Not all us of know that there is a beautiful bird sanctuary just 3 hours ride from Delhi. Keoladeo National Park, as it is officially known, hosts thousands of rare and endangered species of birds.
Visiting Bharatpur was on my list for a long time but owing to the seasonal nature of the park, things were not falling in place. This winters, I had the opportunity to visit the national capital numerous times and on one such occasion, I was the there for the weekend as well. I wasted no time in planning the trip along with one of my partners in crime, Himanshu.
Bharatpur is well connected with Delhi. The nearest airport is Agra (56 km). It takes 4-5 hour drive to reach Bharatpur from Delhi and by train 4 hours of ride. Bharatpur railway station is just 6 km from the park.
Important points to note before planning the trip
- Best time to visit: October – March – At this time, weather is perfect and park is full with millions of birds flocking from Siberia
- Entry fee: For Indians: INR 75, and for Foreigners: INR 500
- Camera charges: There is no charge for taking a digital camera inside the park. The charge for a video camera is Rs 450 (Don’t worry DSLR comes in the category of digital camera)
- Mode of travel inside the park: You can either hire a cycle or rikshaw at nominal rate. Personal cycles are also allowed. Personal vehicles are not allowed inside the park
- Food: There is very high chance that you will be spending more than 4-6 hours inside the park, so it best to pack your lunch. There are couple of canteens inside the park which serves packed items – chips, bujiya, etc, tea and Maggie. Charges are nominal.
- Requirement of Guide: You can hire a guide from the gate or if you are taking a Rikshaw, your rikshaw wala will be knowledgeable enough to be your guide. They even carry binoculars.
Accommodation @ Bharatpur
I stayed at hotel Sonar Haweli. Decent place at walking distance from the Sanctuary gate. There are only two accommodation facility inside the park at Ashoka Forest Lodge and Shanti Kutir (Book here)
Travelling inside the park
We woke up at 5 AM and in next 5 mins were ready for bird watching as someone had told me that all cycles get rented out. Although it was not the case, I was very glad we started off early. Entry process is very smooth – buy entry ticket, select cycle, pay for it (FYI – All cycle are single gear old model from Atlas/Avon), show you pass at entry and start riding.
Once on cycle -रास्ते ही मंजिलें हैं :D. Don’t worry, there is absolutely no chance that you will get lost, although it might look so in the early morning. Not only did we spot morning birds, but also I got some amazing early morning shots – one of the reasons for my visit.
Once we crossed the second checkpoint, everything changed. There were swamps on the both sides and the road was covered with trees, forming a natural tunnel. We stopped wherever we spotted birds. Don’t ask me which one, we had not hired any guide – may be some other time.
The park is divided in four blocks and there are sufficient “You are here” maps to help you in the navigation inside the park. By the time we reached the other end of park – Keoladeo temple, we were hungry. Thankfully the canteen was open. After refreshing breakfast of chai-maggie and that too atop the watch tower, we embarked on our cycle to roam around the periphery of block 4 (mansarowar lake block). We spotted many Deer, Nilgai on the way. We even crossed Python point but could not spot any pythons. When we started riding, we overestimated our stamina (like always) and decided to cover all blocks one by one but we got so tried and hungry after covering just one block that we ate and slept in the open fields for an hour after another round of maggie.
When we woke up, sun was shining bright, the park was full of people and our body had simply given up. Unwillingly, we decided to call off the day. After another round of refreshing tea, we rode back to the gate.
Some final Dos and Don’ts
- Carry your own water – 2 liters per person – You can also buy from canteens inside the park
- Carry shades, sunscreen.
- Do carry a book to read – watch towers at some random corner are amazingly quiet with beautiful view.
- Food at Bharapur sucks – we tried everything – Panipuri, momo, chat, omelette, everything. Only silver lining was tea infront of the station.