Sarus Cranes - the symbol of keoladeo
Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary is a 28.73 sq km lake and wetland; artificially created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur in the 19th century to shoot wild fowl. Now, no longer wet following 3 long years of drought, it still retains some birds.
We were warned ahead of our journey that the park was dry and desolate, but we still wanted to see it ourselves. Our trip was all of one day. We intended to take two trips into the park, but finally could make just one.
The park is open 6:30 am - 5:00 pm in winter. We arrived in Bharatpur around 11:30 am and after a wonderful rajasthani lunch, set off from the hotel at around 1:30pm
Brahminy Duck Pair
No motorized vehicles are allowed inside the park, the safaris are taken by cycle rickshaw. The rickshaw driver doubles up as a guide. Each cycle rickshaw seats 2 and the drivers are to be paid by the hour (Rs 50 / hr). Ticket for entry to the park is Rs.25 per head, the guide will purchase the same for you. The guides speak broken English and are fluent in Hindi. Cycles are available for hire as well. One can also go into the park by ones self on foot.
White Cheeked Bulbul
We were told that since the bird population of Bharatpur has come down considerably in the last 3 yrs, the Forest Dept is now allowing small excursions to see the pythons of Bharatpur. For this, the guides take you to a sight point where forest officials will lead you down a confusing pathway through the forest to where the pythons can be found. We were lucky to see one basking outside and a glimpse of the 2nd emerging from its hole.
After about 30 minutes of slow riding through the park, the bird population becomes slowly visible. Magpie Robins are extremely friendly to photographers and one pair actually came down to eye level about 4 feet from me to give me a better photo.
Magpie Robin (F)
Brahminy starlings are visible easily and are also very friendly, sitting patiently on dead trees.
The guides stop near a gate and the tourists are told to explore on foot along a walking track. Here some water birds can be seen, since water is now pumped by the forest dept to make up for the lack of rains. When the water level is high enough, boating is allowed there.
We saw a lone black stork, who simply refused to turn around for photographs, as well as a pair of brahminy ducks. At certain points, we are allowed to get off the cycle and walk into the forest for a small distance, to take photos.
At the end of the road, there is a forest guest house and a small canteen and basic
What I liked:
Our guide Bhajan Singh, an elderly man was excellent and extremely enthusiastic. We would recommend him. The cycle rickshaws are the best way to see the park, since without the keen eyes of the guide, one would miss out on many birds.
What I disliked:
A large number of students and locals were in the park, making a nuisance of themselves. It is extremely sad that the authorities could do little to curb this menace. They littered and sang songs, some climbed trees and shouted at the top of their voices. A group of youngsters sat around smoking.
There are practically no boards on the highway indicating the presence of the park, instead are huge photos of various politicians. One may need to stop and ask for directions.
The park is located 176 kms from Delhi; we reached Bharatpur from Mathura in around 1.5 hrs via a wonderful, very scenic road. Surprisingly, a large number of birds can be spotted along this road.
Park is around 20 minutes away from the Bharatpur railway station.
Bird Sightings (along the highway)
Rose Ringed Parakeets
Black Winged Kite
We stayed at Birders’s Inn, just 200 meters away from the bird reserve. The accomodation options at Bharatpur are rather limited. We decided against the Laxmi Vilas Palace since it was expensive to stay there for just one night.
The rooms were wonderfully furnished and very spacious. Service was pleasant, but required constant reminders. Our compliments to their chef, food was exceptional!
We were happy except for the non availability of hot water in the mornings or for that matter for any other time of day.
Birder's Inn houses a small souvenir shop in its restaurant.
Car hire (Mathura -> Bharatpur + Mathura-Agra round trip) - Rs.2200
Safari charges + tip ( 2 rickshaws for 4 hours) - Rs. 500
Ticket to enter park - Rs. 75
Birder's Inn (24 hrs, all meals included) - Rs. 4045
Rose Ringed Parakeets
Magpie Robin ( M & F)
Rufus Tree Pie (Several)
Brahminy Starling (Several)
Pied Myna (flocks)
Sarus Cranes (One Pair)
Brahminy Ducks (One Pair)
Painted Storks ( in flight )
Black Necked Stork (one)
Lesser Flame back woodpecker (one)
Mahratta Woodpecker (2)
Jungle Babbler (several)
Black Winged Kite (1)
Collared Scops Owl (4)
Spotted owlet (1)
White Breasted Kingfisher (2)
White Cheeked Bulbul (Yellow vented) – (1)
White Breasted Water hen
Indian Moor hen
Red vented Bulbul (several)
Wire Tailed Swallow
Large Pied Wagtails
Yellow footed Green Pigeon
Little Brown Doves (several)
Purple Sun bird (eclipse male)
Weaver Bird nests ( didn’t see the birds)
Red wattled Lapwing
Reptiles and Amphibians
Tortoise like creature, seen in the water
Note: More photos can be seen at Flickr
PS: Thanks to my Dad for lending his python to me for this blog