A BRIEF HISTORY ABOUT BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY OR KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK
Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park, formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India is a famous avifauna sanctuary that hosts thousands of birds, especially during the winter season.
Over 230 species of birds are known to be resident. It is also a major tourist center with scores of ornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a World Heritage Site.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park (or Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) is a man-made and man-managed wetland and one of the national parks of India. The 29 km2 (11 sq. mi) reserve is locally known as Ghana and is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps, and wetlands. These diverse habitats are 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.
Every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the park for wintering and breeding. 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.[Source: Wikipedia]
WHY SHOULD YOU VISIT BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY OR KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK?
Facts aside, the beauty of the Bharatpur bird sanctuary can only be experienced. Whether it’s the light mist (or sometimes heavy fog) during the wintertime, the chirping of the birds, the magnificent sunrise, enormous colonies of birds, or mesmerizing sunset, there’s something magical about this place.
It leaves you wanting more. You would want to experience that closeness to nature as much as you can. There’s no rush, no irritating honks, no vehicle sound, no pollution, or no traffic which makes it for a peaceful visit.
Why A Tourist or a Nature Lover Should Visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary?
The Bharatpur bird sanctuary has a lot to offer for a casual tourist or a nature lover. It’s not just limited to birds; it hosts a whole lot of flora and fauna. You’d get to spend a good time with your beloved ones in this calm and serene nature the entire day.
Listening to the songs of nature is something all of us enjoy. With the hustle-bustle world that we are in today, it’ll provide you much-needed relaxation. Just a walk of few miles will rejuvenate your mind and soul.
The nature lovers will enjoy off-road walks/cycling to spend time alone. This off-road exploration often leads to some unique sightings like Sarus Cranes dancing or Spotted Little Owlets sun basking, etc.
Why A Photographer Should Visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary?
I think there’s no reason in the world why you wouldn’t visit Bharatpur bird sanctuary if you are a bird photographer? I mean it.
As you read at the beginning of this article, there are around 366 bird species. But the best part is that these birds are accustomed to humans. You can approach them safe and sound. You can achieve amazing results with a moderate focal length of 400mm.
Better yet, there are so many designated places in the park that allow you to get excellent viewpoints. Some places are truly beautiful to spend time witnessing Indian Darter fight, Sunrise point, Sunset point, Spotted Owlets, Sarus Cranes dance, etc.
Not to mention you’d meet plenty of other enthusiastic and professional photographers including some of the notable ones like Rathika Ramasamy, Sudhir Shivaram, to name a few. You might meet me as well! I have met my blog readers a couple of times, and I love it when I speak with them.
What do you say now? Do you still have any exception why shouldn’t visit Bharatpur bird sanctuary?
If you are concerned about the logistics part, language barrier, pain of booking everything, then you could consider attending my Bird Photography Workshop in Bharatpur bird sanctuary this December. I will not only show you the park and its beauty but also teach you bird photography in 5 days. You know how I teach. Don’t you? In my trademark style – Simple and Practical.
WHAT TO DO IN BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY OR KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK?
Here’re a few things that you can do while you are in Keoladeo National Park:
Modes of Transportation Inside the Park
There are 4 modes of transportation inside the park:
- Tonga (Horse Carriage)
Enjoy A Short Walk
The entire paved path inside the park is around 11 km. It’s exceptionally tiring if you consider walking. However, the first 5 km in the park, up to the canteen, is where you get to see most of the birds. So, you could consider walking if you are used to doing so. But, remember, it’s 5 km one way.
Enjoy A Bicycle Ride
Another option is to rent a bicycle, which is quite cheap, around INR 50 – 100 per day. It’s probably the most reasonable and enjoyable way of exploring the park if you are a loner. It would be quite enjoyable if you have a partner. This is the most suitable option for bird photographers with shorter/lighter equipment.
Embrace Nature By A Cycle-Rickshaw
For most tourists, and for bird photographers with heavy lenses, cycle-rickshaw is probably the best choice. It’s expensive but well worth the enjoyment you get. The park officials set Cycle-rickshaw charges to
INR 100 INR 150/- per hour (as on Jan 2019). The cycle-rickshaw pullers are as knowledgeable as the highly-priced guides, at least some of them. If you go in groups of more than 10 people, a guide is compulsory. The guide charges or INR 250 per hour, but I am not sure.
If you are thinking of renting a cycle-rickshaw, I strongly advise you to go with Gabru Ji (his actual name is Paramanand Ji). He is a real gem and my number-one choice. If he is not available, then ask for Beerender Ji–another great cycle-rickshaw puller with great knowledge about birds.
Note: In India, we use “Ji” in front of the name of a person to indicate respect. It’s similar to using Mr. in the English language.
You can reach Gubru Ji @ +91-9784375242 or +91-8561025524. And Beerender Ji @ +91-9784398911. They’ll take good care of you if you say you know me.
Enjoy A Family Ride in Tonga (or Horse Carriage)
One more option is to consider Tonga that’s charged at INR 150 per hour. It’s good for a big family. Also for the elders and kids who would like to enjoy the ride in nature. Or, for people in a rush. You can cover the park within very short time.
Notable Spots to Watch Birds/Mammals
Due to an immense number of bird photographers in the park, several notable places offer interesting opportunities.
There’s a Sunrise point at the beginning of the park, mostly became famous (I might be wrong) after I took my famous shot of Indian Peafowl against the rising Sun. While I was there for 15 straight days a couple of years back, no photographer would care to stop there. But, nowadays every tourist stop there. Thanks to our enthusiastic group of rickshaw-pullers who’d say to the visitors, “Sir/Madam, this is the famous Sunrise spot.” 🙂
Then there’s a Painted Stork Colony which is the major attraction in the park. They are in several hundred making it a pleasurable watch as they nest, breed, feed their young ones, etc.
Indian Darter’s fight is something of a challenge to bird photographers. Why? Because you never know when they’ll fight. That’s the beauty of nature photography, isn’t it? Nothing is under our control, except ourselves.
Then there are several places where you can photograph a variety of Ducks.
Photographing Sarus Cranes is a craze among the photographers. Why shouldn’t it be? They are the tallest flying birds in the world. Their synchronized call which reaches miles, the famous dance, the synchronized flight, togetherness, etc. there something magical about these creatures. There are a couple of places where you can spot them. But, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find them.
Then there is a variety of Herons & Egrets like Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Pond Heron, Little Green Heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, and Little Egret.
The Sunset Point is the most famous and crowded of all. It’s like going to a fair during the sunset time. There’s usually one of the bare trees that will give you the best sunset shots. Based on the season, you’ll know which bare tree yields the best result. Then it’s your luck if a bird, usually the Indian Darter, waits there till the Sunsets.
There is much more than I could jot down here in one article. The best way to experience the beauty is to go to the park. Spend a couple of days. Immerse yourself in nature.
I make sure that all my bird photography workshop participants get to spend considerable time at each of the above-said locations. And most importantly, be there at the right place at the right time when the action unfolds. That’s what experience is all about.
The gift center at the entrance of the park is a must-visit for everyone. It has a variety of books related to birds and mammals of India. Then they have a few T-shirts that are very cute and comes with the “Save Nature/Forest” theme. There are magnets, postcards, a small book containing the list of birds in the park, etc.
The only caveat is it opens at around 10 am and closes by 5 or 5:30 pm. Most tourists would get to visit it, but if you are a bird photographer, you cannot afford to be there during that time.
Tell me why?
Because you have to enter the park @ 6:30 am and exit only after the Sunset. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing bird photography?
“A passionate bird photographer would be the first to enter the park and the last to leave.”
Meet The Forest Officer
I know it may sound a bit odd to meet the forest officer. But, you’d be surprised if you do so. The current forest officer (in 2016) is Mr. Bijo Joy, who is a gem of a person. He and the former forest officers along with many others have put in a tremendous effort in maintaining the park. Last year (2015), Mr. Bijo along with Chotu Khan, who is another pioneer in this area, and others have removed around 35,000 Catfishes from the water. Did you know that catfish can swallow a pelican? They are a serious threat to water birds.
Hats off to their efforts in keeping the park in prime condition. Don’t they deserve to be thanked? I think they do. Mr. Bijo would never accept his contribution as something great, as he is very humble. We need more such people preserving our nature and wilderness.
Let’s all be thankful.
WHEN SHOULD YOU VISIT BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY OR KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK?
Winter is the best time to visit Keoladeo National Park or Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. The temperature during the winter is very pleasant with cool mornings/evenings and warmer (around 23 to 26 oC) during the day.
Don’t forget to carry warm clothes with you. An ear-covering cap (famously known as monkey cap) would be ideal. These are perfect for an early morning visit. You might want to carry a pair of gloves, especially if you are a photographer carrying a tripod. The tripod quickly catches a cold, making it tough to hold.
Best Season for Tourists & Nature Lovers
Tourists and nature lovers can visit the park anything between October and March.
Best Time to Visit for Bird Photographers
Bird photographers can visit the park in the month of December and February. These months have the best light and usually clear. Sometimes you might have light to thick mist giving you opportunities to create moody photographs. Also, there’ll be a wealth of migratory birds.
January is usually too foggy making it difficult to photograph. The fog might not clear until 12 noon! It’s that thick. The end of December could be the same at times. Check the weather, always.
November is a bit too early as there are not many migratory birds in the park. March, on the other hand, could be too late. Typically these months are not busy. If you don’t have a choice, you could visit during these months. March could be better than November.
WHERE TO STAY IN BHARATPUR?
There are plenty of choices to stay in. However, some are in pathetic condition. You got to choose based on affordability.
If you are on a budget, then here’re the 2 guest houses I have stayed.
If you are a bird photographer on a budget, this IS the place for you. It’s a birder’s haven, sort of. The best part is, it’s usually filled with bird photographers. After an exhilarating day’s shoot, it’s always great to meet up with other photographers and have a chat.
The proprietor, Devendra, himself is a passionate photographer. He can guide you in all aspects, be it about the park, cycle-rickshaw, nearby attractions, etc. His brother Jeethu is adorable and very helpful. His cook Koki prepares home food and makes sure that your demands are met.
It’s almost like a home if you stay there for a couple of days.
You can reach Devendra (usually called as Devender) @ +91-9828041294 or +91-9461643412. Don’t forget to book at least 3 or 5 months before your date of travel, because it will be booked completely during the season.
Guest House Website: http://www.ioraguesthouse.com/
I ended up going to Sanctuary Tourist Lodge due to unavailability in Iora. I was pleasantly surprised by the hospitality and the food here. Rajesh Avasthi Ji & his brother Avdhesh Avasthi Ji, the proprietors of this lodge, is an amazing person. He takes care of his customers very well and always on his toes to help.
The food here needs a very special mention. It’s exceptionally tasty. The pakoras here are to die for. All the days, we would ask for pakoras in the evening. The taste is as if it comes out of an assembly line – simply superb, always. Imagine eating hot pakoras sitting around a bonfire! It’s an awesome experience.
They have 2 new rooms on the first floor, and you would want to book those. The ground floor rooms are spacious and clean but are old.
You can reach Rajesh Avasthi Ji @ +91-9414942115 Or Avdhesh Avasthi Ji @ +91-9414208260.
Guest House Website: http://www.sanctuarytouristlodge.com/
Hotel Sunbird is probably the most lavish hotel in Bharatpur. The rooms are lavishly decorated, and there’s enormous space inside the hotel with beautiful landscaping. Everything about this hotel is luxurious whether it’s the rooms, hotel, food, landscaping, or lighting.
Laxman Singh Ji, one of the owners of the hotel Sunbird, is a nice gentleman. He’ll take care of your needs for booking a hotel, taxi, etc. You can reach him @ +91-9414209767.
Hotel Website: http://www.hotelsunbird.com/
I think more I go to Bharatpur more I realize that hotel owners are extremely polite and helpful. In other places, they are exceptionally rude. I have faced the problem almost everywhere in India.
PROXIMITY OF HOTELS FROM KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK GATE
One thing to note is Hotel Sunbird, Birder’s Inn, and Sanctuary Tourist Lodge is on the main road and in close proximity to the park gate. It’s a walkable distance. Whereas, Iora Guest House is a little bit inside. However, note that if you hire a cycle-rickshaw, they’ll come and pick you up from your lodge/guesthouse.
HOW TO REACH BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY OR KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK?
Now that you have decided to visit the Bharatpur bird sanctuary, you would want to know how to reach there. Alright.
The nearest airports to Bharatpur are New Delhi and Jaipur. Bharatpur is well connected by road from Delhi & Jaipur. It takes roughly about 3 hours from Jaipur and 4 or 5 hours from Delhi, depending on the traffic.
The taxi would cost around INR 4,000-5000/- from Jaipur and INR 5,000-6,000/- from Delhi.
I’d recommend you to talk to Bhupendra, who hails from Bharatpur. He owns a Swift Desize car and a very dependable person. You can reach him @ +91-9784395384 or +91-7610996611.
If Bhupendra is not available, you can contact Upendra Kumar who owns a Toyota Innova @ +91-9718367666 if you are coming from Delhi.
Bharatpur has a train station called Bharatpur Junction. You get trains from both Delhi and Jaipur. It’s the most economical way of travel. The cost is roughly INR 600 for A/C Chair Car from either direction.
You can get buses from both New Delhi and Jaipur to reach Bharatpur. I haven’t ever tried it. But, as the roads are in good condition, it’s another option to consider. It will work out economical, I suppose.
BHARATPUR BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP
I conduct a bird photography workshop in Bharatpur every year in winter months. If you are interested in joining my workshops, feel free to check out about my photography workshop this December (19-22nd December 2019).
I have been on a few Wildlife Photo trip with some experts but have to admit that the Trip with Prathap was by far the best. Being reasonably new to the DSLR world, Prathap makes the whole learning process very simple. The stress on Composition and exposure has helped me to improve my photographs a lot. Prathap is very patient, and even answers some of the silly questions that we beginners may ask. Thanks Prathap for the great trip to Bharatpur.
– Sridhar Sivaram from Mumbai.
…Three benefits that I find rewarding are Cost…I was amazed at the economical price of the [3-month] Mentorship Program considering the Mentor is likely one of the top Photographers in the world. Individual tutorship where the entire course dealt with my requirements. Preparation, I now feel fully prepared to turn what Prathap has taught me into some beautiful memoirs of Nature.
…Aside from being a Professional Photographer, Prathap possesses a wealth of knowledge that he so unselfishly is willing to teach and share with his students. As well, he is a very warm and patient individual, a joy to spend time with each week. In December 2016 will be attending one of his workshops in India, I look forward to meeting this great Gentleman.
– Joseph Facey, British Columbia Canada
I attended photography course at Bharatpur National Park with Prathap as my one on one mentor from 19 to 21 st Jan, 2016.
I arrived at Bharatpur on 18th Jan cold and foggy evng. But warmth of Prathap and friendly atmosphere and hot home food at Iora guest house made me feel very comfortable.
Next two days of intensive photography followed with Prathap keeping a close eye and giving useful tips. I learnt many useful techniques of using my camera followed my composition, habitat, bird portrait and action shots.
On the final day whole morning was spent very usefully on discussion about using lightroom and photoshop.
After three days with Prathap I am very confident that my photography will go to next level.
Also enjoyed Prathap’s very informal teaching while still keeping a very close eye on my shots.
– Dr. Ragu from Saudi Arabia.
SOME IMPORTANT POINTERS ABOUT BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY
Nearest Airports: New Delhi & Jaipur.
Nearest Railway Station: Bharatpur Junction.
Park Entry fee for Indians: INR 75/- per person.
Entry fee for Foreign Nationals: INR 500/- per person.
Video Camera Fee: There are different prices for the different types of cameras ranging from INR 600 (Handy cam) to 90,000 (Movie camera for films). You can check it at the park.
Bicycle Rent per day: Not sure. Maybe INR 50-100/-
Cycle-Rickshaw rent per hour: INR 150/- per hour.
Guide Charges: INR 250/- per hour.
Other Tourist Attraction in Bharatpur: Government Museum Bharatpur, Bankebihari Temple, Laxman Temple to name a few.
I look forward to your comments and your appreciation as always. It will be a double bonanza for both of us if you share my work. I feel this article deserves greater exposure. The more people see my work, the better exposure I get. Which is wonderful for any author. And your friends will thank you for sharing this information. There’s none like this. That’s wonderful for you.