We did a quick trip to Sariska Rajasthan over the extended weekend. This was the first time in 2014 that all three of us traveled together! I took Chhavi out and Seshadri took Chhavi out, I went out and Seshadri went out but somehow the dates never coincided for the three of us. And more often than not I was the guilty party! But we finally managed to go to Sariska for a peaceful vacation.
In all our visits to Sariska we have stayed at the RTDC’s Tiger Den. It is a simple hotel but right at the edge of the forest. The best part of the deal is their huge lawn from where I do my armchair birding. Sometimes I manage to catch butterflies too, on my cell phone!
It goes like this. I usually sit in a chair in the lawn, basking in the sun. Then a bird will come close by and I click a picture, usually without getting up from the chair. Sometimes they do force me to move a bit to get a better angle. By the way, did you notice the blue sky?
The best part of this vacation was the sunshine. There was no fog at Sariska. Chhavi could sit in the lawn and play with mud and other kids, while Seshadri and I were just too happy to laze around reading books.
All the pictures up to now have been clicked in the hotel premises. Now what a luxury it was to click so many birds simply by sitting in a hotel lawn!
And it is not that the birds come for a fleeting second and then go away. They keep coming back, looking for food. Having said that, no one can sit in the lawn and eat anything because of the monkeys. There are just too many monkeys around. They don’t come nearby unless you have something to eat. So all the food items have to be consumed indoors, unless you wish to share it with the monkeys.
Then I took a short walk out of the premises of the hotel and found this Shrike in a tree close to the road. It gave me only one opportunity to click the pictures! And then it vanished protesting further inside the overgrowth.
There were a great many yellow toed green pigeons by the road but they took a thorough dislike to my presence. They flew in droves to far away trees. So, managed to get this one picture on my puny 75-300 mm zoom by cropping ruthlessly.
Chhavi and I did a safari in the national park. This was the send visit to the jungle for Chhavi. She was having a conversation with other girls (working professionals) in the canter and in some context she told them, “I know because I have been here before!” Seshadri refused to budge from the hotel. He anyway has seen a tiger in Sariska on his first attempt, a trip he did solo. We didn’t see any tigers on this trip. But there was this group of painted storks with rudy shelducks for company!
Then there was this lonely black winged stilt going around in the lake in search of food. The lake is a very scenic spot in the middle of the forest.
And I sign off the travels of 2014 (only theoretically because some of the tales are going to spill in 2015 as well) with Chhavi trying to feed a jungle babbler at Sariska.
Sariska Tiger Reserve is just a hop and a skip away from NCR which makes it an ideal weekend getaway! If you don’t like to drive (like me) Shatabdi Express Train is a good option. You need to get down at Alwar and then take a bus going to Jaipur. Sariska is on the way. It is 40 km away from Alwar. I was wondering if I would get a taxi just by turning up at the Alwar Railway Station but no one came to me asking if I wanted to hire a taxi. I took a cycle rickshaw to the bus stand. The bus stand is dingy but what to do? Chhavi didn’t like the bus but we had no other option. It was a short journey and the bus fare for the two of us was less than 50 rupees! I am told the taxi charges are 2000 rupees. Now that doesn’t make sense to me.
I had already booked a room at the Tiger Den, RTDC. This was the first jungle trip for Chhavi. I initially thought we would not go on a safari the day we arrived but as the kid showed no sign of tiredness, we ran away to the jungle after an early dinner.
At the start of our safari our guide showed us a village inside the tiger reserve. There are a few villages still remaining inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve. It is the same for many other forests that I have visited in India. I wonder how it would feel to live in close proximity of wild animals on a daily basis! The government is relocating the villages in many national parks as they are flash points for human-animal conflict.
When you see deer do you think tiger food? Not the most romantic way of thinking about these beautiful creatures I guess. But many a guides do describe them like that. When I pointed them out to Chhavi telling her they are called Spotted deer, she firmly declared they are dot deer and not spotted deer.
There are a lot of monkeys around the hotel as well as the ticketing window. If you have any eatables in your hand they can come near you to snatch it away. Here was one, having a gala time with some tomato sauce.
And here is another one making monkey faces because mom is pointing the camera at her. I wonder what pleasure she derives in giving me a hard time if I want to click her picture!
There is a temple right inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the Pandupol Temple. On Tuesdays and Thursdays private vehicles (not sure if they allow only Rajasthan registered cars or any cars) are allowed to visit the temples. I even saw a BMW on those bumpy roads. There are a lot of langoors near the temple. You can buy eatables and tea at the shops near the temple.
These two langoors were sitting high up on a tree near the temple, behaving as if they had the responsibility to keep an eye on everyone below. Meanwhile their friends and family members were busy climbing cars and trying to snatch away eatables.
And here is another one who believes in climbing up high. While we were waiting at a spot for a possible tiger appearance she climbed on the bars of the gypsy! Her hair as well as mine got the special Sariska dust pack in adundance!
And while we were waiting for the tiger, there appeared a jungle cat! I had never seen a jungle cat before. I am told they are quite elusive. A young lad in our jeep spotted it first. I was quite excited to see one finally. About those elusive tigers, they never made an appearance. People who visit national parks in India are rarely interested in anything else., which I feel is a pity. There is so much to a jungle than the tiger. I agree it is the prime attraction but they are nobody’s pets, they can’t be produced at will.
For Chhavi and I, this was a good trip. We loved the forest and all the magic that it contains. When we came home Seshadri asked Chhavi, “so did you see the tiger?” To which she told, “no it never came out.” And then went on rattling about all the fun she had. I am sure given the proximity to Gurgaon we are going back to Sariska.
Tiger Den Sariska is a Rajashtan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) hotel at Sariska, Rajasthan. Chhavi and I stayed there on our trip to Sariska Tiger Reserve. It is a budget hotel. The non AC room cost us 1700 Indian rupees per night. It is reasonably clean. The staff was entirely helpful throughout our stay.
If you watch this video, I have attached a small clip of Chhavi making a video at the end. She saw me talking to the phone while making a video and it became her favorite game for quite sometime. And as to her, “I am a photographer …” amen to that!
The hotel is right next door to the ticket window of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. From the backyard of the hotel, there is a shortcut to the ticket window, which the hotel staff will gladly show to you. So, location wise this is one of the best places to stay.
The Room: My room was not fancy at all. It had an old TV (Reliance cable connection) with a barely functional remote. But Chhavi and I have no complains as she could watch her cartoons and I could watch some old Hindi movie songs when she would fall asleep. The room and the linen were clean, so was the bathroom. They only gave a small soap but I had anticipated it. The towel in the bathroom was clean too. It was just quite basic. If you expect anything fancy in your room, you would be disappointed. If you are looking for a clean and a basic hotel, this is the place for you.
Open Spaces: The hotel has plenty of open spaces. It is ideal for kids to run around. It has a few swings as well, though they are rickety and old. I spotted many birds within the hotel compound, peacocks roam around as well. It worked for Chhavi and I as she could run around unhampered.
As Chhavi managed to color a white towel during our trip to Pushkar, so I was extra careful this time. One of the instructions to her was no food on the bed! She started eating her chips on the windowsill! On the last day I took her colors to the bathroom when I went to take a bath. I didn’t want the bed sheet to become multicolored this time!
The Food: The food was according to a set menu. Most of the times I did not know what would I get for my meal. But they served it in generous portions, a variety of vegetables, daal and both roti and rice. Breakfast one day was puri bhaaji and the other day paratha on demand. However, I wish the dining room covers were cleaner. They were full of stains and are in a need of wash seriously. Other than the hotel, there is only that small canteen where you can get things to eat. There is nothing around for miles otherwise. The canteen stores all the usual junk, from chips to Maggi and everything in-between. As the hotel is almost in the middle of the jungle, there are a lot of monkeys around. So the hotel will not serve any food in the lawn. It makes sense, otherwise the monkeys could become a complete nuisance. or the other way round, we could be a complete nuisance for the monkeys.
Overall, I will stay with them again for their location and safe feeling I had with them. After all it was only Chhavi and I who were staying with them and it is not so common in India. The entire staff never showed any undue curiosity and when we were walking off they told us, “do come again ma’am and stay with us.”
I was happy Chhavi didn’t color any linen or bed sheets this time! When I would ask her not to do something in the park the staff would always side with her. They would tell me to relax and let her run free. The hotel has the highest occupancy rate on Saturday and by Monday there were only three other people than us! I didn’t get the Sunday Shatabdi tickets, so I had to stay till Monday. With Hindsight it was good, I could happily stay one more day at Sariska!