I’ve posted before about Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. It’s home to the Keoladeo National Park, which many people simply call the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. It is a combination of swampy, lakey water and raised ground (islands, plus walking paths) interspersed here and there. The above shot was taken during the dry season–can you picture how wet it must be during the monsoon?
While I lived in Delhi, I kept a journal. Rather than re-writting about my experience, here is a copy of the journal entry from our trip. This was written in Jan 2014.
“Over the long three-day weekend we had recently, the three of us took time out of the city to go to Bharatpur and visit the Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary is part of Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan, about 200 km, or 125 miles, outside of Delhi. We decided to leave first thing Saturday morning and take the Yamuna Expressway towards Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) before exiting and heading south to Mathura and Bharatpur. The Yamuna Expressway was finished in 2012 and connects Noida (just outside of Delhi) to Agra. It is just over 100 miles long, has three lanes both ways, and is a toll road. With speeds of 100 km/hr (about 60 mph), you get where you are going quickly. It has radically changed the drive to between Noida and Agra. While I have heard it can back up near Agra, especially later in the day, we had no traffic and made great time on it. There are regular rest stops, which were pleasantly clean and had nice bathrooms and a snack stand. The view out the window was so different from the city life we’ve been experiencing. We saw flat fields and lots of large chimneys with excavation going on around it, which we think was brick making and drying. But we might be wrong!
We exited just north of Mathura and entered much more rural country with small roads. Many of the villages we passed through only have the one road and everyone uses it—cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, cows, water buffalo, etc. It makes for slow going, but allowed us to see all sorts of things. I saw my first camel pulling a cart on the drive! Between villages were more fields growing crops.
At first our drive was just one straight shot, but when we entered Mathura, a larger town, we had to make a number of turns. This is where we got lost. I had directions, but aside from screen shots of google maps on my ipad, no formal map or GPS. Unknowingly, we missed a critical left turn and ended up going through the town and popping out differently than expected. We came out on the right road, but so far out of the way that we didn’t know which way to go. We spent a long time driving up and down the road, looking for our turn. Eventually we stopped for lunch and asked and realized how far out of the way we really were!
Back on the right road, we drove through more tiny villages and got a peak into every day life for them. We also started seeing fewer signs with English (in larger touristy areas, many signs are in both Hindi and English), so I tried to make use of my Hindi to read signs. This was comical, as I just barely know the alphabet and can’t read it very quickly. So I’d be trying to find Bharatpur in Hindi on a sign as we drove past. Several times I made Hubby stop the car so I could get out and slowly sound out the signs to make sure we were going the right way. It worked, but it was slow going! I’ll be glad when I am better at Hindi and can read the signs faster.
We made some more wrong turns getting into Bharatpur, but eventually found our hotel. The 3.5 hour drive had taken us 6 (though this included a lunch stop). Our hotel had large, clean, basic rooms. Our original plan was to go to the sanctuary that afternoon, but we were tired from all the driving and so just hung out at the hotel. It had a restaurant that would deliver to your room, so we were able to get dinner easily.
The next morning we went to the bird sanctuary after Lil Miss’ first nap. The Sanctuary was just down the road. Most of it does not allow cars, but for 100 Rs you could drive your car in about 1.5 km and park there. We also rented binoculars, as we had forgotten ours at home. Once parked, we hired a cycle rickshaw walla to bike us around the park. It is very large, so while walking is possible, it’s nicer and easier to get a ride to the key spots and then take short walks as desired. Our rickshaw walla had worked in the park for 22 years, and could easily spot birds and wildlife. We saw sleeping owls, pelicans, tons of storks, herons, eagles, kingfishers, magpies, and more. We also saw two baby rock pythons, several monitor lizards, spotted deer, and really big antelope. It was a foggy day, and the sky and water were very bright, which made photos a bit difficult. However, I think some turned out nicely!
The storks were my favorite. They come down to the park in the fall to nest and breed. By now their babies are about 2 months old and stand around in their nests squawking for their parents to feed them. Each nest had two or three (big) baby birds in it. Babies are more grey, while their parents have more colorful heads and beaks.
About halfway down was a side walking path that went out through the wetlands. Rickshaws couldn’t go on it, so we got out and walked for quite a while. It was very pleasant! Water and marsh for as far as you could se. I loved all the water birds—ducks, geese, herons, etc.
The park has several observation towers you could climb to get an aerial view of the water and land. One that we went up had benches up top and we sat for a while while Lil Miss napped.
The park also has a small temple and a concession stand where it sold tea, coffee, water, sodas and snacks. One of the local antelope was very tame and let kids pet it and it tried to eat the food. There were also a ton of chipmunks—one of whom jumped onto my leg while I was sitting on a bench and wanted my granola bar!
We spent about 5 hours at the park and it was glorious.”