Another day, another journey into the wilderness but this time armed with something comfortable yet loud.
Like every episode of Into the Wild, we begin this one in a concrete jungle. Not just any concrete jungle but the capital city of Delhi, and let me tell you, it’s wild out there, folks! With traffic that can stampede you, pollution that could kill you and road rage that could leave you injured. It’s a jungle of its kind, so it’s ironic that to escape our jungle and daily hunt for success, we run off into the wilderness in search of some calmness in serenity. Keeping those sentiments in mind, I once again grabbed the keys of a Hyundai and headed into the biodiverse state of Rajasthan. Whoes wildlife ranks in as much tourism as the palaces of those that once hunted them? So off we went on a long, nearly 500 km long drive to Sariska Tiger Reserve in the all-new Hyundai Venue N Line. This journey was going to be long, but no one said it didn’t have to be fun.
So off we went, headed towards Jaipur, the pink city. It’s also the capital and the largest city located in the state of Rajasthan. It's got many names, like the pink city, thanks to the common shade of pink found on buildings and structures. The pink has started to look more peachy than pink, and it’s about time it got a little touch-up. Jaipur was founded in 1727 by the Kachhwaha Rajput ruler Jai Singh, who was the ruler of Amer, after whom the city was named. The city is a feast for the eyes if you’re into architecture, and watching daily streets whizz past beautiful forts, structures, and palaces is a feast for the eyes. So we stopped for a quick bite and a little bit of a shopping spree inside the dense markets of Jaipur
After a quick stop, we headed to the district of Alwar, where we shall make our way to Sariska. Now a bit more about Sariska Tiger Reserve. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1958 and was given the status of a tiger reserve in 1978, making it a part of India’s Project Tiger. The project aims at rehabilitating Tigers and ensuring their population grows, and the biodiversity can be maintained. Sariska is the first reserve in the world that successfully relocated tigers. The dense forests were home to varying degrees of terrain and many different species. The reserve boasted about 28 tigers, 150 leopards, over 250 species of birds, and a host of other animals, such as jackals, hyenas, and various types of deer and rodents. Despite all this biodiversity, most remained out of sight and used the dense greenery as cover.
The road to Sariska was a rather enjoyable one, with the majority of it being on endless highways, and it was only when you made it to Alwar that you were greeted with a series of hairpins and corners, which were instead run to tackle in the Venue N Line. The 1.0-litre 3-cylinder packed under the hood made a healthy 118 bhp of power and 172 Nm of torque. Paired with a quick DCT and the light weight of the Venue meant, this compact SUV went bonkers around these turns. The peppy exhaust would backfire, pop and crackle, and bring the hills to life. Even in Eco-mode, this little SUV didn’t lose its sense of fun and would continue to pop each time you let off the gas. It made this SUV so much fun that I was left giggling or smiling each time I got on or off the gas.
Once we made it to the gate of Sariska, we thought it would be better to leave the Venue behind, given its bassy exhaust. We didn’t want to scare the animals and also thought the safari cars were something they were more familiar with seeing. So we parked outside, hopped in a van and headed straight into the wild. I lost count of the number of peacocks I saw along my way in, and their voice echoed across the woods. Watching a peacock perform a mating dance is an experience truly worth having as it spreads its wings and strikingly showcases its iridescent shades.
Further into the woods, we saw a couple of Sambar Deers, known to be a tiger’s favourite snack, and a couple of little spotted deer. Yet no sign of a tiger, let alone jackals or hyenas. Now during these hot summer days, tigers generally don’t venture out unless they plan on swimming to cool off or are on the prowl for prey. Disappointed that we couldn’t see a tiger, we began to head back, only to be interrupted by a roar in the distance that echoed across the valley we were in.
Quickly we grabbed our cameras and headed closer to the site from which the roar originated, and waiting for us across the river stood a 3-year-old tigress. She was out and about on the hunt when she caught the scent of a male tiger and began catcalling. She walked across the trail and sprayed her scent on leaves and trees for any other tiger to discover. It was indeed a sight to behold, as even though a tigress is smaller, this one was still large enough to take down anyone I could think of. She gently walked across the safari vans with zero fear or worry and continued about her excellent work of marking up her territory.
Tigers generally hunt at dusk or dawn, so it was unexpected for us to come across one around late afternoon for a stroll. We followed her for a couple of minutes and eventually stopped to avoid disturbing the elegant animal from her duties. Unlike Lions, Tigers are solitary creatures and only stay together for procreation or when they’re cubs. Once they reach a mature age, they venture off to find their territory or challenge an older tiger for theirs. This is why spotting a tiger can be incredibly challenging and not as easy as one may think. With our sights content catching a good glimpse of such a majestic being, we headed back, knowing our journey into the wild was fruitful.