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Friday, March 31, 2023

Go Birdwatching on Wheels: Cycle around The Serene Bharatpur Lake

The sanctuary that was declared a national park in 1982 is a heaven for bird watchers

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Pradeep Chamaria
Pradeep Chamaria
I am a photojournalist. Love to travel to unknown and unexplored vistas. Since 1992, I make places desirable for other travelers through experiential Travel Writing.

INDIA. Rajasthan, Bharatpur: In 1985, UNESCO listed the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary (formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) as a World Heritage Site. The sanctuary that was declared a national park in 1982 is a heaven for bird watchers and nature lovers. This wintering ground for Palaearctic migratory waterfowl is home to millions of birds of over 368 species every year. Along with this, one can witness 379 species of plants, 45 species of fish, and approximately 30 mammals.

Drango. Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

The peak migrating season in the world’s most famous avifauna sanctuary takes place in the winter months of October to March. During these months, aquatic bird families like Dalmatian Pelicans, Solitary Lapwing, Dusky Eagle Owls, Demoiselle Cranes and Sarus, Storks, Pelicans, Herons, etc visit Bharatpur Lake for breeding. These birds hail from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Siberia, China, and Siberia.

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Besides the exotic birds, wild animals like Sambhar, Chital, Nilgai, Wild Boar, etc. also live here. For humans, this is a place to get lost in the beauty of the azure water lake, chirping birds, and serene trees.

Pandemic travel trends

According to the latest YouGov research conducted in May 2021, it is found that 66 percent of people prefer destinations that are a short drive away where they can relax in nature.

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The birding season at this bird haven opened in August 2021. This place is one of the best options that are accessible for people in North India if they are planning for a getaway between Agra and Jaipur.

Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary

Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary was declared as a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is a man-made and man-managed wetland to protect Bharatpur from frequent floods. Earlier, it was primarily used as a waterfowl hunting ground, a tradition dating back to 1850 for the Maharajas of Bharatpur, and British viceroys.

Peacock. Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria
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Created 250 years ago, the sanctuary is named after a Shiva Temple ‘Keoladeo’ inside its boundaries, and ‘Ghana’, i.e. dense or thick woods that cover the region. It was built in the year 1760 as an earthen dam (Ajan Dam) to provide relief to the town from annual floods. The depression created due to the soil extracted to build the dam was later converted into Bharatpur Lake as a duck shooting preserve.

The total area of the sanctuary is around 29 sq km with well laid-out forest trails, of which approx 11 sq km is the swampland. The rest of the area consists of big and dense grasslands and scrublands.  

Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary, one of the world’s finest birding areas is the property of Rajasthan and a reserve forest under the Rajasthan Forest Act, 1953. This most important bird breeding and feeding ground was also known for the rare and elusive spot Siberian crane.

Bee Eaters. Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

Safari in the sanctuary

A rickshaw safari in the sanctuary is an alluring and refreshing experience in the tranquility of nature with the melodious bird chirping everywhere.

The safari makes for the most surreal experience along with the wetland scenery. The park management has trained the rickshaw pullers in bird spotting, thereby making them extremely knowledgeable guides. One can also use the boating facilities in the lake. Motor vehicles though are not permitted inside the sanctuary. 

It is possible to walk along the trail, but if one likes cycling, then they can rent cycles near the park’s entrance. A ride on cycle is an exciting way of traveling inside the sanctuary. There is plenty of bird watching stops along the way, where one can get off the cycle, and take a closer look and pictures of the beautiful birds and wetland wildlife. To see the birds at their best, it’s advised to visit the sanctuary around dawn, when the birds start their day.

Shikra. Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

Other attractions in Bharatpur

Besides having the most surreal birding experience, there are plenty of other things to do in Bharatpur. Architectural marvels, like the Bharatpur Palace and Museum, the invincible and impregnable Lohagarh Fort, a monumental palace turned luxurious resort, Deeg Palace, adventure sports parks like Rope Castle Adventure Park, religious places like Banke Bihari temple, Laxman temple, Ganga Mandir, etc. are worth visiting.

One can also go shopping and buy various items like jewelry, handicraft, antiques, and even authentic Rajasthani Bandhej clothes. For an extended vacation, one can also stop at Agra to visit the romantic Taj Mahal.

Reaching Bharatpur

Whether you are a tourist or a local, just over one hour’s drive from Agra (56 km), or four hours from Delhi (approx. 184 km), or Jaipur (approx. 170 km), this wondrous place offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for families and anyone who loves nature.

Cycling around the amazing oasis of tranquility at Bharatpur Lake and watching the fabulous birds is something one should add to their bucket list.

Also Read: Connecting with nature post-pandemic through your intuitions


  • Pradeep Chamaria

    I am a photojournalist. Love to travel to unknown and unexplored vistas. Since 1992, I make places desirable for other travelers through experiential Travel Writing.

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