Bird Watching at Bharatpur
I visited Bharatpur, Rajasthan in the month of February which I would say is possibly the best time to go there. Bharatpur is just a small, sleepy, laid back town with nothing much to do in the town itself. But the major attraction of Bharatpur is Keoladeo National Park. This park was formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and it houses thousands of birds, especially during the winter season (which is why winter is the best time to visit it! But don't fret. You can go in summers for the experience of the place too). The area was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. The terrain comprises of wet and dry grasslands and most of the area is either marshy or swampy. The path to walk on is well laid out. But because the reserve is as big is 29 square km (11 square miles) I would urge the reader to either rent a cycle or a cycle rickshaw. (Cycle is a better option hands down for the adventurer's soul)
So, one important point that I don't want to miss out before starting out with the details of the place is, that please, please only go there early in the morning. The sunrise at the reserve to too magical to miss out on. And even during the cold north Indian months of of Jan-Feb, the afternoon is too hot. You won't be able to spot any birds and only end up getting riled at the bad experience of the place. Also, I will take a few more lines to explain that you don't have to be an avid bird watcher or bird lover to enjoy the place. The charm of the place also lies in cycling through the dirt paths overlooking wet lands, observing the unearthly sunrise and receiving that solitude you want at a calm, sanguine place. I am not a bird watcher either. But the place offered me so much to take back with me. Take a look at the gallery to relive the place as I saw it!
Getting to Bharatpur isn't difficult. There are a number of trains that start from Delhi and stop at Bharatpur. After getting to there by the evening of Saturday, (if you start on a Saturday), stay at a lodge/guest house close to the National Park. There are a dozen options in all range of budgets to choose from. It is preferable that you stay close to the park, so you can get dressed early in the morning and head straight out. Try sleeping early at night and start out at 5:00 am. I repeat- do not miss the opportunity to witness the sunrise. If you see the pictures in the gallery, you'll know what I mean.
After getting to the park, you pay a nominal entry fee and for renting a cycle too. You'll need an identification for renting a cycle. The cycle is chargeable at rs 10 per hour. Upon entering the park, (if you visit in winters) you'll notice a considerable drop in temperature. Beyond the main gate, you will notice a road that leads up to the actual reserve. This road is at least 2.5 km. After entering a second gate, the actual dirt path begins.
I visited Bharatpur with some friends from college and here is how my experience felt:
By the time we reached the second gate during, I could feel my hands turning cold and getting numb. There were a few guards at this gate who had lit a fire. We sat with them for a few minutes to warm our hands. Then we cycled ahead to the park on the dirt path. We experienced some respite from the cold on seeing that the road was lined on both sides with trees and we were a little shielded from the winds. The sun had just started rising by this time. We parked our cycles and sat down by the road to see the orange oval. It was a very peaceful and quite moment. But as the sun rose, I could hear birds that started chirping in the background.
A few bird watchers and a train of kids sitting in rickshaws crossed us. I've put pictures of them in the gallery too. After the sun rose we cycled and explored the rest of the park. I remember the moment clearly. The sun peeking out of the clouds was of no use. The wind was bitter and every bit of my uncovered flesh was stinging and felt numb. Especially my hands, because of the motion of the cycle. I tried tugging onto my sleeves and shoving them into my palm to relieve my fingers. I was wincing that moment but the memory of it is brilliant now. After that I saw a myriad of birds, and talked to a few bird watchers. Notice the huge camera in the gallery! That beauty belonged to a professional watcher.
After spending the morning exploring, we got hungry too. For hungry visitors like us, there is a small canteen in the premises of the park. Carrying our own food inside the park is not permitted. It is obviously mandatory that all the food is consumed within the canteen vicinity and thrown in a dustbin right away. Feeding animals is not permitted either.
The best part about the National park is the number of places you can sit at and just reconnect with nature.
Notice the tree I found? That's my best memory from the park. If you are looking for a similar getaway, comment and let me know.