Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is a World Heritage Site near the town of Bharatphur in Rajasthan. It’s been given this award by UNESCO because of its sheer wealth of birdlife.
The park was originally used as a shooting ground for the Maharajas of the country and for the ruling British officials when hunting was still allowed, with famous bird shoots killing thousands of wildfowl in a day. It was declared a protected bird sanctuary in 1971 and in 1982 local grazing rights were withdrawn.
Today the park occupies an area of roughly 29 sq. kms. and features a range of manmade wetlands and micro-habitats including low lying lands completely submerged in water, grasslands and dense tree growth, where the word Ghana locally means thicket.
The park is home to 364 bird species and the sheer number of birds in the park grows exponentially during the summer season when the migratory birds come to escape the harsh winters in their own home land and also to breed. The park very famously was one of the pet nesting grounds for the Siberian cranes during their yearly migration. Sadly their numbers have all but died over the years due to poaching and wars on their migratory route.
Apart from the manmade wetlands, the park is principally dry deciduous forest, mainly medium sized trees and shrubs. Most of the trees found here are kalam or kadam (Mitragyna parvifolia), jamun (Syzygium cumini) and babul (Acacia nilotica). It is also home to 50 fish species, thirteen snake, five lizard, seven amphibian, seven turtle and several other invertebrate species, making it a rich habitat in a dry state like Rajasthan.
The park, renowned as a bird-watcher’s paradise, is strategically located to receive thousands upon thousands of waterfowl that arrive here before travelling onto their breeding grounds. These include common teal, cotton teal, tufted duck, comb duck, little cormorant, great cormorant, Indian shag, Asian open-billed stork, oriental ibis, darter and the Sarus crane. The park is also an unparalleled breeding ground for herons, stalks and cormorants. Mammal species include the blue bull, spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, jackals, hyenas and also the rarely spotted Asian and Indian civets.
Bharatpur was founded by Maharaja Suraj Mal in 1733 and the beginning of the wetlands can be credited to him, too, as he ordered the building of the Ajan Dam that flooded the natural depression behind it. The sanctuary derives its present name, Keoladeo, from a Shiva temple inside its boundaries.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset all year round and sees almost 100,000 visitors every year. The visitors range from ornithologists to casual bird watchers and school children. The park entry fees are INR 250 for foreigners and INR 50 for Indians. Fees are also charged for video and still cameras. Vehicles are permitted to a distance of 1.7 kms. inside the park with fees of INR 100 per vehicle. However, walking, cycling and rickshaws are the most common ways of getting around the park. For those who wish to cycle around the park bicycles are available for hire at nominal rates. During the monsoon when the water levels are high, boats can also be hired along with a knowledgeable oarsman to take visitors around the marshes.
Rajasthan being a desert sees extremes in temperature during the winter and summer months. Temperatures during the day in summer can rise as high as 50 degrees Celsius and fall as low as 5 degrees Celsius during the nights in winter. However, temperatures during the day in winters are balmy.
Winter: Morning: 6.30 am to 5 pm
Summer: Morning: 6 am to 6 pm
Present prices for safaris
Cycle rickshaw: INR 50 (US$ 1) for 2 persons per hour. For the entire day INR 1,200 (US$ 20)
Horse cart (Tonga): INR 150 (US$ 2.5) for 6 persons per hour
Bicycles: INR 40 (US$ 0.5) for half day.
Park Entry fees: INR 50 (US$ 0.5) for Indians | INR 400 (US$ 6.6) for Foreign Nationals.
Guide fees: INR 200 (US$ 3)
How to book safaris:
Any restrictions and rules:
No camera fees.
For handycams – INR 400 (US$ 6.6)
For commercial movie camera – INR 6,000 (US$ 99) for Indian Nationals | INR 10,000 (INR 165) for Foreign Nationals
For feature film movie camera – INR 40,000 (US$ 661)
Latest information on tourism zones: Popular spots in Keoladeo National Park are the Keoladev temple, Manasarovar, Python point, Kadamb Kunj, and Keolahar.
Any new activities allowed:
Boating is permitted at INR 50 (US$ 0.5) per person per hour.
IN THE FIELD UPDATE
The eradication of catfish in Bharatpur is on the cards, as a non -native species of fish that is destroying the local species, and reducing the food available to the birds; sometimes, the fish even prey on small birds, this good news thus offers for the local ecosystem.
Although illegal hunting along the migratory path affects the numbers of the yearly migratory birds visiting Keoladeo, there is good news too, as thousands of monsoonal birds were reported to be breeding at Bharatpur’s Keoladeo National Park owing to the abundant availability of water from the Goverdhan drain project. This is a reversal of past trends where birds abandoned nests before their eggs hatched owing to shortage of food and water. Nests of painted storks, young ones of egrets, grey herons, spoonbills and cormorants were sighted across the park this year.
While the monsoon saw a record number of birds, the winter was a little disappointing and climate change is believed to be responsible. Apparently, the late onset of winter and unusually high temperatures delayed the arrival of winter migratory birds — pintail ducks, wigeons, garganey teals and pochards were spotted — and reduced the number of days the birds were seen at the park.