If you are into bird photography, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary or Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a must visit! It is easily accessible from Delhi or Agra and you can take stunning pictures of birds there.
I had been to the Park earlier in winters of 2009 to see the migratory birds and got a chance to revisit in August 2016 to see the nesting bird colonies. Bharatpur can be reached by car, bus or train and can be done in a day or preferably with a one night stay. Since I went with Nikon photography group, I didn’t have the luxury to plan the trip. It was a day tour wherein we started from Gurgaon at 6am, reached the park at 11am and headed back at 6 pm and reached Gurgaon at midnight, breaking for lunch in between. Thus we got to capture birds during the evening but missed the morning action. I would perhaps plan a trip again soon with a night stay there to capture the early morning pictures.
Etymology of Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Keoladeo derives from the name of an ancient Hindu Shiva temple located at the center of the park. ‘Ghana’ means dense in Hindi, alluding to the thick forest which used to cover the area and is still thick as compared to the scanty vegetation around.
History of Bharatpur Bird Sactuary
Bharatpur used to be flooded every monsoon and hence Maharaja Suraj Mahal (1726- 63 AD) founder of Bharatpur, constructed a dam (Ajan Bandh) to save the town from floods. The Bharatpur Lake and small dykes were created around the dam which attracted migratory birds from different parts of the world. Like other national parks of princely India, this became the hunting preserve of the Bharatpur royalty as one of the best duck – hunting wetlands in the world.Hunting was prohibited by mid-60s and the area was declared a national park on 10th March 1982 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 1985.
Flora of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
The Park spread across an area of about 29 square km is a rich mosaic of wetlands, grasslands, woodland (dominated by babul, ber and kandi) and tropical dry deciduous trees (mainly Jamun and Kadam which serve as food for the monkeys).
Birds at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
The Park is home to more than 340 species of birds: both indigenous and migratory birds (from Siberia, China, Europe, Tibet etc.). Birds include Cormorant, Darter, Heron (purple, grey and night), various species of Egret (little, medium, large and cattle), Stork, (painted, open-billed, white necked and black necked), White Ibis, Spoonbill, Saras cranes, Pelicans, Geese, Ducks, Eagles, Hawks, Shanks, Stints, Wagtails, Warblers, Wheatears, Flycatchers, Buntings, Larks, Pipits etc.
Other Fauna of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
The Sanctuary also houses monkeys, Nilgai (blue bull), monitor lizards, snakes, wild boars, spotted deer, Sambar Deer, wild boar, porcupine, mongoose, jackals and hyenas.
Getting Around Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
- Cycle Rickshaws: In 1980s, cars were banned inside the park and only cycle rickshaws were allowed to leaves the birds undisturbed. The government trained the rickshaw drivers to act as guides ad they possess good knowledge about the birds and other flora and fauna of the park. My cycle rickshaw driver had good knowledge and was a keen spotter of birds. He has been in the park since 1987.
- Bicycles: Bicycles are available on rent at the gate. It is a good way to get around but you miss on the guides.
- Walking: One can walk around on set tracks but it could be tiring on a hot and sunny day.
- Boats: are available for hire during the peak season (Oct to Feb).
Best Time to Visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
The Park is open throughout the year; but the best months for visiting are:
- August to November for resident breeding birds and
- October to February for migratory birds.
How to Reach Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Bharatpur is easily reached by bus, train or cab. The Park is quite close to the bus stand and railway station. Bharatpur’s distance from major towns is as below:
- 60 km from Agra (about 2 hours)
- 240 km from Delhi (about 5 hours)
- 39 km from Mathura (about 1 hour)
- 184 km from Jaipur (about 3 hours)
Even though Bharatpur lies in Rajasthan, due to its proximity to Mathura, and Agra, it has stronger influence of Uttar Pradesh and even the language spoken here is Brij.
Temperatures range from 48°C in summers (April to June) to around 5°C in winters (Dec to Feb).
Places to Stay
There are several places to stay at Bharatpur, at close distance from the park. The only option to stay within the park is the forest lodge http://forestlodgebharatpur.com/tariff.html