Keoladeo National Park

Keoladeo Ghana National Park ( Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary)

The Biggest Bird Sanctuary of Rajasthan  is famous for its variety of national and international breed of birds. It is reported that it has more than 350 variety of species. Because of its exceptional avian biodiversity, in 1985 Keoladeo National Park was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Park Timings- 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM (winters)

2. Things to carry-

  1. Binoculars- if you don’t have one, you can hire it at the gate;
  2. Water bottle, edibles- there are two canteens inside the park but it’s better to have sufficient water and few edibles to sustain you through your stay in the park;
  3. Sun cap;
  4. Sports shoes- even if you are hiring a rickshaw, you may feel like walking for some distance in the park. So, don your sports shoes when visiting the park;
  5. Guide book on birds;
  6. non-bright, khaki or green colored dress is advisable.

3. Distance from Delhi- 200 Kms (4 hours by car)

Best Seasons To Visit-

The best season to visit the park is winters. As per some of the posts on the internet, you can visit even in Oct/Nov, but Dec-Jan is the time when the sanctuary will be overflowing with different species of migratory birds. We were advised to avoid Christmas and New Year’s eve as there is a huge rush at that time.


The forest lodge (erstwhile Hotel Bharatpur Ashok) inside the park is an option but we heard that it is not well maintained. There are few good options (Birder’s Inn, Hotel Sunbird etc.) on the NH (NH 11) around 200 mtrs before the main gate of the Park.

We stayed in Hotel Sunbird. It has rooms as well as 4-5 huts/cottages. We chose a hut. We also checked Birder’s Inn. That does not have the option of stay in huts/cottages. We got a better deal at Hotel Sunbird so we chose it but both are good options for stay.


The place used to be a duck hunting ground for Maharajas and then it got converted into a protected bird sanctuary and finally into a National Park. The park was earlier called Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary but now it is known as Keoladeo National Park. Please browse the internet to read more about the history of the park.


The park is named after the Shiv Temple, called Keoladeo, situated inside the park. It literally means ‘Keval Ek Dev – Mahadev’ (only one God i.e. Lord Shiva). The temple is situated at the other end of the gate where the road ends. The story told to us by the pujari of the temple goes like this. There was a milch cow of a villager. On one day when this cow returned in the evening after grazing in the jungle, its udders were found empty. This happened for several days in a row. The villagers were perplexed and decided to follow the cow to check if someone was milking it. They saw that the cow stopped near a banana tree in the jungle. The milk automatically started oozing out from its udders and she emptied her udder at the trunk of the banana tree. To solve the mystery, a group of the villagers started digging where the banana tree stood. After digging for some depth they came across a shivling. They kept digging further to discover the other end of the shivling but failed to do so. Tired, they gave up and realized that the shivling was a special one and miraculous. A temple was built around the shivling and the worship of the shivling started since then.

Road journey:

We took the Yamuna expressway till the exit for Mathura. The road to Mathura is a two lane narrow road. It becomes difficult to overtake if a truck is going ahead, so you will be driving at a slower speed for some distance. The road from Mathura to Bharatpur has some few bad patches of traffic where you will waste some time negotiating through the traffic. Overall, the road journey is comfortable. The other option is to take NH2.

Planning the visit to the Park:

There is a single road from the main gate to the other end of the park on which you have to traverse to cover the park. The road goes South from the gate for around 5.5 Km one way. There are few offshoots from this road which one can take to cover the two flanks of the park.

The area on both sides of the roads for the initial stretch of around 1.5 Km is a dry land. The dry land has bushes and small trees. The vegetations in the dry region provide food to the habitants. Further ahead are swamps artificially created by flooding the natural depression in the ground with water. On the east side of the road, the swamps have trees planted by the government to provide nesting places to birds. On the west side, the swamps have rice grass and very few trees. This side attracts birds which make floating nests at the surface of the water.

You have to travel on the road and have to keep looking for birds on both sides. A bird may appear nearer to the road or you may spot a bird far from the road, deep in the swamp. Birds might be hiding in bushes or tree branches. Some birds might be getting camouflaged in their surroundings. To clearly see a bird deep in the swamp, you will have to use binoculars. If you are not carrying one, it can be rented at the main gate for a reasonable price of 150-200 INR.

As per the reviews, early mornings and late afternoons are the best time to see the birds. These are also the best times for photography. It takes around 3-4 hours to leisurely cover the park for a person who has come to watch the birds for fun. There are serious bird watchers, professional photographers who spent 4-5 days visiting the park. But for a normal person like you and me, a trip of 3-4 hours in an evening and 3-4 hours in the morning will be good enough. In winters, when walking under the sun is pleasant, you can spend a whole day in the park.

There is an option to have a boat ride inside the park but it was closed during our visit. My request to all the visitors to the Park is that please maintain silence inside the park, respect privacy of habitants of the park, do not feed the birds or animals and do not litter.

Modes of commuting inside the park-

1. On foot- you will have to walk at least 11 Kms if you want to cover the whole park;

2. Cycle- you can hire cycles at the gate. The condition of some of these cycles is not very good. Some of the hotels also provide cycles for hiring purposes;

3. Rickshaw- you can hire at the main gate for two persons;

4. Horse cart- you can hire at the main gate for a group of 4-5 persons;

5. Battery operated carts- we were told that there is a single such cart and used for VIP visits. You can hire it through your contacts.


There are nature guides available to be hired at the gate. The fixed charges were Rs. 250 per hour. You can also hire a rickshaw and the rickshaw puller can double up as a guide. The fixed charges for rickshaw was Rs. 150 per hour.

There are around 130 registered rickshaws. There is a queuing system for the rickshaws for hiring purposes. The position of a rickshaw in the queue is decided by a lottery system. You will get the rickshaw whose turn it is. So, it’s a matter of chance if you get a knowledgeable rickshaw puller or an amateur one. A group of the registered rickshaws form another queuing system at the hotels. One can hire a rickshaw from the hotel or at the gate of the park. I was told that if you directly contact a rickshaw puller, then he can jump the queue. So, you may try calling some of the recommended rickshaw pullers, giving their mobile numbers, on the internet to hire them.

Birds we saw and I could recall-

1. Painted Stork, Openbill stork, Black stork

3. Darter (Snakebird)

4. Cormorant

4. Purple heron, Grey heron, Pond heron (Paddy bird)

6. Laughing dove, Red collared dove

7. Parakeet

8. Common Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher

9. Sarus Crane

10. Whistling duck

11. Fruit bat

13. Purple Swamphen, Waterhen, Common Moorhen

14. Bee eater

15. Indian Peafowl (Peacock)

16. Blackheaded ibis

17. Babbler

18. Coot

19. Small Egret, Cattle Egret

20. Harrier

21. Jacana

22. Jungle Kotwal (Black drongo)

Painted storks had made their nesting colonies on the babool trees in the swamp on the east side of the park. There were small babies in the nest which were being fed. The sound made by all the babies was quite loud and could be heard from a distance. The baby storks are white in colour. As they grow, they get different hues. The grown ups have predominantly white feathers, with black borders on the wings. The pink color on their tails is of very unique shade. We saw painted storks opening their wings to protect the babies in the nest from the sun. We observed them getting material for their nests from the trees by the side of the roads. Two of them came down on the road to collect nest building materials. We were told that these birds migrate from South India around August and stay here till march.

Openbill storks were also nesting around the same trees. There remains a slight gap around the middle between the upper half (called maxilla or upper mandible) and lower half (called mandible) of the bill when it is closed and hence the name. Openbill storks migrate to this park around June and stay till November. Their arrival in the park signals the onset of Monsoon in this area.

We saw Kingfisher hovering over water and diving to catch its prey. We were also lucky to see a darter catching a fish in water, tossing it and then swallowing it headfirst. We came to know that fish is never swallowed by it from the tail side. We also saw a purple heron catching a fish. Its movements were almost unnoticeable. It started shifting on its legs very slowly, then shifted its weight forward and finally preyed upon the fish with a lightning speed. One can learn patience from these fish hunting birds. Pond heron, also called paddy bird, appears greyish when sitting still at a place but it turns white when it flies.

We heard a laughing dove making the sound of ‘hohoo, hohoo…’ which gives it the name. In the evening trip, we saw a single sarus crane making sounds, probably wailing for the loss of its partner. Sarus cranes are known for fidelity. If one of the sarus cranes of a pair dies, the other sarus crane will never pair up again and probably die mourning the death of its partner. On the morning trip, we could see a pair of sarus cranes with their baby. Fyi, sarus crane is the state bird of Uttar Pradesh.

Cattle egret got its name because it follows the cattle to feed on insects on their bodies or in their dung. Darter (Snake bird) got its name because when it swims in the water, only its neck can be seen outside the water and the neck has a resemblance to a snake. Both cormorants and darter plunge into water and chase fish before catching it. Their wings are not waterproof so after each plunge they perch on a branch and open up their wings to dry. Babbler birds when in a group of 6-7 are known to babble a lot and hence the name. For the first time, I saw so many bats hanging upside down at one place, on a tree near the Keoladeo temple.

There are two hanuman temples inside the park. The first hanuman temple falls on the right side very shortly as you proceed from the gate on the road inside the park. If you take one of the diversions near the canteen to the east side, you will reach the second hanuman temple. In the pond situated inside the second temple, we saw large turtles. We were told that there are around 200-300 turtles in the small pond and some of them aged around 100 years.