Winter is the best time to explore the places around Delhi because the weather is perfect for outdoor activities. I was looking for a short trip from Delhi and decided to visit the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. There are some other interesting places to visit in Bharatpur and surrounding areas. As I mentioned in my previous post that we visited Fatehpur Sikri before going Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary from Delhi. It is 220 Km from Delhi, the capital of India. Bharatpur is in Rajasthan and shares its border with Uttar Pradesh. Though the name Bharatpur bird sanctuary is more popular, its official name is Keoladeo National Park.
History of the Bharatpur bird sanctuary
Raja Suraj Mal constructed the “Ajan Bund” (Bund is also known as Teras/Barriers) sometime between 1726 to 1763 in the princely state of Bharatpur. The Ajan Bund is a 3270-hectare impoundment located near Keoladeo bird sanctuary in Bharatpur. The main purpose of Bund was to supply water to the moat around the Lohagarh fort. There was no bird sanctuary at that time and it was built later on.
Maharaja Ramsingh conceptualized the idea of developing Keoladeo swamp into a duck shooting spot after he visited England. He saw duck shooting spots in England and decided to develop the Keoladeo swamp into duck shooting spots. The area was developed between 1893 to 1900 into a bird park. It was formally inaugurated on 1st December 1902 by Viceroy Lord Curzon. Keoladeo swamp remained an active duck shooting spot between 1902 to 1946 and around 2000,000 ducks were bagged in this period.
The Keoladeo swamp was officially taken over by the Rajasthan government in 1956 from the rulers of Bharatpur. The royal family continued to organize duck shooting events till 1972. This practice was stopped when the wildlife protection act implemented all over India in 1972.
In 1981 Keoladeo became the first wetland to be declared a national park. In 1985 Keoladeo national park is declared a world heritage site by UNESCO for its unique ecological values and diversity.
The name Keoladeo national park is derived from the local deity “Keoladeo”, who is considered a form of Lord Shiva. There is a small temple inside the park and it is believed that the temple is at this place from ancient times.
The area where Keoladeo bird sanctuary was also known as “Ghana”, which means dense forest.
The Keoladeo/Bharatpur bird sanctuary is spread in 29 square kilometers and located at the confluence of Gambhir & Banganga rivers. These two rivers are tributaries of river Yamuna. The ecology and environment of this national park is the best place for terrestrial, semi and aquatic wildlife.
Several earthen dikes form a system of freshwater marshes in the sanctuary. In monsoon, these swamps fill with water from Ghana and Jatoli canal which draw water drawn from Ajan Bund, Goverdhan drain and Chambal Dholpur drinking water project.
The water supply system of the Bharatpur bird sanctuary is very unique. The water is controlled into the sanctuary by sluice gates at strategically important points in the canals. During monsoon time all the areas in sanctuary overflow with water within six to eight weeks. The excess water passes through Jatoli village outside the Keoladeo national park and then into flood control drains of Bharatpur city. The water in the park remains until it naturally dries in summer months.
Birds in the Bharatpur bird sanctuary
Since we went at the beginning of the winter season so we saw many migratory birds at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.
To name a few – Cranes, Geese, Ducks, Eagles, Hawks, Wagtails, Warblers, Wheatears, Flycatchers, Buntings, Larks, Bar-headed Geese from Tibet & China and the Grey-lag Geese from Siberia. The park is an excellent breeding site for the Painted Stork, Purple Heron, White Ibis, and Eurasian Spoonbill. Few famous migratory birds are Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, Common Coot, Common Pochard, Common Crane, and Sociable Lapwing.
Other than these we saw different species of kingfishers, Indian Dartar/snake bird, Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Bulbuls, Storks, Cranes, Eagles, Vultures, Rollers, Prinias, Warblers and so on.
Some of the local migrant birds are Ruddy Shelduck, Common Moorhen, Long-tailed Shrike, Purple Swamphen, Black-capped Kingfisher, Plum-headed Parakeet, European Roller, Ferruginous Pochard, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Yellow-legged Buttonquail, and Yellow Bittern.
The park has diverse habitats and it is home 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. You can see only some of them during one or two visits.
Along with that Sambal, Chital/spotted deer and Nilgai can be seen in the sanctuary.
Most of the Bharatpur bird sanctuary has the artificially managed marshes. The area is covered by medium-sized trees and shrubs.
The forest area in Keoladeo national park is dominated by Kalam or Kadam, Jamun, and babul. The open woodland is mostly babul with the Kandi and Ber plants.
Scrublands are dominated by Ber and Kair plants.
Best time to visit Bharatpur bird sanctuary / Keoladeo National Park
The park remains closed in May and June. The best time to visit the Bharatpur sanctuary depends upon the individual interest.
If you are interested in migratory birds than October to February is the best time to visit the sanctuary. There are abundant migratory birds. Moreover, the weather is nice and pleasant in the winter months during the day.
March to June is the best time to witness nesting and breeding of local birds. But it gets hot during the day as it is peak summertime.
If you are visiting between July to September then you can see the nesting and breeding of waterfowl. It is rainy/monsoon season so carry umbrella and raincoat. It is humid during the day but otherwise ok if you are in shade. The jungle is green after rains.
The best time to visit the Bharatpur bird sanctuary is around sunrise and sunset. In winter months you can see plenty of birds during the day also.
While in summers it is difficult to sight birds during the day as temperature hovers between 35 to 42 degrees Celsius. In monsoon season it is difficult to sight birds when its raining because they take shelter on dense trees and fly less.
Bharatpur bird sanctuary timings
The sanctuary remains open from sunrise to Sunset. Which is approximate –
6:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Summer)
6:30 AM – 5:00 PM (Winter)
Entry tickets for Bharatpur bird sanctuary
Tickets can be bought only at the ticket counter at the park’s gate.
Ticket for Indian travelers is 75 INR + taxes 16 INR = 91 INR
Ticket for foreign travelers is 500 INR
There is no ticket for still photography and camera. For a professional video camera, you have to take permission and pay separately.
The parking fee for a car is 50 INR and it is not allowed inside the park.
A professional guide charge 250 INR per hour for a group of 5 people. For a group of 10 or above guide fee is 400 INR per hour. It is mandatory to hire a guide if you are 10 or more people.
How to explore Keoladeo national park / Bharatpur bird sanctuary
If you have enough time and okay to walk than explore the park on foot. There is a main road in the park. Several dirt treks and paths connect with the road at various points. Some of these paths are exclusively for people on foot and go deep into the sanctuary.
If you are not comfortable walking due to some reason than there are few other options.
1. Rent a bicycle from the park.
They have plenty of bicycles which are suitable for men and women. The bicycle rental place is next to the ticket window. They charge 50 INR for 4 hours.
2. Hire a cycle rickshaw.
They charge 150 INR per hour and it can seat 2 people. The rickshaw pullers can double up as a guide and most of them have good knowledge of birds. Many of them have binoculars also. You can use their binoculars and pay them some amount in return.
3. Hire a Tonga.
It’s a horse cart and can seat 4 to 5 people. I am personally not in favor of it. One because I am not sure how the animal is treated and second it makes noise when horse gallop. A Tonga is available for 300 INR per hour.
4. Rent an Electra van.
Sanctuary has 2 electric vans in the park but you have to make a booking online. This van can accommodate 4 to 5 people. The van rental 300 INR per hour with the driver. It is too fast to explore the park even though it stops at several places in the sanctuary.
5. If you want to further explore the water bodies of the sanctuary than go for boating. It is also available inside the sanctuary and costs 75 INR per person per hour.
My experience of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary Safari/ Keoladeo National Park Safari
We traveled from Delhi to Fatehpur Sikri and then went to Bharatpur. We arrived in Bharatpur by afternoon and decided to visit the sanctuary the same day before sunset. Before visiting sanctuary we explored a couple of interesting places in Bharatpur.
The main gate of the sanctuary is on national highway 21. I traveled with 4 of my friends and we decided to rent bicycles as well as rickshaws. Since sunset was approaching so we had only a couple of hours in the sanctuary. We saw a few birds in the park because of limited time.
Like most of the rickshaw pullers, ours was also quite enthusiastic to show us birds. He first took us to a tall tree on the right side of the road, it is an Owls home. He was sitting rather sleeping in the hole of the tree when we stopped there. It was one of the easiest spottings because the owl was sitting quietly. Our rickshaw pullers made some strange noise to wake him up so that he can open his eyes. As soon as we realized this we stopped him.
It was getting cold so we stopped at the first canteen for tea which is just before the second barricade and boating point. From there we went on the side road instead of going straight.
It was approaching sunset time and visibility was low, it was getting difficult to spot birds.
When we were returning we saw a spotted deer on the side of the road. He was trying to eat something from the soil and shrubs. He continued with his search for food even though he noticed us. Suddenly a big group of school children came and they started shouting when they saw the deer. Deer got scared and disappeared in the bushes.
We saw the sunset in the sanctuary before coming out. It was not a great sunset but better than the sunrise we saw the next morning.
According to our plan, we went to the sanctuary the next morning around sunrise time. We again rented bicycles and rickshaw. This time we walked a lot inside the park and used rickshaws as a backup.
There were lots of birds on the trees on side of the road, on the trees inside the swamps and the broken branches. It was much better than the day before and we spotted several birds.
We also went to the Salim Ali museum inside the park. There is a monkey temple where we saw lots of peacocks and peahens. Peacocks had shed their beautiful feathers so they were not looking very spectacular.
Fact – Peacocks shed their feathers every year after the monsoon season after mating. By summers they get new feathers and again start looking beautiful. Then they dance with full feathers spread to attract the peahens for mating.
We went to the last point of the sanctuary until the Keoladeo temple, watchtower and canteen.
Important things to know when visiting Bharatpur bird sanctuary
* Early mornings and late afternoons are the best time for bird spotting.
* Don’t speak loudly or shout if you see something. It will disturb the birds and they will fly away. Speak in low volume and never play any kind of music inside the park.
* The rates for the bicycle, Cycle rickshaw pullers and guides are fixed even though you pay them directly.
* Look for the signboards in the sanctuary. They have mentioned which bird is found in abundance in that area.
* You can buy books related to Keoladeo national park and birds from the bookstall near the ticket window/barricade.
* Don’t wear bright and fleshly clothes. It’s advisable to wear dull colors that blend with the surroundings and don’t stand out.
* There are two small canteens inside the park where you can buy tea, biscuits, potato wafers, Maggie noodles, etc.
* Carry a water bottle with you because it gets hot during the day. Also, carry a cap or hat to cover your head from the sun.
* It is slightly cooler in the mornings and evenings, so carry a Shawl or pullover with you.
* Don’t throw anything inside the park. If you consume something from the canteen and have to throw the wrappers then put it in designated dustbins. Infect carry an additional carry bag with you and collect wrappers/bottles in it to bring back.
* Don’t feed birds. Some of the birds are habitual of human and they come close. Spotted Deers also come close and walk around on the road, please maintain the distance.
* Don’t smoke inside the sanctuary.
* If you explore the sanctuary on the boat then always stay on the boat and never try to get down.
How to reach Bharatpur bird sanctuary Rajasthan
Bharatpur is very well connected with trains and buses from nearby cities and all other major cities in India. It is convenient to add a day for Bharatpur when you make a trip to Agra.
Agra to Bharatpur is 55 km.
Delhi to Bharatpur is 187 km.
Jaipur to Bharatpur is 180 km.
Bharatpur railway station has several trains from above mentioned three cities and other major cities in India.
Bharatpur is well connected with buses from most of the Indian cities. Rajasthan roadways buses have the best service for Bharatpur and if you are a woman than RTDC offers a 30% discount.
The nearest airport is in Delhi and Jaipur.
Best places to stay in Bharatpur
There are several categories of hotels to meet the demand for every kind of budget traveler.
We stayed in the Iora guest house which is around 1 km from the Keoladeo bird’s sanctuary. It is a small budget hotel with a limited number of rooms. The outer area of the guest house is tastefully decorated. They have a small kitchen where they prepare food on order. We had dinner and breakfast at the guest house. The food was good and value for money.
Bharatpur forest lodge is situated inside the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary at a distance of 1.5 km from the main entry gate. Due to its location, this lodge is undoubtedly the best place in the middle of nature.
Places to eat in Bharatpur
There is nothing spectacular about the food in Bharatpur. In the market, we found several sweet shops selling snacks and sweets. Since it’s Rajasthan, so we mostly found kachori and other traditional snacks.
It’s better to eat where you are staying.
Other places to visit in Bharatpur
There are several small temples in Bharatpur, which most of the travel guides recommend. Most of these temples are like any other temples in India. If you have time then visit these otherwise skip.
The most important and must-visit places in Bharatpur are the Lohagarh Fort and the Bharatpur Museum.
It is now mostly in ruins but the outer walls are still in good condition. The moat around the fort is filled with water though water is not clean. The market area around the fort is very congested and we experience the local culture.
This fort is one of the invincible forts of Rajasthan due to its design.
It is one of the most well-maintained buildings in the Bharatpur. The museum has very few artifacts from ancient times. We saw the clothes, weapons and other things used by the royal family. Other than these there are statues on display.
The most interesting thing about the museum is its building and architecture. The museum building has ground and first floor. From the upper floor of the museum, we saw the overview of Bharatpur.
These are some of the important facts & things to know before you visit Bharatpur and Keoladeo bird sanctuary.