Friday, July 28, 2017

Travel: Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary- Bird's Paradise

Keoladeo Ghana National park or the better known Bharatpur Bird sanctuary is as good a heaven for birds as it is for birdwatchers.  Thanks to almost no rainfall this season both were missing from this spectacular natures abode as we planned an almost sudden trip to Bharatpur.

On Friday night we looked around for places in an around Aligarh for a much needed weekend break. Just before we fell for Delhi (yuk again!!) Google baba enlightened us with a 110km far sanctuary. It was non-other than  Bharatpur , the one  we all might have marked as red dot in school geography Atlas book. By 8 am next morning  me and my spouse hit the road and by 11 am we were in Bharatpur.  We checked in a government guest house and allowed our lethargic body to compensate for a lesser morning sleep.

Bharatpur is a small district in Rajasthan and shares border with Mathura and Agra in Uttar Pradesh. It is well connected by road and rail networks. Nearest airports  are in Delhi and Jaipur, both roughly  180 km away by road and is accessible within 3 to 4 hrs of road journey.  From Agra it takes around 1.5 hr via a four laned highway and from Mathura around 40 minutes via a two lane highway . It is also part of the itinerary on the much acclaimed Indian Railways Palace on Wheels (

The official  website of Rajasthan Tourism ( boasts  numerous sites to visit in and around Bharatpur. But trust me none of them can compete with the aura of the National Park. I would rather suggest not to waste time in other average locations labeled as tourist spots and better spend as much time as possible inside the national park.
In our case we googled several such locations on our way to Bharatpur. So on Saturday afternoon we headed for Lohagarh fort. It was beautiful, but only in google images. The actual fort was dilapidated and  was crying for restoration. Well built concrete houses plagued the inside of fortress and it never matched either to our expectations nor to the website descriptions. A museum was under renovation or may be under construction. The guard at the gate was polite enough to inform us about its closure even before we stepped out of the vehicle. Thus, we were also denied the selfie-moment with the museum.

Having suffered two blows to our plan in two successive steps we abandoned other alleged tourist spots and headed for the place Bharatpur is known for- the bird sanctuary.
It was 3 pm when we arrived at the entrance of the national park. A long straight road surrounded on either side by vast open green field and trees welcomed us. We knew we are at the right place.

The sanctuary or Keoladeo Ghana national park is 6 km away from railway station and has several hotels ranging from high to low budget near to the main entrance. It is a vast stretch (appx 29 sqkm)of man made wet land, a world heritage site and literally Mecca for bird watchers. Our guide informed us that it receives an average daily  footfall of 4000 visitors during winters i.e from November to February. Although winter is the peak season for migratory birds and so for tourists but the beauty of this national park can be relished throughout the year.

The park is opened from sunrise to sunset. Per person ticket charges is Rs 75 for Indian Nationals. It is advisable for first time visitors to hire a guide for few hours and then roam around at will. Guide charges are Rs 150 per hour. Hiring time starts from the time printed on entrance ticket and half an hour is charged as a complete hour. Or you can hire a hand-pull Rickshaw without a guide for Rs 100 per hour. The best way to explore the wilderness is on rented bicycles @ 40 per/day.

So did we and never regretted a minute spent inside the park riding our way through. As sun played
 hide and seek with cloud we pedaled at a brisk pace on a narrow paved road. As far as our sight could reach the land was covered in a green blanket. We sat near a watchtower for over an hour and  breathed  silence of the nature. The atmosphere was a perfect tranquilizer from the mundane din of cities. One could not resist feeling as if lying in the lap of mother nature.

At one place several  Jamun trees (Indian blackberry) are lined up on both sides along the road. After parking  our bicycles I tried justifying  the extraordinarily priced DSLR camera with below ordinary shots. As I explored the wilderness my spouse explored Jamun trees. While the market rate of Jamun was Rs 100/kg we enjoyed the deliciously tasty Jamuns for free.

Our guide never missed a chance to impress us with his knowledge of english names of birds. Pelicans, cranes, wild ducks, bee-eaters, warblers and what not-he churned out several names as we moved on.  May be that was his warm up before the tourist season. One could easily spot Nil gai, monkeys, Reindeer , jackal as well.

The sanctuary is named after an ancient Shiva temple ‘Keoladeo’ located  at the end of the straight paved road. The temple is appx. 6 km from the entrance so to and fro ride is around 12 kms. In between there are several nature trails ( unpaved natural paths) which may take you further  deep into the sanctuary. If you go by a bicycle such trails are highly recommended.  A government run canteen is present near the entrance and one near the temple. And if you are lucky the canteen might be open as well. So don’t expect any eateries inside rather carry in your food and water and do carry out empty wrappers and bottles. Few hotels deliver packed lunch inside the park for which it is better to talk to your guide or the hotel you have stayed in.

Keoladeo Shiv Temple

As is customary in all temples that are labeled ‘praachin’(ancient), the priest assured us that all our wishes will come true here. I made none, my spouse made a dozen and the priest  stood in anticipation. Not for our wishes to come true but for our wallets to come out. We made some offerings which if not impressed Lord Shiva then it definitely impressed the priest. At the end of the tour we all were happy – me, my spouse, the priest and Keoladeo.

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