lens? Bliss!

Apart from these, a few more aspects of the room at Sariska Manor that scored brownie points are: a thoughtfully placed pair of footwear [ one thing that most of us military families look forward to in our rooms- a pair for each of the occupant] , a full-sized mirror and no distractions in the form of television.

Of course, I would have preferred a better wifi connection though. However, in a forested region like Sariska, I guess network connectivity is bound to be intermittent!

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After location and the rooms, the third most important aspect that I look for in a property is food!

Lip-smacking fare at Sariska Manor

The management surely knows how to pamper the taste-buds of its guests during their stay at Sariska Manor.

From local Rajasthani cuisine to continental, and from a simple kheer to the lip-smacking caramel pudding, the chefs of Sariska Manor can dish out a wide-variety of dishes.

I had a great time at the breakfast table as well, indulging in a sumptuous fare, complemented by an aptly brewed masala chai.

Do not miss out on the mashed potatoes, which were perfectly done, reminding of the ones I had in Russia!

The small towns and hamlets in Russia dish out the best of the mashed potatoes with sour cream, by the way. And, Sariska Manor surprisingly replicated it. 

Is it owing to the potatoes they procure or is it the magic of the chef? I leave it to you to decide.

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Soothing premises of Sariska Manor

Having gone through hell while recuperating from COVID, Sariska Manor and its environs turned out to be a soothing balm to a battered soul like me.

The crisp air devoid of Delhi-dust, freshly prepared food, the intoxicating air of the jungle, and the lush orchards of the property — all served as a great relief. 

That the management has created a beautiful small pond around a natural spring is truly appreciable.

The pond in turn has become a haven for birds of every size and colour, and so are the orchards of Sariska Manor that brim with trees of Amla, oranges and other citrus fruits.

The property grows its own seasonal vegetables, as well as recycles and reuses waste water.

Being close to the core area of the Tiger Reserve, the management has made sure to keep the decibel levels low inside its premises. Hence, no speakers blaring out intolerable noise in the name of music.

And, there is a neatly maintained swimming pool to relax nerves.

Hospitality to a tee

Affable, polite, ever-ready to help without cringing, knowledgeable and well-mannered…these would be the adjectives to introduce the staff of Sariska Manor. And, each of the staff member has his/her heart at the right place!

A special mention about Mahes, the manager, who went all out to make us feel comfortable during our stay at Sariska Manor.

A naturalist with over a decade of experience, Mahes is the go-to person for birders and wildlife enthusiasts staying at the property.

Off-beat experiences offered by Sariska Manor

Located in a region steeped in historical ruins, folklore, temples and stories dating back to the Mahabharata era, a stay at Sariska Manor provides an opportunity to its guests to indulge in various experiences, but not restricted to wildlife safaris.

Additional reading
Have you read about the beautiful yet grim story of Moosi Maharani? Not yet…then do come on a virtual tour with me as narrate the story of Moosi Maharani through my blog post on Moosi Maharani Ki Chhatri – A Stark Reminder of Power, Love and Sati

The guests can opt to visit Bhangarh fort [ touted as the most haunted fort in Asia], the Neelkant temple and its surrounding ruins, the Mansarovar lake, as well as the Naugaj Digambar Jain temple ruins, as I had mentioned earlier in this post.  

Well, not remotely interested in architecture and heritage? No worries! Hike over the rugged and rounded rocks of the oldest fold mountains- Aravallis, to experience scintillating sunsets in the company of samosas and chai prepared with love by Sariska Manor.

In short, you are invited to a high-tea amidst the expansive Aravallis !

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Is that all? Well, no….actually. 

Star-Gazing in the Aravallis

Located in one of the darkest regions on earth, the night-sky of Sariska glitters with constellations, planets and stars, which otherwise isn’t visible under a city night-scape. Hence, star-gazers and astro-lovers too are in for a treat on a clear night. 

So, basically, you will find your days as well as nights spent at Sariska Manor worth every penny!

Motivated to visit Sariska and stay at the property…then you should find the below information handy.

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Best Season to Visit Sariska

This latest trip to the Sariska Tiger Reserve is my second one in recent years, and I’ve been completely bowled over by the region’s beauty especially during the monsoons.

The last time was when we embarked on a road-trip to Alwar from Delhi, and got to explore the other end of the Sariska National Park near Alwar.

However, it was during the winters.

Although, the sightings [ of spotting a tiger or a leopard] are much more easier during summers and winters in this region, I find the post-monsoon seasons the most invigorating in the jungles, especially in the expansive Aravalli region.

Because, the monsoons are that time of the year when a forest indeed looks like one —lush with brimming ponds and lakes, chirping birds, playful chitals, and jumping langurs.

How to reach Sariska Tiger Reserve

It is around 200 km from Delhi, 110 km from Jaipur and 35 km from Alwar. It is well-connected by road transport like buses and taxis. While the nearest airport is at Jaipur, the closest railway station is at Alwar, which is just an hour’s drive from the property.

How to reach Sariska Manor

Sariska Manor is located next to the south gate of the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as the Tehla gate.

Parting words before I embark on my next trip

Refreshing open spaces, verdant rolling mountains and the charming avian friends calmed my nerves, while the hospitality rendered by management and staff of Sariska Manor pampered me thoroughly.

I have shared my experience of staying at Sariska Manor succinctly, and have supplement this write-up with a focus on the must-visit places in the Sariska region.

In conclusion, with its bountiful paths and breathtaking vistas, forts entangled in history and mystery, and a vast area frequented by myriad avians and rare wildlife, Sariska turned out to be a hidden gem and a perfect non-Himalayan getaway for me during these turbulent times.

Meanwhile, do watch this reel on my experience at Sariska Manor, and I hope you found the post useful!

Should you still have any queries regarding the property or the experiences, feel free to ask them in the comments section, and I shall help you out as much as possible.

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