Keoladeo Ghana Park

Amongst India’s premier wildlife sanctuaries is the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, on the border between the states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Formally known as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, it’s a marshy area, stretching over 29 sq km of kadam forests, grasslands and shallow lakes. Created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur in the 19th century by diverting water from an irrigation canal, Keoladeo was founded as a shooting preserve, but given the status of a bird sanctuary in 1956. Upgraded to a national park in 1982, the area today ranks as one of the best water bird preserves in the world- and it’s a World Heritage Site.

Keoladeo Ghana, Bharatpur harbours some of India’s richest birdlife, including the gorgeous shocking-pink tinted painted stork, several species of cormorants, egrets, pelicans, ibises, cranes, ducks and geese. One can see over 350 species of birds, both native as well as migratory. Among the latter, the highly endangered Siberian Cranes, which come to nest in winter, are the rarest. Bharatpur is the Siberian Crane’s only known wintering ground in India; at last count, only 2 cranes nested at the park, definitely a cause for worry.

In addition to the birds, Keoladeo is home to a wide range of mammal and reptile species, including deer, jackals, blackbuck, fishing cats, otters and blue bulls.

Entry Requirements

All visitors to Keoladeo Ghana, Bharatpur need to obtain an entry permit from the Warden or Ranger at the entrance to the park. Foreigners need to pay an entry fee of Rs 200; Indians pay Rs 25. Extra charges are levied for cameras and photographic equipment.

Access

Keoladeo Ghana is situated just two km from the town of Bharatpur, which is connected by train and road to Delhi (176 km away) and Agra (50 km away). There are regular buses plying to Bharatpur from Delhi, Agra, and other cities, and taxis can also be hired to do the trip. Within the park, walking or cycling is easily the best way of seeing Keoladeo’s fabulous range of avian life. Taxis or private vehicles, however, are allowed into the park and can be used. The forest department also operates mini buses and boats within the park.

If you decide to pedal through the sanctuary, cycles can be hired at the entrance to Keoladeo; a map of the park’s walking trails can be obtained from the reception counter at the entrance.

Best time to visit

Keoladeo Ghana Bharatpur is open throughout the year for visitors, although winter is definitely the best time to visit. Summers are too hot and monsoons too wet for comfort, but the months between October and February are very suitable for a trip. Besides the fact that the weather’s good at this time, the park’s migratory birds arrive during the winter.

Accommodation and other facilities

Fortunately for tourists, accommodation is not a problem in Bharatpur. The town (not the park) has a number of guest houses, forest lodges and hotels, including some luxurious heritage properties. Besides the accommodation in the town, there are two forest lodges and two restaurants within the park. The restaurants are however, extremely basic and it’s advisable to bring your own food if you plan to spend the entire day within the park.

Accommodation tariffs range from anywhere between Rs 50 for a fairly bare-bones room in one of the forest lodges, to up to Rs 3500 for a room in the Laxmi Vilas Palace resort. Realistic prices for a comfortable if not luxurious room would be about Rs 200- 400 per night.

Further information on Keoladeo Ghana can be obtained from the Deputy Chief Wildlife Warden at the Forest Rest House (Tel: 22777).