BHARATPUR BIRD SANCTUARY / Keoladeo National Park by Smiitaa Chatterjee
Bharatpur is heaven for birders, especially for beginners as birds are so near and so friendly that they do not fly away. But, even expert birders who have been there so many times, prefer to go there again and again for its beauty. Bharatpur's landscapes can not beat any other birding sites. I am sure, as a bird photographer, you will definitely get something new every time you visit Bharatpur.
Where is Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary :
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is in the state of Rajasthan. It can be reached by train or flight.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary from Delhi :
Nearest airports are Delhi (approx.200 kms) and Agra (approx.55 kms). And you can take a bus from Delhi/Agra to Bharatpur. If you are coming by train, then you can get down at Bharatpur Railway station and take a cab or a car to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Keoladeo National Park.
As we were travelling from Mumbai, the Rail journey was the best and easiest way we found to travel. And, I love train journeys where I can see lovely landscapes moving like a film. We took a train from Borivali, and got down at Bharatpur Railway Station which took around 15 hours. And, then we took a cab to Keoladeo National Park gate.
Where to Stay in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary:
There is one forest guest house inside the sanctuary. There are few stays inside the Sanctuary. But there are many hotels nearby outside the Sanctuary. Try to book a hotel or guest house inside the sanctuary in advance, as the experience will be totally different. If you stay outside the sanctuary, then, you will spend 15 to 20 minutes coming and going. And, the most important is, you will have to go through the chaos of traffic, noise pollution and air pollution. Whereas, if you stay inside the forest, you will not hear any noise other than peacocks, jackals, and other birds. We were very fortunate to get accommodation in a prestigious forest guest house. We reached there in the late evening so it was already getting dark. After having dinner, we slept off and I woke up with the horrifying noises of the people crying loudly just outside our room. After some time when I was back in my senses, I realized that they were not people but jackals. It really scared me. But this became routine for our next four days stay. We were also very lucky to get one of the most knowledgeable guides of Keoladeo National Park, i.e. Chhotu Afjal Khan, the son of the best and well-known birder Bholu Abrar Khan. Chhotu is very sincere in his work.
Hotels near Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary:
Hotel Eagle’s Nest, Hotel Sunbird, Sanctuary Tourist Lodge, Hotel Park Regency The next day early morning, we hired a rickshaw and started our birding. It was February and it was foggy all around. The mist was making the whole landscape heaven. And, the chill breeze was making us shiver.
There are small cute roads which go inside the park. Tell your rickshaw driver to stop wherever you find some birds. There are water bodies all around. So mostly you will get water birds – locals as well as migratory. Photographing these birds in the misty landscape is an experience. And, as the day passes, fog will start disappearing and you will also get crispy clear images of birds.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary Timings:
It is open from sunrise to sunset i.e. around 6 am to 6 pm. It varies a bit in summer and winter. We used to leave early in the morning for birding, have breakfast at a designated place for it, and roam around till late noon. Then, we used to have lunch in the forest guest house, take a short rest or save your pictures in your laptop and again start in the evening till the light goes off. So, while the sun is setting, you will get amazing shots of some raptors sitting on a branch with the huge sun behind it. It was my dream shot. Keep a watch for such a shot.
On the 2nd day, we realised that bicycling will be more fun. And, for the rest of the days, we rented bicycles. It was more fun and more convenient. We used to stop wherever we wanted. One morning, I stopped at a very amazing view. As it was very cold, 4-6 bee-eaters were sitting sticking to each other. Keep a watch, you also might find one.
Best time to visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary :
The best time to visit Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is from November to February because this is the time when many migratory birds come here. You will get to see different activities of birds like breeding and birds with their small babies. Do not miss seeing darters fishing in the lakes near Keoladeo Temple.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary Birds :
Species you will get to see are storks, ducks, geese, Egrets, raptors, cranes, pelicans, bee-eaters, parakeets, cormorants, herons, yellow-footed green pigeons, and many more. There are also forest birds here. We got a few forest birds including Bluethroat. Ask your guide to take you to the Python spot. And, if you are an owl lover, then there are cute jungle owlets, too.
It was already four days and we took full advantage of staying inside the forest. We were roaming out almost all day. And, still, it was not enough. We did not want to come back to civilization. We had to leave with the memories of these feathered beauties.
About Smiitaa Chatterjee
Smiitaa is a trekker and an artist by heart.
Smiitaa wanted to capture memories of wherever she treks or travels and that is how she started photography. She started photography in 2002 with Nikon Film SLR Camera F65. After using it for almost 8-9 years, she switched to DSLR. After being into Landscape photography till 2015, she also added bird photography and Macro Photography, which she is enjoying the most now. One of her works found place in the Alliance Francaise 2012 calendar on ‘Women’s Planet’.
She worked in a reputed Bank for 24 years and then resigned to continue her passion of trekking and travelling. She has been trekking in Sahyadris and Himalayas since 1991. She also leads groups to the Himalayas. She has done many Himalayan expeditions including Lamkhaga Pass, Everest Base Camp (twice) etc.
She is Black Belt in Shotokan Karate. She went through rigorous training for 14 years. She also learned Hindustani Classical Tabla for more than 6-7 years.
Numerology and Paintings are her professions now.
Smiitaa leads the Wildlife and Trekking tours for SIA Photography.
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