An opportunistic visit to one of the best wildfowl sanctuaries in the World during its peak season
We headed into Rajasthan for the first time during our trip, our destination being the city of Bharatpur where we would catch our train for the two-hour journey to Ranthambore. On reaching Bharatpur we were met by the local representative of the tour company who told us that our train was running at least a couple of hours late.
He gave us a couple of options, one of which was to visit the close-by Keoladeo National Park.
Keoladeo National Park is a man-made and man-managed wetland that protects Bharatpur from frequent floods, provides grazing grounds for village cattle, and in earlier times was used as a waterfowl hunting ground. Unfortunately, there had been several years of drought, but due to the importance of the park water had been allowed to flow to the park from the local supply.
The 30km2 park is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps and wetlands providing habitats to 366 bird species, 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species, 7 turtle species, and a variety of other invertebrates.
Every year thousands of migratory waterfowl come to this park for wintering and breeding and we were lucky enough to be visiting during the prime time. The sanctuary is one of the richest bird areas in the world and is known for the nesting of resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. According to the founder of the World Wildlife Fund Peter Scott, Keoladeo National Park is one of the world’s best bird areas.
As our time was limited we hired a guide and a horse-drawn cart to take to the best viewing areas of the park. The long causeway that runs like a spine through Keoladeo is several miles long, so walking was not an option. Our guide was fantastic, and we made frequent stops along the way to see the wildlife and take some photos. For us the most exciting birds for us were the brightly coloured kingfishers, of which there were quite a few to see; this was a delight as I had never seen one in the wild before! We got to see two of the five types of kingfisher that are found in the park; the larger white-throated kingfisher and the smaller common kingfisher (which are also found in the UK but are rare).
In summary …
- Keoladeo National Park is definitely worth a trip and is easily accessible as a day trip from Agra or on the way from Agra towards Jaipur
- You should be able to see everything there within a couple of hours
Planning your visit
The nearest airport is situated at Agra, which is 56-kms from Bharatpur. Delhi is 184 Kms from Bharatpur. Regular rail services connect Bharatpur with all the major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Agra. The Bharatpur railway station is about 5 Kms from the park/bird sanctuary.
Best time to visit Keoladeo National Park
Keoladeo National Park can be visited any time of the year, as it is open throughout the year. August to November is the best time to visit it to spot the resident breeding birds, while October to February is when you can spot a variety of migrant birds. Some migratory birds, however, can also be spotted during March.
Where to stay?
1. IORA GUEST HOUSE
Situated a short walk away from the world-famous Keolaodeo National Park, Bharatpur, Iora Guesthouse is ideal for birdwatchers, photographers, and anyone who wants to visit this beautiful sanctuary.
Iora Guesthouse started operations in 2003 with two rooms, we now have a total of six large double-bed rooms with attached modern bathrooms and all basic amenities. Iora Guesthouse is registered with the Dept of Tourism, Govt. of Rajasthan. The guesthouse is managed by Devendra Singh. He is an guide cum naturalist approved by the Department of Tourism, State of Rajasthan and has been working as professional naturalist and photographic field guide since 2002. The same passion has led him to work in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh & Uttaranchal. He worked for five years with wildlife resorts of great repute in Bandhavgarh National Park & Jim Corbett as a resident Naturalist engaged in interpretative safaris & management of required logistics
2. IBISHOUSE FARM STAY
IbisHouse Farm Stay is located in the countryside, 3.5 km away from the Unesco World Heritage Keoladeo National Park entrance gate. Away from highway, 3 Big rooms with large comfortable beds & modern facilities are available, each one is very spacious, clean with attached bathrooms, big grass gardens, all rooms are facing to garden, At the farm, they grow their own organic season vegetable for guest. Delicious homemade vegetarian food is available upon request all the ingredients are freshly cooked. Its runs from common family, family lives in premises, which is safe for single travellers. The guest house has a warm welcoming friendly atmosphere. Services include daily housekeeping, hot water, press on request, laundry and pick up drop (chargeable).
3. LAXMI VILAS PALACE
Laxmi Vilas Palace is a reflection of the Royal heritage of Jat rulers. From a Royal Palace to a heritage hotel, Laxmi Vilas Palace has become a great attraction in the small town of Bharatpur. It is a premium heritage hotel just 1 kilometer away from Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. The hotel offers accommodation in two wings with 75 rooms divided into two categories- Classic Rooms and Royal suites. The rooms are spaciously steeped in heritage theme with all the basic modern amenities and attached bathroom. The spectacular restaurant and bar would be perfect for a wine and dine evening with your family. Enjoy the mouthwatering food with lavish drinks. One can also spend leisure time by poolside, in the courtyard with a cup of tea, in the lush green gardens, or by the snooker table.