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 which protects Bharatpur from the 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 nesting of resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. According to 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).
This unplanned visit to Keoladeo was wonderful and we were really glad to have had the chance to go there during the winter season when all the migratory birds were in residence. For once were pleased that our train was running late!